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Imo: Emerging political helmsmen and Okorocha’s pounding steps

BY CHIDI NKWOPARA

THE electioneering period is over in Imo State. It is no longer news that Chief Ikedi Ohakim of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was defeated by Chief Rochas Okorocha of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.

The political battle has thus shifted to the election petitions tribunals. While the citizenry await the outcome of these petitions, Okorocha, who is in power is expected to start implementing his election promises.

In his post-inauguration speech, Okorocha said he was not interested in probing the immediate past administration but quickly pointed out that he would audit the accounts of the state government. He also warned that he would not tolerate laziness in the civil service and would do everything within his power to fight corruption in whatever shape or form.

Okorocha stressed that he would run a lean government so that state resources can be ploughed back for the greater benefit of a greater number of Imo people. Giving an idea of the calibre of personalities he would appoint to help him run the administration, the governor said he would welcome honest, credible and hardworking people.

He announced four appointments a few days after his inauguration. They included his long_time ally and confidant, Prince Eze Madumere, as the Chief of Staff, Government House, Owerri. Okorocha named former Vice Chancellor of Imo State University, Owerri, Professor Anthony Gozie Anwuka, as Secretary to the Government of Imo State.

Dr. Paschal Chigozie Obi, a doctor of Optometry and an of  indigene of Obioha, Ideato South local council area of the state was appointed Permanent Secretary and Principal Secretary to the Governor, while Mr. Chinedu Offor, a Correspondent of Voice of America, VOA, took over as his Senior Special Assistant (Media).

Barely one week after his post_inauguration speech, Okorocha made a 20_page radio and television broadcast to Imo people. Okorocha ruffled feathers when he announced a sweeping purge in the polity.

At the end of the broadcast, the elected 27 local government council operators were sacked. The State Council of Traditional Rulers, the 106 newly recognized autonomous communities and their royal fathers were summarily sacked. Similarly, the beneficiaries of Ikedi Ohakim’s 10,000 jobs were suspended from office. The Acting Vice Chancellor, VC, of IMSU, Professor Osita Nwaebo, was sent packing. Professor Bertram E. B. Nwoko was named the substantive IMSU_VC. The managements of Imo Roads Maintenance Agency, IROMA, and the state owned palm plantation, Adapalm, were sacked.

Prior to this political tsunami in the state, a few eggheads in Imo State House of Assembly, IMHA, led by the member for Nwangele state constituency, Mr. Amaechi Nwaoha, staged a palace coup and removed the Speaker, Chief Goodluck Nanah Opiah, and his Deputy, Sir Jonas Okeke. Some other members loyal to the leadership of Opiah were suspended from the House.

Opiah and his colleagues have since approached the High Court presided over by the Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Benjamin Ahanonu Njemanze, to challenge his purported removal from office and suspension of his colleagues.

Registered as suit number HOW/283/2011, the plaintiffs are praying the court to determine whether Nwaoha and his group are right, by virtue of the combine effect of the provisions of Rules 7(2), 14, 20, 21(1) of the House Rules of IMHA, and Section 92(2) (C) of the 1999 Constitution.

They also sought a relief for a declaration that the procedure and proceeding of the purported sitting of the House held on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, by 8.30am, wherein the defendants purported to suspend and remove the claimants from office is unlawful, illegal, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.

While Opiah and his colleagues prayed the court to set aside the purported removal of the Speaker and his Deputy, as well as the suspension of the nine members, they also sought an order of court restraining IMHA, its servants, agents or privies from relying on the illegal acts of the defendants in tampering with any rights, privileges, entitlements, duties and obligations conferred on the claimants by virtue of their office until same is constitutionally resolved.
Before giving the ex_parte order, Justice Njemanze said he carefully read the motion papers requesting to serve the originating summons and other processes in the suit on the defendants by substituted means, by delivering same to the Clerk of Imo State House of Assembly or in the alternative, by publication in two newspapers (names withheld).

Njemanze also said that he carefully studied the affidavit in support of the motion and the adoption of the written address by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN, before making the order.

He thereafter ordered that “the defendants are to be served all the court processes in this case by substitution to wit by the service of same on the 12th defendant (Clerk of Imo State House of Assembly, Chief Obinna Oformadu) or in the alternative by publication of same” in the said newspapers.

Before adjourning the matter, Justice Njemanze equally ordered that “any of such service shall be deemed to be good, proper and effectual service on the defendants”.

An interesting aspect of the emergence of Okorocha remains the role played by the former governor, Chief Achike Udenwa. Initially, Udenwa not only forged an alliance between his campaign machine and that of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume. Action Congress of Nigeria was subsequently formed and Araraume became the gubernatorial candidate. It was not very clear what happened to the fabled understanding between the duo but it turned out that Okorocha got his highest votes in the governorship contest from Orlu, Udenwa’s local council area.
A new collaboration has since been established between Udenwa and Okorocha since the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, announced the latter as winner. Udenwa has severally been seen in company with Okorocha. There is every reason to believe that he may have some imput in the administration of Okorocha.

A good number of Udenwa’s Redemption 98 loyalists have already started making forays into the heart of the new Governor. How far they can go with their political mathematics is any person’s guess.

Feelers from impeccable sources in Government House revealed that “the Governor has a good measure of respect for Senator Osita Izunaso and is favorably disposed to take pieces of advice from the Senator”.

A round of political drama played out in IMHA as soon as the new House was proclaimed by the Governor. The repeal of the ranking law and with the tacit support of Okorocha, gave the 21 new lawmakers the opportunity to actualize the conspiracy of edging out the likes of Chief Sam Daddy Anyanwu and Chief Simeon Iwunze.

This drama was further elongated when four lawmakers that contested on the platform of PDP, defected to All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. The new decampees include the Speaker, Mr. Ben Uwajimogu, Mr. Acho Ihim, Adaku Ihuoma and Ozuruigbo Ugonna. This development gave APGA a lead in the Assembly.

Some horse trading must have taken place before the action of these lawmakers was announced but with the people now in APGA, a new phase and thinking has definitely opened for Okorocha.

One personality that is sure to make his wealth of experienced available to the Governor is Chief Martin Agbaso. In his previous attempts to grab the governorship seat, Agbaso had a well defined programme of action if elected. He was not elected but there is every reason to believe he will make these programmes available to the state government. He has a stake in the government, especially as his younger brother, Sir Jude Agbaso, is the Deputy Governor.


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