How Okorocha Outsmarted Opposition By Raising Eze Madumere As A Credible Alternative By Ben Onyeazu
Whether you like it or not, by raising his current deputy, Prince Eze Madumere, to the current political image he enjoys within the wider spectrum of the polity, Gov. Rochas Anayo Okorocha of Imo state has strategically played it smart on the opposition in Imo state politics and whatever external influence scheming against him come both 2015 and 2019. For close watchers and insiders of the Imo politics, you can predict with considerable accuracy, but with appropriate discount for uncertainties that with Okorocha’s approach to political grooming and mentoring as exemplified in Prince Eze Madumere, Okorocha will retain a strong grip on the polity for decades to come.
In 2005 at an event at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Orlu, the then bishop of Orlu Catholic Diocese, now bishop emeritus, The Lord Bishop Gregory Obinna Ochiagha, pointedly told the then Gov. Achike Udenwa who was present at the event” If you fail to groom your successor, your enemies will groom him and use him against you.” That was a strong, noteworthy or memorable advice that would have cemented Udenwa’s grip on the system and consolidated his leadership on the Imo polity if heeded. It was a candid brotherly advice from a bishop reputed to be one of the smartest Mafia of the catholic college of bishops in Nigeria. So, Ochiagha understood the game and the rules and wanted Udenwa to play by the uncomfortable rules of the game of politics that produces results. I knew the bishop in person, and I knew he saw Udenwa’s tomorrow outside the corridors of the guber executive powers. Unfortunately Chief Udenwa missed it and obviously paid dearly for the blunder. His successor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim was another man’s political product with different political ideology and convictions, and as soon as Chief Udenwa stepped down as governor of Imo state, he lost every grip and was forced into political exile in the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), now merged with CPC to form the opposition APC. Up till now the ex-governor is yet to regain his focus, and the hope of regaining his lost political territories is a foregone conclusion. Although, Udenwa made attempts at heeding to Ochiagha’s advice by attempting to groom Ike Ibe, but the then President Obasanjo’s overbearing mien and the political intrigues then frustrated Udenwa.
In this regard, Gov. Rochas Okorocha is a complete contrast to Udenwa. If there is any Nigerian politician who understood and represents this advice from The Lord Bishop Ochiagha it is the incumbent governor of Imo state, Rochas Anayo Okorocha (OON), though he was never present at the occasion and I don’t think he ever heard the sermon. At least, today Okorocha can boast of having raised a credible asset or possible replacement in the person of Prince Eze Madumere to the testimony of every spectrum of the polity. In Prince Eze Madumere, his deputy, Gov. Rochas Okorocha has exemplified this ideology and rule of the game of politics as the aging Lord Bishop Ochiagha had wanted Udenwa to do. So that as the 2015 elections draw closer, Okorocha is never afraid of giving it a trial at the presidency should the APC offer him such a slot. The governor, to the testimony of every close watcher, can confidently boast of having produced a credible replacement and an incontestable political asset of some sort. In a recent press conference, the Governor spoke with emitting confidence that he can give it a trial at the presidency. In his mind of minds Okorocha is solidly confident that with the current momentum generated by Eze Madumere’s political personality and popularity, the love and acceptability he enjoys among the wide spectrum of the electorates, especially the youths, the Okorocha political dynasty is sure of victory at the polls in Imo state come 2019. And should the governor decide to give it a shot at the presidency come 2015, then he has every reason to be sure that his political dynasty will retain power in Imo state. Besides, with the level of investments Okorocha has made in his deputy who has been his Chief of Staff, a consummate ally and an undying disciple for years before the 2011 election and after the election, the governor is sure that Madumere, who is seen as a prodigy of some sort in political strategic thinking, in negotiation and administration, is a bulwark against perceived rampaging opposition forces who predicate their argument on the Owerri Zone mandate mantra. On another note, Madumere’s candidature is a sure hot sale among the Imo electorates.
Madumere, a long time follower of Okorocha and his most consummate political mentee who embodies Okorocha’s political and social ideologies, has appeared on the Imo political scene in the recent time as the boldest face of the Okorocha political dynasty after his boss. His current political stature is also raising serious concerns among opposition forces, especially within the Owerri zone who see Madumere as a resistant force. The fear comes on two grounds. First, Madumere’s rising political profile is generating a strong tide, and hence he is seen as Okorocha’s strongest asset in neutralizing contending forces within the Owerri Zone if the governor decides to re-contest by 2015. On a second ground, Prince Madumere, Okorocha’s most avowed supporter with an unflinching loyalty is seen within the polity as a figure who can sacrifice anything to stop any attempt to negotiate Okorocha away in the name of Owerri zone mandate. And should the governor decide to give it a short at the presidency as believed, Madumere who is generally seen as the most consummate insider of the Okorocha political family, and its most credible alternative, will be a force to reckon with at the polls should his boss give him a nod as his possible replacement and foot soldier.
Hence, intelligently Okorocha has raised a credible successor in any case of his eventual exit from power as the executive governor of Imo state come 2019 or in the case where he decides to give his presidential ambition a trial come 2015 under the platform of the rampaging APC. Recall that the opposition has for long advanced the argument that come 2015, Okorocha will have no choice but to either go for a second term as governor of Imo state and therefore forget the presidency, or go for the presidency and lose Imo state to the opposition, especially the PDP and their supporters. They hatched their argument on the impression that Okorocha has not raised any credible replacement with a political personality capable of competing with other powerful figures in Imo polity. Today, thanks to Okorocha and his charismatic political intelligence, Madumere’s political personality is not only dominating the polity but also quickly towering above the political personalities of majority of old timers expected to contest the 2015 or 2019 elections. Madumere, a figure of few words known among the masses for his humility and down to earth approach in human relations, and also known for his sense of loyalty and service among the political class, has risen to an admirable political prominence under the Gov. Okorocha administration. How Okorocha did this magic as against Udenwa’s example is what baffles the opposition, pundits and close watchers of the dynamics of Imo politics.
However, it is a point of note to point out that in politics, Udenwa and Okorocha maintain wide differences in ideology and practice. In the first place Udenwa is a rightwing politician who is in line with the ideologies of the old establishment politics. This was one of the major reasons why Udenwa could not do much in his 8-year regime compared to Okorocha’s incredible fit in just two years. This is because as an old establishment politician, the political forces of the old political houses of power and their stakeholders allow you limited independent mindedness and freedom to exercise your personal political will. Therefore, they determine the extent you achieve anything or make transformative election promises come to reality.
In contrast, Okorocha is a rebel by ideology and completely out of step with the political traditional mainlines of the old order. This allows him a wide spectrum of freedom to operate and govern in any way he deems fit enough to help him deliver on his promises. It allows him enough room to exercise his personal political will and hence achieve an incredible feat far beyond his predecessors. The fact that Okorocha came on a popular mandate also gives him the backbone to express his political personality and will. However, the disadvantage of being a leftwing politician is that you will face strong opposition from the guys that own the established structures and dynasties of the old political order. This is one of the challenges Okorocha is facing and is bound to face. But the irony of it is that these challenges are healthy developments for the polity and the development of the state and its people.
A point worthy of note to buttress the Okorocha-Udenwa contrast is that Udenwa relied on a apolitical structure” Redemption 98” which helped bring him to power. But one disadvantage of depending on structures is that every political structure is vulnerable to hijacks by smarter political forces, and it happened to Udenwa. In contrast, Okorocha built a political family from where he drew his strength, but also combined it with what he could get from a few political structures like the Agenda and the rest.
Chief Ikedi Ohakim’s case is a nonissue at all. I never, and I think every intelligent political strategic thinker never saw any room for Ohakim to do anything whether by condition or pedigree. It was a mandate bound to fail from inception. His mandate was a phantom of the forces of the old political establishments, and the same old political establishments destroyed the mandate. Ohakim had no structure, no political family, no popular mandate, and with his political body language, his mien and his attitudes it was impossible to think that he could build one in his four-year reign. So, as soon as I observed Ohakim’s few moments in power, I could accurately predict his end. Today, to every honest political watcher, Chief Ikedi Ohakim remains the loneliest ex-governor with no political structure. Ohakim can only rely on a few who benefited from the largesse and spoils of his regime, allegedly known for its high level of corruption, ineptitude and lawlessness. In fact, I remember one day as I stood along Akwakuma girls secondary school, second gate, Willy Amadi and his team swooped on hapless poor masses. They started confiscating free umbrellas given to them by MTN for phone call businesses. Then, they charged them N15, 000 to purchase the government Clean and Green Umbrella. I recalled the Oguta lake blunder and its scandals, the Nwoye river and its many lies that sank billions of Naira. I also recalled among others that what the governor termed dualization of Orlu –Owerri road turned out to be demarcation with boulevard after destroying people’s shops and houses. It was like blue moon mirage. I went inside and wrote to a colleague who was working on a spy case at the presidency in Abuja. I told him bluntly with every confidence “This government won’t go too far”. Next day a barrister friend wrote me and said “We have entered one chance, Ohakim is the driver, Willy Amadi is the conductor.” I laughed, but also reflected soberly.
Whether we see him as a victim or a villain, Okorocha, a leftwing politician out of step with the old political establishment traditions and its trappings, demonstrates rare political acumen that leaves close watchers and pundits dazed. At his coming to power in May 2011, Okorocha capitalized on the overwhelming popularity that greeted his candidature and victory at the polls to take strategic political steps that ended an era in Imo politics and set a new political momentum in motion. Remember that at the threshold of the election, Owelle, as he is fondly called by a traditional title symbolic among the Igbos, was not in the mainstream of political events and happenings. Of course he scrambled at the final minutes to secure a party platform. As a smart politician he negotiated his way into APGA where Chief Martin Agbaso whose political dynasty is currently facing a test of time due to scandal held sway. But Okorocha had his popularity as an edge over others, and Chief Ikedi Ohakim’s blunders cemented his advantage at the polls. The moment he picked Prince Eze Madumere as his COS and Deacon Chike Okafor as his finance commissioner I knew Okorocha was up for real game of politics. I knew at that point he had scored a strong point, though I already scored him low for picking Jude Agbaso as his deputy. For me and for every close watcher, Jude’s candidature was a minus of some sort. I also knew the ambits of the Agbaso political dynasty and the ambition of its founder, Chief Martin. So, I predicted a friction, and a tough one at that. Sooner than later we were on it, the first rumour of plot to remove Okorocha by the Agbaso trickled in. I and many close watchers and pundits knew it was real, but a blunderbuss because I knew Okorocha and his capabilities. Suddenly, in a most dramatic move Jude Agbaso was the villain of a damaging financial scandal that would rock the prospects of the Agbaso political dynasty. Jude was to go for good, but Okorocha’s next political move was to be closely watched. Who would replace Jude in his position? The twin posts of deputy governor of the state and commissioner for works were too strategic for a wrong choice. I was in Abuja then, and I wrote a friend and said “Now that it’s obvious Jude is going…going… going, Madumere would have made the most credible alternative. However, he is the chief of staff. So, moving him to replace Jude Agbaso would create a dilemma of who replaces him as COS where he has done creditably well”.
Sooner than later Jude was finally gone, and my prediction came accurate; Madumere was Okorocha’s choice as intelligent watchers had wanted it. I rushed to the internet to check update and I saw the headline “Eze Madumere Is Imo’s New Deputy Governor” “Embattled Imo D.gov Impeached, Okorocha Appoints His COS as Deputy” and many others. I was relieved. But suddenly, there was another blunder as far as I and many other close watchers were concerned; Sir. Jude Ejiogu was to replace Madumere as COS. Politically, except the fact that Jude Ejiogu is from Emekuku, same place where Jude hails from and would calm frayed nevers within that enclave, his choice as Madumere’s replacement was a blunder of some sort, a poor choice, I must confess. And unless that error is corrected I predict a big cost for the Okorocha political dynasty. Without denigrating anyone, of course I respect Sir Jude Ejiogu a lot, Chinedu Offor who is the current deputy COS could have made a more credible alternative as COS if no other choice is available. Jude would have made a better choice as commissioner for culture or SSA on Chieftaincy affairs, with due respect. However, I trust Okorocha to watch closely with cautious optimism or mutual suspicion.
Of course, my reasons are many; for one, Jude Ejiogu is generally perceived to be low in political acumen and strategic thinking. And these are the basic intelligence requirement for anyone to man such a strategic office as COS to a charismatic leftwing governor like Okorocha. Ichie Best Mabalaso would have even made a better choice. Again, on a more serious note, whether we like it or not, my instinct tells me, just as many insiders of the Imo politics express same feeling that Jude Ejiogu’s sympathy to the Agbaso political dynasty is a dangerous element. The possibility of Jude Ejiogu being a mole in the system is probably so high to toy with by anyone that loves this government.
Ordinarily, Gov. Okorocha’s soft point is that he is a broadminded politician who embraces strange bed fellows as seen since he became governor. Sometimes he is even accused of surrounding himself with PDP faithful. However, I believe the governor knows his game, but choosing Sir Jude Ejiogu who owes a lot to and very sympathetic to the Agbaso family dynasty is a time bomb to say the least in my candid opinion. Some moments ago, I got a reliable political intelligence brief that Jude Ejiogu is at the moment scheming to replace Okorocha come 2015. That rumour might be a fantasy of rumour mongers. However, in the event that it proves to be real, that will be an incredible blunder the Okorocha dynasty will ever allow to happen, and I predict the end of an Okorocha era on the polity should such error see the sun.
As a matter of fact, within the past few moments, the Okorocha political dynasty has been experiencing negative propaganda attacks, alleging a rift between the governor and his deputy. The same propaganda portrayed the governor in a very demeaning bad light by falsely portrayed him as building chain of spies around his deputy for his alleged political ambition. His deputy was falsely portrayed as an overambitious deputy scheming to remove his boss or scheme for the actualization of the purported Owerri zone Mandate. This has had a damaging effect on both the political prospects of the governor and his deputy and is heating up the polity. A large spectrum of the masses might want to vilify or point accusing fingers at the PDP, but I, after studying the plots and its many dynamics, personally think I need to strongly warn Prince Eze Madumere to be careful of Sir Jude Ejiogu and his likes. However, I don’t accuse anyone of being behind Madumere’s recent travails. But all I want to tell Madumere is that he might be dinning with black snakes in a dark night. Madumere might disagree with me that the likes of Sir Ejiogu are not people to watch out for, but I have known these guys and their possibilities. Of course, I heard he, Madumere, has good relationship with Sir Ejiogu. But, for me we all fought for this government and preserving it is our collective responsibility. That’s why I voice my concern. But if Madumere and his boss think I am hallucinating or conjuring phantoms when I call for caution in handling the likes of Sir Jude Ejiogu, then I wish them well.
My point is that by making some strategic choices with the likes of Madumere, Chike Okafor, Mabalaso Mrs Mma Nzeribe of MGD and many others, Okorocha has outsmarted the opposition and demonstrated high political intelligence uncommon in our polity. For sure, with Prince Eze Madumere’s present political image, the governor will enjoy a confident easy ride come 2015 in which ever direction his ambition flows. However, there is need to inform the governor that some of his choices call for cautious optimism, if there is any room for optimism at all. The recent blackmails against the deputy governor and most recent propaganda about the Okorocha- Madumere rift is for me an opposition strategy powered by the help of some insiders of the Okorocha political family who place their personal interests above the collective interest of the Okorocha political family and the good of the state. We keep watching!
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