In our editorial of July 21, 2014 titled “Okorocha is too clever by half,” we criticized Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, for using “Boko Haram as an untenable excuse to profile and persecute bona fide Nigerians right in their country. Rather than admit he had made a mistake, Okorocha chose to play the victim, not the villain that he was and still is…”
The reason of our quarrel with the governor was a news report quoting one of his aides as saying that the Imo State government had ordered an audit of Northerners, particularly Muslims, residing and doing legitimate business in the state in order to give them identification papers. Apparently, those who, by the government’s reckoning, failed to qualify for the IDcard, would be “deported” to the North.
That diabolical plan was debated by the Senate in plenary, presided over by the Senate Deputy President, a fellow Ibo, Ike Ekweremadu. A resolution was passed condemning the plan and the Imo government told to rescind it. The National Council of State, made up of President Goodluck Jonathan, former presidents and heads of state as well as state governors, followed up with a warning to Governor Okorocha and others planning a similar action to stop forthwith.
Gov. Okorocha, however, disowned one of his own, saying that his government never planned to expel Northerners from Imo State. He went further to call the senators names. His Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, in a statement, said the Senate’s action was “political blackmail by some Abuja –based politicians, using the three senators in the Senate from Imo State who “are all of the PDP and all governorship aspirants, who want to replace Governor Rochas Okorocha.”
Five months later, Okorocha has done a double, this time it is worse than what he had planned to do in July. Earlier this year, the governor dumped the party on whose ticket he was elected governor in 2011 for the new opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). He then sought his new party’s nomination as its presidential flag bearer in next February’s election. However, in the primaries held in Lagos last weekend, he was beaten to fourth position by the eventual winner, former head of state, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who had stood as a candidate in three previous presidential elections in 1999, 2003 and 2011.
Before the APC presidential primaries, Okorocha had schemed to have his son-in-law and his former commissioner for lands and urban development, Chief Uche Nwosu, installed as the APC governorship candidate in Imo State. However, having lost the presidential ticket, the governor literally collected the ticket and proclaimed himself the owner. In several tweets afterwards, he said he wanted to come back as governor because his people wanted him. “The good people of Imo State insist I return as their governor, a request I accept with humility.”
Two things are wrong with what Gov. Okorocha has done. One, he allowed his son-in-law to take the governorship ticket because he knew he would have no problem taking it away from him if he lost the presidential nomination. To meet one of two conditions in the Electoral Act 2010 under which a party can make a substitution, he made Chief Nwosu to resign. In this case, Okorocha proved that he could eat his cake and have it. We condemn this as unethical and undemocratic because it subverted a popular decision taken by party delegates at a primary election supervised by INEC itself. Secondly, it is unbelievable that APC endorsed this backdoor substitution. This does not speak well of a party that says it will entrench true democracy in this country if it comes to power next year. If it cannot get right a simple thing like state governorship nomination, how much more deepening democracy nationwide?