By Judith Anyanwu
T here was a big rally in Owerri, the capital of Imo State on Wednesday, February 7. The activity seriously affected vehicular and other forms of movement, and made public and private activities to suffer temporary setback as the organisers marched through the major streets of Owerri.
The rally was a gathering of Imo sons and daughters drawn from four key local government areas of the state. In attendance were more than 3,000 participants and the aim is one thing â€“ to persuade the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Eze Madumere to contest the governorship of the state come next year.
The pro- Madumere protesters drawn from Mbaitoli, Ohaji/Egbema, Nkwerre and Nwangele local government areas of the state not only wanted to register their solidarity for him, they also wanted to impress it on the deputy governor to see himself as the primus inter-pares, the one most qualified in the Rescue Mission camp to step into the shoes of Governor Rochas Okorocha when his tenure expires in May 2019.
The protesters displayed different placards that read stuffs like: â€œFor Imo governorship 2019, ask for Mr. Integrity, Mr. Incorruptible,â€;Â â€œVision 2019, Madumere all the way,â€;Â â€œItâ€™s Madumere orâ€¦among others.â€
The leader of the mammoth crowd, Chief Chidi Nwaogu who addressed the media said the solidarity match was planned to urge Madumere to join the governorship race, because â€œhe is the most qualified among all the aspirants.â€
Nwaoguâ€™s words: â€œAccording to the Governorâ€™s criteria, Madumere has the capacity, he is competent, an administrator per excellence; he is humble, loyal, crises resolution expert, man of the people and most importantly, he has got the cognate experience in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. He has been tried and tested and he delivered at all times.
â€œPlease MadumereÂ join the race for consolidation. We are urging you to come out and we advise all Imolites, other friends of Madumere and lovers of good things to identify with the vision.
â€œThe crowd has come to identify with Mr. Perfect, Mr. Home Boy, who understands the heart beats of the polity and the people of Imo.
â€œMadumere fits into the 12 points criteria released by Governor Rochas Okorocha for aspirants of the exalted position, and with Madumere, APC is assured of victory come 2019 general elections.
Nwaogu was not alone. The member representing Mbaitoli in the House of Assembly, Hon. Ifeanyi Nnataraonye described the solidarity march as unique, and that Madumereâ€™s humble, peaceful and loyal dispositions with experiences in both private and public sector are enough qualities to warrant him stepping into Okorochaâ€™s shoes.
The lawmaker said Madumereâ€™s result-oriented contributions to the development of the state are reasons all Mbaitoli people and others from other parts of the state are appealing to him to join the race for the governor.
To Ekweremba Princewill from Ohaji/Egbema local government, Madumereâ€™s contributions to the peace of the Council, particularly in the oil producing communities speak volume.
He said the youths of the area are solidly behind the deputy governor and cannot wait to hear that he will flag the APC flag.
â€œWe support Madumere because he is humble and humane. Most of those parading themselves as leaders in the state APC and Rescue Mission family were mentored and guided by Madumere, including some of them that are jostling for both governorship and other political positions.
â€œThey seem to have forgotten where they are coming from and how they startedâ€¦. We love justice, equity and fair play and we cannot afford to do evil against our brothers from other zones.Â We think it is the turn of Owerri zone to produce the governor and it is unquestionable. There is no controversy about that,â€ was how Nwafor Isaac from Nwangele summed up his solidarity speech.
The protesters later besieged the Deputy Governorâ€™s office where they were addressed by his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Chief Chris Nwaike who commended them for identifying with Madumere with such gesture even while was unavoidably absent.
Nwaike reiterated that Madumere is eminently qualified for any political position in the state in particular including governorship, and Nigeria at large, given that, â€œhis contributions to the peace and development of Imo is second to none.â€
He urged the people to continue their support for Madumere and his vision, because â€œthe state would be in safe hands with him.â€
When Okorocha announced in October 2017 saying, â€œI have looked at those with me and I have seen what they can do. I look at their qualities. But I am likely to narrow it down to one person,â€ not a few Imolites would mistake the person he has in mind to be the man after his heart – Madumere.
Okorocha said: â€œThe qualities are: one, I want that person to have vision. You must see what I am doing now and think far how to take this state to the next level better than what I have done.
â€œAnother one is the temperament of the person; he must be somebody that will be able to control his anger, so that he will not cause damage in the state. And that person must not be one-sided. He must not be greedy. Finally, he must have the fear of God.â€
In January 2018 Okorocha clarified that his successor would be a member of his Rescue Mission who would uphold the philosophy and legacies of his administration.
Said he: â€œThe issue of who takes over the mantle of governor of the state in 2019 must come from the Rescue Mission political family and not an outsider. This is because the person already knows the driving philosophy and would sustain the legacies of this government.
â€œAs a politician, I can authoritatively tell you that any politician that gets into any political office based on zoning will be a clannish leader, because he will channel all his energy in doing things that would satisfy his people.
â€œBut when a politician is elected on popular demand, devoid of zoning, he will see the entire state as his own and treat every zone equally in the scheme of things.â€
Even though Okorocha has left hanging his choice of successor, but it does not rule out Madumere who popular commentator and public relations icon, Dr. Chuks Osuji says Okorocha trusts after his wife.
It is important that Okorocha is talking about a successor who would sustain the legacies of his government, and even surpass it. It is also important that such successor must have been schooled in the Rescue Mission mantra.
Continuity in government if well thought out will always be in the interest of the public and the society. Analysts know that whatever has made Lagos State to be ahead of other states in the country in terms of planning and development dynamics is nothing other than the idea of Bola Tinubu to institute a succession plan that is being followed to the letter.
Even at that, the Tinubu political family that has transcended the state did not discard the zoning arrangement or rotational structure which main purpose is to give all the zones of the state a sense of belonging in political leadership.
Nearly two decades on, Lagos as Nigeriaâ€™s commercial hub has seen growth and prosperity because of its clear vision of becoming the centre of excellence and continuity in the quality of leadership running with the vision.
Starting from 1999, Tinubu from a different zone kept the dream alive for eight years and handed the baton to Babatunde Fashola, also from a different zone who followed suit for another eight years before the mantle fell on Akinwunmi Ambode, still from another zone.
A common denominator in the Lagos model is that every incoming governor strives to surpass the former with development programmes.
Regardless of the metamorphosis Lagos had seen in terms of political parties, from Alliance for Democracy (AC) to Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) to All Progressives Congress (APC), the dream of excelling more than other states remains intact.
Methinks the Lagos model is what Imo should copy or what Okorocha wants to espouse.
However, rather than think that rotational system makes the beneficiaries selfish and clannish in decision taking, Okorocha should see it as a way of helping to entrench healthy political competition and rivalry among the contending zones that make up Imo.
If there are cracks in APC, real or imaginary, that could be because of the fear of Okorochaâ€™s insistence on discarding zoning in the governorship or intent to manipulate an existing arrangement that should have rather been the strength of the party. Because political contest suits everybody, both the strong and the weak, an arrangement that engenders sanity like zoning cannot be overemphasized.
Many Imolites and outsiders have attested and can vouch for the good nature of Madumere to stir the ship of Imo after Okorocha and deep down the governorâ€™s conscience he knows it as fact.
Apart from Okorocha initiating the support for Madumere, Imolites will be at peace with him as their governor and in the fullness of time, the credit will go to the man he refers to as his father, political and otherwise.
Therefore, while Okorocha keeps close to his chest his choice of successor, keeping everyone guessing and hanging on to every word that he utters, the news that will gladden the heart of the APC members and none members alike, both from Owerri, Orlu or Okigwe zones will be the naming of Madumere as the partyâ€™s flag bearer.
By so doing, chances are the APC would have a good outing in 2019 in Imo.
â€“Anyanwu writesÂ from Mbano, Okigwe.