The All Progressives Congress (APC) flagged off the campaign of its governorship candidate in Imo state, Hope Uzodinma, on Friday, in an event attended by the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. It turned into a rally against Governor Rochas Okorocha, even though he also belongs to that party.
Back story: The governor wanted his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to succeed him but he didn’t have his way in the party’s primary. Nwosu has now defected to the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) to attempt to realize his ambitions. However, Gov. Okorocha remains a member of the APC, and is in fact the party’s candidate for the Imo West senate seat.
Ever since Okorocha saw that his attempt to have his way was not going to be heeded by the national exco, he went on the attack, and at a point was leading a group of governors who wanted to oust Oshiomhole. On his part, Oshiomhole quickly dissolved the state working committee loyal to the governor, got the endorsement of Pres. Muhammadu Buhari, as well as other power centres within the party, like Bola Tinubu, and then he began frequent verbal attacks against Okorocha.
All of that set the stage for Oshiomhole to deliver an attack-filled speech against Okorocha on Friday in Owerri.
What he said:
- He urged Imo people to disregard those from unknown parties, who were linking Buhari’s picture with theirs. That was a reference to Nwosu. He said Uzodinma was the only candidate endorsed by Buhari. “Those who are putting Buhari with their faces because they are unknown are fake. Buhari has APC as his party. Buhari has adopted Uzodinma as his governorship candidate.”
- He took subtle shots at Okorocha for his penchant to centre governance in the state around his family. “We brought you a message of hope not a message of lamentation and family business. We have come to deliver the message of hope that although things have gone wrong in the recent past, we have come to say how we will return the governance of the state to the people. In Uzodinma’s government, appointments will be based on merit and not family connection. We will not domesticate happiness in the hands of a few people because all Imo people will be happy. Never again shall we govern on the basis of family connection. Knowing somebody or not, or marrying from a family or not will no longer matter. Your money will be used to develop Imo,” he said.
- In a stunning statement, Oshiomhole said the people of Imo deserve change. Note that Okorocha is the chairman of the APC Governors Forum, so the chairman was openly campaigning against his party man. “You want a governorship candidate whose purpose is to bring development to all Imo people including civil servants who no longer know what a pay day is like. You will now have a person that will lead by example. Pensioners too will smile. Traditional rulers will have dominion over their areas without intimidation. We will make sure the bailout money is returned. The days are gone when a governor will look at the people and say there is money for other things but not for paying salaries.”
- He criticised Okorocha for refusing to release the payment stadium booked for the rally. He said it is absurd for a governor who is in the same party with the governorship candidate to deny access to the stadium, as though it makes sense if he did it to other parties.
Why it matters: The APC was always going to face an uphill battle in Imo, as it would in most states in the South East. However falling out with its only governor from the region just dimmed its chances even more. The rally speech by Oshiomhole follows a pattern where the chairman praises members of his party openly as performers, and then without any shame lambasts them as failurws when there is a falling out.