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Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Nigerian Deputy Governor Who Discovered The Pope’s Secrets – By Okwuaku A. I. Okwuaku



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Prince Madumere
Prince Madumere

As a little village boy fascinated by the fanfares of Catholicism, my thought was that nothing could be as pleasurable as being a Catholic Pope. Of course there are genuine reasons to justify my perception or otherwise delusion; I witnessed the historic visits of the pope to Nigeria. You can recall the media blitz, the wild, wild desperation of millions of Nigerians Catholics and non Catholics, including Moslems to behold the face of the pope live in their homeland soil. What a great privilege to have the Holy Father step into your country. There were also the elaborate protocols that accompanied the historic papal visits; there was the pope’s mobile, the pope’s podium. Aside the thousands of troops and officers deployed by the Nigerians armed forces and paramilitary, the pope also came with his Swiss guards known to be the most paid security in the whole world.

The nation stood still while the papal activities took over our airwaves and screens. The nation’s who is who including Moslems wanted to see the pope. Prisoners hoped on the Pope’s visit to secure presidential pardon. When the Nigerian president shook the pope, the press described it as a rare lifetime opportunity. Can you imagine it? So, as a little boy I concluded that this pope must be something else, and that nothing could have offered more pleasure than being a Roman Catholic pontiff. However, when I read a powerful spy book written by one of the world’s most audacious authors, I discovered that the papacy is the most daring, most dangerous, and most difficult task any man can undertake. I understood that to succeed as a pope you must be extra-ordinary. The book titled “In God’s Name” was written by David Yallop.

After reading “In God’s Name” I was shocked. It is an insider account of how the Vatican Mafia assassinated Pope John Paul I for daring a reform. It  is a raw account of the dirty dangerous side of the Vatican life and politics, a vivid account of sleaze of corruption among the cardinals- the holy brothers of the pope, and how the Mafia undermined the political wills of past popes in  giving the Vatican a human face. Then I wondered how Pope John Paul II was able to break records to create such a historic papacy and touch the lives of billions of people including non-Catholic Christians, Pagans, Jews and Muslims. Maybe he was also a mafia or something close to that? I thought. Then I stumbled upon the Pope’s last book titled “Memory and Identity”, and I was shocked to discover that Pope John Paul II’s secrets were just two things: Service and Humility. Later the pope was to inform the papacy and the world that he was nothing but “Servant of the servants of God.” To show how correct David Yallop was in  his book  In God’s Name,   the same Mafia who assassinated Pope John Paul I also made an attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II. The pope narrowly survived it with bullet wounds and continued his life of service in humility.

Concerning his famous most influential papacy, Karol Józef Wojtyła was a polish boy from a very poor background who worked as a laborer in a stone quarry. He was later to become Pope John Paul II in the 1978 conclave, leading over 1.2 billion Catholics over the world. Aside the fact that his elevation as the Roman Catholic pontiff  broke record of centuries by bypassing the antics of Italian Mafia cardinals to become the first non-Italian pope in centuries,  Pope John Paul II’s reign remains the most historic papacy in the annals of the global catholic community in all aspects. As available records indicate “he was many things to many people, tribes, nations and continents, and at his death the world became afraid they would not be able to find a suitable replacement for the man who would later become known as The Pope of Africans due to his love and human relations with the people of this part of the world considered forgotten, and the fastest canonized saint of the church due to his perceived life of humility and service in uprightness.”

As the Head of state of world’s smallest nation, Karol Józef Wojtyła,( sorry, many don’t know that the Vatican is the world’s smallest nation with a population of 500 people) the polish born pope was seen as a radical who redefined Vatican diplomacy in a way that helped him engage other world leaders to help him bring down the wall of communism and its absurd ideologies. He was later to be dubbed “The Diplomatic Pope.” As the head of the papacy and leader of the Catholics he was seen as an austere father of uncompromising discipline who protected traditional catholic theologies and fundamental doctrines, yet the liberals embraced him as the opened-armed pope who expanded greater ecumenism, extending hands of fellowship to the Jews, Pagans and Moslems in love. Through service in humility, the Pope brought the Vatican closer to the people, and in effect he turned the heart and open arms of the world and its people towards the Vatican in a way that made the Vatican the beloved of the world and made its message more appealing.

The pope jettisoned the comfort of the Vatican that lured his predecessors into sedentary or armchair papacies. Rather he wanted to reach out to the poor and the forgotten people in the hidden corners of the world and offer them service in humility. His itinerary is evidence. He remains the most travelled pope in Catholic history, touching down and interacting with common people in 129 countries of the world, with some countries being visited by the pope more than twice. Nigeria for example was visited twice by same pope who had one of the longest papacies that spanned over three decades.  So I was later to discover that Pope John Paul II’s greatest secrets were just service in humility.

It is Pope John Paul II’s picture that comes to mind when you come across the report on Prince Eze Madumere, the deputy governor of Imo state, Nigeria. A look at the story of the current government of Governor Anayo Rochas Okorocha in Imo state seems to come with the semblance of John Paul’s papacy. “Aside it’s great development blueprints and administrative policies in its offing, the Okorocha government also encourages citizens’ participation and grass root engagement of the rural people in a way that gives the common voters a sense of belonging and re-assures them that the government they elected is still accountable to them and still derives its power from the very source that gave it the mandate upon which it stands.” Reports indicate that the deputy governor of the state is exploring the Pope’s timeless secrets of service in humility, and he is using the secrets to create a powerful appeal among the common electorates for the Rochas Okorocha government. As a close watcher put it “Interestingly, as Prince Eze Madumere replicates the John Paul II example and his message of service to the people in humility it seems to be giving the same powerful effect as in the case of Pope John Paul II. It is bringing the Governor Okorocha led government closer to the people and sending the same powerful appeal to all communities in all corners of the state in a way that endears the government to the hearts of the people.” For one reason, this approach is building a strong bond between the administration and the electorates which opposition political strategists may find impossible to upturn during the next electioneering campaign.

Recently I read an interesting article about the Imo deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere, in a national daily. The article titled “A Deputy Governor In A Village Square” by Evan Anichebe as published in The Daily Independent of Friday, June 6, 2014, was about the deputy governor’s exemplary daily tours to different communities in the state to educate the people on the policies of the government, get new updates on the problems and development challenges confronting the communities, and seeking opinions of the common electorates in the formulation and implementation of the policies of the government. The publication captured an interesting narrative that defines Madumere’s perception about governance and service to the people which reflects the overall attitude of the Governor Okorocha’s government towards governance and administration. The work drew a powerful analogical comparison between Ghana’s most powerful leader, Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings and Prince Eze Madumere. “Both men had humble beginnings but made dramatic inroads into the hearts of the common people and the political elites of their respective homelands through service, through radical reforms in the way their offices related with the society, and through proactive engagement of the common people in their daily activities of governance. Just as Ghanaians anticipated Jerry Rawlings sneak out daily from the comfort of the Air Force Barracks to interact with them, communities in Imo State now eagerly anticipate the arrival of Prince Eze Madumere to their respective communities to meet them at their village squares for interactions which he takes back to his boss, the governor for action.”

Aside his strategic model of engaging the common people which draws similarities between the Imo deputy governor and Jerry Rawlings, Madumere’s personality and political identity as a figure of humility in the daily discharge of his duties and his daily interaction with the common people makes his case more analogous to the Pope’s than to Rawlings’. However, both men’s career in politics and administration follow an interesting trajectory that began from obscurity to dramatic popularity within the political landscapes of their respective homelands. Rawlings was never known until his 1979 trial and subsequent military coup that brought him to power in Ghana. His uncommon approach to socio-political interaction with common Ghanaians by the street sides made his regime Ghana’s most popular regime. Pope John Paul II was a poor polish boy orphaned so early in life, but later to bestride the catholic world and the world stage like a colossus. A look at Madumere’s report offers a useful insight into how close the Gov. Rochas Okorocha government is to the common people.

Like Rawlings and John Paul II, little was known of the Imo deputy governor on the Nigerian political scene until 1998 when he served as Director for Women and Youth Mobilization for Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s campaign in Imo State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 1998 gubernatorial elections in Imo state. He was later to serve as Chief Strategist on Media and Logistics for Anayo Rochas Okorocha’s Presidential bid under the ANPP in 2002–2003. He served as an aide in the Presidency, working as the Chief of Staff to the Presidential Adviser on Inter-Party Relations, when the incumbent governor occupied that position. At the demise of Senator Amah Iwuagwu in December 3, 2005 he made the first radical attempt at elective politics and ran for the Senate seat in Imo East Senatorial District (Owerri Zone). In the 2011 elections, he was PDP’s most feared punisher and the key strategist who upturned the table against the then incumbent Gov. Ikedi Ohakim. This prompted Ohakim’s failed attempt to jail him, but not without spending three months behind bars. As the elections concluded, victory secured, and the waves ebbed, analyst and close watchers predicted he might emerge Governor’s Okorocha first Chief of Staff by merit. That exactly happened. As he enters his second year in office as the deputy of Imo state, Prince Eze Madumere seems to have discovered the Pope’s secret of service in humility, marking him out as one of the most resourceful deputy governors in Nigeria, and the best in Imo’s political history.

As an insider account put it “as soon as Prince Eze Madumere was sworn-in as the deputy governor cum commissioner for works he left no body in doubt of why the governor chose him as his deputy. The governor needed someone who understood the duties of a deputy and the nature of the office. The immediate evidence was a commendable stability in the polity.” Reportedly, “the deputy governor changed the boss-staff relationship environment in a way that engendered productivity, passion and individual commitment of staff at all levels. But beyond all these, he practically demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that as a deputy to an executive governor, the most powerful strategy is the pope’s strategy- service and humility.”

As Madumere believes “Deepening democratic growth requires a practical approach that can create a powerful connect and synergy between the collective aspiration of the common electorates and whatever development policies the government plans to bring onboard. Unfortunately the political contexts within which African democracies are nurtured do not seem to support this idea.” For the case of analysis, a critical study of the dialectics of the history and modus operandi of the Nigerian polity indicates a mischievous gap between the political class and the common citizens who actually form the bulk of the electorates. There is always an oversell of fascinating promises during electioneering campaigns. But once the election is won the electorates rather witness an overkill of such promises. This is one of the fallacies of the Nigerian democracy, and it has completely eroded voters’ confidence on those they elect into offices. Of course past regimes since the coming of the current Nigerian democratic dispensation exemplified the same errors. Hence, a common Nigerian electorate seems to accept in good faith that once elected into office the executive governor or president and his team turn to a pack of emperors rather than humble servants and representative of those who elected them whom you can reach at any time.  Of course, a typical Nigerian politician gets easily ensnared by the trappings of an executive political office in Nigeria and the associated flamboyance. Soonest he forgets his rightful status as the servant of the common citizens.

A close look at the Nigerian case will lead to a discovery that a greater percentage of the Nigerian electorates are largely uninformed about the basic responsibilities of the government to them and their inalienable right to be part of the policy making and policy implementation process which determines how government delivers the democratic dividends to them. A greater bulk of the electorates also lack access to basic information that will help them ask questions about how they are governed, and the political representatives are exploiting this as a powerful alibi to prevent the electorates from holding them accountable. However, when a government in Nigerian chooses to bypass the usual trappings office and meet the people at the place of service, it can form a powerful confidence-building strategy which can help deepen democracy and give the electorates credible reasons on why they should give such a government a chance. This is the case of the Imo State deputy governor who is setting a powerful example by moving from group to group, community to community on behalf of the Gov. Rochas Okorocha government to engage electorates on how best they think the government can help meet their collective challenges.

Ordinarily, the person who emerges a governor’s or a president’s Chief of staff at the first few years or months of the leader’s administration also makes a whole lot of difference in determining how the entire administration is going to navigate the dangerous rifts of running between practical governance and naked politics. A Chief of Staff who knows his job is, by factual rating, the chief political negotiator and principal administrator of labour and productivity in a governor’s cabinet. His ability to manage these two polarizations goes to a great extent to determine his ability or failure to move the machinery of governance efficiently and effectively. When a governor takes office newly and the paths are almost uncharted, with boundaries yet to be defined, the man who emerges as the chief of staff to the governor is one of the most critical choices on the governor’s desk.

As the pioneer Chief of Staff to the governor after the elections, it became the lot of Prince Eze Madumere to chart the path for the new administration and get the system working, and working fast and effective. The governor’s left wing radical approach to governance and politics made the work even more challenging. The governor was bent on building a new more efficient structure radically different from the Ghana Must Go mentality and Godfatherism of the old Banana Republic politics in Imo state. As it became clear that the governor was bent on doing away with the old politicians and hitting the road with young packs and political newbies, the job appeared more challenging and complex for anyone who would emerge his COS. Such a figure must have to build a new system from ground level up. He must administer a set of political staff with diverse political ideologies, leanings and backgrounds and be able to bind them into a cohesive single-vision formidable force capable of helping his boss to deliver on his campaign promises.  Sooner than later after his appointment as the governor’s Chief of Staff, Prince Eze Madumere proved pundits wrong and got the team working and working well. Again, his exploit in human relations was his top secret.

Madumere’s uncommon approach to service in total humility to the common people is creating a powerful impact for the Gov. Okorocha administration. “For an average Nigerian voter, voting for a particular party or candidate in an election is more of a re-assurance ritual. They only opportunity to mingle with a candidate is only before the elections. Once he is handed down a victory, a powerful atmosphere of disconnection sets in to divide the voter and the elected. This is why Madumere’s model is making incredible wave fronts of impacts on both the political class and the common electorates. The response is simply unimaginable. Today, several communities and different groups who have heard the incredible stories of Madumere’s down to earth daily interaction with other communities and groups are earnestly expecting his visits. For these communities and common people, especially the rural population, the youth, women, student groups, artisans, drivers and Okada riders and numerous others, Madumere is an uncommon mediator between them and the Gov. Okorocha pro-people government.  As the 2015 elections speedily approach, Madumere’s pope-styled secret of daily engagement with the common people, communities, and groups and his service in humility will prove to be powerful campaign strategies for Gov. Okorocha and his party. Just as it worked for the pope, this strategy of service in humility with a practical citizens’ engagement approach is working for Imo state government.

Okwuaku A. I. Okwuaku, a Media Strategist, writes from Owerri

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