Uche Nwosu: From Bag Carrier To Governor?
By Sir McLord Obioha, Managing Editor.
Of all the candidates vying for the post of the governorship of Imo, none has raised so much dust as Uche Nwosu.
At 43, he is the youngest among other candidates and has not held any elective post in his life. His critics capitalize on his inexperience as enough factor to disqualify him for the tough job of governing Imo, a state populated by the wisest and most cunning politicians with their subterfuge and chicanery, erudite scholars, successful business icons, and of course the best petition writers in the world.
Compounding this controversy is his marriage to the first daughter of the governor, who has chosen him as his successor—despite all the cries by many who see this move as the highest form of godfatherism and nepotism.
Like the governor, Uche hails from Orlu which has 12 out of the 27 Local governments of Imo. Two other zones, Owerri and Okigwe have 9 and 6 respectively which totals 15, few local governments shy of Orlu’s almost half of 27. This disproportional equation makes it an uphill task for any person who is not from Orlu to be elected as the governor of Imo.
The governor has been insensate to incessant appeals by those who see his nomination of Nwosu, who is from the same zone with him as domination. In his characteristic impunity, he has brushed aside what his critics claim as the old and unwritten rule of rotating the governorship position equitably among these three senatorial zones.
One would think that these factors would be enough to slow Nwosu down. Instead, his popularity continues to soar by the day. Unlike other candidates who have been struggling to advertise themselves to the electorate, he has become a household name in the highly contentious and controversial politics of Imo.
How did a young man who graduated in 2000 and could not pass the exam for Gov. Ikedi Ohakim’s 10, 000 job program offer suddenly become a candidate for governorship of the state today and is now competing with the erstwhile governor Ikedi Ohakim, also struggling to return to the post he lost in previous election?
Nwosu’s epic story is a mixture of enigma, comedy and melodrama. It begins with when he joined Gov. Rochas Okorocha’s Rochas Foundation School as his Personal assistant or what Igbo politicians will call his “Bag Carrier”. From his tutelage till today, he has displayed a remarkable loyalty that won the heart of his usually vibrant and rambunctious boss.
It was not surprising that when he became the governor, he brought him into his cabinet first as his Deputy Chief of Staff and later as his Commissioner of Lands—a position considered by many as the most lucrative and enviable. His last post was as his Chief of staff.
But being a good “bag carrier” to the governor was not enough for Nwosu. He had a plan… a bigger plan. He had an eye on Douglass House— sobriquet for Imo government house. That plan is evident today. As a man who peeped into the future, he knew that obedience and loyalty would not be enough qualities that will catapult him into the government house.
So he devised a means. Likeable and endowed with a quiet and disarming demeanor that could be mistaken for weakness, this silent schemer who operates best behind the scene, unleashed his charm and electricity on the governor’s first daughter and she immediately fell for it. He swept her off her feet.
The smooth operator who came in as a “bag carrier” was now hobnobbing with the first family. Before the governor could find out what was amiss, he has scored the first goal.
The governor was helpless and furious but through understanding and good advice, he allowed flayed temper and nerves to cool. His bag carrier was gracefully welcomed into the first family as an inlaw. Pronto, the deed was done!
From then, Nwosu was unstoppable. There was no shortage of love between him and his boss who may arguably have yawned for a trusted political son who will succeed him. The love was such that when the governor was away on official duties, he would appoint him, instead of the deputy governor as the law provided, to be the acting governor.
The governor was not done. With Nwosu now baptized as his beloved son, he systematically outwitted his deputy by orchestrating his impeachment to prepare his fledgling inlaw for the post of a governor. This move did not go down well in the minds of Imolites. This was the second time that he has elbowed his first deputy the same way. Okorocha’s behavior pitted, him Nwosu against his party members, the deputy governor, prospective candidates. His critics and enemies grew.
Some felt that the idea of choosing Nwosu was a continuation of the governor’s affront and impunity, while others accused him of turning the leadership of Imo into a family fiefdom– himself, his family, relatives and inlaws. His other daughter is married to the son of a Minister in the Federal cabinet who was nominated to the post by the governor. The governor’s sister is the commissioner of the controversial and abstruse Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment… Whatever that means!
The benefits of being the governor’s inlaw also come with its baggage. Since the governor is not on the gubernatorial ticket this time, Nwosu’s candidacy has inherited all the bottled up anger all the governor’s traducers have been nursing for him. Almost all the people who have one grudge or the other against the governor now seem to have found a common enemy to vent their pent up anger.
Are you a Filling Station owner, landed property owner whose structures were bulldozed to make way for wider road that now dot the major roads in Owerri? Did you lose your job due to retrenchment? Are you a staff owed back pay? Are you the labor union forced to settle for 30 percent pay cut? Are you a government worker who does not get her salary on time? Are you an Okada or Tricycle (Ke-ke) rider, chased out of the city by the governor to relocate to the hinterlands to give life to the governor’s urban renewal program? Are you a politician who sees Okorocha as governing with impunity, etc, the list of governor’s haters is endless?
Perhaps the most unforgiving of these groups are the Owerri indigenes whose lands, houses, structures, property and later their age old Ekeukwu market were destroyed and relocated Egbeada to enhance the free flow of perennial traffic problem along Douglas road. The traffic problem on this road has defied solution by previous administrations including the military.
Following this group is Mbaise people who accuse the governor of neglecting them since he assumed power. Mbaise forgot that politics is a game permanent interest. As plausible as their argument that since the state was created, no Mbaise person has been elected as governor may sound, the galling fact is that they have not been able to unite with their Owerri kith and kin but hot rivalry, to form a formidable force to present a consensual candidate.
Then there is the Catholic Church. Yes, the Catholic Church… the same religious organization that torpedoed the re-election of the erstwhile governor Ikedi Ohakim when it alleged that he flogged one of their priests. Sensing that this maybe one of the great threat that it may have, Nwosu campaign has started to sensitize the people against what they call “Politics From The Pulpit”.
Can candidate Uche Nwosu scale through these hurdles? Is he ready for all the potshots and the kitchen sink that may be thrown at him from different angles? Is he able to neutralize all these factors stacked up against him?
Currently, things appear to be working well for him. Unlike his boss who is a showy, garrulous, ‘always in your face’ politician, Nwosu is sober, humble and respectful too, making those still sitting on the fence about his candidacy to take another look at him. Rarely has a candidate’s weakness worked to his advantage prior to an election year.
As controversial as the Orlu domineering factor is to his chances, it is also indirectly an advantage to him. Granted that Orlu voters may have joined their Owerri and Okigwe counterparts today in openly shouting foul to his candidacy, many of them whisper their support for him in private. What they are not voicing out openly is what every Nigerian knows. When the chips are down, it all comes down to development to ones’ zone. And faced with the Hobson’s choice of who really to vote for, an Okigwe voter is likely to pick an Orlu person as against a candidate from Owerri. Put succintly, Orlu has more cultural and ancestral bond with Okigwe than Owerri. Many years ago, Okigwe was the administrative headquarter that included Orlu. There was also this derogatory and deprecatory old song, Obodo nile emehechala, ofor ndi Okigwe n’ Orlu, Ndi n’achi Okigwe amaghi achi which means every town has developed except Okigwe and Orlu.
As hard as the analysis may appear, the arithmetical truth is that all that Nwosu may need to become a governor are few local governments from Okigwe to compliment his Orlu vote.
There are also votes Nwosu stands to inherit from his boss in Orlu. The governor still commands some subdued respect for at least turning a nondescript ‘village’ into a mini town although there are still some pockets of residual, well qualified and implacable anger for the destruction he brought to Orlu–all in the name of development that never happened. A week after he assumed power, the governor sang that derogatory song about Okigwe and Orlu being undeveloped and promised that he will transform both towns into what other towns will be the envy of. Till date that promise was never fulfilled and today Okigwe and Orlu remain underdeveloped and ghosts of their former selves.
Nwosu’s has perhaps the well-funded campaign machine, courtesy of his boss. Of all the candidates, he seems to be the only one with the financial muscle that his opponents only dream off. The governor has promised to match Naira for Naira for any challenge that his opponents may throw up and only recently vowed to put his life and blood into the race to make sure that he shakes his inlaw’s hand as the next governor come next year. For starters, the number of Billboards showcasing Uche Nwosu that has blanketed the state speaks for itself.
The greatest thing that Nwosu has in his favor is the fact that he presently has no formidable challenger. The few challengers in his party numbering over 13, who have been able to part with their N22 million for the nomination form, include two time Senator Hope Uzodinma, Jude Ejiogu, Former SSG, George Eche, Nlemuoha, Tony Gbujie, etc. Put together, these candidates are not a match to Nwosu’s war chest.
Also in the race is the Deputy Governor Eze Madumere, seconded by another of the governor’s inlaw, Chuks Ololo. Some analysts wonder if Ololo buying of a form is a ploy, decoy by Rochas Okorochas to hoodwink the exasperated voters, by reserving a player on the bench in case his choice becomes unsellable to Imo voters.
Today, most parties in Imo have become either fractious or are in disarray. Once, a credible opposition party in the state, People’s Democratic Party, PDP is fighting among itself with most of its prominent members jostling to be aspirants. Currently, the number of candidates from these parties with the vaulting ambition to be governors is unbelievable. At the last count, APGA has over 26 contestants. Once, yours sincerely took a stroll around the Fire Service Intersection and was greeted with an avalanche of posters of neophytes angling for the post of Imo governorship. It was simply uncountable!
As the number of parties increase, the numbers of those vying for governorship logically increases. The more the contestants, the more fractious they become and the more it helps candidate Nwosu in whittling down the number of voters for those who may put up a close fight against him.
The average Imo politician wants to be a leader. They do not want to be led. This explains the primary reason the carpet crossers are jumping ship today. They know that their chances of getting a ticket in their previous parties are zip, zilch, zed. Problem is, how will these parties accommodate these newcomers without alienating their old members, some founding members, who have been with the party through thick and thin? What do you do with those who have been preparing their gubernatorial battle before the arrival of these turncoats?
Played by western standard, politics can be a game of understanding. Not so with Nigerians! Unforgiving and hardly eschewing bitterness in politics, when they lose, they jump ship and usually with their followers. It is easy for these politicians to hop effortlessly from one party to the other because these parties have no ideology.
Perhaps, the only candidate that appears to pose a serious challenge to Nwosu at this time maybe the two time senator Ifeanyi Araraume. Hardly a dark horse, his strength derives from his dedicated followership. He has the best grassroot organization in the state. But his candidacy appears to be clouded with the ingrained fear that former President, Olusegun Obasanjo instilled in them.
On the eve of the 2007 election, Obasanjo abandoned his tight schedule in Abuja and flew into Owerri. His mission? To discourage Imo voters from voting for Araraume who was almost coasting to victory. Using the parody that bordered on macabre, he created the impression that electing him was tantamount to electing a “killer”. That was all he needed to turn the tide against him and deny him the election. That impression has stuck to this day. That was the president’s pay back for the senator’s purported insubordination to torpedo his third term agenda and a business gone awry between them. A typical politician who cannot be trusted, Araraume is best known for his last minute switching of sides to support the present governor during the supplementary election between him and his challenger, Emeka Ihiedioha. Many of his followers who felt betrayed by this Quid Pro Quid game between him and Okoroacha still nurse that wound today.
Araraume’s latest romance with APGA and his quest to be their flag bearer may not be a cakewalk for him after all. He is coming into a party with political juggernauts like former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, Daniel Kanu of Abacha YEEA fame, Uche Onyeagucha, Okey Ezeh, the amiable transporter, Frank Nneji, arguably APGA’s best hope to mount a serious challenge to Uche Nwosu. It is definitely going to be a bare knuckle fight of the Titans for these politicians.
There may be other prominent members who are yet to throw in their hats in the ring? Imo politics with its skullduggery and chicanery is unpredictable even to the best clairvoyant. As the clock ticks, the question remains, “Who will succeed Rochas Okoroacha?
It is too early to tell.
- Mclord Obioha is a Veteran member of Nigerian Union of Journalist, and the publisher of the 24/7 news portal on the internet,Igbolive.com