Rochas Okorocha, the governor of Imo State, has debunked claims that he had unilaterally endorsed his chief of staff and son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as his successor.
The clarification came during a media chat in Abuja on Sunday, March 11, 2018, just as the Imo State government warned religious leaders to be cautious in their utterances and actions as undue meddlesomeness in partisan politics could trigger an unnecessary crisis in the state.
Okorocha said what he has done was to pencil down three persons who are likely to take over from him at the end of his tenure in 2019 and to encourage these governorship hopefuls to seek grassroots support for their aspirations. The likely successors, he said, include the deputy governor, Eze Madumere; chief of staff, Uche Nwosu and Chike Okafor, former commissioner for finance and now a member of the House of Representatives.
Okorocha, who spoke through Steve Asimobi, his Special Adviser on Electoral Matters, said that though he was yet to endorse anyone, endorsement of candidates ahead of an election was a normal democratic procedure but does not amount to an imposition since all aspirants would pass through the primary election at the party level or be selected through a consensus decision of the party.
The governor said that in proposing the three aspirants, he had told them that the person who will earn his endorsement and support must not only be 50 years and below but must show that he has grassroots support and the support of the party structure across the 27 local government areas of the state.
“I want to state clearly and unequivocally that Governor Rochas Okorocha is a Democrat who likes doing things orderly and through consensus
“Endorsement is a natural process in any democracy. During the last election, the Catholic Church took a position. The political parties will endorse, traditional rulers, will endorse. The governor is also qualified to endorse who he will endorse but he has not foisted that candidate on the masses because the candidates will still go through party primaries. Secondly, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Constitution of the APC, as well as the Electoral Act and Guidelines, give the party the leeway to go through the normal primary or do what we call consensus,” Asimobi said.
He dismissed critics who have accused Okorocha of nepotism in the alleged choice of a son-in-law as successor. According to him, in the United States of America from where Nigeria borrowed her style of democracy, there had been various instances where people from the same family occupied various political positions at the same time or in quick succession. He gave examples of the Kenedy, Bush and Clinton dynasties where members of the same family have held various sensitive political offices.
On the issue of power rotation in Imo State and the alleged move to violate what is referred to as Charter of Equity, Asimobi said, “There is no Charter of Equity in Imo state. There is no agreement written by anybody That is why since 1999 till date, people from Okigwe, Owerri and Orlu zones have contested for the governorship seat at every election cycle.”
On the recent reports of an alleged attack on Most Rev. Valentine Obinna, the Archbishop of Owerri Catholic archdiocese, by loyalists of Governor Okorocha’s Chief of Staff and son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, Asimobi said the incident has been grossly misrepresented.
“For record purposes, there was no confusion and no confrontation between Bishop Obinna and supporters of Ugwumba Uche Nwosu.
“What happened? The church process had been completed, sermon delivered by Archbishop Obinna , everything done in keeping with Catholic tradition and just in his closing remarks, he started talking about his feelings on Uche Nwosu.
“Of course, we have always known his position; he had always wanted somebody from his Emekuku area of Imo State. We are aware of it before now.
“Remember Archbishop Obinna was the same person who lied against Governor Ohakim that he beat up one Rev. Fr Okorie, a day after local government elections were conducted in Imo State under Ohakim’s tenure…
“Of course, we are aware that apologies have been tendered, the truth has come out four years after the damage was done because the government kept quiet then.