Emeka Ihedioha And The Politics Of Homecoming – By Collins Ughalaa

March 15, 2020
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The impression given out in the media exchanges by former
Governor Emeka Ihedioha and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over
his aborted homecoming on Thursday, March 12, 2020, is that he is being
victimised for the political exigencies of the incumbent Governor Hope
Uzodinma. The former Governor and his handlers go on to make the impression
that he has been exiled from the state by the incumbent government. This
spurious claim was reinforced by the State Secretary of the party, Hon. Nze Ray
Emeana, on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily programme on Friday morning, March 13,
2020. He claimed, among other things, that Ihedioha was banished from the
state.

The true position of things on the ground in the state does
not agree with the mind-game as played by the PDP and the former Governor. This
has been reiterated by several commentators in the state and beyond who insist
that the PDP may be playing to the gallery with their bogus claim of
banishment. Even among the chieftains of the PDP, there is sharp disagreement
on the claim. Some say that the party hierarchy played into the hands of their
opponents, the state government and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Others
say that the arrangements for the return of their leader was mismanaged by the
party hierarchy and some other interests.

It is common knowledge that the former Governor was billed
to return home after being away for close to two months, since January 14, 2020
[He left actually on 12 Jan]. The party and his supporters decided to give him
a heroic welcome. We do not think that anyone would ordinarily have a problem
with any sort of welcome given to anyone, especially a former Governor. But in
this instant case, while the plans for the heroic welcome was going on, the
police in the state said they had intelligence report that “some group of
persons have concluded plans to use the intending return/visit of Rt. Hon.
Emeka Ihedioha to Imo State on Thursday 12/3/2020, to foment trouble and as
such cause breach of public peace in the state”.

We presume that the state government, through its own
intelligence gathering mechanism, might have got the same or similar
intelligence report. In a press release by the Chief Press Secretary/SA Media
to the Governor, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku, on Wednesday, March 11, the state
government said that they were “aware of plot (sic) by the People’s Democratic
Party (PDP) in the state to stage protests tomorrow, Thursday, during which
they will again pour insults on the Supreme Court Judges for refusing to
reverse their earlier judgment on the Imo governorship case”. Mr. Nwachuku
added that “The government is fully aware of the plan by the PDP to hide under
the guise of welcoming ousted Governor Emeka Ihedioha back to Imo to stage the
protests. Their plan is to make it look like Imo people trooped out to welcome
him and hide under that cover to display placards condemning the Supreme Court
Justices for refusing to reverse their judgment in favour of Ihedioha and the
PDP….From the airport they plan to proceed to Owerri, the state capital to
continue with the protests….Government is also aware that they have imported
thugs from neighboring states for this purpose because the few members left in
their ranks cannot make the impact they crave for.”

It is our consideration that no serious minded government or
governor would ignore serious intelligence pointing to possible breakdown of
law and order. It behoves the governor, as the Chief Security Officer of the
state, to act in such a manner as to maintain public peace and further secure
the lives and property of the citizens of the state. But did Governor Hope
Uzodinma banish Ihedioha from the state? Did the police ban the PDP and their
supporters from receiving their leader? Evidence points to the contrary.
Instead of behaving arbitrarily, the state government rather called “on
the security agencies to take note of this devilish plot by Ihedioha and the
PDP and take necessary steps to ensure that there is no breach of peace (sic)
in the state”. Furthermore, the state government reiterated the fact that “Imo
people cherish the peace which the coming of Governor Hope Uzodimma has brought
to them and will not take kindly any act geared towards truncating it, more so
if such acts are deliberate”.     

With a Governor that has high democratic ethos, the state
government added that it would “no longer tolerate unbridled affront on
constituted authorities in the name of the exercise of freedom of expression”,
noting that “There must be an end to every litigation and that of Imo governorship
tussle which came to an end on 3rd March 2020 cannot be an exception.” The
State Police Command on its part did not take lightly the intelligence report
available to it. Speaking through its Public Relations Officer, SP Ikeokwu
Godson Orlando, the Imo State Police Command on Wednesday banned rallies and
assemblies in the state, saying: “there should be no rally, gathering or
assembly of any kind in relation to the visit”. It stated that the reason for
the ban on rallies and assemblies was “to avoid such [the return/visit of the
former Governor] being hijacked or used by mischief makers to cause, or such
rallies, gathering or assembly snowballing into breach of peace (sic).” The
police also warned the supporters of both the PDP and the APC, the former Governor
and the incumbent to maintain decorum and law and order.

In spite of the foregoing, there are complaints in the
media as to how a reception for a cherished leader by his people could become
violent or disrupt peace and order in the state. We have also read that the PDP
claimed that it had organized protests before and did not take to violence. We
consider the ensuing scenarios leading to the aborting of the return of the
former Governor and its attendant squabbles, to be a case of the witch crying at
night and the baby dying at dawn. Several persons have pointed at a number of
scenarios. For example, the state government quoted a statement made by the
former governor recently. “From the statement released by Ihedioha after the
refusal of the Supreme Court to reverse its earlier judgment, where he said
that the Judges of the Apex Court will not go unpunished, it was obvious that
he was still up to some mischief. This planned protest is only part of
it”, said the APC. They point at another scenario, saying that on
Wednesday, March 4, then Secretary to the Government of Imo State, Hon. Uche
Onyeagucha, in an interview on Channels TV’s Politics Today, vowed that
the PDP, Ihedioha and their supporters would not recognize Uzodinma as the
Governor of Imo State, describing him as “a Supreme Court-imposed Governor of
Imo State”, adding “that is what he would remain for the period he would
be in office”.

There is also the issue of creating two governors in the
state at the same time, a kind of putting two captains on one ship. The PDP had
mounted large billboards where it boldly described Ihedioha as the People’s
Governor. To make the matter worse, during his appearance on Channels
Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday morning, the State Secretary of the party,
Nze Ray Emeana, for more than five times, referred to Ihedioha either as The
Governor, The People’s Governor or Our Governor. He added that though Uzodinma
was imposed on the state by the Supreme Court, the people of the state were
free to choose their Governor. These scenarios, coupled with the police
intelligence and the allegation that some thugs were hired, was enough for the
police to stop rallies and protests.

On the other hand, some people claim that the PDP has
forgotten recent history. They argue that the party wanted Governor Uzodinma to
accept what they did not accept when they were in power in the state. According
to this school of thought, following the activities of the assets recovery team
set up by Ihedioha and the skirmishes that accompanied it, Ihedioha’s
predecessor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, had returned to the state on Tuesday,
August 20, 2019, and addressed his supporters. He was quoted in the media to
have said that he was giving Ihedioha what he termed the last warning over
his “intimidation of Imo citizens”. According to the vanguard newspaper of
Wednesday, August 21, 2019, Okorocha said: “I have returned back (sic).
Everywhere will be calm. It is time to know who is stronger. You think I am not
hearing what is happening. I am hearing but I just keep quiet. I hear how they
are destroying my projects. It is not my fight. It is the fight of God (sic)”.

The state government then led by Ihedioha did not take
lightly the reception given to Okorocha and the statements he was quoted to
have made. The next time Okorocha was billed to return home was on Friday,
August 30, 2019. The PDP and the state government mobilized thousands of youths
to the Sam Mbakwe Airport. The crowd led by the then Secretary to the
Government of Imo State, Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, arrived Sam Mbakwe Airport by
10aam, and stayed up to 2pm waiting for Okorocha’s arrival. Okorocha
deferred his return but never claimed banishment.  

Addressing the mammoth crowd at the airport, Onyeagucha
said: “We heard that Rochas said he was coming to Imo State today. That was why
we asked you all to come together, ka kpokirikpo gbaa n’ihu n’ihu” [an
expression suggesting violent confrontation]. We are proud of the way you
responded. We directed each local government chairman to come with his people.
We have waited for him till 1pm. But we cannot postpone this fight. We are
aware that he might have boarded a flight going to Enugu, Port Harcourt or
Asaba. But that won’t save him. If he likes let him run to Ogboko, we will
pursue him to Ogboko. If he likes let him run to Spibat, we will pursue him to
Spibat. If he runs to his house beside Concorde Hotel, we will pursue him to
that place. What we are sure of is that he must leave Imo State, so that we
would rebuild it for keke drivers, okada riders, civil servants and traders,
youths, children, the aged and pensioners – and for even the dead. But since we
have waited till now and he hasn’t returned, I want to beg you, the matter is
not over yet. I want all of us to go back home. We will proceed to IICC. We
will sit there and wait, to find out whether he had diverted to Port Harcourt,
Asaba or Enugu, in order to come by road. But by whatever means he is coming,
once we get the information, we will pursue him to that place. Even if he is in
a hotel, we will meet him there (sic)”.

…To be continued.

Collins Ughalaa could be reached via
email: ughalaacollins@gmail.com, or via telephone: 07066222944.

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