by Segun Odeleye
The governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, is having a taste of just how difficult things might turn out to be for him if he eventually decides to run for reelection as Imo governor in 2015
During the Iriji Mbaise New Yam Festival last weekend, the governor faced off with deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha as well as Pres. Goodluck Jonathan who was represented by the minister of state for foreign affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri.
The governor is a member of the APC, while both Ihedioha and Pres. Jonathan belong to the PDP.
Considering that the event was held in Mbaise land where the deputy speaker hails from, Gov. Okorocha was at the receiving end of the people’s anger. He had to leave earlier, even before the kola nuts were broken. According to him, he did so because he had another event to attend.
The minister of foreign affairs who spoke to journalists after the festival, said that: “Since Okorocha assumed office in 2011, he has never attended the Iriji Mbaise until this one that precedes the election year. This is not the ground for venting personal animosities. He even left before the actual ceremony began. He just brought trouble to the event and this is an embarrassment to the state and its people. I am positive that by 2015, we will all have a chance to redress this anomaly.”
The festival turned into a show of might between Okorocha and Ihedioha. The governor’s speech was disrupted at intervals by boos from the crowd and the switching off of the governor’s microphone sometimes for as long as five minutes.
It was Ihedioha who first fired shots at Okorocha during his speech. He told the governor that in 2015, Okorocha will hand over to him as he had no chance of getting reelected. He told the governor that there was lack of government presence in Mbaise.
“The major projects in Mbaise are those executed by the federal government. In the few areas credited to the state government, we only see projects that are very poorly executed.
“It is evident that the governor has run out of ideas, so as a matter of expediency, it is expected that he would hand over the reins in 2015 so we can help out.”
When the governor had his chance to speak, he was visibly angry: “The green cap (referring to Ihedioha’s trademark cap) will not make anybody governor of Imo State and as a matter of fact, there is nobody in the Imo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who is my match in an electoral contest. My three years in office is more productive than the 12 years spent in the state by the PDP. Imo people have rejected PDP because PDP is worse than the Ebola virus.”
Okorocha’s microphone was switched off again when he said he had laid the foundation for a campus of the Imo State University to be sited in Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala federal constituency.
The presence of security personnel at the event helped ensure that things did not degenerate into a free for all.
After the event, the state government released a statement asking Ihedioha to apologise to the governor for his attempt at embarrassing and disgracing him. But Ihedioha said that Okorocha should apologise instead to the Mbaise people for defiling their custom and tradition.
“The deputy speaker and other Mbaise leaders believed that it was the governor who actually owes the Mbaise people an apology for disrupting the event after coming late in his characteristic manner and defiling the treasured cultural values and tradition of Iri Iji Mbaise,” a statement by Chibuike Onyeukwu issued on behalf of the deputy speaker said.
Ihedioha said it was a blatant lie the claim by the state government that he did not welcome the governor to the event, noting that even though Okorocha had an ulterior motive for attending the festival only after spurning invitations in the past three years, he still gave him the courtesy of welcoming him as chief guest of honour.
The statement clarified: “It is on record (and for the avoidance of doubt, the tape of the event can be cross checked by members of the public) that the deputy speaker did not only welcome Okorocha to the event but also enjoined him to accept the kolanut offered to him as chief guest of honour.
“This was in spite of suspicion of an ulterior motive by the Mbaise people on the part of the governor who had found it convenient to ignore several invitations to attend ‘Iri Iji’ Mbaise in the past three years suddenly decided to attend this year’s edition for obviously sinister political reasons. The Mbaise people and friends of the nation present at the event easily saw through this facade and pretence.”
Ihedioha said the governor’s recourse to attacking him simply confirms the fact that “the governor holds him (Ihedioha) in trepidation and is at a loss as to how to address his growing popularity and acceptance among the Imo people vis-a-vis his (Okorocha’s) fast declining rating among the people.”