There is fresh concern in Imo State today over the ongoing face-off between Governor Hope Uzodimma and former Governor Rochas Okorocha as the elite takes sides.
Although political leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari and Southeast governors have openly intervened to help resolve the lingering feud between Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State and former Governor Rochas Okorocha, The Nation learnt during the week that there is grave concern in the state as the face-off has sharply divided Imo State’s political leaders.
This is even as Okorocha’s associates swore to contest this week’s ruling of a high court, sitting in Owerri and presided over by Justice F. Njemanze which granted an application filed by Louis Alozie (SAN), seeking interim forfeiture of all properties allegedly “illegally acquired by Okorocha while in office as the state’s governor.
In a motion ex-parte brought pursuant to Section 472(1) of the Imo State Administration of Criminal Justice Law No. 2 of 2020, Louis Alozie (SAN) applied for interim forfeiture of the following properties allegedly acquired by Okorocha illegally: Eastern Palm University, Ogboko; Royal Spring Palm Hotels and Apartments; IBC staff quarters illegally acquired for the purpose of Rochas Foundation College, Owerri; Magistrate Quarters, Orlu road/Cooperative Office/Girls Guide illegally converted to private use, housing Market Square, Kilimanjaro eatery; public building plot B/2 Otamiri South Extension Layout given to the Ministry of Women Affairs for establishing a skills acquisition centre for women illegally acquired for the benefit of Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha’s All-In Stall, Aba road.
Others include Plot P5 Naze Residential Layout, initially part of Primary School Management Board but now annexed to All-In Stores, Aba Road belonging to Mrs. Nkechi Okorocha and all the properties contained from pages 226 to 272 of the Government White Paper on the recommendation of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Land Administration in Imo State from June 2006 to May 2019.
The application was, among others, based on the ground: “These public properties were converted to personal use by the 1st-3rd respondents and their cronies for which the applicants now intend to recover them in line with the White Paper by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry’s report”.
Unease in the land
Explaining the fear caused by the face off, Chief Romanus Chukudi, a retired civil servant and community leader in Orlu said: “Here in Imo State, there is tension. Everybody is worried because the war between Governor Uzodimma and former Governor Rochas Okorocha has caused a frightening division between brothers and sisters even at the grassroots level. Wherever you go to Imo, agents of these two leaders will try to find out who you support. If you don’t know whose interest they represent before responding, you may put yourself at risk. The matter is even worse amongst our political leaders, especially within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) where leaders have lined up behind the two politicians, leaving a sharply divided ruling party. Don’t forget the former governor was the father of APC here for many years. That time, all the APC leaders in the state were loyal to him. Today, a new APC governor is at the Government House and is the one fighting to bring to book Okorocha, an APC serving senator. Understandably, many loyalists of Okorocha have shifted their allegiances to the current governor, Uzodimma but given Okorocha’s weight; you will agree with me he still has die hard loyalists. This development is dicey and has assumed a threatening dimension following the deterioration of the feud between Okorocha and Uzodimma.”
The tensed atmosphere, we learnt, is further charged by the sustained hot exchanges of words between the two political leaders either directly or through their aides, which peaked last Sunday when Okorocha was arrested and detained by security operatives at the instance of Imo State Government over ownership and use of some assets, including an Estate allegedly belonging to Okorocha’s wife.
Recounting the incident shortly after his release, when his supporters paid him a solidarity visit at his Spibat residence in Owerri, Okorocha accused Uzodimma of mobilising thugs and policemen to attack him that Sunday even as he called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to arrest Uzodimma’s Special Adviser on Special Duties, Chinasa Nwaneri, and Special Assistant on Youths, Eric Uwakwe, for allegedly “leading the thugs,” who, according to him, macheted his orderly, one of his brothers-in-law and a civilian aide.
He then warned Uzodimma not to take his peaceful disposition for cowardice. As he puts it: “I never expected that a governor of a state could deploy thugs. Hope Uzodimma is going the wrong way. He may not end well as a governor.
“I restrained myself from telling my orderly and security aides from releasing live bullets because there could have been deaths. I did this because of my peaceful disposition. But, Uzodimma should not take my peaceful disposition for cowardice.”
It would be recalled that on Friday, February 19, 2021, Imo State Government recovered the Royal Palm Estate along Akachi road, alleging that it was built with state resources.
The seizure, according to the government team, led by the Commissioner for Lands, Enyinnaya Onuegbu, was in compliance with the directive of the Imo State Gazette on the report of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry on the recovery of Lands and other related matters.
But Senator Okorocha, the member, representing Imo West Senatorial District in the National Assembly, allegedly led a team of his supporters to reopen the Royal Palm Estate sealed by the state government.
The police officials that arrested Okorocha, said the former governor was accompanied by his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, and other aides to the estate, where his men allegedly broke the keys used to seal the hotel.
Many observers, including close associates of the two leaders, have described the face-off as primarily political, notwithstanding that Okorocha and Uzodimma are both leaders of APC. Their misunderstanding became public knowledge soon after Okorocha left office as governor in 2019.