By Ikechukwu Amaechi
In his epic novel, Things Fall Apart, the late Chinua Achebe brought the essence of Igbo adages into very sharp focus. “Among the Igbo, the art of conversation is regarded very highly,” he wrote. “And proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten.” Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole Watching Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, eulogise Senator Hope Uzodinma, his party’s governorship candidate in the 2019 elections at a rally to flag-off his campaign in Owerri on Friday, I couldn’t help but remember another profound Igbo maxim with a dog and monkey metaphor.
In selling the candidacy of Uzodinma to the good but serially abused and long-suffering Imo people, Oshiomhole tried very hard to draw a line of distinction between the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, the hitherto APC poster boy who remains the chairman of the party’s elite governors’ forum and Uzodinma. Okorocha, Oshiomhole thundered, is a bad man and Uzodinma, the new kid on the APC block, is decent. Really? How? Oshiomhole who also said President Muhammadu Buhari had declared support for Uzodinma reeled out the sins of Okorocha which made him a persona non grata in the saintly APC family, and to be fair to him, he was correct in his portrayal of the governor.
But in beatifying Uzodinma, the APC chairman failed to tell Imolites those virtues that qualify him for the honour. Oshiomhole who said Uzodinma was the only governorship candidate in Imo State endorsed by Buhari (which is not true because the emergence of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) governorship candidate barely one month after joining the party was at the presidency’s behest) admonished the people to disregard those from unknown parties, who were juxtaposing the president’s picture with theirs. Of course, the main target of his jibe was Uche Nwosu, Okorocha’s son-in-law who, despite defecting to AA to pursue his governorship ambition after Uzodinma pulled the rug from under his feet in APC, still has the entire Imo landscape littered with billboards showcasing himself and Buhari.
That is what desperation does to people. It has the capacity to blindside victims. But Oshiomhole was not done yet. I will crave your indulgence to quote him lengthily. “We brought you a message of hope not a message of lamentation and family business. We have come to deliver the message of hope that although things have gone wrong in the recent past, we have come to say how we will return the governance of the state to the people. The government that is coming will bring development for every son and daughter of Imo. You have a reason for demanding change,” he told party faithful.
Oshiomhole assured civil servants, traditional rulers and pensioners in the state that they will not be neglected in Uzodinma’s government, noting, correctly, that the outgoing governor had treated them most contemptuously. “You want a governorship candidate whose purpose is to bring development to all Imo people, including civil servants who no longer know what a pay day is like. I want to assure workers that have been lamenting and families whose breadwinners cannot fend for them that the days are over. Never again will your governor look at you and say your salary depends on when you work not when it is due. You will now have a person that will lead by example. Anybody who believes in APC must support Uzodinma.
“Pensioners too will smile. Traditional rulers will have dominion over their areas without intimidation. We will make sure the bailout money is returned. The days are gone when a governor will look at the people and say there is money for other things but not for paying salaries. “In Uzodinma’s government, appointments will be based on merit and not family connection. We will not domesticate happiness in the hands of a few people because all Imo people will be happy. Roads and other contracts will not be awarded to in-laws but to genuine men and women of Imo State.
“Democracy is about the people and as such we will run an inclusive government, the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Never again shall we govern on the basis of family connection. Knowing somebody or not, or marrying from a family or not will no longer matter. Your money will be used to develop Imo.”
Like I pointed out earlier, there is not even a single crime Oshiomhole enumerated at the rally that Okorocha did not commit and is still committing against the people who elected him governor almost eight years ago. I told him that much to his face about two years ago at Douglas House, Owerri when I insisted that he was ruling the people on impulse and was by no means providing the state the leadership that could spur development. That was even before things got really bad. He has not forgiven me for telling him that the emperor was indeed naked contrary to the stories his retinue of courtiers inundate him with daily.
But in telling the truth about the Okorocha misadventure, Oshiomhole did not tell Imo people how Uzodinma would be different. What will he do differently if elected governor and how? Because the truth is that the candidate that Oshiomhole was portraying in Owerri who will save Imo cannot be Hope Uzodinma. His antecedents do not lend credence to Oshiomhole’s assertion neither does his pedigree. There is no difference between Okorocha and Uzodinma. They are two sides of a very bad coin. The APC governorship candidate has nothing to bring to the leadership table other than the fact that he is a political gambler and his party sees him as the man with the “capacity to win election”.
He is a strongman with a large war chest. But we have seen where those attributes left the state. As Ndigbo would say, a man who sells his monkey to buy a dog still has a stooping animal in his home. Rejecting Okorocha and his confederates in 2019 and bringing in the choice(s) APC is offering Imolites is tantamount to selling the dog to buy a monkey; jumping from frying pan to fire. It is a death wish. Granted, the candidacy of Uche Nwosu is like a poisoned chalice and APC did well in scuttling it, but if the party meant well for the state, they should have gone for a candidate with a pedigree and governance worldview, a candidate that believes in something.
Uzodinma does not fit that bill by any stretch of the imagination. After eight years of unmitigated disaster, the state needs a political thinker, a leader who believes in something, a man consumed by his vision of greatness and a mission to accomplish, a man who sees politics and acquisition of power as a means to an end, the end being the good of the many. The state needs a leader who will give the people an early heads up about what needs to be done to climb out of their hole of despair, not one that would continue digging.
A state like Imo that is on its knees does not need men and women who would eat and shoot the breeze, who see power as an end in itself. Imolites must resist the impunity of those who see them as a conquered people. They must take their destiny in their own hands. For too long, Imo, the Igbo heartland, has been the butt of all national jokes. That must change; the very reason why the 2019 elections will be the most consequential so far.
*Amaechi is Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, TheNiche on Sunday newspaper