George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Hon Nze Ray Emeana has revealed how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State plotted and stopped former Governor Rochas Okorocha from installing his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to succeed him.
Emeana, a former university teacher and member of the state House of Assembly, but now the Secretary of the PDP in the state disclosed that they quickly rebuilt the party ahead of the general resolve to end the bad governance in the state. Excerpt.
Some people in Imo had believed that it would be an uphill task for the PDP to wrest power from Rochas Okorocha given the enormous financial outlay at his disposal including security agencies. What magic did the PDP use to neutralize the Okorocha power?
The glory should go first to God and then the people of Imo who overwhelmed the forces of darkness. The governorship contest against Governor Okorocha was actually not with the PDP, but with the people of Imo using the PDP vehicle against him. Like I had said sometime ago Governor Okorocha then did not know that the grace of God and the goodwill of the people have already left him long time. We also give credit to the men and women at the helm of affairs of the party because as they say where there is a will there is a way. In the past the party’s leadership were made up of people who were only motivated by self interest and personal aggrandizement, but this current leadership of the party at state level are made up of people who are really committed to the need of returning as the heartbeat of the Southeast. So, they were not after money and so their major priority was to reclaim Imo and to remove the shame which the immediate past governor had brought on the entire people of the state. Before now Imo State became a mockery because the people are being described as “Iberiberism” people. So, the leadership of the party sat down and plotted strategies and one of the most important strategies is to take back the party to the people because Imo has always been a PDP state. What happened was at a point the leadership of the party became bigger than the party and then impunity reigned supreme. So, the current leadership vowed that it will not toe that past and that the people should decide whoever they want as their leaders. We were not like state executives that remained in their offices to dish out directives but we all went back to our various wards for grassroots mobilization. We took the party back to the villages and wards and if you come to the state secretariat you will not see any member of the state executive because everybody is at his or her village mobilizing for the party and for the first time the people were given the opportunity to contribute to the party. So, the people of Imo including artisans, professionals, the academia who had the taste for change bought into our mantra of rebuilding Imo. Two years into the general election, the party has been embarking on local government sensitization and mobilization tours to sell the vision of a rebranded party. During these tours we interfaced with the traditional rulers, women group, the youths, age grade associations and critical stakeholders in the communities. We also embarked on massive registration of members and they were willing to pay the registration fee of N100 for the first unlike in the past where they were usually given the membership cards free of charge. But this time the people felt that they are part owners of the party and even no member of the state executive has ever received any allowance because we see it as sacrifice. We operated the party as a cooperative where everybody is involved in whatever any member of the party is doing. We removed impunity, imposition of candidates from the party because we resolved that the members of the party must decide who they want as their candidates and you will recall that it was only the PDP in the state that conducted a free, fair and transparent primary for all our candidates for the general elections and that is the reason all our candidates won because they were the choice of the people. Even Emeka Ihedioha had to work hard to convince the members by touring the entire wards before the primaries because he already knew that the party is not ready to impose anybody on the party and it was the same for all the other aspirants of the party who having won their primaries eventually won the main election. The party also held town hall meetings, but while we were doing all these the ruling APC and Governor Okorocha were in Owerri celebrating his birthday with life-sized cakes , he was busy demolishing markets in all the nooks and crannies of the state , and recruiting thugs with which to intimidate the people. Okorocha was oweing pensioners, civil servants and contractors. He converted the state to his personal fiefdom where only members of his family are all that matter to him as every other person can go to hell.
Now, it’s the first time a PDP governorship candidate swept the entire Owerri zone which has the highest registered voters in the state and neither the APC nor the AA which Okorocha supported won even a ward. How did the party manage that?
The party having sufficiently informed the people of the state using the media of how Okorocha has corned the commonwealth of the people to himself and family under his familocracy of almost eight years of administration and the people themselves being a victim of his parochial administration were waiting impatiently to pay Okorocha back in his own coin, especially when Okorocha had vowed that he must be succeeded by his son- in- law Uche Nwosu. Matched with our populist strategies the election become a fait accompli. So, that was why during the governorship election the members of the PDP and its supporters resisted monetary inducements and intimidation from the APC/AA coalition and most of all defended their votes against all odds. Even Okorocha could not win the Orlu senatorial election and knowing that he had been defeated by the candidate of the PDP he ordered his thugs to hold the returning officer hostage from 7:00 p.m Sunday till Monday morning when Okorocha himself ordered the returning officer to declare him winner. That’s why INEC refused to issue him certificate of return until Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High court , Abuja ordered INEC to issue him the certificate of return, but we are going to reclaim that seat at the tribunal. We salute the courage of the returning officer and from information available to me the man is still in hiding because of the threats to his life.
Rumours were rife after the declaration of Emeka Ihedioha as governor that you have been tipped as the SSG, but it turned out that Hon Uche Onyeagocha was eventually appointed to that position. Were you in anyway disappointed?
I was part of the process that made Uche Onyeagocha the SSG , when I told you that I am being selfless, it’s not propaganda or just because I am talking to you. When there is a footfall match, it’s usually those who are watching that will be talking about what the coach should do to win the match. However, some of us have realized that we should remain to grow the party and to be a watchdog to ensure that the promises made by the governor during the campaign are delivered to the people of the state. Uche Onyeaguocha is my brother and he played a very prominent part in stopping Okorocha and his allies from rigging themselves back into the governance of the state. Don’t forget that he was one of the frontline APGA governorship aspirants and when the party sold the ticket to Senator Ararume he joined us because he believes that it is the turn of Owerri Zone to produce the next governor of the state. We were very happy to receive him to join forces with us . But , I as a person is not working because I wanted to be appointed the SSG and Uche Onyeagocha who comes from the same local government, which is Owerri West is more qualified and as you can see he is carrying out duties as the SSG proficiently and effectively and we are happy with that . To be the secretary of the party is my ultimate ambition and I am fulfilled that I am part of the team that stopped Okorocha from achieving a third term in office by proxy.
You were said to be a major strategist behind the party?
No really, you see it was a collective thing, but as secretary of the party, l am in charge of the secretariat and I simply did my work. Don’t forget that I was a former university lecturer and also a former member of the state House of Assembly. I have also attended various leadership trainings both within and outside the country and it helped me to managing the party’s secretariat. However, the resounding success of the party in the election was a collective effort . So, I see myself as part of a team that removed the shame from the people of the state and proud and happy to be part of that team.
Now, there has been complaints by some people that the government is slow as against the wishes of the people in ensuring that the looted assets of the state are promptly recovered.
The government is just one month old and so far things are already happening. The assets recovery committee set up by the state governor has started work and they have also recovered some vehicles that were illegally taken away. The state governor is operating on the mantra of the rule of law and due process unlike the past government that has no respect for rule of law. Like you know it is said that it is better for hundred persons to be set free than an innocent person jailed. So, the PDP government has set several committees to look in the several issues and that is why it appears that things are not moving with the speed expected by the people, but surely all looted state assets including illegally conversion of lands by the previous administration to personal use will be recovered with time. Already, the rebuilding process has began and I can assure you that in the next two months the people of Imo will beginning to see the effect. The people of Imo should exercise a little patience because we inherited a devastated state and it is not going to be rebuilt in the twinkle of an eye, but we have began to fix the roads, so work is in process.