Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha paid President Muhammadu Buhari a fresh visit on Thursday at Aso Rock villa, this time in company of former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
The meeting, held behind closed doors, has political watchers wondering, with some already concluding that it may not be unconnected to the controversial primaries held in Imo.
However, Hillary Ekeh, state chairman of the APC, who has refused to acknowledge the suspension order on him by the state exco, while speaking to Daily Sun asserted that Governor Okorocha’s visits with the President are meaningless, insisting that the party stance on the congresses are final.
Ekeh said that the congresses were duly conducted in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of the party, reaffirming that the governor’s visit will be of no impact.
“It is not possible, we do not need to go to Abuja to visit the President. The congress committees have already written their reports – which is the final journey – and they did that in accordance with the congress guidelines. It is not ‘Kalu and Kalu Nigeria Ltd’, this is APC,” he said.
Ekeh went on to say that: “The party has a constitution, Oshiomhole is an aspirant, if he wins, he will also come in to be sworn-in to guide and defend the constitution of the party. Even if he wants to amend the constitution of the party, it is the NEC that would do that. So Okorocha’s visits does not have any influence. Maybe Oshiomhole is going to solicit for the President’s support for himself.”
Speaking on why the state congress election was held at a different venue, Ekeh alleged that the invasion of the state party secretariat earlier by thugs caused the relocation of the election to another venue, of which the national leadership of the party was already aware.
Speaking on having held the congress at night, Ekeh said: “It is only a novice who does not know that elections can enter into the night; this is a congress where government thugs set the party office on fire, and the congress guidelines say that the congress must take place at the party secretariat, and if the party secretariat is not convenient for the congress to take place there, that the chairman of the congress committee would chose another public venue that is not a residential house by himself and inform the state chairman of the party, who in turn will inform the delegates of the new venue. The chairman could see that the place was burnt and besieged by thugs and police, then he went round to chose another place after writing to the national party. So there is no guideline that says the party can not hold at night.”
Governor Okorocha, on his part, has said that he and Oshiomhole’s visit with President Buhari should not raise eyebrows.
Speaking on his behalf, Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary Sam Onwuemeodo said that as the Governor, as chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and leader of the party in the state, does not need permission to visit the President.
“Do not forget that asides being governor of Imo and, indeed of APC extraction, he is also, by the grace of God, the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum. So, from time to time there could be reasons to warrant his going to see President Muhammadu Buhari. In other words, his visit to Mr President at any time shouldn’t raise any eyebrows,” he said.
The spokesman similarly noted that visiting the President with Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo State and a front line aspirant to the national chairmanship of the APC, should also not be seen as unusual.
“Nothing stops the former Edo State governor from asking him [Okorocha], in his capacity as the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, to accompany him to see the President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, perhaps, to intimate him of his legitimate ambition to lead the party,” Onwuemeodo said.
“Yes, the Governor had gone to complain of the bad politics played with the party’s congresses in Imo. The stealing of the sensitive materials for the congresses, which were later found in a hotel in Abuja with the aides of those who made away with the congress materials. The ugly incident had a lot of security challenges which the culprits were obviously not mindful of. The disappearance of the congress materials could have led to major security challenges in the state if not for the statesmanly way the Governor handled the whole situation. So, the Governor had gone to the President as the leader of the party in the country to complain of what could rightly be described as a deliberate denial of Imo people, especially APC members in the state, the right to elect their party officials, by those who carried out such worrisome action. The Governor, as a good party man, did what was expected of him in the circumstance.”
The spokesman concluded that “It is also wrong for anybody to begin to link every visit of the Governor to the President with the issues arising from the aborted congresses in Imo. The Governor visits the President and will continue to do so whenever the need arises.”