The Oasis Reporters
August 17, 2018
The hostility between Governor Rochas Okorocha and his Deputy, Prince Eze Madumere is so thick, you can almost slice it with a knife and see the two halves fall to the political ground.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state in Nigeria’s South East, better known for his love of statues and hatred for deputies is currently shopping for his third deputy governor in less than eight years of governance. This goes to show
that he has no robust love for that section of the Constitution which insists that a governor must have a deputy, like a spare tyre, so to speak. He would have one, but he ensures their destabilization each time.
It is common knowledge that the governor is firmly in support of the impeachment of his Deputy and may not be apologetic about the eventual outcome. If he succeeds in the shenanigan despite a court injunction, Imo will have its third deputy governor in the eight years of the Okorocha administration.
So far, the deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere has cried ‘foul’, and he has gone back to court to seek an injunction against the enforcement of his purported impeachment from office.
Political watchers are torn between describing the ongoing impeachment saga as either a political necessity or another convenient scheme by the Imo State governor.
According to The Telegraph in a historical narrative, the settings are far too familiar with that of 2013 when the governor unceremoniously sacked his then Deputy, Engr. Jude Agbaso under near similar circumstances.
Allegations that fly in the face of hard facts, willing tools and a subservient legislature; promises and gratifications and of course, a good measure of acrid desperation to drive the process are common recipes that were and are still evident in the two impeachment scenarios.
Around the third week of March 2013, Governor Okorocha’s men unleashed the allegation of bribery against then deputy, Agbaso and before he could understand where he actually erred or crossed the governor, he was impeached and thrown out of office for allegedly receiving N458 million bribe from a contracting firm, J-Pros.
The circumstances were shady and hazy but before all the questions thrown up by the impeachment process could get answers, the deed had been done and Agbaso deposed.
Recalling the experience, Chief Martin Agbaso, the elder brother to the sacked Deputy Governor had in an interview maintained that his brother was as clean as a whistle.
According to him, the deposed Deputy Governor had absolutely nothing to do with the said contract or the purported N485 million for which he was impeached.
Agbaso said: “It was Rochas Okorocha who approved the contract, awarded it, and paid the said contractor N1.3 billion of Imo State money without due process, without even an award letter or any form of advance payment guarantee. So the curious thing at the point was, why would a man who did all this, who got all the benefits that were unprecedented from the governor, go to the Deputy Governor who was away in India on official assignment, and give him a bribe of almost 40 per cent of the money collected? That didn’t make sense to me. And I said that we as a family would do everything humanly possible to get to the root of the matter; we would do everything to find out who took this money, where the money is domiciled and who the beneficiaries are.”
Apparently one of the few dissimilarities between the Jude Agbaso impeachment plot and that of Prince Madumere is the fact that while nearly every Imo resident knows the reason for the attack on Madumere which largely borders on his political ambition that conflicts with Okorocha’s succession plan, nobody was immediately clear on the actual offence of Agbaso at the time until the deed was almost done.
Till date, however, many still cannot tell where or how Agbaso, who was perceived as loyal and diligent, crossed Governor Okorocha. Chief Martin Agbaso said: “Okorocha said that I, the deputy governor’s elder brother at the time, tried to impeach him. So he was trying to retaliate. Later on, he said that as long as Agbaso remained the deputy governor, his life was at risk, that Agbaso could kill him.”
In the case of Madumere, a number of allegations have been put on the table while others were merely bandied back and forth. However, the Deputy Governor has dismissed all the allegations of gross misconducts leveled against him by 13 members of the State Assembly as spurious claims deliberately contrived to undermine his person.
Reacting to the allegations against him, Prince Madumere, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Uche Onwuchekwa, said it was a poor rehash of an old lie to suggest that Madumere abdicated his responsibilities as deputy governor. He noted that as a matter of law, the deputy governor is in the main, constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of superintending Boundary Commission in the state.
“By our records, the Deputy Governor of Imo State has never abdicated from such responsibility. Considering the period under review people of Umuoma of Ihitte-Uboma Local Government, Ihube of Okigwe Local Government among others can testify of the Deputy Governor’s diligent role in crises resolution with particular reference to April 11, April 16, 2018.
“His Excellency also participated in a one-day retreat for stakeholders in the management of Nigeria boundaries, which held in the Air Force Conference Center, Abuja on May 7, 2018 in the company of the Surveyor General of the State and the Principal Secretary to the Deputy Governor.”
On the alleged refusal of Madumere to attend Constitutional mandated meetings of the State Executive Council, Onwuchekwa said it is an allegation that cannot stand any administrative test.
According to Onwuchekwa, the alleged refusal of the Deputy Governor to attend, and to hold meetings with the governor is most frivolous as the deputy governor cannot force himself on the governor especially when he has been tagged a pariah in government circles.
“We state here that Governor Okorocha has never created such opportunity to meet with the Deputy Governor to discuss the programmes and activities of the government. We only hear about them from the roadside and sundry sources.
“There are also, laid down procedures through which a deputy governor or any member of the Executive Council can be invited for Executive Council meetings. We hereby state that the deputy governor has never been invited to such meetings either through a memo or any official notices.”
Apparently in a hurry to nail the deputy governor, the House Committee charged to investigate the allegations against Prince Madumere headed by Hon. Kennedy Ibeh representing Obowo State Constituency, in record time, indicted the deputy governor while submitting its report in less than 24 hours.
With five members of the Imo State House of Assembly already suspended indefinitely by the Speaker to silence dissenting voices and apparently pave the way for the smooth execution of the impeachment plot, the House, thereafter, mandated the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Paschal Nnadi, to set up a seven-man panel to probe and determine the allegations against Prince Madumere.
While it is uncertain whether the Chief Judge had as yet set up the committee as mandated by the state legislature, a High Court in Abuja has ordered the Chief Judge and all the parties in the impeachment proceedings to stay action until a substantive matter pending before the court is determined.
Also, an Abuja-based lawyer, Johnmary Jideobi, followed up the court order with a letter to the Imo State Chief Judge, Justice Paschal Nnadi urging him to respect the pendency of suit and order of court.
Jideobi is the counsel to the plaintiff in the matter between Mr. Stanley Okwara vs the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly and six others in Suit No: FCT/HC/BW/CV/92/2018.
The letter recalled that the High Court of the FCT, Abuja presided over by Justice A.O Musa, on the July 5, 2018 duly heard the ex-parte motion and among other reliefs, ordered all the parties in the suit which include the Speaker, Chief Acho Ihim; the Chief Judge, Justice Paschal Nnadi; the Attorney General of the Federation and four others, to maintain the status quo until the matter is determined.
“In the view of the court, ‘the parties shall be served with the processes in this suit and the orders of this court and the law remains that same ties their hands as if an order has been made in law, as this Court has the inherent powers to set aside any step or steps taken after the service of this processes on the defendants, to foist a situation of helplessness on this court’.”
Relief also granted included an order of court restraining the six defendants in the suit, “from initiating or exercising any of the powers and duties saddled on them under Section 188 (1) to (11) of the Amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to removing either the Governor or the Deputy Governor of Imo State without the four members of the Imo State Assembly (2nd to 5th defendants) purportedly suspended by the Assembly being present and participating in the said removal proceedings.”
Stakeholders in the state believe the governor’s move against Madumere was part of the grand plan against his political foes, having tactfully upstaged party chieftains like Senator Hope Uzodinma and Osita Izunazo, who held parallel party congress in May. However, they averred Okorocha’s current action is just a fore gleam of more political crises in the state.