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Monday, 15 January 2018

2019 Southeast campaign: Buhari dumps Okorocha, gets new arrowhead

2019 Southeast campaign: Buhari dumps Okorocha, gets new arrowhead

*President holds secret meeting with Sen Uwajumogu

*Imo gov jittery, moves against Senator

There are strong indications that President Muhammadu Buhari has sidelined Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who is widely seen as the coordinator of the President’s re-election campaigns in the five Southeastern states.

Buhari, according to reliable sources in the Presidency, is particularly worried by the dwindling fortunes of the All Progressives Congress in the South East geo-political zone, as the country prepares for the 2019 elections.

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We learnt that, following this development, President Buhari, last Friday, invited the only APC lawmaker from the South East in the Senate, Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, to a crucial meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The senator, an impeccable source hinted, “is to be saddled with the responsibility of reaching out to major stakeholders in the South East, with a view to mobilising support for the re-election of President Buhari.”

The source, who craved anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, revealed that the Presidency opted to sideline Okorocha as he was now being seen as a political liability, following various unsavoury conducts that had given the governor a negative fame.

He said, “The President is worried over the negative results he is getting in putting Okorocha forward in his efforts to woo stakeholders in the East to his side, as the governor has come with a lot of baggage that will not make whatever he is canvassing for fly.

Look at the statue erection controversy in which the governor even breached diplomatic protocol by bringing in the South African President without carrying the Presidency along.

Then consider also his various utterances on sensitive issues that have drawn flaks even from the Igbo people we are trying to court.

“Okorocha is a loyal Buharist, a committed party member but, regrettably, he does not have what it takes to be in the forefront of the President’s conciliatory moves in the various South East states.”


It was gathered that during the meeting with Senator Uwajumogu, Buhari expressed worries that the fortune of the party in the entire South East was fast dwindling and yet he had been kept in the dark concerning the true picture of the situation on ground in the zone.

A source told our correspondent at the weekend that the President was also troubled that if the situation in the South East continued the way it was going, and measuring the performance of the party at the just concluded governorship election in Anambra State, where even party chieftains like Tony Nwoye, Chris Ngige, Uche Ekwunife, Andy Ubah and the rest could not deliver their local government areas to APC, he might lose the election in the region, just as he did during the presidential election in 2015.

During the 2015 presidential poll, Buhari scored 198,248 votes in the five South Eastern states as against former President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2,464,906 votes.

“President Buhari frowned upon the activities of some chieftains of the party in the South East as they have failed to tell him the truth as regards the feelings of the people and the extent of their support for the party,” the source said.

It was learnt that all the necessary logistics given to some South East leaders to deliver victory to the APC during the November 2017 gubernatorial election in Anambra State were diverted, and with this situation, the Presidency is now considering, “raising new leaders from the zone, who will handle his re-election project in the South East region, come 2019.”

The source said that President Buhari, who vowed not to allow what happened in 2015 to repeat itself, complained bitterly, following an intelligence report that some APC chieftains had been “killing” the party in Imo State, while their actions were equally affecting the fortune of the party in the entire South East geo-political zone.

It was gathered that, based on this situation, the President decided to sideline Okorocha, who is the chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum and summoned Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, the only APC senator from the South East, who is from Okigwe zone, for a consultative meeting to chart ways of moving the party forward in the zone.

The source said, “The President decided two days ago to invite the only APC senator in the South East, Uwajumogu, to a consultative meeting to build the fortune of the APC in the South East, by working out ways of attracting and implementing some of the key programmes of this administration from the legislative angle.

“Buhari has laudable programmes for the South East, but he is not happy about how these programmes are being managed in the region.

They are not telling the President the true position of things in the entire region. So, the President decided to parley with Senator Uwajumogu to get things done speedily before the 2019 general elections.”


Meanwhile, the meeting between Buhari and Uwajumogu is now generating serious heat in Imo State as Governor Okorocha and the lawmaker are now reportedly at each other’s throats.

Sources said that the governor, who appeared edgy over the meeting, complained of his being sidelined by the Presidency, not withstanding his position as the state governor, Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum and a member of the ruling party’s National Executive Committee.

The source also expressed disappointment with Uwajumogu for the alleged ill-treatment he meted out to the Governor, adding that if not for the assistance by Okorocha, who, according to him, mobilised the APC forces in the state to turn things around, there would not have been any headway for the senator.

“Uwajumogu would have lost the election, if not for the help rendered by Okorocha,” he said.

It was learnt that to checkmate the senator, the governor had decided to prop up his Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Prof. Nnamdi Obiaraeri, from Okigwe zone, to challenge Senator Uwajumogu’s second term bid in 2019.

The senator, it was learnt, had also decided to oppose the governor’s choice of his son-in-law, Hon. Uche Nwosu, who is currently his Chief of Staff, as his successor, and decided to pitch his tent with Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, who is eyeing the governorship position.

A source, who pleaded not to be mentioned, said, “They are only trying to rubbish Senator Uwajumogu’s consultative meeting with the Presidency by challenging his second term bid, but they will not succeed because Okigwe people in the apex leaders’ meeting, held in Senator Ararume’s residence recently, have decided to throw their support behind the senator by adopting him for the second tenure.

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“He is on ground and by bringing Prof. Obiaraeri, it’s just a ploy to get Senator Uwajumogu to support the Governor’s son-in-law’s governorship ambition.

Prof. Obiaraeri knows that he is not contesting, he is just waiting to collect money from the governor, but the governor does not give money to anybody.”

He also alleged that Governor Okorocha “is not finding it easy in the state, because all his lieutenants have left him,” adding, “Those still in his camp are just waiting for him to announce his successor before finally nailing him.”

“The senator has the powerful contacts and enormous goodwill to help the APC shore up their dwindling fortune in Okigwe, Imo and the entire South East.

That’s why the governor is jittery and decided to bring the professor to challenge the incumbent senator. But Okigwe people have advised Obiaraeri to be wary of the governor,” he added.

Uwajumogu’s media aide, Mr. Emeka Ahaneku, who confirmed the meeting between the President and the lawmaker, told our correspondent that Buhari met his boss to roll out the strategies for improving the dwindling fortunes of the APC in both Imo State and the other South Eastern states.

Ahaneku said, “The President invited Uwajumogu to discuss certain issues concerning the South East and because of the role he has played in the APC, he decided to give him the chance. The President is comfortable working with Uwajumogu. That’s all I can tell you.

“Senator Uwajumogu has the free mind to work with any progressive to deliver President Buhari in 2019 in the South East and we are not joking about it.”

He, however, added that the Okigwe Senatorial seat was not vacant, adding that only the Isiala Mbano people would decide when the time comes.

“So, what Okorocha is doing is to use Prof. Obiaraeri to get Uwajumogu to support the governor’s candidate (Uche Nwosu) for the gubernatorial race. He is now using the ploy to lobby Ben; that’s why they are trying to rubbish him because of the meeting with the Presidency,” he added.

But efforts by our correspondent to get the reaction of the state Commissioner for Information, Prof. Obiaraeri, to the matter proved abortive.

He neither picked calls made to his phone nor replied text messages sent to him by our correspondent as at the time of filing this story.

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