… Deputy Ude Oko Chukwu hosts APC guber candidate in his hometown
… Official activities in his office severed
“D-Gov, still in PDP, remains loyal to Ikpeazu” — Associates
A scenario that is akin to that of former governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and his then deputy, Prince Eze Madumere suspected to be playing out in Abia Government House, Umuahia, between Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and his deputy, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, who were said to be enjoying the best of relationship, until recently, precisely after the party primaries were Oko Chukwu’s ambition to succeed his boss, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, was truncated in a manner that the deputy, alleged believed that his crash was as a result of his loss support from his boss.
It could recalled that in 2018, as the drumbeat of who succeeds then Governor Rochas Okorocha was sounding loud, Prince Eze Madumere, Okorocha’s Deputy Governor became a star man in the lineup of those in the other side of the field challenging his choice of Uche Nwosu.
Madumere, who was a long term friend of Okorocha even before becoming his Deputy, was also termed a loyal Deputy by many who were always around the corridors of power in Owerri, until Madumere decided to pursue his own political ambition—-to rule Imo State as Governor.
Initially, Madumere’s ambition sounded like a sweet rumor in the ears of Okorocha until he made it clear to his then boss, that he was actually in the game to replace him.
Okorocha, who considered Madumere’s interest as a big threat to his plans to install his son-in-law, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu as his successor, reportedly offered Madumere several options including Owerri Senatorial ticket in APC to dissuade his guber ambition.
But to Okorocha’s ‘chagrin’, the Mbieri-born Deputy rejected the overtures, preferring to vie for APC guber primary polls in 2018.
During the executive fiasco, Madumere was allegedly in contact with some notable politicians in Imo including those in PDP, counting on their support to win the APC primaries.
For these his alleged disloyal activities, Madumere had it rough in the hands of some aids loyal to Okorocha, as they accused him of ingratitude and also slammed him for trying to rock the Uche Nwosu boat.
The Mbieri-born administrator bitterly complained of being denied several entitlements by the Owelle administration, including salaries but these were denied by Okorocha’s media aids.
He later headed to the Court to have his salaries and other entitlements paid to him and the case is still a major socio-economic factor in Imo State today, and the rest is now history.
Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, Abia Deputy Governor
Fast forward to 2022 in Abia State and meet Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, the ‘most loyal Deputy Governor,’ has now become a major news maker in Abia’s political parlour.
Oko Chukwu’s ambition to succeed his boss, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has affected his smooth relationship with his boss, as every indication from his office at government house can attest to.
On April 1, 2022, he declared his guber ambition at a well-attended event at Abia Hotels, Umuahia.
During the declaration, he said he had the experience to rule the State.
The intimidating crowd which accompanied him to Abia Hotels ground made some political calculators to assume that he was enjoying the support of his boss, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.
This was deduced from his 7-years smooth relationship with his Oga described by many political watchers as Father/Son relationship.
His declaration took place at the same time rumours were gaining ground that Governor Ikpeazu was supporting another aspirant, Prof Uche Ikonne, former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University, Uturu, who is now the PDP candidate in Abia.
But behold, Governor Ikpeazu came out to declare that had no preferred candidate in mind but believed in the emergence of the best candidate from pool of aspirants in PDP.
The drumbeat was equally happening at a period Abia State PDP zoned the guber race in the party to Abia North and Abia Central Senatorial districts, thereby ending Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe’s guber ambition as he hails from Abia South.
Abaribe is now in All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) as the Senatorial candidate, to face Governor Ikpeazu in the 2023 game.
But did Oko Chukwu inform his boss of his ambition, and did Ikpeazu endorse him?
Oko Chukwu, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Obasi Onwukah said his principal informed Governor Ikpeazu of his ambition during a private meeting he held with Ikpeazu.
According Oko Chukwu’s CPS, “To set the records straight, the Deputy Governor , a man reputed for humility and loyalty, could not have made known his governorship ambition without the knowledge and approval of his boss, the Governor of Abia State.”
“The Deputy, actually visited his boss and duly informed him about his ambition to succeed him. However, details of the private discussion may not have been made available for Governor’s aids including Ememanka to feast on.”
Deputy’s CPS went on, ” The Deputy even did not fail to further let his boss know of the day of his formal declaration at the State PDP secretariat in Umuahia.”, said Obasi Onwukah.
The Chief Press Secretary nevertheless, did not state the date of the private meeting between Ikpeazu and Oko Chukwu or even the venue they stayed.
However, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in making his first and only remark about his Deputy’s guber ambition, lamented that Oko Chukwu threw respect to the wind by failing to inform him (Ikpeazu) about his governorship interest before joining the race.
Ikpeazu, who expressed surprise and disappointment about the issue, said his ability to forgive those who offended him, had made him to continue working with his Deputy.
He revealed that Sir Oko Chukwu only informed him of his ambition, after he had gone round to tell others, pointing out that if not for his clear mind on people, he would have applied the same measure taken by some Governors who found themselves in the same situation.
“My Deputy didn’t tell me he wanted to replace me. He did not consult me; he had gone everywhere before they advised him to talk to his Governor. When he finally came, I told him he came a bit late. ”
“Mind you, I am the only Governor in Abia State that has ran almost 8 years with his Deputy.”
Ikpeazu went on, “He became very ambitious and refused to consult me. I don’t have any place in my heart to harbour bitterness; otherwise, I would have done what I should do. Everybody knows what a person in my position can do to a recalcitrant Deputy but I don’t think that is the way to go”, Ikpeazu told Dickson Iroegbu in the interview.
Nevertheless, Sir Oko Chukwu, the Knight of the Catholic Church who hails from Etitiama Nkporo, Ohafia LGA continued his guber game and was among the aspirants who opposed the 3-man ad-hoc delegate congress of PDP, prior to party primaries in Abia.
But a day to the guber primary held at Umuahia township stadium, Oko Chukwu was among the PDP guber aspirants who withdrew from the exercise, citing alleged irregularities and imposition of a preferred candidate.
Other aspirants who withdrew were Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Engr Enyinnaya Nana Nwafor, Chima Anyaso, Samson Orji, Ncheta Omerekpe.
Prof Greg Ibe, another major aspirant about two months earlier, quit PDP and joined All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and later won the party’s guber ticket.
Only three aspirants namely Prof Uche Ikonne, Mayor Lucky Igbokwe (Don Lulu) and Mrs Ezenwanyi Ngozi Jonah participated in the Abia PDP guber primary with Prof Uche Ikonne emerging victorious with 468 votes, Mayor Lucky Igbokwe getting 45 votes while Mrs Jonah for only 5 votes .
The end of the primary did not bring an end to Sir Ude Oko Chukwu’s political interest as he silently salivated the hope of ruling Abia State, despite all odds, or at least, playing a major role in who becomes the new State supremo.
But to realise this ambitions, he must operate from a platform which may mean him leaving his party, PDP.
However, that would have been a big gamble as quitting PDP may also mean quitting as the Deputy Governor and for this reasons, he decided to stay on, according to a PDP insider.
Before the storm, his kinsman, David Iro who is the Secretary of Abia PDP was suspended by PDP for disowning the conduct of 3-man ad-hoc delegate congress in Abia, a situation interpreted by some party members as a reduction of Oko Chukwu’s wings and this position was concurred by some Abia North gladiators.
However, in announcing Iro’s suspension, the Deputy Chairman of PDP for Abia North, Chief Amah Abraham said the suspended David Iro overstepped his bounds and embarrassed the party through a media interview he granted, where he (Iro) disowned the 3-man ad-hoc delegate exercise.
The suspended party secretary is yet to say more on the issue, but inside source from Abia North assured that Iro would still regain his position as the party scribe, later.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor has not been much regularly in office as usual, a recent visit to his office inside the government house confirmed that he rarely comes to office personally, though, the office of the Deputy Governor still functions, but not on the same scale before the guber primary.
Also, the frequency of his representing Governor Ikpeazu at events has dropped drastically, as other senior government officials now perform these functions on behalf of the Governor.
For instance, during Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s vacation in faraway Turkey with his friend and colleague, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, the Nkporo-born chartered accountant was not around to act in Ikpeazu’s absence.
Also, the recent trip of of Ikpeazu to the United Kingdom to celebrate with Governor Wike on Wife’s son graduation from a higher institution, Sir Oko Chukwu was also not seen to take charge of the State.
His conspicuous absence has continued to amplify the fears in some quarters that his relationship with his boss has broken down, though; the two sides have not issued any statement to that effect.
Oko Chukwu, who has spent 19 years + 2 months in governance, was the Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly from 2011 to 2015, before being elected as Deputy Governor in 2015.
He was first elected as a House of Assembly member in 2003, winning all re-election battles into the legislative chambers in 2003, 2007, 2011 until 2015 when he became a running mate to Ikpeazu in guber race.
Initially, Oko Chukwu was said to be counting on the demand for power shift to Abia North, his own political zone until the dual zoning arrangements of PDP and the 3-man delegates brouhaha disrupted his earlier calculations and enhanced Prof Ikonne’s chances.
In June, some posters without a political party name and logo, bearing the image of Sir Oko Chukwu, were pasted all over Umuahia, though without any statement coming from the Deputy affirming or disowning the posters.
The picture was boldly captioned “Ude is Coming”, suggesting that the chartered accountant may still contest for Governor in 2023 in another party or at least, play a big role on who wins.
A fresh dust was raised on Sunday, 10th July when the soft spoken Deputy Governor pulled a surprise to receive High Chief Ikechi Emenike in his country home at Etitiama Nkporo.
Emenike is the governorship candidate of All Progressive Congress (APC) in Abia State and is also the husband to Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States of America (USA) Dr Uzoma Emenike.
During Emenike’s visit, Sir Oko Chukwu described the APC guber candidate, Emenike as a virtuous and honest leader.
According to the Deputy Governor, “No man or woman is bigger than where he or she comes from. We will do all we can to raise the bar. Anybody who is in that direction has my support.”
“You can’t take it away that from him that he is a forthright and honest person and this is what I want in this business. He has the virtues we need in a leader to move the State forward.”
He sounded further, “Happily, I have seen that he is prepared and has what we need to move the State forward.”
Responding to Oko Chukwu’s encomiums, APC guber candidate, Emenike promised to capture the Deputy Governor’s community if elected the Governor in 2023.
“We are consulting people like you. Nkporo will not regret this visit. I assure you that if we win, the country will not regret it. My vision is to rescue and develop the State.”
Reacting to the development, a PDP chieftain from Ikwuano LGA, Chief Anselm Tobias cautioned the Deputy Governor of playing into temptations and political miscalculations as according to Chief Tobias, “What he did is pure anti-party activities.”
Interestingly, Abia State government and the PDP did not respond to the visit or Deputy Governor’s accolades on Emenike but is understood PDP is watching the developments with keen interest.
Ude Oko Chukwu comes from Nkporo, one of the three clans that make up Ohafia LGA and Ohafia LGA as a whole is one of the LGAs that determines who rules the State, judging by Ohafia’s dense population,
Ohafia clan accounts for about 65% of total population of Ohafia LGA while Abriba and Nkporo shared the remaining 35%
Recall that PDP lost Ohafia in 2015 to APGA and Alex Otti but regained it in 2019. Ohafia nation in 2021 unfortunately lost her son, Chief Ukpai Agwu Ukpai, a friend to Governor Ikpeazu who died a day after leading PDP and Hon Chimaobi Ebisike to defeat APC’s Mascot Uzor Kalu and other political parties in a by-election for Aba North/ Aba South federal constituency.
But Governor, understanding how important and strategic Ohafia is, in Abia State electoral system, appointed another Ohafia indigene, Kalu Ugba as the Deputy Chief of Staff office of the Governor among other appointments as well as projects.
In Abriba, the Governor has kept their son, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, an ICT specialist as the longest serving Commissioner, working in Ministry of Information for more 6 years before moving to Ministry of Trade and Investment, till date.
Ikpeazu also appointed Chief Mba Okoronkwo Ukariwo, another Abriba indigene as as the Chairman of Governing council of Abia State University, Uturu, to replace Senator Adolphus Wabara whose tenure the State government said, had elapsed.
Some road projects have also been completed in Abriba to the delight of the indigenes and this explains why neither the Governor nor PDP seem perturbed about Oko Chukwu’s next moves.
In 2015, Eze Madumere did not succeed in his quest to succeed Okorocha but he contributed in stopping Okorocha’s anointed son, Uche Nwosu and the rest is now history.
In Abia, the Deputy Governor has continued to pledge his loyalty to his principal, but his body language and accolades on APC candidate recently leaves a lot to imagination.
But Abia PDP in the efforts to reconcile all aggrieved members has been holding reconciliatory meetings in the party secretariat, aimed at calming every frayed nerve.
Among those who have accepted the olive branch is Mayor Lucky Igbokwe who came second during the primary polls.
Igbokwe has accepted to work for the success of the party but some close friends to Sir Ude Oko Chukwu are of the opinion that the number two man has not been treated well for his ‘long years of loyalty to the State’ but assured he won’t dump the party for another platform. Unfolding months would explain better where and how things will work out.