A Deputy Governor Who Followed His Boss To The Brink Of The Grave
'Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried.'
I hope you remember this verse in the bible- the story of uncommon loyalty and fidelity of Ruth to Naomi. It takes courage to trust and follow someone in the ventures of life, but it rather requires an uncommon audacity to dare to trust and follow someone on a journey of life when all facts on the table point to his mission as simply impossible and suicidal. The fascinating story of Ruth and Naomi presents Ruth as the most interesting figurative character in that biblical account. It typifies an uncommon courage and the audacity to trust and follow even in the face of worst oddities. In that story Ruth, a widow, vowed to follow her mother in-law to wherever she would go even when others had abandoned the sorrowful dying old woman including Oprah, the wife of her other late son. She was willing to follow her mother in-law on a journey to nowhere. However, the journey of life for Ruth turned out a different venture against common sense doom predictions. Ruth is more of figurative dramatis personae in the far away land of biblical Israel. Here in Nigeria, the story of the deputy governor of Imo state and the deputy governor-elect of Imo state, Prince Eze Madumere, seems to be a perfect replay of that story of uncommon trust and abandonment.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan may not like Prince Eze Madumere, the deputy governor/deputy governor-elect of Imo state for bluntly refusing to work with him and his party men against his boss, Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, in the just concluded 2015 elections. However, the president can’t afford not to respect Madumere or hold him in very high esteem as a man of rare strength of character and impeccable integrity. Madumere will always pass Mr. President’s mind as one of those young politicians you can trust to deliver in the face of worst odds. One of those rare breed of young Nigerians you can’t lure off their conviction with money or whatever offers you may bring to the table.
The 2015 electioneering season began with fireworks of intense lobbying and bargaining, and Madumere was among a few politicians in flashpoint states like Imo, Rivers, Adamawa, Kano, Lagos and Edo states with high price tags. Winning these men to the side of the President and his circle would cut a chunk from the opposition or undo the President’s cardinal foes. Gov. Okorocha was one of those cardinal foes, including other strong and politically powerful APC governors and opposition chieftains.
For these men of high price tags, the presidency forces concluded that it didn’t matter whether you defect to the PDP, the president’s party, or not. The most important thing is that you work for Mr. President’s victory and that of his party in the 2015 elections even if it means doing so undercover while still with the opposition. You can even work for Mr. President’s victory alone if you are not comfortable with his party’s governorship candidate in your state.
There are many reasons that should up the optimism of the president and his allies that the Imo deputy governor would be an easy buy. First, in his long stay with Rochas Okorocha in the days when the governor was still parleying with Mr. Jonathan prior to his elevation as state governor and Nigeria’s President, Prince Madumere came to have a personal relationship with the president. On a second note, President Jonathan inducted Mr. Madumere into the prestigious Nigerian Hall of Fame, one of those rare privileges you can offer a young politician of Madumere’s career status in politics and public service. He conferred him with the Member of The Order of The Federal Republic (MFR) during the 2012 National Honours Awards season.
Again, the deputy governor always had one reason or the other to cross the path of the president or his men in the Nigerian Governors Forum on steady basis. It was a known case that throughout four years in office, Gov. Okorocha hardly attended any meeting of the forum of governors or any of the Aso Rock led sessions. He was always represented by Prince Eze Madumere, his deputy. So it was easy for the president and his men to have direct access and contact with the deputy governor. However, despite all these, the President and his men could not succeed in striking a deal with the man considered the most trusted ally of the governor and the most consummate insider of his political circle. Madumere simply stood his ground and unyielding till the last moment. He simply chose to stick with his boss come rain come sunshine.
Concerning the 2015 elections and the associated cacophony of predictable possibilities, even the blind saw it coming that a Goodluck Jonathan victory at the 2015 presidential election would mean an automatic Okorocha exit from power as a governor seeking a second term in office. It would simply mean an end to his bid to be reelected as governor of Imo state. Already, a clique of the president’s apologists led by the Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, was already alleged to be militarizing the state and intimidating the supporters of the governor and the APC. So, it was sheer foolhardiness to keep following the governor in his suicidal mission when there were better alternatives and juicy offers from an incumbent president who had all it takes to return himself to power and give mouthwatering reward to whoever worked for his reelection victory. Since it was evident that no matter the governor’s popularity and support bases among the electorates, the President and the PDP had all it would take to subvert his victory at the polls, the smartest thing to do would be to go with the president and his party. At least, whether the governor wins or not, the president will have a better offer on the table for anyone that worked for him and his party. However, the deputy governor chose to choose otherwise and to follow his boss to his political grave.
To prove a point, Imo was the only foothold of the opposition APC party in the entire South Eastern Nigeria, thanks to Gov. Okorocha. And his chief political strategist was the deputy governor, Madumere. For daring to dance outside the line, the governor became an assumed enemy of the president and his allies. Both the presidency forces and the PDP party forces in the state were poised to pay the governor back for backing the opposition and working for the election of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, against the president’s second term bid to the presidency. The president’s men and the PDP forces framed damning blackmails coated with ethnic sentiments to vilify the governor and discourage his supporters. In fact, to confirm this, to the consternation of everybody, the governor and his allies were put under house arrest and treated like common criminals on the presidential and national assembly election day. Channels television beamed the assault live. The next closest foothold of the party was Rivers state where Gov. Amaechi held sway. But Okorocha’s case is quite different from that of Amaechi since the River state governor is serving out his second and final term. Okorocha had more to lose and so was anyone that chose to follow him in what seemed like a mission impossible, including those hoping to leverage on his second term victory to grow their political career. It was suicidal to follow him.
In the different States of the Federation, the Presidency and the PDP capitalized on their financial war chest and control of key institutions to lure, woo or coerce subordinates to abandon or rebel against their principals so as to dislodge the opposition APC, preparatory to the general elections. Many deputy governors fell prey to the trap of the presidency and the PDP and betrayed their principals. In Rivers state the rumour that Gov. Rotimi Ameachi’s deputy, Mr. Tele Ikuru, was a mole in the system was finally confirmed when the deputy governor finally defected to the PDP a few hours to the presidential and national assembly elections.
In Imo state, as noted, the Presidency, the PDP governors and the allies of the President in the state engaged in intense lobbying to pull the deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere, out of Gov. Okorocha’s arm knowing full well that the deputy governor forms the backbone of the governor’s tactical team. In fact, I recall a case where a serving PDP governor berated the deputy governor, having failed to convince him to betray the governor and work underground for President Goodluck Jonathan’s victory. However, none of the juicy offers was able to move the deputy governor to betray his principal. He was poised to follow his principal to wherever the game would end, and it was clear that Rochas was getting too close to the brink of his political grave.
What makes Madumere’s case a special one of unflinching loyalty and commitment is the fact that emerging evidences on the table and the body language of the PDP, the presidency and even the security agencies pointed to a Jonathan victory. In fact, when Brookings Institute, the most influential and most prestigious think tank group based in the United States of America projected a Jonathan victory at the presidential polls, many who were still sitting on the fence threw in the towel and queued behind the president and his ruling PDP party. Parties after parties, groups after groups engaged in lunatic endorsement spree for the president’s reelection. According to Brookings Institute, there were genuine reasons to conclude that the APC and its presidential candidate, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, had no chance of victory at the poll. In fact, Brookings’ description of the opposition was enough to discourage the most courageous supporter of the party in the south Eastern and South Southern sides of the country. It described the APC as a fragile anti- Jonathan establishment with a sole purpose to return power to the North. Ethnic chauvinist harped on this line of narrative to blackmail the APC in the South East and South South. The Institute outlined reasons why Jonathan should win the polls to include the president’s control of key institutions, his control of federal resources and the power of incumbency among other factors.
Aside the projection of Brookings in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP, the postponement of the election by the president on the pretext of a security joker lent credence to the suspicion that the president and the PDP had laid down the guards of their morals to secure victory at all cost. Security chiefs pliant to the president’s reelection bid were drafted to states where the governors were not yielding. Imo was one of those states and that reality played out on the presidential and national assembly elections day. Nothing would have convinced anybody that Jonathan was not going to win that poll, not actually based on his popularity among the electorates, but based on his control over unlimited resources and the cardinal institutions that would shape the polls’ outcome. Even in the face of these evident pointers, the deputy governor rallied behind the governor to engage in a vigorous campaign to gain support for Gen. Buhari and the candidates of the APC.
For a second time in the history of Imo state politics, the Imo deputy governor has demonstrated his character as a model of loyalty and fidelity. He has shown his person as someone that you can always trust with anything no matter the odds that may stare him in the face. For those who are acquainted with the story of the 2011 elections when Rochas Okorocha of the then opposition APGA party ran against an incumbent governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim of the PDP, Madumere’s name remains iconic. For over 20 years the deputy governor has worked with the governor as a trusted ally and consummate insider of the Okorocha political family. But in 2011 he staked out his image as a diehard foot soldier of the governor ready to give his life for the cause of his principal. As the chief political tactician of the governor in 2011, several attempts were made to buy him out of the governor’s circle to no avail. This earned him a sabbatical leave in jail by the then Gov. Ohakim administration on trumped up charges of attempted assassination of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was in Imo state to campaign for the PDP. He was later to be released after the court threw out the case as lacking merit. Since after that political season the two men have worked together to frame a set of radical development programs that have transformed the entire landscapes of Imo state.
Beyond all reasonable doubts, the deputy governor has demonstrated that his loyalty to the governor is beyond that of a boss and his subordinate. It is more of that of a son to a father. When the governor brought the APC party to the state, the deputy governor stood behind him to position the party for the big battle ahead. In fact the deputy governor engaged some many communities in town hall meetings as a strategy to get the party rooted at the grass root levels. That worked. Today Imo people owe a lot to Madumere for the party’s huge success at the just concluded elections. Madumere’s example of loyalty and unflinching commitment to a course should serve as a model to our society. It serves as a model narrative worthy of emulation in a world where strength of character among people in the field of politics and public service is the scarcest commodity.
Alex Ngumezi writes from Abuja