Since the emergence of Hope Uzodinma as the Governor of Imo State on January 14, 2020, his CampHope political structure and the Rescue Mission political family of a former governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, have been at daggers drawn. Though in the same political party the All Progressives Congress, the two political gladiators who hail from the same senatorial district, Imo West, are currently political enemies.
The governor has not hidden his commitment towards making sure that assets of the state which were allegedly stolen were recovered, a move loyalists of Okorocha, who currently represents Imo West at the Senate, described as a witch-hunt against him, his family members and political structure.
For example, the Imo State Government gazetted the white paper report on Committee on Lands Matters. That report made the state government to say it had handed back to individuals the lands Okorocha forcefully took from them. That same report has also seen the government recover the former Easter Palm University, Ogboko.
While the Okorocha administration posits that the university was built through a Private-Public Partnership agreement with the Rochas Foundation owning 90 per cent stake and the state government having 10 per cent, the state government said the N40bn expended on building and equipping the varsity was withdrawn from the coffers of the state government.
Uzodimma succeeded in recovering the varsity for the state and has now renamed it K. O. Mbadiwe University, Ogboko. The National University Commission has since recognised it as a university belonging to the state government and has issued Uzodimma a new certificate on behalf of the government and the people of the state.
The disagreement between Uzodimma and Okorocha reached a boiling point in February 2021 when Okorocha and the incumbent governor’s aides clashed at the Royal Spring Palm Estate, Owerri. The state government insisted that the estate was built with the resources belonging to the state in the name of Okorocha’s wife, Nkechi. While government said it had recovered it for the state and sealed it, Okorocha and his entourage visited the property and unsealed it. That development caused panic in the state capital, as thugs allegedly mobilised by the state government stormed the venue which led to a free-for-all. While Okorocha was arrested and bundled to the state police command headquarters, his second-in-law, Uzor Anwuka, was shot and injured. Some of Okorocha’s supporters were arrested and arraigned at a Magistrate’s Court in Owerri and were later granted bail by the court.
On December 26, Uche Nwosu, who is Okorocha’s son-in-law, was arrested in a commando style at St Peter’s Anglican Church in Eziama Obaire in the Nkwerre Local Government Area of the state.
Nwosu, who is Okorocha’s preferred candidate to succeed him in office in 2019, was at the church with his family members for a thanksgiving service after the burial of his mother, Mrs Jemimah, on December 22, when masked security operatives stormed the church, disrupted an ongoing sermon and whisked him away. Many initially thought Nwosu was kidnapped until the state Police Command issued a statement that he was in their custody.
While Nwosu was released same day after he was flown to Abuja, the police had yet to publicly say why Nwosu was arrested. But Nwosu who briefed journalists after his release, accused the state governor of masterminding his arrest. He said those who “abducted” him were from Government House, Owerri, and that he would have been eliminated if not for the social media that exposed what transpired in the church.
Nwosu said, “While the sermon was ongoing, I saw some military people who came in. I asked my aides to go and welcome them because I thought they escorted a VIP to the church to condole with me over the death of my mother. All of a sudden, over 15 masked security operatives jumped into the church. While some rushed to the altar, some came to where I was sitting and ordered me to move or they move me. They started shooting and disrupted the sermon. I demanded to know what was going on, but they said they had an instruction to bring me. They manhandled me and bundled me into one of their vehicles. One of them ordered me to lie down and one of them placed his leg on my head.
“When they drove off, they started making calls in Hausa language and unknown to them I understand Hausa language. They were telling one Shaba who is the chief security officer that they had got me. At Umuaka, they stopped and ordered that I should get down. At that point, I thought they were to assassinate me. They bundled me into another vehicle and they drove off. They accused me of sponsoring insecurity in Imo State. I want to thank the IGP who intervened and ordered my release.”
Okorocha also accused Uzodimma of masterminding the arrest of his son-in-law. The ex-governor, who addressed a press conference, immediately after the arrest of Nwosu, accused Uzodinma of ordering Nwosu’s arrest.
He said, “Uche Nwosu, my wife and daughter were at the church for an outing service when a group of men in police uniform, while sermon was on going, started shooting. In the course of their activities, they pushed down my wife and they tore my daughter’s clothes. No warrant of arrest, no invitation. We suspected kidnapping at first. Many people were injured while running. Uche Nwosu was dragged into a bus carrying Imo State Government number plate.
They were identified as policemen from Imo State Government House by their colleagues attached to Uche for the burial. I got the CP who said that IGP approved his arrest. The shock of such arrest without warrant and humiliating members of my family is unfortunate. Most security operatives in Imo know nothing about the arrest. I don’t know what they framed up. IGP could only do this on a high level misinformation from Hope Uzodimma. There were over 100 gunshots just to arrest Uche Nwosu. What kind of a ruthless behaviour on an innocent citizen of Nigeria (is that?).
“Hope Uzodimma has shown tremendous heat to me and members of my family. Lawmakers who attended the burial were suspended. I am waiting to hear the offence of Uche Nwosu. Recall that Hope Uzodimma said he would name sponsors of insecurity in Imo State on January 3. I know he has nothing to offer than to cook up stories. Last time, he ordered my arrest and one security office ordered me to enter the Pick-up vehicle.
“Uzodinma wants to frame me up by all means. He has to answer for most of the activities going on. Uzodinma must mention the names of those who are responsible for insecurity in Imo State or he should be held responsible for all the killings in the state. Uzodinma has framed up something against Uche Nwosu. Buhari should be informed about what is happening in Imo State. Hundreds of citizens are been killed in this state.
“What is happening in Imo State is under-reported; what is happening in Imo State is bad. How come it is only Abuja and Imo State Government House that know about the arrest? Everybody knows that Uche Nwosu can’t hurt an ant. I want to know the reason for the attack on a church, why Uche Nwosu should be treated like a criminal and Imo State Government should provide answers immediately. You can’t govern people by intimidation.”
But the state government said Uzodinma had no hand in the arrest of Nwosu. The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, urged Okorocha to stop panicking, saying that Okorocha was afraid because he looted the treasury of the state while he served as governor for eight years.
Emelumba said, “The attention of Imo State Government has been drawn to a spurious and baseless allegation by Uche Nwosu, who was recently arrested by the police, for a yet-to-be-disclosed crime that the state government was behind his arrest. This is a malicious concoction that can only be made up by a drowning man. It is pitiable that rather than go into a sobering reflection on his arrest, Nwosu, upon his release on bail, was in a hurry to allege without any proof that his arrest was masterminded by Imo State Government.
There is no truth whatsoever in that allegation as it is a figment of his imagination. It is natural for a drowning man to clutch on any available straw to save himself. But spurious and baseless allegations are not the kind of straw that can save a drowning man. It is quite curious that in all of Imo State, it was only Uche Nwosu that the police targeted to arrest in such a manner for no just reason? Only time will tell.
“It should be emphasised that the government of Senator Hope Uzodinma does not believe in tyranny or lawless behaviour as was the case when Uche Nwosu was the defacto deputy governor of the state. This government believes in the rule of law and due process and would not attempt to usurp the constitutional responsibility of the security agencies. However, we believe that in the fullness of time, Imo people and indeed Nigerians will be apprised by the relevant agencies the real reason for the arrest of Uche Nwosu and who the bandits are.
“No amount of blackmail and infantile vituperation against the government will obliterate the fact that the police have opened a case against Uche Nwosu and he will sooner than later give an account of his actions. A word should be enough for the wise.”
However, the state government insisted that escalated insecurity in the state was politically motivated. The governor has reserved January 3 to list the names of those who had been sponsoring banditry in the state.
For over a year, the state has been witnessing an upsurge in killings. From the burning of police stations, courts, health centres, offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission to the invasion of Owerri Correctional Centre, Police Headquarters in Owerri, to the killing and abductions of traditional rulers, the state had become a theater of war.
But many stakeholders believe that Nwosu’s arrest was part of the political gambit for the 2023 governorship election in the state.
A political activist and President of Igbo National Congress, Chilos Godsent, said Nwosu’s arrest was politically motivated.
The activist said, “The recent shocking news of the arbitrary arrest of Ugwumba Uche Nwosu with reckless impunity by the police is part of the political strategy by Governor Hope Uzodimma to dislodge all political blocs that may pose threat to his second term ambition.
Consequently, the Igbo National Council therefore wishes to advise Nwosu to seek legal redress for the violation of his fundamental human rights. The INC therefore reaffirms its call for the state government under Governor Hope Uzodimma to convene a peace summit to address the challenges of insecurity in Imo State.”
Speaking on the feud between the governor and his predecessor, the Director General of New Media of the People Democratic Party in the state, Collins Opurozor, said, “Politics in Imo has now been reduced to a total, filthy and dangerous war. It is a war of one against all, and all against one. A strong man could be overwhelmed by an alliance of the weak. A mighty man could be overpowered by mighty numbers, and a great man invaded and murdered in his sleep. In Imo, nobody and nowhere are safe any longer.
“What happened in Nkwerre (arrest of Okorocha’s son-in-law by the police) was a new, bizarre and agonising dimension to this war of one against all levied on Imo state. As children of God presented themselves for Sunday worship at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Eziama Obaire, in Nkwerre, dozens of masked gunmen allegedly from the Government House in Owerri invaded the church and started shooting sporadically.
“The armed men opened fire on the holy altar of our God. It was like a rain of bullets in the church! A private citizen, Chief Uche Nwosu, was tortured and dragged out of the worship place like a goat being taken to the slaughterhouse. Old women, our own aged mothers, whose only faith is in God and who had gone to supplicate onto the Lord over the many troubles of our time were beaten up and chased away from God’s presence with guns.
“The entire scene of the Nkwerre sacrilege appeared like one of the most ancient and audacious state-sanctioned attacks on the church. In Nkwerre, the sacred temple of our great God was made a war front.
“My house shall be called the house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers,” Jesus wept in Matthew 21. For two years in Imo, the only place that people of God have sought and found peace and safety, which have both eluded the state, is in the presence of God. Where will the people now run to? Who do they now cry to? Heaven is weeping over this abominable invasion and attack on the house of God, and the impending wrath of our Omnipotent God will be devastating!
“It is deeply heartbreaking that some hours after the attack, the governor sent his Commissioner for Information, Mr Declan Emelumba, to address the press and to justify the tearing down of the temple of God.