From GEORGE ONYEJIUWA, Owerri
The seeming political serenity of Imo State was punctured last week when Governor Rochas Okorocha and Senator Chris Anyanwu’s convoys clashed, thus heating up the polity in the state ahead of the 2015 electoral contest. The clash gives an insight into what to expect in the state. The incident has been ascribed to the cold war and political rivalry between Governor Okorocha and Senator Anyanwu, who is being rumoured to be eyeing the Imo State governorship seat in 2015.
Okorocha who is also nursing a presidential ambition is doing everything possible to edge the Senator out of the way. Political observers in the state predict that similar clashes among politicians may mar the conduct of the 2015 elections in the state, adding that the recent battle of ego between Okorocha and Anyanwu was unnecessary and disgraceful display of power unexpected of people in their positions. The incident, which has dominated political discussions in the state, is seen as desperate efforts by Okorocha to have absolute control of political structures in the state and to achieve this, all those perceived to be standing between the governor and his ambition must either have their wings clipped or stampeded out of the state.
Senator Anyanwu had joined forces with Okorocha in the All progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2011 general elections in the state to dislodge former governor Ikedi Ohakim. However, after the battle for the Imo State Government House was won by Okorocha of APGA, Senator Anyanwu, it was learnt, was shoved aside by the new power brokers in the Government House, as she has never been accorded the necessary recognition by him.
Anyanwu, who represents Imo East (Owerri) Senatorial Zone in the National Assembly, had described the incident as a misplaced show of power by Okorocha whose convoy, she said, not only pushed her car off the road but her security details were ordered to be disarmed while the governor allegedly watched from his car as her drivers were dragged out of the cars and brutally assaulted, leaving them bloodied. Okorocha’s aides had alleged that the Senator’s vehicle suddenly rammed into the governor’s convoy close to the staff car cutting off the pilot security vehicle after overtaking dangerously and in a very suspicious manner.
Senator Anyanwu, who was obviously rattled by the experience, spoke with journalists at her Owerri residence and described the actions of the governor’s security men as frightening and brutish, adding that she had been harassed, intimidated and threatened in the past on several occasions in the state. She also revealed that Okorocha derived pleasure in demonising her at every public function in the state, adding that as a result, she always stayed away to concentrate on her legislative duties in Abuja to avoid trouble.
Giving a graphic detail of the clash between her convoy and the governor’s security men, the Senator explained: “My day started about 9.30am on Tuesday when I visited the governor at the Government House to exchange pleasantries and he asked if I had adequate security and I said, yes, after which I left for my home town Mbaise.” “When we got to Azara Egbelu, along Owerri/Umuahia Road, we heard a siren coming behind us and when it grew louder, we parked to allow the convoy to pass but surprisingly, the approaching convoy, which comprised truck loads of armed and stern looking men double crossed us and pulled out two of my drivers and dragged them into the bush where they were mercilessly beaten and left one of the drivers, Odilichukwu, with a cracked, broken skull and bruises.
“When I could not bear it anymore, I rushed out of my car on bare feet and started shouting, ‘I am Senator Chris Anyanwu. Please, don’t kill my driver.’ But one of the armed men charged at me and threatened to shoot me for running into the governor’s convoy. All this while, the governor was seated in his car with the glass rolled down and I heard him shout at his security men to disarm my orderlies.” Anyanwu, who is also the Senate Committee Chairman on Navy, described the governor’s action as “a misplaced show of power. The power of the State is so enormous and you don’t need to intimidate, harass or kill your people to assert your powers as a governor.” “I am tired of all these abuses and harassment in this state.
It is not only in Imo State that they have female legislators. If they could do this to me, what will happen to the ordinary people? This has to stop.” See added that strong men did not fight with women or intimidate them but fight with their fellow men. Senator Anyanwu further alleged that the Azaraegbelu incident was not the first time that Governor Okorocha would order his security details to attack her aides. She pointed out that barely three days after his victory, he had instructed his men to attack one of her drivers for parking her car inside his compound. “His police detail broke a stick and used it to attack my driver and in the process cut off the upper lips of the boy exactly in half. Till today the boy’s upper lip is deformed. We covered it for him then. But this time, he cannot hide behind the shield of a folk hero.
He has opened himself up to propaganda. Now, the world is seeing the real man behind that angelic smile.” The senator also said the marks of a great man was the courage to stand by what is true, what is right, even when it may be costly and the humility to admit fault. “A simple show of conscience and compassion on that occasion would have saved him a lot of trouble and saved the state the horrendous bad image this act of bestiality has given it. Rochas that makes great show of his love of the common people watched his men bludgeon innocent men almost to death; blood pouring all over the tarred road and he simply wound up his window and sped off to owerri to fabricate stories to cover up his act.”
However, the state government described Senator Anyanwu’s conduct as a security breach, unbecoming of someone of her position, adding that her outburst of anger could have resulted in heavy casualty if not for the discipline of the governor’s security men, who displayed high sense of decency, professionalism and maturity. “Surprisingly, Senator Anyanwu, who no doubt knew the convoy was that of the Governor of Imo State, alighted from her car and ordered her naval security personnel to open fire. The senator further went berserk by slapping both the Governor’s Aide Camp and chief security detail. She also rained abuses on the governor,” the Special Assistant to the Governor on media, Ebere Uzoukwu, said.
Meanwhile, the state chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief (Prince) Okafor Anyanwu, added fuel to the simmering fire when he declared unalloyed support for the governor. Prince Okafor also slammed Senator Chris Anyanwu’s row with Okorocha as he described the conduct of the senator as a breach of protocol and gross disrespect to constituted authority. This is a clear indication that the senator may be in for a rough ride. Addressing journalists last week at the party’s secretariat in Owerri, Prince Anyanwu stated that the party viewed the action of Senator Anyanwu as gross disrespect, adding that the senator had the antecedent of disrespecting her elders and constituted authority as well as fighting in public.
“It is obvious that the senator has the antecedent of disrespecting her elders and constituted authority as well as fighting in public. It is on record that the senator had similar encounter with former governor Chief Ikedi Ohakim and on a different occasion, slapped chief Innocent Nwoga, a PDP chieftain, and broke his walking stick. She also did the same to a commissioner in the state.