The question around Governor Okorocha’s endorsement of his in-law, explained

Why keeping politics in the family scares people
Posted on August 02, 2018, 10:10 pm

Since Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, announced his Son-in-law, Ugwuamba Uche Nwosu, who also doubles as the Chief of Staff to the Imo State Government, as his preferred successor, there has been once controversy or the other. While the Governor believes it is the destiny of the young man to succeed him, a lot of questions have sprung up regarding Uche’s qualification as the next Governor of the State.

These questions are asked even more intensely after the Governor was reported to have appointed his sister, Mrs. Oghechi Ololo, as the State Commissioner for Happiness last December.

According to the Okorocha, Nwosu’s Governorship ambition is supported by God and 24 out of the 27 Local Government Areas in the State.

“We say this for posterity sake. Imo people, including youths, students, men and women have “thrown their unalloyed support behind” the youthful Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, for the 2019 Governorship in the State.

“He has become the subject matter as long as that issue is concerned, with APC officials and leaders from 24 out of the 27 Local Governments in the State having already endorsed him for the 2019 Imo Guber.”

He also stated that what the State needs is Imo Governor and not Owerri Zone or Orlu Zone or Okigwe Zone Governor, as zoning does not put food on the table of anybody.

This point is made as an argument against the fact that Mr. Nwosu is not from the Zone from which the next Governor is expected to emerge.

Okorocha’s argument against zoning has been consistent. He had constantly argued, even before putting Mr. Nwosu forward, that Imo is not like Plateau, Benue or Kogi with different ethnic groups hence zoning offices in Imo is unnecessarily undemocratic.

“Uche Nwosu possesses all the qualities to be a good governor. He can exercise regard for the poor. He can make sacrifice. My happiness at the end of this administration is to see a worthy successor. Someone who will not destroy free education and work for the State as if his life depends on that. I won’t impose anybody, but I am entitled to support anybody that I see can do the job”. He says.

Nwosu is an alumnus of Imo State University, where he studied Urban and Regional Planning between 1995 and 2000. During his school days, he was Students’ Union Government (SUG) Director of Transport and also held the position of Secretary, SUG Caretaker Committee, and Secretary, National Association of Nigerian Students, Imo State Chapter.

It was also reported that Nwosu had the desire to contest for Governorship in 2015 but stepped down due to what he claimed to be “personal reasons”. It is important to note that Nwosu married Uloma Okorocha while he was already in Government as a Commissioner, six years ago.

In 2011, Okorocha appointed Nwosu as the Deputy Chief of Staffs (Operations), after having appointed him Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning. He was later elevated to the Chief of Staff in 2014, a position he holds till date.

The Nigeria Constitution does not prohibit the inclusion of family members in the Government. The closest to a criticism of the appointment of family members is the Federal Character Principle which has been consistently in the Constitution since 1979. The principle seeks to ensure that appointments to public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country.

But the 50 men who drafted the 1977 Constitution suggested, as did the text, that this was to apply to Federal appointments and was targeted at negating ethnic dominance. How much this applies to states has not been tested in Court.

The Constitution only highlights that for someone to be a Governor of a State he must:

  • Be a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  • Be 35 years and above.
  • Be a member of a political party or sponsored by one (can also be an independent candidate)
  • Must have been educated to at least, School Certificate Level or its equivalent.

Nwosu would be 43 by August 2018 and he belongs to All Progressive Congress (APC).

Family politics around the World

It is not uncommon to see families with a lot of politicians around the world. What appears different in this case is that one family member endorses another, himself, as his successor.

In the United States, the Bush family have a long record of political activity. From Senator Prescott Bush who represents Connecticut between 1952 to 1963, Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, 1999 to 2007, George Herbert Walker Bush, Vice-President of the US between 1981 to 1989 and also the President between 1989 to 1993.

George Walker Bush was also elected the Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000 and also the President from 2001 to 2009. Jeb Bush’s eldest son, George Bush, was elected the Land Commissioner of Texas in 2014.

In East and South Asia, a good number of daughters of heads of state get elected to the same position. Examples of this include South Korean President Pak Geun-hye, former Philippines President Corazon Aquino, and former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In Pakistan, a husband took over from his wife, Benazir Bhutto.

In Africa, seven countries, that are not Monarchies, have had a father, son, and brother as leaders. These countries are Botswana, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Gabon, Togo, Mauritius, and Malawi.

In Botswana, Khama was elected 27 years after his father, who was the first President of Botswana, left office. In Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta was elected 34 years after his father, Jomo Kenyatta who was the first President of Kenya. In Mauritius, Navin Ramgoolam was elected 13 years after his father also. Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika was also elected years after his brother’s death in office. None of these elections were controversial.

In cases where one family member had directly handed over to another, the rule is usually kept in the same family for a long time.

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé has been in power since 2005 winning three terms after his father Gnassingbé Eyadéma, ruled from 1967 till he died in 2005. Eyadéma made Faure Minister of Equipment, Mines, Posts, and Telecommunications from 2003 to 2005.

The Gnassingbés have ruled Togo for about 90% of the country’s existence, just like a father and son has ruled Gabon for 51 years, leaving just 7 years. After the death of Omar Bongo Ondimba, there was a three months Acting President before Ondimba’s adopted Nigerian son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, became President. 

Laurent-Désiré Kabila ruled the Democratic Republic of Congo for four years from 1997 before he was assassinated. His son Joseph Kabila has been in office ever since, making it 21 years of the Kabila rule.

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