Chief Eze Madumere was the ex-deputy governor to former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha. Somewhere along the line in their tenure, both men could not agree on many issues. Madumere was impeached but survived after the court upturned the decision of the State House of Assembly. In this interview, he tells ROLAND OGBONNAYA that he’s not done with politics despite his ordeal while calling for more constitutional roles for the deputy governors. Excerpts…
You were the deputy to Governor Rochas Okorocha and at a point when everything seem to be going well between you two, he called for your impeachment months before the end of the second term in office. What went wrong?
The issue of impeachment onslaught didn’t come as a surprise. As a strategist, I should read situations and preempt the next step and of course other options at your disposal. The last was the challenge of allowing Imo people to have their way politically and walking the rope of political onslaught. You are aware that there was a serious effort to have me removed from office as a Deputy Governor but the God I serve, Imo people, and Nigerians at large said no to that landmine. Beyond that, I was also marked for murder but I survived both; God shielded me from all that. I was starved of funds among other wickedness to break me. God gave me the heart and grit to withstand such blows. It’s history. They never succeeded.
I want to use this opportunity to thank Nigerians who volunteered to fight my battle. You all stood by me—media, the legal luminaries, youths, and activists. I cannot end without mentioning the role of Mr. President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice Yemi Osinbajo, the lawyers who because of the love they have for me obtained chains of Court Orders without prompting. I have not forgotten and will never forget. Above all, I have fearless and brave judges; one of them is Justice Ben Iheka who amid all pressure did not give a hoot as his ruling proved that our judiciary remains the last hope of the common man.
Before the impeachment saga, what would you say were major Challenges while in office, and the high points within the period?
The first challenge I faced as someone who midwifed the emergence of our government is the challenge to ensure that the government succeeded. So as the then Chief of Staff, I worked round the clock to always ensure that areas, where we couldn’t get it right, were managed. To the glory of God, I achieved a number of things successfully. The second challenge was being in power but not being in power. As a deputy governor, Nigeria’s constitution renders you dormant except whatever the governor considers leaving for you to handle. Except for the statutory position of being the Chairman of the Boundary Commission, every other thing is at the discretion of the governor, Even as Chairman of the boundary commission, you may not be funded. So, these are fundamental challenges we have in the polity.
The challenge was what to do to help even your immediate constituency who are suffering because of impassable road networks. Again, our people do not know what is possible in any position in government. The moment you are in government, the feeling is that you have it all. Of course, I had to stoop to achieve the little I did, especially to the loving people of Mbaitoli. Apart from the link roads from Okigwe Road through Obazu, my community, Achi to Ubomiri then linking Orlu road; the same with link road starting from Orlu Road express to Orodo then towards Ogwa. Again, some efforts were made from Orlu Road to Ifakala then towards Ogbaku but not completed.
The high point was using my office to reconcile warring communities and gave hope to communities that were relegated to the background. God used me to give them their voice back.
Again, I attracted some projects to the State. Among them are Rural Access and Mobility Projects (RAMP) worth over $60 million with over 400 kilometers of roads and 20 river crossings. The same way I attracted NEWMAP that has helped in the management of erosion sites and other ecological concerns. I brought stability in oil-bearing communities and insisted that the right things were done and all MoU signed with communities were kept to the latter.
I also made my mark by ensuring that people had their way because they are the sovereignty. One of the most dangerous things in democracy is that the majority may be wrong but because they are more in number, you allow them to have their way. Interestingly, they will still be the ones to raise the alarm for repeal when the problem arises from what they yearned for.
What will you attribute to the sudden change of attitude towards you by Okorocha, having associated with him years before he became Governor of Imo State? What actually went wrong?
I have put that behind me. What I want people to know is that humans are no God and perfection is almost unattainable especially when it comes to power and money. Let’s leave that, I am still alive to tell the story. I don’t want to dwell on that because I have moved forward. But I learned lessons.
I am more concerned now about the insecurity in the land. I have condemned this publicly. Attacking security formations in the state is a great disservice to our people because we end up exposing everyone to danger because hoodlums will surely take advantage of the trend.
What is important is that normalcy has returned to the state. I believe that leaders will move in to engage our people. We must engage our youths and work with the traditional rulers to get to the grassroots. However, I believe the bad eggs took advantage of the dicey situation in the system to unleash mayhem in the polity.
What were you engaged with before your appointment as the Deputy Governor of the State?
Before I got involved in politics and governance, I joined in the struggle to get power so as to plow some of the ideas we had into the polity and help our people. Evaluating what transpired is a story for another day. Before politics, I was in corporate America for close to two decades. I did well for myself to the glory of God. I was also the manufacturers’ representative in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region. So, I was also into international trade.
Beyond that, I am a management consultant, administrator, and negotiator. I have used these skills to create stability in some corporate outfits, including families. I also brought this to bear while resolving crises and restiveness in oil-bearing communities in Imo State, including managing Ezeship tussles in the communities. I have also not done badly in real estate, which I am still into till date.
Since leaving office as the deputy governor of Imo State, how does it feel to be a private citizen?
I feel good. Yes, there is nothing as good as a good name. I am a free citizen and I walk freely. When I want to sleep, I sleep with my two eyes closed because I am not worried about who comes to the door looking for me for explanations. What is important is the grace of waking every day and finding a way to contribute to society.
Sometimes, your experience could be shared with other leaders to help resolve some challenges, which are normal. Of course, I am not retired from politics but we prefer to keep it cool because the real meaning of politics should humble anyone because it is selfless and thankless service. As a compassionate politician, service and struggle to bring about development to your people is to bring about development and help uplift people’s standard of living.
How would you assess Governor Hope Uzodimma’s administration so far?
That is why it is said that every leader emerges for a purpose and God designs such because you may think you have it all but the whole thing change. That is the God factor. Looking at how he came in, he has done well and could do better. The quality is what I admire. The recent empowerment move must be commended. Some felt he just gave out money. No. These youths had been trained in entrepreneurial skills before the stage of backing it up with some funds. This is to help young people’s businesses. He is also reaching out to various communities, sections and every zone.
In the area of roads, he is doing a great job. The Orlu Road is seriously a work in progress. The same thing with the Owerri Okigwe Expressway. Owerri city is breathing some fresh air with quality roads. Also bear in mind that this is the rainy season. It affects construction and by the time these projects are completed, the city would have received an appreciable facelift. He is also doing a lot to stabilise the state and get the economy back on track.
It’s in the public space that you have been battling to collect the backlog of your salaries and allowances apparently withheld by the then administration of Okorocha. How far have you gone with this?
I would have chosen to be silent on this. For the records, I have not received a dime. I say so because most people have accused me of having been paid part sum or even all the sum.
I know that Governor Uzodimma is managing a lot of challenges. I trust he understands and I believe he will act when its time. There are challenges and the case is still in Court. There are two cases to that effect. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the cases and again, the sacking of the Imo State cabinet also contributed to the delay by the present government in the state.
Are you vying for any elective post in 2023?
I keep that to my chest. However, be rest assured I shall be vying for an elective post. I am yet to see the Nigerian dream. By God’s grace, I shall achieve it by what I shall achieve in both human capital development and the development of our country. In the nick of time, our people will be addressed and you too will know.
You marked your birthday recently; how fulfilled are you?
I feel great and I owe God all the gratitude because without Him I am nothing. I have looked back and taken the time to appreciate how far He has led me. I give Him all the glory because if one critically evaluates some of the things he has passed through, you will realize I had no chance as a human being. Again, I have always been contented with whatever God has given me at every point in time.
I will say that I feel fulfilled because I live and I am as healthy as anyone could ever wish to be. Interestingly, God has also used me to accomplish a number of things. My children are all doing well. At every point in my life, I have always lived within my space and above board too. And most importantly, when I had some opportunities what did I do with them? I believe God used me to achieve certain things for humanity.