The deputy governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere, has been in the spotlight for weeks over alleged gross misconduct. FELIX NWANERI writes on the political drama that culminated to his impeachment and dumping by a long time ally, Governor Rochas Okorocha
Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states how a governor or deputy governor of a state can be removed from office. The section in sub-section 1 and 2, states: “The governor or deputy governor of a state may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions this section whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the House of Assembly stating that the holder of such office is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified.”
To avoid ambiguity, sub-section 11 of the section defined “gross misconduct” as “a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion in the House of Assembly to gross misconduct.”
It is this section that the Imo State House of Assemby invoked yesterday to impeach the deputy governor of the state, Prince Eze Madumere. He was removed from office by 19 of the 27 members of the Assembly.
The House had earlier received a report by a panel set up by the state Chief Judge, which indicted Madumere of gross misconduct. The impeachment did not come to many as a surprise as there had been subterranean moves to sack the deputy governor after he fell out with his principal and benefactor, Governor Rochas Okorocha.
However, to some political analysts, the shocker over the development was why Madumere, who obviously discerned the hand writing on the wall, opted for the ignoble exit door of impeachment to resignation. No doubt, the Imo Assembly exercised its constitutional role, but it was a replay of the 2013 political drama in the state that prides itself as “Eastern Heartland,” which led to the impeachment of Okorocha’s first deputy – Sir Jude Agbaso.
Agbaso was impeached by the then Assembly led by Ben Uwajimogu (now a senator) after he was indicted of having demanded and received the sum of N458 million as gratification from one of the contractors in the state, Messrs JPROS International Nigeria Ltd. But, in his defence, Agbaso insisted that his ordeal was political.
He cited an agreement between his elder brother, Martin, and Okorocha on the 2015 governorship. For Madumere, trouble started, when the state legislators launched impeachment proceedings against him over allegations of gross misconduct and dereliction of duty.
He was also accused of absconding from his office for more than three months without permission. The deputy governor was further accused of disobedience to Governor Okorocha by refusing to carry out official duties assigned to him, refusal to attend State Executive Council meetings and refusal to hold meetings with the governor and commissioners. It was also alleged that he was imprisoned for theft in the United States.
The petition for his impeachment was submitted by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Nnanna Ozuruigbo and signed by 13 others, which the Speaker, Acho Ihim, said met and surpassed the required one-third of endorsement by lawmakers as provided in Section 188 (2) 11 of the 1999 Constitution.
The House has 27 members, but four were earlier suspended for what the speaker termed “unparliamentary conduct” although they are known loyalists of the deputy governor and were opposed to his impeachment. With the coast clear, the House set up a six-man committee headed by the member representing Obowo state constituency, Kennedy Ibe, to probe the allegations and report back within seven days.
But, Madumere denied any wrongdoing to warrant his impeachment and described the allegations levelled against him as embarrassing and an old ploy of calling a dog a bad name to hang it. “The most embarrassing among the spurious allegations is the annoying allegation of concealment of felonious conduct affecting the presentation of self as eligible candidate of office of Deputy Governor of Imo State,” he said. He added that the most painful part of the allegation is that the two times he had to go through the pains of losing his freedom in detention were all in the course of saving Okorocha from public disgrace.
Madumere has shown undying support for Okorocha and that cannot be disputed, but the latter had equally appreciated and rewarded the former’s loyalty as well. Okorocha, on assumption of office in 2011 appointed Madumere his Chief of Staff and when Agbaso was impeached, it was Madumere that Okorocha elevated to step into his shoes.
Both henceforth enjoyed a cordial working relationship and were re-elected during the 2015 elections. But, the bubble burst, when Okorocha, rather than endorse his deputy as his successor, opted for his son-in-law and Chief of State, Uche Nwosu. Perhaps, Madumere stemmed his conviction of being the most suitable among members of the Okorocha political family to succeed their mentor in 2019 given his relationship with the governor which spans over 20 years and is beyond politics.
Born with blue blood, Madumere had his primary and secondary education in Imo and Lagos states, respectively after which he travelled to the United States, where he studied Management and later worked with KFC and PepsiCo Inc for over a decade.
He returned to Nigeria in 1998 and served as Director for Women and Youth Mobilization of the Okorocha Campaign Organisation for the 1999 governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He also served as Chief Strategist on Media and Logistics for Okorocha’s presidential bid on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2003. He equally served as Chief of Staff to Okorocha, when he was appointed Special Adviser on Interparty Relations by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. So, for Madumere, it has been years of service to Okorocha, but the governor may have been influenced by personal and family consideration rather than political interest in arriving at his choice of Nwosu as his successor.
Though Okorocha offered Madumere a senatorial ticket, the latter turned it down and insisted that he is the best man for the Imo State top job. Consequently, the relationship between them crumbled like a pack of cards.
The deputy governor had to pitch his political tent with a faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state to wrest control of the party from Okorocha during the party’s ward, local government and state congresses. The faction succeeded, but its victory was however momentary as the court cancelled the congresses, following a suit by Okorocha’s camp.
The court also ordered fresh congresses at the various levels, an order which the party’s national leadership consented to. When Okorocha regained control of the APC in the state after the fresh congresses, it became clear to many that it was time for him to pay back his traducers in their own coin. With Madumere out of the way, Okorocha has anointed his third deputy in less than eight years in the person of Mr. Callistus Ekenze.