The names of Peter Odili, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and Celestine Omehia have reigned and reeled in Rivers State political firmament since 1999. They seem to be slipping fast into history. Nyesom Wike and Sim Fubara are now thundering everyday everywhere, but for how long more! Names such as Magnus Abe, Dakuku Peterside, Tonye Princewill, Tonye Cole, and some others have washed through the airwaves and continue to. One name, however, seems to push from bottom in the kind of politics that Rivers State is getting known for. The name is Anthony Chinedu Okocha.
This man recently declared himself the new leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, but many scoffed it off. Now, the national leadership of the party on Thursday, November 23, 2023, dissolved the state executive committee of the party in the state and announced him (Tony Okocha) as the caretaker committee chairman.
His task, simple-looking, but is deadly significant. He is to determine who rejoins APC in Rivers State or not through an electronic process. The Amaechi-focused caretaker State executive had carried out this same exercise two years ago but Okocha and some others shunned it, yet, those who shunned it insisted they were APC members.
Now, the national APC leadership in the firm grip of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has scrapped everything from source and handed a blank slate to Okocha to write names of APC members in Rivers State. His earlier declaration that he is the new Leader of the party in Rivers seems to come full circle.
Okocha can be said to be a product of both Wike and Amaechi political dynasties. He is Wike’s kinsman (Rumuigbo in same Obio/Akpor LGA) but served Amaechi as Chief of Staff. He had earlier served Wike (then Obio/Akpor LGA chairman) as Executive Assistant. Okocha boasts how much he knows each boss, even if he has turned full circle to prefer Wike. His detractors however argue that it’s Wike’s large war chest (money) that made him oscillate that way. He rejects such notion and says Wike is decisive and has all the strategies needed.
Okocha is seen around the region as very cerebral; he graduated with second class Upper in the Uniport in Philosophy in 1994. He now lecturers at the Methodist Theological Institute (Mti) in Umuahia, Abia State, probably to sharpen his brain. He has written a book and is writing another. He loves argument so long as only words, not fists, are deployed. He says it does not mean he can’t stand a fight.
He tries to convince anybody around him that he possesses deep knowledge in politics and administration because he served Wike in very personal details and later Amaechi as Chief of Staff that executed all critical tasks. He is seen thus as ‘the man with the file’. Reasonable people do not pick a fight with such people easily.
Okocha, now a chief, lives with his people in Rumuigbo, Port Harcourt. He is married with kids. Before the Uniport, he studied at the Rivers State School of Basic Studies but from 1979 – 1984 at the famous Akpor Grammar School, Ozuoba. These are the schools that produce those who turn things around in the state. He has a certificate in Conflict and Crisis Management as well as Conflict Resolution & Company/Community Relations.
His vast knowledge in grassroots politics seems to be boosted by several positions he has held such as President, National Union of Obio Akpor Students; President, Students Union Government, Uniport; Speaker, Student Representative Council, Uniport; Executive Assistant to Chairman, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area; Secretary General, Ikwerre Youth Movement, International; Special Assistant to His Excellency, Deputy Governor, Rivers State; Chairman, Caretaker Committee, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area Council; and General Secretary, Rumuigbo Town Council.
The icing on the cake seems to be his position as Wike’s replacement in Rivers State Government House as Chief of Staff, Government House, Rivers State.
He is a Knight, (Order of Saint Christopher) of the Anglican Communion as well as the Eze Ruwhu-Oha Ekinigbo Clan (Pride Of Ekinigbo Clan).
When Tinubu stepped out for power, Okocha delved into his camp right away. Many said it was on behalf of Wike, but he says he is a man of his own decisions, something of a maverick. He takes his own decisions but aligns with like minds and interests. He thus was Chairman, Protocol and Logistics Committee, Tinubu/Shettima Grassroot Independent Campaign Council. He was also Member Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Directorate of Support Groups, South-South. He also was Chairman, Local Organising Committee, APC Presidential Campaign, Rivers State.
He openly shows how he worked closely with Wike to deliver Tinubu in Rivers State and asks any opposer if APC had won anything in Rivers State before he and Wike worked for Tinubu, and if any other APC candidate won anything in the state. Opponents flee at these questions.
He insists that people should reap where they sowed and that Wike worked and should be given whatever belongs to Rivers State from the Tinubu table; and that his faction of the APC trusted Wike to reshare it fairly. It worked. Wike was made Minister, and Okocha was made Rivers representative in the NDDC. Now that it is time to capture the APC structure in Rivers State and rework it, he has been appointed to lead the task; always the man to trust.
Okocha speaks English Language and Ikwerre, and his personal interests or hobbies include football (Man U and Arsenal fans may drag him), reading of journals, and motivational works, writing of articles and short stories. He also loves traveling. He has huge regard and respect for the former deputy governor, GTG Toby, and the former public relations officer and later lecturer of the University of Port Harcourt, William Wodi.
Okocha seems to fear no political battles. He has emerged as the face to look out for, the man to watch, in the emerging Rivers politics, volatile as it may appear.