By ETHELBERT Okere
The war of words that ensued between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor RochAs Okorocha shortly after The Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha was declared governor-elect was inevitable for two reasons. One, a precedence had been set in 2011. Two, the circumstances that surrounded the 2019 governorship election was such that any of the candidates, perhaps with the exception of Uche Nwosu, would have had issues with Governor Okorocha.
However, it was more of the later than the former: the ineptitude, the impunity and the recklessness- whether procedurally, financially or what-of the outgoing administration had become so glaring that even a steel-hearted incoming governor would have been, greatly worried, about how to even start.
What transpired between the two camps is both too well known and fresh to require any rehash here. But it also includes the fact that I should not repeat the contents of an intervention I made via an article in which I advised that the governor-elect’s campaign should avoid making allegations it could not substantiate.Some people were taken aback by my stance because they expected people like me, who were at the receiving end of false allegations by Rochas Okorocha, then governor-elect and his camp against the administration of Ikedi Ohakim then the out-going governor.Their expectation was probably that I would say to Governor Okorocha: it serves you right.
However, that article later formed the basis of the 52-page book I published in early April, 2019 in which I dealt on the issue of transitions in Imo State in more details. I am referring to my penultimate work “Imo Transitions And Governorship Lessons (1999-2019)”.
Till date, I am still receiving inquires on the book even after the vendors ahd nominally (I have not seen proceeds) sold over 5000 copies. Again, a rehash is needless here but it is important to state that transition hostilities have substituted as had been feared. It is not entirely new but there is a difference between what Imolites witnessed in 2011 and what they are witnessing now. One, the then governor, Ikedi Ohakim, who had been brutally wounded during the election held earlier, and the remnant of his media team, including yours sincerely, were reacting to the heap of allegations, abuses and accusations Okorocha and his lieutenants were throwing on the former and his administration. I was, at the risk of sounding immodest, the arrowhead of the resistance against Governor Okorocha’s avowed agenda to completely rubbish his successor and his administration.
As I noted earlier, the falsehood were coming every day, every hour, every minute. They included things like Ohakim spending N30 million every day on Champaign. Now the situation is different. The immediate past governor and his (propaganda) team are the ones leveling allegations against the new administration, to the extent that today, the joke in the state is something like this: what allegations will Okorocha make against Ihedioha today?
Unlike in 2011, when Ohakim and his own people had become endangered species and more or less looking for shelter from the shelling that were coming from Okorocha and his camp, it is Governor Ihedioha and his people that are dodging Okorocha’s missiles this time around! What an irony? What an effrontery from an ex-governor who should be contrite for the havoc he wrecked on the the peace loving, lovable and docile people of Imo state.
Not every Imolite is a Chartered Accountant or Auditor but how come even school kids had began to call for a “probe” of Governor Okorocha and his administration even before he finally exited from office.Even before the elections, I had encounters with former colleagues of mine in the media who, on their own, raised the issues of financial profligacy, land grabbing and sundry allegations against the Okorocha administration. Each time, they spoke in such a manner that left you in no doubt that the rest of Nigeria knew that Imo state was in a financial morass.
Today, I laugh when I read Okorocha’s publicists claim that Governor Ihedioha summons “media managers to brief them to “take Rochas to the cleaners. That is of a lie because even most of the “media” managers” probably knew more about the rot in Imo than Ihedioha at least before he became governor.
Even as strident as the call for “probe” of Okorochas” administration had been, I personally did not take a strong position on the matter for three reasons.One, I felt that there was no need for a stampede. Two, and which is intertwined with the first, I felt or knew that that even as monumental as the revelations already appeared, our people Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet! Three, I felt that, yes, Governor Ihedioha might be the complaint-in-chief; the move against Okorocha will be masses-driven.
Here, I digress by putting a lie on the ex- governor’s recent claim that, I paraphrase, no “true” Imolites would rise against him. The ex governor is dead wrong: if “true” Imolites had their way, he would by now be taking questions over his stewardship. That he is not at the moment, but, alas, displaying the rarest effrontery to confront Imolites for trying to make some sense out of his maladministration, is the biggest fallacy of this time. I return and state that I made up my mind that things really went out of hand after seeing the report of the Financial Advisory Committee set up by Governor Ihedioha upon assuming office. Every disclosure in that report, which I would request the governor to publish in a small pamphlet and let every Imo adult have a copy, is mind boggling but the one that is most heart rending is about the proceeds of taxes paid by civil servants.
The committee, headed by one of Nigeria’s best, indeed one of Imo’s greatest gifts to the rest of the country, Abraham Nwankwo, reported that funds realized from taxes paid by civil servants under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Scheme, never got into the coffers of the state government for the period His Excellency, Senator Rochas Okorocha, was in office. According to the committee’s report, proceeds from the PAYE scheme “disappeared between the ministries, department and agencies and the office of the accountant-general”. Meanwhile, the background to this was that more than 250 bank accounts were operated by officials of state government through which the finances of the state were supposedly managed.
As I noted above, Imolites didn’t have to be all accountants and auditors to be able to put a figure to that heist. Agreed, Governor Rochas Okorocha could have operated all the more than 250 accounts himself but those who managed them must have had his confidence. How did I know? When the bubble began to burst, Governor Okorocha was fond of saying: “I made so, so, and so rich”. The question Ndi Imo never ceased asking was: How? The answer is now starring all of us at the face. Governor Okorocha either connived at the financial profligacy of those of appointees of his who he “made rich” or out rightly collaborated with them. Of course, Rochas Okorocha was or is known for his verbosity but he is most probably the only Nigerian (as corrupt as the country is ) of his standing that would publicly claim that he made another fellow “rich” with public funds.From evidence on ground, it was not false claim. The fellows he alluded to when the goings seized to be good, are rich indeed. But that is different matter even though it does not exonerate him.
His publicists in their provocative and deliberate attacks on his successor alludes to Okorocha “monumental achievements”. Evidently, they are referring to the open halls, squares and artificial waterfalls that were erected. But all of the erections, to borrow from a commentator in a recently published article, are sitting on “procedural and financial filth”. Unfortunately, Imolites were meant to believe that buildings are all that matter. They now know better.The buildings and squares are white sepulchers, housing rotten bodies-the rots of the state.
Based on this erroneous impression that edifices are all that matter, some critics of the new administration has queried why it is yet to embark on any “major project” even when it was less than one month old. Because Governor Okorocha succeeded in battering the collective psyche of the people, “projects” here mean empty halls and squares, the type they got used to in the eight years of his administration.
The only “project” he did is the completion of the two flyovers started by the Ohakim administration. But even so, they have been declared as not fit for use by human beings, not by Governor Ihedioha but by the Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN) over five years ago.
I hear that the ex governor and his handlers insist that “there is noting wrong with the flyovers” but that is an assault on the collective integrity of Imolites because the defects of the two flyers are there for even priests, not only engineers to see.It is a settled matter that 70% of good governance is on intangibles. I have seen the new High Court, the new Police Headquarter and the New Prisons (federal projects that were unsolicited for and into which the Abuja authorities were not allowed to make any inputs) but they mean nothing to a people whose affairs were ran with such a reckless abandon.