In apparent response to the expectations of many keen observers of political developments in Imo State and especially residents, the Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha officially reacted to the power play between the elected local government council chairmen and the present administration following the July 4, 2012 Appeal Court judgment in Owerri.
Since the Appeal Court decision which declared as illegal and unconstitutional the action of the state government for purporting to dissolve the democratically elected local government councils in the state before the expiration of their constitutional guaranteed tenure, Governor Okorocha has not made any public statement a day after the judgment, Okorocha left the state for the United States of America (USA) to receive a Congress Award as well as be part of the annual World Igbo Congress. While the Imo State Governor was away, there were several political undercurrents and unorthodox machinations employed by the warring factions to outwit each other in the rat race for the control of the LGA. Armed with a statement from the Attorney General of the federation, Mohammed Adike who enjoined the state Governor to respect the Appeal Court ruling and a signal from the Inspector General of Police directing the state Commissioner of Police in the state and the respective divisional Police headquarters to ensure that the elected chairmen favoured by the Appeal Court decision were secured at the council headquarters, the elected chairmen, councilors and their supporters recaptured the council secretaries except for skirmishes in few LGA headquarters where the out of – favour TC chairmen tried a face – off with the resuming elected chairmen. Piqued by the action of the elected chairmen who seemed to have gained grounds in the unfolding scenario, the state government adopted certain strategies to demobilize the chairmen by not only asking the workers to proceed on a three – day leave but arranged an unscheduled workshop that has no termination date for Director of Administration and General Services, DAGS, Treasures and senior staffers of the various councils. Tension and uneasy calm paraded the LGAs last week until Owelle Okorocha breezed into Owerri on Sunday evening to calm the nerves of the warring forces especially the aides who were alleged to have mobilized thugs and hoodlums suspected to be of APGA stock for a possible attack against the elected chairmen on the following Monday. At the meeting where Okorocha sought the views of his enlarged executive council members on the next line of action, reason prevailed and the Governor decided to speak to the people of Imo who he fondly called “my people, my people” The case of Owelle Okorocha and his APGA – led government is that of a popular Yoruba saying “Adie b’ alokun, ara o r’ okun, ara ro adie,” which literally means “a hen that perches on a rope makes the rope and itself uncomfortable, the Governor was forced to break his silence. At a press briefing which was broadcast live in the state – owned radio station, the Governor among other things did berate the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke for his press statement on the issue, expressed reservations over the conduct of men of the state police command for working like a sheriff without proper information on the matter, reinstated his unreserved desire to continue to uphold the rule of law.
As a Governor who came into power by Grace of God and support of the masses, Owelle Okorocha preached peace by urging the TC Chairmen not to take laws into their hands stating that both parties are Imo children. The Governor who during the broadcast invited the elected chairmen to a meeting on Friday did state that the matter is still in court as the state government not only requested from the court an order for stay of execution but also has gone to the Supreme Court to challenge theAppeal Courtdecision.
He therefore asked Imo people to remain calm and let peace reign as he would take the matter up with Attorney General of the federation and the Inspector General of police.
Irrespective of the divergent views that have continued to trail the much expected public speech, I am happy the Owelle has spoken. He has adopted a proactive measure to seek solution because his absence translated to an incriminating silence capable of throwing the entire Imo into a state of anarchy.
A cursory overview of the Governor’s recent speech leaves much to be desired. The ambiguous posture of his statements are an ominous sign that the state fondly called the Eastern Heartland is within spitting distance to hades. I am not a prophet of doom, God forbid; I will not. I pray that will not be. But empirical evidences indicate that the battle for the control of the LGA has just begun. After the initial warm up exercise meant to try each others size, both parties are back to the trenches for another show of strength like Ndi Igbo will say that “Anyu cha shi ma akaghi ya onu, ya awuru otoro” our dear Owelle was not emphatic in his comment and therefore was not decisive on the issue of re – instating the elected council chairmen as ordered by the Appeal Court. It is worthy to note that Owelle carefully avoided the issue of outright compliance to the Appeal Court judgment or insistence that the elected chairmen be locked out of the councils with respect to the status quo since his government has applied for stay of execution and gone to Supreme Court to challenge the Appeal court ruling.
Okorocha’s escapist tendency in this matter is not at variance with the views I expressed in the last edition while chatting with one of the embattled elected chairmen at “a joint” in Owerri after the court victory. I did tell my friend chairmen that the Owelle Rochas Okorocha government is not willing to allow them enter the councils even if the court of Almighty God okays them to take back their positions. I gave him several reasons why the Governor will not be disposed to have them back which was published in last week’s Agwodinuju when the chairman who asked me why I did not become a Catholic priest after a post – primary stunt in the Catholic Seminary at Okpala because I would have been a prophet . He called to know my reactions on the Governor’s public broadcast, I expressed reservations and told him that it is not a phone matter because “Ugo Ebere le na Mgbagbu” which literally means “the stage is set for the showdown,” he quickly ended the call and sent a text message for us to meet at one joint in the state capital for us to meet to unwind and discuss. Before the appointed time, my “new found friend” was already seated this time with palm wine and ishi ewu. He did not allow me relax before he came up with the topic in Igbo “kee ihe ighotara Owelle bu n’obi” what did you understand Owelle has in mind to do now” I replied in Yoruba “fara bale” meaning “take it easy” to avoid developing unwarranted high blood pressure HBP, My friend relaxed but became mute and uncomfortable. The next thing he said “Owelle owu onye obi akpo? Is Owelle from Obi akpor? Heart hearted? I laughed and decided to open up. I told him that from all indices, the Governor is only trying to postpone the evil day when the issue of the August 8, 2010 elected will be properly settled. That because of the survival of the Fourth Tier Government, which is his pet project, the undue interference in the running of the Local Government and alleged tampering of funds due to the councils, it will be difficult to allow them in. I reminded the elected chairmen that if the Governor will tell Imo people that both the elected chairmen and TC chairmen are Imo children and everybody should eschew violence, why wont he allow the elected chairmen be, pending the determination of his injunction for stay of execution and final determination by the Supreme Court. I reminded my friend LG Boss that even as a layman in legal practice, the superior ruling concerning the elected chairmen versus Imo state government is theAppeal Court ruling. And if he swore to an oath as a Governor uphold to the rule of law why the brouhaha over the reinstatement of the sacked democratically elected chairmen and councilors. I told him that Owelle is protecting an “interest” and that is why all the Director of Administration and General Services, DAGS, Treasures TR and senior staffers were sent out of the councils for a hurriedly arranged workshop which no one has attended at Ahiajoku center. I also informed him that verbal attacks at Adoke and police and the resolve to make the matter up show that the Governor is unrelenting in the quest not to allow them near the councils. As the chairmen nodded in agreement with my views, I opined that if the Governor is not breeding skirmishes despite his plea for peace, why has he not dissolved the TC chairmen or state categorically that these appointees are still in charge of affairs in the councils. He beckoned on me to stop that these points are enough to intimate him that Owelle’s Monday speech was a mere dummy meant to insult the sensibilities of Imo people who became more confused with the public address before I told him not to be deceived by that word, the interest of my people is uppermost in my mind, their welfare too, because he never condoled or paid sorrowful concern to the family, relations or community of one of his so called “My people” who died in Iho Ikeduru LGA during the scramble for the control of the LGA.
A day after theAppeal Courtjudgment till date, there has been no official statement from the state government to console the family over the unfortunate incident. No reference has also been made about those who suffered severe body injuries or had their vehicles damaged by hired thugs during the cross fire at some of the councils. Will government claim not to be aware of these security reports before Governor thanked Imo youths for maintaining peace within this period. I reminded my friend that maybe this man who died and other victims are not “My people, my people” Owelle was referring to in his address? Before I could finish, a jar of palm wine has been exhausted and it was a day far spent.
This time my man ended our stay with “Gwa Owelle si ya nakwa echeki (tell Owelle to be checking) and I replied “Imo Must Be Better”.