The recent resolutions of the out-going members of the Imo House of Assembly have shocked not a few people. I am sure they even shocked themselves. And, the out- gone governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha must be wondering at the behaviour of the “animal called man.”
Politicians cover-up their political prostitution by telling us: “In politics, there is no permanent enemy, only permanent interests”. Yet, I confirm that the case of the out-going IMHA members is fit for the Guinness Book of Records.
Here are why.
Imolites know the story of Okorocha and these members. In the eight years of his government, the IMHA was an extension of Okorocha’s office. Members were at his beck and call. They could not cough without him asking them to. They would not sit without discussing the day’s activities with him. If he asked them not to sit, they wouldn’t dare. They never discussed anything rigorously. They never interrogated him on any policy issue. They never discussed the budget. There was no budget defence. If there was any, it was a huge joke. Anything he wanted, they did. If he asked them to jump, led by the most subservient Speaker since Nigeria’s democracy, Acho Ihim, they would ask how high.
They looked on, and applauded while the state was in dire distress. They looked on while our educational system was being destroyed. They looked on while he made a ridicule of the state by establishing six Universities in one fell swoop. They looked on while he made nonsense of our civil/public service rules. He hired people at will, fired at will, promoted at will and seconded at will, paid workers 70 per cent of their salaries and, asked them to sign that they were paid 100 per cent. And they looked on while he reduced work days to three days from five.
They looked on while he declared work free days to mark his birthdays. They looked on while he created Community governments, something unknown to Nigeria’s constitution. They looked on while he rendered the local government system irrelevant. They looked on while he created mushroom autonomous communities and appointed mushroom traditional rulers to oversee them. They looked on while he, excuse my language, bastardized our traditional institutions.
They looked on, without a whimper, when people’s houses and major markets in the state were being pulled down. Eke ukwu Owere is a good example. Even though there was a court order to the contrary, nobody could stop him from pulling down the people’s ancestral market. Traders lost billions of Naira. A young boy was shot dead in the process. And, until he left office, the site remained an eye sore. Worse than a pig’s sty.
lawmakers lost their voices, and looked on while the state government disobeyed court orders with impunity. They suspended their own members for refusing to join in their illegality. They applauded Okorocha and, helped him engineer, and endorse the impeachment of two deputy governors.
They looked on as Imolites screamed over the alleged illegal grabbing of their lands for personal and/or selfish use. They looked on as he constructed bridges without rods, and pillars. They asked no questions as the roads he constructed today became large potholes tomorrow.
They looked on as he constructed the most ridiculous and, the most dangerous tunnel ever in Nigeria. The Nigeria Society of Engineers had since dismissed the tunnel as a tragedy waiting to happen. The IMHA members looked on as the state capital became one huge smelly refuse dump, and drains and streets of flood and stagnant rivulets.
A couple of days before Okorocha’s exit as a governor, they looked on as he appointed, and swore-in eleven permanent secretaries, a new head of service, and a new accountant general. A few days earlier, they had looked on as he inaugurated board members of parastatals and institutions. Sure, he had the right, but morally, it was wrong.
In all these, they said not a word. They shamelessly applauded him. And hailed him as the best thing to have happened to Imo.
But now, all that is over. It was over within a twinkle of an eye. Even before he entered his private residence on May 28, it was over. The lawmakers made an about face. Like the Jews, the chorus turned to: crucify him. Like Peter, they denied Okorocha. Like Pontius Pilate, they washed their hands off him and his activities which they had, for eight years, applauded and endorsed.
Again, here is how.
It started, gradually, on the day the lawmakers surprised themselves, and resolved to ask questions about the financial status of the state. This was a couple of weeks to the exit of the ex-governor from office. Not a few people thought they were under the influence. But no. They were clear-headed. They went further to insist they never discussed, nor approved the 2019 Budget – something the ex-governor had, as usual, taken for granted. Flowing from that, they invited the Commissioner for Finance and the Accountant General to appear before them. They invited the Chairmen of LGAs’ to also appear before them to discuss their finances. When the Chairmen ignored them, they were suspended from office. The suspension angered Okorocha. He, allegedly, scolded Ihim, who at the next sitting, reversed the suspension. It cost him his Speakership. Most of the members revolted against him. A new Speaker emerged. And quit within 48 hours. And a third Speaker, finally, emerged and raised the ante. This other day, Ihim was given the treatment he enjoyed giving others. He was suspended from the Assembly.
By this time, Ihedioha had been sworn in as governor. Power has changed hands. And so has allegiance. And loyalty. But these happened too soon, in an almost obscene speed.
Suddenly, the lawmakers began to bark and bite. They found their groove. And their breath. And their independence. And, as one cheeky fellow put it, their manhood. Let me add that the women also found their womanhood. Why discriminate against them!
Since then, Imo lawmakers have been trying to exert their independence. They have been trying to distance themselves from the ex-governor’s decisions and activities in office.
So, this other day, to prove to Imolites that they are now repentant of their shameful performance these past eight years, they went for Okorocha’s jugular. In a unanimous resolution, they asked Governor Ihedioha to probe Okorocha’s tenure. And this, a tenure they swore to die for, while it lasted.
They asked him to probe the finances of the state. And they asked for more. From promotions, recruitments, postings, secondments, retirements in the civil/public service, land allocations/ alleged land grabbing, to issuance of certificates of occupancy, they asked him to probe. And, they resolved some more.
They asked Ihedioha to cancel the last-minute appointments and swearing-in of eleven permanent secretaries, the accountant general, and the head of service. They also asked him to cancel the ridiculous establishment of six universities in one fell swoop when the Imo State University, the Teaching hospital, Orlu, and the Imo State polytechnic are dying from lack of funds-induced kwashiorkor.
Ihedioha has listened to them. But having been a member of the House of Representatives, rising to become its Deputy Speaker, and Acting Speaker, he is a man of due process. So, he has not done what some of his governor-colleagues did as soon as they were sworn in. Some of them cancelled last minute appointments and contracts immediately. But he has chosen to set-up two committees to look into the resolutions of the IMHA. Good beginning. And the people are clapping. It will be interesting to know how, and where, Okorocha left the sum of N42billion for Ihedioha to kick start the new government.
However, there are serious issues which the IMHA members forgot. In their hurry to display their new found power, they forgot to pass a resolution on the worst disgrace and shame Imo state experienced under Okorocha.
In the eight years of Okorocha’s reign as the governor, he made it a habit to disgrace people out of office. Most, if not all of them, were innocent of the allegations made against them. Like in a military dictatorship, his government would go on radio and television, and announce the compulsory retirements, termination of appointments, or dismissals, from office, of men and women who had faithfully served for years without blemish. They ranged from directors to permanent secretaries to a Secretary to the State Government, SSG. Those of them who had the liver to challenge him in court did. They won. But, he always chose to disobey the courts – a would-be burden on the Ihedioha administration, since government is a continuum.
Yet, the most outrageous of them all was Okorocha’s connivance with the IMHA to impeach two deputy governors one after the other.
The first victim was Sir Jude Agbaso, his first Deputy Governor. Sir Agbaso was a victim of high-wired politics between Okorocha and his elder brother, Chief Martin Agbaso. Both were political partners in APGA, the political party under which Okorocha won the governorship seat in 2011. I cannot confirm this story, but following is what they say happened between both men.
They agreed that Okorocha would take the first shot as governor, with Agbaso, producing the deputy. After four years, it would be reversed. Chief Agbaso would take the driving seat, while Okorocha would produce the deputy.
But the heart is cunning. Everybody carries his/her own like a bag. Unknown to Chief Agbaso, Okorocha had no intention of keeping to that agreement. As they were making it, he was already thinking beyond that. He was preparing a family political empire. He would do eight years, not four. And after him, his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, would step in for another eight years. But to achieve that, he needed to foul the relationship between him and the Agbasos in a most cruel manner.
So, in addition to Sir Agbaso’s deputy governorship, he also appointed him the Commissioner for Works. But it was an empty shell. A Greek gift. Sir Agbaso was never part of any contract negotiation, award, signing, or payment. All those were done behind him. Yet, it did not save him from being criminally accused of taking bribe to the tune of over N400m from a God-cursed contractor – a liar from the pit of hell, like those who contracted him to engage in such atrocity. Agbaso was impeached. And, even when he had since been cleared by the EFCC, he is still in limbo. Neither the state government, the IMHA, nor the then weak judiciary which put a seal on a patent lie, has apologised to him.
The second victim of Okorocha’s wicked connivance with the IMHA is the immediate past Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere. He was Agbaso’s replacement. Absolutely loyal to Okorocha, and subservient to a fault, Okorocha connived with the IMHA to impeach him. To do that, Ihim’s IMHA suspended, indefinitely, members who they knew would oppose the move.
Madumere’s crime: He dared say he would contest the governorship seat which Okorocha reserved for his son- in-law.
Both men did nothing. They were criminalized and humiliated to satisfy one man’s obscene ambition. And the man was supported in all that by the IMHA.
Now that the members have decided to swallow their vomit of eight years; now that they have shamelessly found their voices; now that they have realised, belated as it is, their collective sins against their state; now that they have decided to work for the people, and not for one man’s interest, they should go the whole hog.
Before Governor Ihedioha proclaims the next Assembly, they should wipe this shame off their faces and that of the state. They should reverse the impeachment of both Agbaso and Madumere (even though a court has reversed Madumere’s, while Agbaso’s case against Okorocha is at the Supreme Court); with an apology, and restore all their rights and entitlements. A vote of confidence is what is needed.
It has a precedence. The Lagos state House of Assembly, after a couple of years, reversed the unjust impeachment of Femi Pedro, a former deputy governor, under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and restored all his entitlements. That’s the way to go. And that’s integrity.