By EMENIKE NSU
Every citizen of Imo State is now familiar with Governor Rochas Okorocha’s governance by distraction. Every time his intrigues catch up with him, he reaches into his pocket and fishes out ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s name! It is clear to all that Okorocha has run out of fanciful ideas. He now makes outlandish promises. The chickens have come home to roost for him.
Those who were misled in the past to demonise Ohakim, first started expressing their regrets in murmurs, for they were too embarrassed to admit their mistakes, but now loudly proclaim that Okorocha was a disastrous choice. What triggered the recent antics to probe Ohakim are the many problems the governor is having in Imo State.
This probe comes after Okorocha had told Nigerians several times that he would neither probe nor witch-hunt Ohakim. The probe is meant to serve two major purposes. One is to divert the attention of Imo citizens and Nigerians from the rot in Imo State. The second is to continue the smearing of Ohakim’s name, which has been an obsession for him.
Not long ago, he sponsored a movie to demonise Ohakim and the entire Imo political leadership! Nobody is against any probe. Imo citizens deserve to know how they were governed, and even more so how Okorocha is governing them. But the truth is that since he assumed office, Okorocha has done nothing else but to dig for evidence to nail Ohakim, but he has found none.
He has written volumes of petitions against Ohakim and his wife to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences (ICPC), but these have turned out to be the same old fiction. What the kangaroo probe is expected to achieve is to smear Ohakim because Okorocha is banking on the fact that in Nigeria of today, once an allegation has been made against a public officer, he is assumed guilty, even without conviction. People don’t usually wait to get the truth.
The wonder about Okorocha’s probe is that the report is already written and some newspapers have been put on notice to expect an earth-shaking document that would finally rubbish Ohakim. He is now shopping for a panel of people to give their imprimatur to the sensational fiction. Otherwise, how can he promise to release the report to the public in two weeks, when he is yet to compose the panel, the panel is yet to sit and no evidence has been taken? Why is he already implying Ohakim’s guilt even before he is invited to appear before any probe panel?
The question is whether any respectable Imo person will lend his name and dignity to this kangaroo probe as a member of the panel! The questions Imo citizens want answers from Okorocha is why his free education programme has run into a hitch, while, unfortunately, gullible Nigerians continue to clap for him? The Nation newspaper of Tuesday, November 27 reported that Imo indigenes in tertiary institutions besieged the palaces of traditional rulers for the free education cheques Okorocha promised them! Many monarchs in Imo State have now abandoned their palaces for fear of being lynched by angry students.
The National Association of Imo State Students (NAISS) has described the free education as “fraudulent and ambiguous” and has threatened to go to court over the scam! Today, nobody knows whether what Okorocha is offering is bursary, scholarship or free education! It is all confusion. It is on record that throughout his tenure, Ohakim enhanced the welfare of the physically challenged in Imo State and paid their allowances every month.
He even appointed one of them as his Senior Special Assistant! But Okorocha has stopped paying them. On Thursday, November 22, 2012, over 5, 000 of them took to the streets and grounded Owerri (Daily Sun of Friday, 23 November 2012). When the disabled protesters got to Government House, they were dispersed with tear gas! How insensitive! The day Okorocha was inaugurating his private terror squad called Imo Security Network with which his government terrorises the opposition and contractors he owed demonstrated to the Ahiajoku Convention Centre to disrupt the event.
These are contractors who mobilised to sites without contract documents and have now been disowned. Some of these contractors took loans from banks, which have now foreclosed their property. According to their spokesman, Chief Zack Awaraka, Okorocha simply used them to “claim undue glory” as a performing governor (Newspoint December 3-4, 2012). Okorocha claims to have paid them N13.9 billion, but Chief Awaraka has challenged him to publish the names.
The sanitary condition of Owerri has deteriorated to pre-2007 condition. Insecurity has forced many citizens to relocate, further worsening the economic condition of the state. Okorocha himself reportedly does not sleep in Owerri! Once it is six o’clock he jumps into his private jet and flies to Abuja from where he jets into Owerri the next morning. Instead of hounding Ohakim, he should be explaining to Imo people where he got the money to buy the jet. If it is on lease, who is paying for it? Is it necessary to spend Imo lean resources on such luxury? If he wants to probe Ohakim, let him go ahead.
The verdict of the probe must be based on valid documentary evidence of his malfeasance and not on mischief intended to smear an opponent. Almost two years in office, Okorocha has had enough time to prove himself to Imo people. He has used Ohakim’s name enough as a prop. Imo citizens are no longer amused or impressed. If Okorocha cannot meaningfully improve their lives, he should at least not make it worse.
Probing Ohakim cannot explain or excuse the chicanery going on in Owerri. • Emenike is an Owerri-based businessman and politician