Nigeria Matters

Ohakim as Imo Governor: The Pains Behind The Pay!

Election is a public power of choosing; freely at will out of liberty .It is a peoples’ life because government is more about the ‘nuts and bolts’ issues of everyday life, geographical representation is more often given primacy, but for successive government in Nigeria this definition differs. The democrats view it as the act of choosing a person to fill an office, or to membership in a society, as by ballot, uplifted hands, or viva voce; as, the election of a president or a mayor. But in Nigeria it has become the choice, made by the ruling party, out of alternatives, by taking one of their candidates, excluding the rightful public choice to the detriment of the Nigerian society. .With all these happenings, one may not fail to ask; Does Election mean same for every person in the world? Does Election mean same to each and every individual living in the country? The western world answers it all. Election is unanimous public consensus exercised through the ballot.

For the Nigerian Public; elections for general public means to elect a candidate of available leaders whom they think can make a difference in their day to day life. A normal man or woman will always look out for a leader who promises to solve their day to day problems and make their life’s easy. They Judge the person by the promises he makes and the good or bad deeds that he has done. For the ruling party (PDP); an election is all about winning by any means available (do-or-die affair. Members of the ruling Party are always interested in getting votes rather than winning hearts of voters. They are more behind collecting Party funds than making or creating some new law or strategy that would help the Nation. For Leader or Candidates: Elections for Standing Candidates are the most fruitful period. They get their share of the Party fund and are independent to spend it as and when they want to promote themselves. They won’t spend it for public service but to lure people into their traps and to make them vote in their favour. For Party Members: Elections for Party Members is the actual time when they have to work for the party. They also earn good in this period and enjoy this period a lot as their leader motivates them by throwing parties etc. Organising “owambe” and “saraka” etc. not for the sake of helping people but to please people and to show that they care about people

It is also true that the choice of electoral system in Nigeria is part of a compromise votes given to appease party-juggernauts. For example, in Imo State tradition and the federal government influence have resulted in a Two-Round System for the state legislature, while a desire to be inclusive and more fully reflect regional and ethnic loyalties resulted in the choice of tyrants for Douglas House-Sit elections. As Rochas Okorocha receive his people baton for the race into government House in Imo State; the incumbent governor; who was busy painting images for himself in the newspapers, pasting posters indiscriminately to land some frivolous claims, paying homage, engaging in native land tussles, dethroning and enthroning village chiefs instead of attending to the people’s yearning for the past four-years of his reign as the eastern heartland governor turned offensive; all we see is illegal interference with the process of an election. It was clear that Mr. Okorocha had won about 12 local government, and suddenly Mr.Ohakim swerve into 11;a case that left the possibility of the authorities to artificially control the composition of an electorate in order to produce a foregone result. One way of doing this is to move a large number of voters into the electorate prior to an election, for example by temporarily assigning them land or lodging them in flophouses.

Many countries prevent this with rules stipulating that a voter must have lived in an electorate for a minimum period (for example, six months) in order to be eligible to vote there. However, such laws can themselves be used for demographic manipulation as they tend to disenfranchise those with no fixed address, such as the homeless, travelers, Roma, students (studying full time away from home) and some casual workers. Another strategy is to permanently move people into an electorate, usually through public housing. If people eligible for public housing are likely to vote for a particular party, then they can either be concentrated into one electorate, thereby making their votes count for less, or moved into marginal electorates, where they may tip the balance towards their preferred party.

Inside Ohaji Egbema L.G.A the Ohakim-led arsenal featured multiple opportunities for unscrupulous officials or ‘helpers’ to record the communal vote differently from their intentions. Voters who require assistance to cast their votes are particularly vulnerable to having their votes stolen in this way. For example a blind Chijuka Ihejiaga was drag to thumb-print outside his choice. Again, Madam Evelyn Uzoigwe who cannot read the language of the ballot paper was told that she has voted for one party when in fact she has been led to vote for another. This is misuse of proxy votes, some voters were under the impression that they have voted with the assistance of the other person, rather than having the other person voting on their behalf.

Governor Ohakim assumed office with such pomp and panache that reinvigorated hopes and enthusiasm in the minds of Imo people who had been cruelly short-changed in the immediate past; but the present nostalgic feeling of that forgettable past is a testament that the governor has performed more in words than in action

Two months after the promise of 10,000 jobs to unemployed citizens of Imo State by the state government, the people who applied for the job are still waiting for the state government. The job offer, which elicited criticism from cross sections of the country, began on May 10. Prospective applicants were expected to pay N2000 to any of the approved banks for a scratch card and apply online. The exercise was expected to last six weeks but was later extended by two weeks. This was said to have raked in over N125 million to the state government from the over 50,000 persons who applied for the jobs. A source at the Government House Owerri however, told this magazine that some people have been invited for aptitude test.

This is not the first time the people of the state believe they have been hoodwinked by government for non-existent jobs. In August 2009, the Imo job centre, described as a novelty in the state, advertised for jobs for Imo indigenes in far away Dubai. The centre, was headed by Professor Obioma Iheduru. The applicants were made to pay N460, 000 to Imo Job Centre’s Diamond Bank Account No: 0172130000801. This includes provision of employment visa, three years resident/work permit, a job with a salary of US$1500 dollars, accommodation and air ticket. The applicants were assured that every bit of their money would be refunded with interest if such jobs were not provided.

But 11 months after, only a two-week visa was issued to successful applicants. They were however, promised that the entry visa would be extended by three months when they arrive the Promised Land. “After spending some days in the hotel without hearing from the director of the Imo Job Centre, Professor Obioma Iheduru, we decided to call him on phone. Each time we called him, he kept promising that money will be remitted to us through his consultant. We discovered that there was no job arrangement of any sort for us in Dubai,” one of the applicants told this magazine. They were rescued by the Nigerian Ambassador in Dubai who asked one Nasir, an embassy staff, to send them back to Nigeria, all at their own expense.

Two weeks ago, the youths disrupted the reception organised by the state government for the visiting Nigerian first lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan at Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri. They had shut down the centre after waiting in vain for Professor Iheduru who promised the refund

of their money. They were told that a cheque issued by the consultant, Hat Aviation, for refund of their money would mature the previous day. “This transaction has lingered far too long for comfort, making us wonder if they are really sincere with us. We have reported to all the relevant authorities and got no response whatsoever. Even the ICPC has not shown much signs of seriousness.
We are angry because they are dilly-dallying about refunding us, while we have learnt that they are refunding some of our colleagues secretly and selectively. This is one year now and we still have nothing to show for all our troubles,” one of the applicants told journalists. About 40 youths were involved in the failed trip to Dubai. Twenty other applicants who were unable to complete the N460, 000 payment have been refunded their money.

The centre however, said they were not responsible for a batch of 14 applicants who embarked on the trip after the centre cancelled the trip following the tales of Uchenna Onwukwe and Ugwunna Nwachukwu, the first two that landed in Dubai finding no jobs waiting, no accommodation, no work or resident permits as contained in the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, signed with the Imo Job Centre. Most of the youths said they had to sell plots of lands and vehicles, close up their businesses and even borrow money at very abominable interest rates to be part of the failed trip.This is not the only crime Governor Ohakim’s administration has been accused of. The government is also accused of lawlessness. Dr. Alex Obi, a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ohakim’s party, accused the administration of lawlessness and flagrant disobedience to court orders. “To say the least, the decision of Governor Ohakim to go ahead with the elections in defiance of court orders and party directives remains an affront to both the PDP leadership and the judiciary.

This must be addressed by the party leadership and the courts whose orders have been flagrantly violated,” Obi who is from Mbaise stated. Imo State conducted election into its 27 local government areas last week. The opposition was said to have gone to court to stop the election. But this was not obeyed. The administration was also accused of embarking on projects which have no effect on the people. For instance, the governor’s “clean and green initiative” aimed at beautifying Owerri, the state capital to restore its aesthetics, is widely criticsed for not producing results. Owerri is said to be dirtier than before the introduction of the scheme. Stephen Nwahiri, an indigene of the state living abroad who visited the state recently observed that “no refuse has been lifted from the over-filled gutters in Owerri since Ohakim came on board in 2007.” Nwahiri said all the drainages in the metropolis were blocked by refuse, leading to flooding.

Ohakim introduced the Imo Rural Roads Maintenance Agency, IRROMA, to open up rural areas in the state. Over 100 pieces of Toyota hilux vans were said to have been purchased in the name of IRROMA, which were leased to construction companies handling projects in the state. A source told this magazine that the number of roads constructed in the last three years belie the amount of money voted for IRROMA annually for its projects. Most of the projects handled by the agency such as the dredging of Nworie River, the Oguta Wonderland, the Royal Oak Refinery, the Midwestern Airlines, etc, were described as white elephant projects. Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in Imo State, Dr Laz Anyanwu said this should not be a priority project for the state government when “over 50 percent of graduate youths in the state are unemployed.”

A write-up in the governor’s facebook however described the dredging of the Nworie River as capable of providing facilities for beaches, water transportation and modern agriculture along the river shores when completed. The project was executed in collaboration with the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The project is said to have cost the state government N8 billion. “Imagine if the governor had invested just half a billion Naira in the establishment of large scale poultry farms in each of the three senatorial districts. Again the number of jobs it would have created would have been phenomenal,” Anyanwu stated. Imo State government also said it has committed N2.5 billion on Oguta Lake Project which it said was aimed at transforming the tourism potential of the state.

Sources close to the government house in Owerri and the Catholic diocese in Okigwe have revealed that Imo Governor, Ikedi Ohakim held a ‘semi-secret’ meeting yesterday February 12, 2011 with some priests of the Catholic diocese of Okigwe, with about seventy priests in a…ttendance. The meeting was said to have been held at Tony Chukwu’s residence in Okigwe. There was a mild drama before the meeting because the invitation before the meeting did not disclose that the Governor will be in attendance. The unedited invitation read “Rev and Dear Father, Chief Tony Chukwu wants to address Okigwe Diocesean Priests and religious on issue bothering on Okigwe zone on Saturday by 2pm at his house in Umueze 1. You are highly invited”.

The invitation was circulated by text message. The drama heightened when Governor Ikedi Ohakim surprisinmgly showed up at the meeting and distributed Fifty Thousand Dollars to the Priests, with Tony Chukwu supporting it with One Million Naira. The priests in attendance were said to mostly those who just got ordained and were largely clueless about Ohakim’s running battles with the Imo Catholic senior leadership over the recent humiliation of a Catholic priest in Imo by Ohakim’s convoy. But before the meeting, a group of Catholics had circulated counter text messages urging the priests and reverend sisters not to attend the meeting. In the text circulated, the group called the meeting “a mockery on the catholic church”, and urged the priests not to accept the money that will be likely distributed at the meeting. A lot of priests who received the text message were said to have boycotted the meeting. A source said that “the meeting was moved to Tony Chukwu’s house at the last minute because the Bishop, suspecting some unholy intentions, had politely declined to host any such meeting”. At the meeting, the Governor was said to have told the priests that he chose his new deputy, a Catholic female Professor, as a mark of respect for the Catholics in Imo; and as a way of making Catholics feel included in his next administration if he wins.

But one of the sources who spoke with this reporter said that one of the priests told him that “every one of them knew that Ohakim chose his deputy as a way of appeasing the church after seeing to the humiliation of a catholic Reverend Father recently”. At the meeting, Ohakim was also said to have prominently brought up the issue of what the Governor himself called his “recent troubles with the family of Professor Maurice Iwu”. Iwu, the immediate past Chairman of INEC is not known to harbour any personal political ambitions of his own; but his younger brother, Chief Cosmos Iwu, a former Deputy Chairman of PDP in Imo and until very recently, the Secretary to Imo Government, is contesting to represent his Senatorial district. The Iwus and Ohakim hail from the same Senatorial district. Chief Cosmos Iwu was said to have boycotted the PDP primary at the last minute because of irregularities said to have been orchestrated by the Government House at Owerri. Cosmos Iwu has now become the ACN Senatorial candidate in a wave of decamping that followed the highly acrimonious Imo PDP primaries.

According to a source at the Government House in Owerri, “Cosmos Iwu’s failed attempt to become a PDP Senatorial candidate, even as it was Ohakim that urged him to resign and run became the last straw that broke the festering testy

relationship between the Iwus and Ohakim”. Continuing, the source said that “Prof Iwu particularly felt bad that his brother was hoodwinked so brazenly by a Governor he so much trusted and has helped to sustain over the period of the many legal and political troubles with his mandate”. Another source said that Ohakim tried to use the meeting drive a wedge between the Iwus and Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu Chukwu, a prominent Okigwe politician and Catholic of national stature and whose wife was said to have also been misled by the Governor to run for PDP Senate primary “only to turn around to use Government House to rubbish Mrs. Ozichukwu”. At the time of filing this report, the revelation that the priests who attended received personal monetary gift from the Governor and Tony Chukwu has ignited a firestorm in Okigwe Diocese. The Bishop of Okigwe and the lay council in the Diocese is said to be disturbed and gearing to investigate “the whole purpose of the meeting and the personal distribution of money to the priests that attended”. A text message circulating after the meeting and signed off by one of the priests in attendance took issues with what the Governor said at the meeting, criticising him harshly for his “disgrace of Okwuonu”, who is currently the Deputy Governor of Imo State but recently dropped by Ohakim in favour of Prof Onwuliri. Another dimension to the whole drama of the meeting and distribution of money is the fact that Professor Maurice Iwu, who Ohakim was said to have castigated at the meeting as “contributing nothing to making him Governor” is perhaps the single most patron of the Diocese, having raised tens of millions of naira for the construction of the Cathedral for the Diocese. Prof Iwu also raised money from friends to build an ultra-modern Church for his Catholic parish at Ehime Mbano; besides other philanthropic gestures he has extended to the Church.

Ohakim was said to have been constructing a 150 kilometre Imo inter connectivity (boulevard) multilane free way. The road is planned to criss-cross about 19 local government areas while work is on-going on the 20 kilometre Iho-Ogwa-Amauzari-Amaigbo road, the 20 kilometre Mbieri T- Junction- Orji-Uratta- Naze roads, the 25 kilometre Ahiara Junction Okpala road junction and the 45 kilometre Ukwuorji-Nworieubi- Atta Junction- Amaimo-Aforogbe roads. “The freeway will have modern toll plazas.”

However, the administration’s purchase of N2 billion Mid-West airlines did not go down well with indigenes of the state. Recently, the state House of Assembly gave the executive the go ahead to borrow N40 billion from the bond market. Already, the first tranche of N18.5 billion has been released. The government is also said to have borrowed huge sums of money from commercial banks at exorbitant rates. A source told this magazine that “when all interests and guarantees are considered, Imo State may well owe in excess of N500 billion in long term loans including bank bond guarantees.” Dr. Anyanwu, the state AC chairman said, the people of the state will not have one Naira coming from the statutory federal allocation in the next 15 years because of deductions from the borrowed money. Ohakim is said to be averse to any opposing view. Dr. Alex Obi said he has been harassed and framed up for sending inciting text messages. He was later clamped in police custody and charged to court

Gov. Ikedi Godson Ohakim could had cleared his name on all the aligation, instead of a stale fight that could cost him his political career.They say, when two elephants fight is is the grass that bears the brunt; Ohakim and Rochas tussle, who would better nurse the eastern heartland?The election in Imo State is one of the most nationally watched governorship elections in Nigeria as voters in the state seemed determined to oust Mr. Ohakim whose tenure has been marked by widespread fraud, money laundering and repression of Imo indigenes critical of his rule. Should he garner a winning vote, a question mark would be left to teh ruling part to clarify.The opposition parties nationwide would use the case to demand justice on the outcome of the April 2011 general election in Nigeria.

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