By Emmanuel Aziken,
Chief Johnson Emesealu, was until February 17, 2010 when he was suspended by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the Chairman of Akoko Edo Local government Council in Edo State upon allegations of corruption.Emasealu, however, contends that the allegation of embezzlement is contrary to the pedigree of probity and accountability he built over his working life.
In an interview, he articulates that his offence was his refusal to heed the alleged call on him by the Comrade Governor to defect from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the Governorâ€™s Action Congress (AC). Emesealu, an in-law to Chief Anthony Anenih, the leader of the PDP in Edo State asserts that he would rather resign than betray the confidence and the mandate of the electorate. Excerpts:
Could you connect us with the developments that culminated in your suspension from office by the State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole?
On the 17th of February, that was Wednesday, after I closed from work, somebody said it as a rumour that the governor was going to suspend me, but such a statement came to me as an embarrassment because the governor had never queried me; he had never questioned me for doing anything wrong and he had never discussed anything with me.
But if I was doing wrong, my councilor(s) should report me to the governor or the State House of Assembly. Instead, a week earlier, they (councilors) passed a vote of implicit confidence on me, describing me as the most performing Local Government Council Chairman in Nigeria and this attestation appeared in most of the national dailies.Â Then, why should the governor suspend me?
That is the question.Â Why did he suspend you?
I know that he has been most desirous that every member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the State should cross over to his party, the Action Congress; and, I had made it clear that I was elected through and on the platform of the PDP and I can only resign before joining any (other) party.
Perhaps my position was unacceptable to him and he decided to remove me by hook or crook means. I did not get any letter nor did I sign for any letter.
What have you done to mitigate this executive action?
On Thursday (February 18, 2010), I went to court and the court said that it was going to grant me an injunction which was granted at Igarra High Court and on Friday, everybody concerned was served with the papers.
The governor was brought in through the process of law but he is no more obeying the court and the law.
What exactly happened or where exactly did you and the governor disagree?
A petition was allegedly written against me to EFCC and ICPC; they accused me of all what the governor said and if the governor had asked me, I would have explained myself. Besides, EFCC and ICPC had invited me and I had explained myself and they have come here to see things for themselves and they went with the petitioner round all the projects to verify them.
The EFCC was even surprised at the small amounts the projects were awarded and even brought an expert who said that the amounts the projects were awarded would be enough to complete the project even through direct labour.
And we have been doing these projects and the contractors from the council area had never complained that that there was no profit in the contract they got here.Â How can he now say that I inflated contact? It was absolutely untrue.
That was about contract inflation.Â What about the charge or accusation of embezzlement?
It was too bad to accuse me of embezzlement; the people who know me can attest to my integrity and people have been calling me all over the country and they all said it can never be true; the people calling me include highly placed government officials because they know me for my integrity as this is not the first place I have worked.
I was a school principal for more than ten years; then, I retired and the All Nigerian Conference of Principals (ANCOPS) of which I was a member, after years of my retirement, appreciated my contributions and my state chapter honoured me for very dedicated, selfless and honest service in 1990 and this was replicated by the National body at the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan.
For integrity, honesty, transparency, I worked as the Chairman of the Edo State Post Primary Education Board from 1999 to 2002.
You give the impression that Governor Oshiomhole is on a witch-hunt against you.Â Why?
Yes, the governor is trying to get at me because I am an in-law of Chief Tony Anenih.
My wife took ill on 21st of December of 2009; she was rushed to the National Hospital in Abuja and was later transferred to a London Hospital; but, I later applied to the State Government for permission to travel to go and visit her but, unfortunately, up till now, the permission was not granted.Â But I was later informed that if I should go without permission, the governor would use that to declare my position vacant and that it would be better for me not to try and go at all.
There were reports of protests following your removal. Was it predetermined or spontaneous?
When he announced my removal, people protested and as I speak with you, they are still doing it; it was spontaneous.Â Now, by all standards of what is right, I am the substantive Chairman of Akoko Edo local Government Council.
The governor, himself, used the law to come to the office and when he got there, he abandoned it (law). All the allegations are baseless and fraudulent, as I worked for 34 years with honour and whoever cared to know me would read or see from attestations by people that worked with me that I am a man of integrity and honour and I would never by direct or indirect means look for money outside my normal official entitlements because I am not a young man.Â I donâ€™t want to build a new house and marry another wife; then what am I stealing for?Â The governor is just trying to smear me and it is my hope that God would intervene in this matter.
I am not Chief Tony Anenih and whoever wants to kill him should carry a gun and meet him in his house and kill him.Â This is unfair to me.Â Honestly, everything Oshiomhole has been doing is outside the law.
The people of the council area elected me and I would do their bidding.Â Now, the good thing is that the people said that since the council area was created, there has never been a man like Emesealu as the Chairman in terms of performance.Â Â You can go there and ask questions.
There are over 56 projects we were planning to commission on Thursday (February 18) and Friday (February 19); and that was why he frustrated the commissioning; perhaps because his name was not included in the letter of invitation sent out.Â My travails were due to my refusal to join AC and for who I am.