The war against Rochas Okorocha
THE impetus for this essay rests on the contents of the front-page news-story in the Daily Sun of Friday, March 8, 2013 entitled, “Imo: APGA unveils plot to sack Okorocha, Speaker”. According to this news report, the ImoState chapter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has alleged a plot by the Presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to sack the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha and to distort the activities of the Imo State House of Assembly.
The impeachment moves against Okorocha and the Speaker are allegedly geared towards derailing the on-going investigation by the state legislature over allegations of financial gratification leveled against the Deputy Governor, Jude Agbaso, by one of the major contractors handling the state government road projects.
The issue here is not about the efficacy of the news report on the on-going plans to remove Governor Okorocha and the Speaker of the state legislature, Ben Uwajumogu, from office. What is happening now as alleged by the Imo State chapter of APGA is just a new but little addition to a major and unfolding impeachment scheme that started in 2012.
The main scheme remains the reported design of using the services of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, by some of the forces rooting for the realisation of the second term ambition of Mr. President to manipulate members of the Imo State House of assembly into removing both Governor Okorocha and Uwajumogu, the Speaker of the Imo State legislative house, from office. Of course, the thinking is rife that without the arrest, prosecution and possible imprisonment of Uwajumogu, on alleged charges of road contract scams, the removal of Governor Okorocha from office will be a pipe dream.
The general thinking in the political circles that matter at Abuja is that Governor Okorocha remains a major stumbling block that must be removed if Mr. President is to realise his second term ambition in 2015. This thinking is predicated on two grounds.
The first is that Governor Okorocha’s presumed presidential ambition or support for any of the opposition presidential candidates in 2015, will dim Jonathan’s chances of realising his second term ambition, especially given the demonstrated strength of the Igbo bloc vote in such an election. The second is that even if Governor Okorocha decides not to contest the next presidential or gubernatorial election, his achievements (sacrifice of security vote, prompt payment of workers’ salaries, free education at all levels, massive road development, etc) will rubbish the performance profile of the PDP at both the state and federal levels to the extent that Mr. President’s so-called achievements will count for nothing in determining the outcome of the 2015 elections. So, head or tail, Okorocha has been marked for political destruction.
The first dimension of the plot to remove Governor Okorocha from office started many months ago with the use of the media to rubbish the hard-earned and upwardly mobile reputation of the Imo State Government, and also to project the Governor as a person whose style of governance, as well as entrepreneurship and philanthropy as a private citizen, is based on fraud and duplicitous behaviour.
The basic aim here has been the use of the media to attire the Governor in the garb of a confused, dictatorial and under-performing public official so as to gradually replace the genuine songs of praise and the goodwill of millions of people who have benefited from the graceful personality of Owelle Rochas Okorocha as a public or private citizen, with questions of, or doubts about, his sincerity, uprightness, visionary goals and capacity to develop Imo State. Some of the moles and fifth columnists in the Imo State Government, including a few commissioners, special advisers and other personal aides, have continued to stall all efforts aimed at redressing the bad media image, for instance, of Governor Okorocha and his programmes.
THE second dimension of this plot started last year even before the Sunday Punch report of January 6, 2013 revealed Governor Okorocha as one of the eight governors being discreetly investigated by the EFCC over fraud-related activities. Since September 2012, the EFCC has reportedly been on a surreptitious investigation of Governor Okorocha’s management of the public funds of ImoState, especially as it relates to the disbursement of Imo State Local Government funds, the N47 billion loan from the banks and the N13.3 billion Imo Bond fund.
The climax of this aspect of the plot was the arrest and detention of the Imo State Commissioner for Finance and the Accountant-General of the State by the EFCC. Of course, the unending trips to Abuja by these two officials, after they were granted administrative bail by the EFCC, are expected, in the long run, to lead to the exposure of Governor Okorocha’s imagined financial misdeeds, as well as paint him in the colours of a corrupt public official that is ripe for impeachment.
The third dimension of the plot started some weeks ago when operatives of the EFCC stormed the Imo State House of Assembly but failed to arrest the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and some other members of the legislative house. The EFCC raid, which was supposed to kick-start the plot to remove Governor Rochas from office, ended up with the arrest of the Clerk of the Imo State House of Assembly, Chris Duru.
The failed attempt to arrest members of the Imo State House of Assembly by the EFCC, on the ground that Governor Okorocha took loans without the approval of the same ImoState lawmakers, appears to be a ruse to get them into EFCC custody.
However, once inside the detention cells of the EFCC at Abuja, the arrested ImoState legislators are expected to be persuasively compromised or coercively intimidated into commencing impeachment proceedings against Governor Okorocha. The use of the EFCC, especially during the Nuhu Ribadu era, to illegally and unconstitutionally impeach some state governors to the sadistic pleasure of General Olusegun Obasanjo, may be in the offing for Okorocha as a veritable means of realising the second term ambition of President Jonathan.
As the Igbo will say, “it is only a tree that will hear of a plan to cut it down and will do nothing to avert the event”. The design to remove Governor Okorocha and Speaker Uwajumogu from office is now stale news. The news reports, especially in the Sunday Punch of January 6, 2013, and the Daily Sun of Friday, March 8, 2013, have dutifully informed the public about the alleged plans by some forces in the Presidency and the PDP, including some fifth columnists in the Imo State Government, to realise the political destruction of Governor Okorocha and Uwajumogu.
The pertinent question remains: What is to be done to undermine the intended plot to remove Okorocha and Uwajumogu from office? Of course, there are some well-articulated thought processes and strategies (information gathering/analysis, performance profile assessment, media projection/response and court cases, etc) which implementation have the capacity to stem the intended impeachment moves against Governor Okorocha and Hon. Uwajumogu, the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly.
The immediate critical endeavours to stem the purported impeachment moves against Okorocha and Uwajumogu must include the following action plans. The first is that Governor Okorocha must set up an Information Gathering and Analysis Centre, IGAC, whose personnel will deploy the services of cultivated contacts in the Presidency, the PDP, the anti-corruption agencies, the Imo State Government offices and parastatals, to discreetly collate information on the continuously evolving plans and strategies aimed at removing his good-self from office or down-playing his achievements as the governor of Imo State.
The second is the setting up of an Imo State Government Strategy Committee, a kind of think-tank, that will not only appraise issues and challenges of governance as they manifest in Imo State and suggest solutions, but will also be executing periodic assessment actions on the performance profile of commissioners, special advisers and heads of government parastatals to ensure that their activities do not undermine the realisation of government’s developmental goals. Nobody from the executive arm of government should be a member of this committee, because no useful purpose will be served by allowing commissioners, advisers, etc, to appraise their own performance.
Other issues to be urgently addressed border on judicial actions. The Governor should ensure that the Imo State Government institutes a court case challenging the powers of the EFCC to pry into its books and public accounts in the name of fighting the corruption war in Nigeria.
This is against the background that the activities of the EFCC in Imo State undermine the constitutional powers of the Auditor-General of the State and that of the Imo State House of Assembly, guaranteed in sections 125 (2), 128 and 129 (1) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
As a matter of fact, the Imo State Government should sue the EFCC for damages for illegally and unconstitutionally presenting its chief executive (Gov. Rochas Okorocha) to the Nigerian public and the international community, as a corrupt public official when no report from the Auditor-General of Imo State or the Imo State House of Assembly has indicted him for corrupt practices or the mismanagement of public funds.
The court judgement restraining the EFCC from arresting and prosecuting Dr. Peter Odili over his mismanagement of the public funds of RiversState between 1999 and 2007 validates the points canvassed in this discourse.
BY NKEMJIKA is the Chairman of Mezie Ala-Igbo Foundation.