By Josef Omorotionmwan
WE started our series on the lame ducks last week. Today, we are back with some points of order in the same region. We are, however, reminded that under normal parliamentary procedure, the appropriate time to raise a point of order is when the member who has the floor is still speaking, not after he is done with his presentation.
Most governments cannot claim to be unfamiliar with this type of ‘medicine after death’ approach. After all, that’s what they do when they order three years post-performance audit on their operations, at a time when embezzlers are already cooling off somewhere in New York or when they are already some six feet below ground level.
Our point of order is on some of the lame ducks even where we have been reliably informed that they have vamoosed from these coasts and they are already across the Atlantic. For some time now, the EFCC has been hovering over Gbenga Daniel. We now hear that the man “don borrow leg”. That’s what they call: “From Government House to fugitive status”. The EFCC now has to work harder if they still want to catch him.
For all those, including this writer, who have argued in favour of Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, which deals with immunity for some elected officials, it is clear that such people must have a rethink. It is also clear that what is good for America is not necessarily always good for Nigeria. With what we know now, the immunity clause must go in its entirety. It is not a question of removing it for governors and retaining it for presidents. Today, we are dealing with governors, but tomorrow, it may be a President’s turn. We hope that subsequent National Assemblies will be alive to their responsibilities.
We invite to the witness stand, Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State. The charges against you include the fact that while you were yet a lame duck, you hurriedly left a lot of liabilities for your successor. The haste with which your administration declared free education up to post-graduate level is suspect.
Equally suspect is the speed with which you embarked on indiscriminate upward review of the salaries of the state’s public servants as well as the massive expansion of the traditional council. These are steps which you did not deem necessary throughout your tenure. Your successor, Rochas Okorocha is perhaps right in thinking that “these steps were designed to make him lose focus”.
You abandoned your duty post 48 hours before due date. By handing over on Friday May 27, instead of Sunday May 29, you infringed the very Constitution which you swore to uphold. At the point of entry, you took an oath for a four-year term, no more, no less. At the time of writing this piece, it was not yet clear what the motivation for the premature hand-over was. It could have been for convenience as a way of keeping the Sabbath Day truly work-free or it could also have been preparatory to behaving the Gbenga Daniel way. Whatever the motivation mix, you apparently broke a law for which you are answerable to the people of Imo State.
We hear that not only was your handover premature, it was also scanty and it contained many grey areas. You have been quoted as saying that “the State under your administration did not owe…”. But you also maintained that “the State had a debit balance of N6 billion and a credit balance of N17.7 million in eight different banks operated by the administration”.
How are these figures different from owing? It is perhaps another case of a successful operation where the patient died. We heard Rochas Okorocha loud and clear when he said at the handover ceremony: “…The missing thing here about this handover, which is not quite clear, is that the governor handed over papers without the money”. Ohakim, you may remain silent because whatever you say may be used against you.
Quite often the electorate can help themselves. Even missiles of sachets of pure water can uproot a padded bulletproof jeep. Some lame ducks can write a book about this after their May 2007 experience. Is it true that last Sunday, tough-talking Alao Akala sent his former Chief of Staff to throw in the handover notes? Wao! Some day soon, every government official shall be able to do self-appraisal.
If your point of departure is less pleasurable than your entry point, then, you should begin to pity yourself. Certainly, the euphoria was extremely high when you were entering into office four years ago; but if you must now sneak out through the back door and through Seme border, to temporarily escape from the cold hands of anti-graft agents; although it is certain that they will still catch up with you sooner than later, what an ignominy! What type of life is that, even if you have a trillion Naira stached away in some foreign bank accounts, which you cannot even operate freely?
What price can anyone pay for freedom?
You see people who have passed through the same path and they are walking our streets in full freedom but you have chosen to sentence yourself to a life of perpetual misery. It is not even that these other people did not ‘chop’ in their time but they ate less of the ‘forbidden fruits’. They did not eat the tuber and the seed yam. They still served their people, remembering that, after all, service is the rent we pay for being on earth.