By Pini Jason
LATE last year, I attended a party at the Abuja home of a highly distinguished sister of mine who had been bestowed with a deserved national honour. A distinguished senator asked me, “Pini, how is Clean and Green? How is Imo State?” “I take the fifth!” I answered. “Why?” He pressed. “Because anything I say will be construed as sour grape. You know I just left office and my views may be seen as biased”.
There was a general laughter. He gave up. I returned to nursing my cognac. But the rot in Imo is no longer a laughing matter. Events are such that it is difficult for any lover of the state to keep quiet. People are fleeing the state because of insecurity. Those who live outside the state are afraid to go home.
The current drama of impeaching the Deputy Governor of ImoState, Jude Agbaso (call it Act One Scene One) reminds me of a story late Sam Mbakwe once told us. Two thieves; call them thief ‘A’ and thief ‘B’, went to steal yams from a farm. On their way back, thief ‘B’ excused himself to go and ease himself in the bush. On his return he noticed that his accomplice, thief ‘A’ had stolen from his basket and stuffed into his own basket.
Thief ‘B’ looked at his accomplice and said to him: “Nna, I know both of us are thieves, but you? You are too much! You are an incurable thief!” Every fool knew that Okorocha and the Agbasos regarded the state as war trophy and went ahead to apportion the state to themselves in the name of “Rescue Mission”. That was why Jude Agbaso, even as Deputy Governor, would be sworn in as Commissioner for Works, the first time ever Nigeria would witness such ridiculous arrangement. It had to be so because there has never been honour among thieves!
What was Jude Agbaso’s first strike? Demolish the Deputy Governor’s Lodge which was newly renovated for the former incumbent and to build a new one! As he was demolishing and rebuilding, Okorocha was also demolishing and rebuilding, grabbing every available land and erecting buildings.
In the scramble to quickly rescue private pockets, Imo became a state of Squares; if it is not Heroes Square, it is Ikemba Square, Ojukwu Square or Bongo square, First Lady’s Office that would make Imelda Marcos jealous, new Deputy Governor’s office, new Executive Chambers, a new mini Basilica in the Government House, etc, all dead assets that add no value to the economy of the state.
In the scramble and looting, the Speaker of Imo House of Assembly was also alleged to be awarding contracts. Meanwhile, heavily indebted bank accounts were being “rescued” while innocent citizens were being kidnapped and killed by the dispossessed. I think the messy quarrel between Okorocha and the Agbasos is that one has dipped his hands into the other’s basket of stolen yams.
Imo people must not allow themselves to be deceived. Both Okorocha and Agbaso have embarked on characteristic diversionary tactic to cover up the criminal act of mindless looting and assets stripping going on in ImoState. Okorocha would want to be seen as an anti-corruption Governor while the Agbasos resort to crying to Owerri Zone as champions of their cause. Utter rubbish!
How can Okorocha explain the award of a contract of N1.2 billion for an urban road in Owerri that is less than three kilometres; that is, N400 million per kilometre? ImoState is not Bayelsa where the topography is swampy! Why was the contract sum of N1.2 billion paid upfront? When was the contract advertised? When was the road designed? How many more contracts were awarded like that and the contract sum paid upfront? Did the award of the contract follow due process? By his own admission, Okorocha pays up to 40 per cent mobilisation fee when he is not paying 100 per cent up front. Is that not criminal? And people are applauding!
Instead of diverting the attention of Imo people by going after Agbaso (and am not implying that Agbaso did not deserve what he is getting from his co-traveller) Okorocha should be explaining to Imo people where he kept the over N26 billion his much demonised predecessor handed over to him.
If he can tell Imo people how his predecessor “misappropriated” N62 billion, he sure can explain a matter of small change like N26 billion? He should explain to Imo people who bought ADA PALM and ITC and where the proceeds are. He should tell Imo people where the proceeds of the General Hospitals he sold are.
He should show Imo people where else in the state he has built his world class primary schools except on Wetheral Road and where the 27, 30-KVA soundproof generators supplied to the 27 Primary Health Centres in the state before we left office are. Where are the over N12 billion assets of IROMA? Okorocha has many questions to answer to Imo people!
As for the Agbasos, anybody who buys into the lacrimal spin they want to give to their current travail must have his head examined. When Martin Agbaso recklessly helped to dismantle the Imo Chatter of Equity and short circuited the turn of Owerri people in 2015, by selling the flag of APGA to Okorocha, it was simply a business deal, the type many upwardly mobile and predatory Igbo young men see politics as. And the Agbasos alone, not Owerri zone, benefitted from that deal.
The five positions Martin demanded from Okorocha went to his family: Deputy Governor, Jude Agbaso; Commissioner for Works, Jude Agbaso; Commissioner for Health, Agbaso’s uncle (his mother’s brother); Special Adviser, Jude Agbaso’s wife; Managing Director of IBC, Agbaso’s in-law (husband to his immediate younger sister)! Now Martin is again in the market hawking APGA governorship ticket to somebody from Orlu, while he aspires to go to the senate.
Such is the gluttony that is politics for Martin Agbaso! So where does Owerri zone come it in this sordid deal? Was it not the same Martin Agbaso who mobilised Emekukwu youths against Ohakim’s proposed relocation of ImoStateUniversity to Mbaise/ Ngo-Okpala site? Now they are in trouble, he wants to use the hands of Owerri zone to pull the chestnut out of the fire!
As for the PDP that wants to embrace the Agbasos, although I am not a party member, but they will be foolish to do that. That will amount to supporting a criminal act. Besides, the Agbasos are simply the flip side of Okorocha. The Agbasos were complicit to Okorocha’s dismantling of the legacy of the PDP government of Ohakim, including demolishing millennium schools and repainting ambulances we gave to the 27 Primary Health Centres in Imo and re-launching them as theirs! Jude Agbaso was the one who, tongue-in-cheek rationalised the sacking of 10,000 graduates employed by Ohakim because they “did not have tables and biros”!
That simple act of infamy affected no less than 50,000 Imo citizens, if you add their dependants! The PDP should begin now to worry about its reputation and not to embrace any discredited former tormentor that comes along. What is unfolding now is Act One scene one. Act One Scene two is yet to unfold. Everybody should simply sit back and watch. The penkelemes in Imo is no longer a laughing matter!