BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
In this interview with Jimitota Onoyume, the soft spoken Chief of Staff, Government House, Rivers state, Sir Tony Okocha bares his mind on the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state. Describing the Abuja High court judgement that sacked the Chief Godspower Ake led Peoples Democratic Party as a travesty of justice Sir Okocha expressed very strong hope that it would be upturned at the appellate court.
He also spoke on issues ranging from the suspension slammed on members of the state House of Assembly by the PDP in the state and other topical political developments in the state within the last three weeks.
Respond to the recent judgement that sacked the Chief Ake led Peoples Democratic Party in the state
That was a sham. As far as I am concerned it was a travesty of justice. It was justice standing on its head. I was present in the court. The lawyers in the legal term would call us laymen. There are certain issues in law that are trite, clear to the ordinary man.
As far as I am concerned it was not a judgement that would stand anywhere in the world. It was a judgement that was procured.
How are you responding to the judgement?
Well! We are law abiding people. You know the disposition of the governor of the state; we are going the whole length to seek redress. We are believing God that the Appeal court will upturn the judgement.
In your opinion, what are the defects in the verdict?
I am not a lawyer. I was a delegate at the congress where Chief G.U Ake was elected. We have also tried to show to the world the video clip. The situation where somebody never got close to 90 nautical miles to where forms for the party offices were obtained, he never got close to the congress venue. From what I heard, he was not even in the country. (Referring to Mr Felix Obua new Chairman of PDP in the state)
I don’t want to bother myself talking about this whole matter because is a matter of conscience and you and I know that Usman Danfodio said that conscience is an open wound that only truth can heal. For me I have left him (Felix Obuah) to his conscience because it was a broad day light robbery. Somebody who never contested election and in his heart of heart he knows that he never got close to the election. Yet he went on air saying the judiciary had restored his mandate.
In his heart he knows the truth. When you lie to yourself the white man calls it a hoax. For us we leave him to his conscience first and foremost. Then we are also letting the world know that what happened on the 17th of March was unbecoming, unthought of, nobody can imagine it can happen.
Are you in court to challenge the Abuja High court verdict?
Yes we are.
Shortly after this, the elected Chairman, his Vice and the seventeen councillors of Obio Akpor local government were suspended by the House of Assembly, an action some persons have literarily described as dissolution of the House. Incidentally it is your local government and you were a former Caretaker Committee Chairman of the council. Any comment on the development?
I am not competent enough to speak on this. What we heard was that there were petitions written and addressed to the assembly. We also heard that the petitions were accordingly sent to the House Committee in charge of such issues.
You and I know it is a common knowledge that you cannot sit on a matter that concerns you. There is no way you can sit as a chairman of council when under investigation. He was just suspended. They were alleged to have misappropriated council funds. They were alleged to have created problems here and there. The Assembly said the chairman, Vice Chairman and his councillors should pause, wait for a while, while the matter was investigated.
But I must tell you that as an indigene of Obio Akpo local government area, it is a welcome development. Welcome in the sense that what used to be a close circuit arrangement that we had in the local government has changed. They ran a circuit arrangement. I am a stakeholder in the local government. It is a good omen for the people because a lot of things had actually gone wrong, how funds had been misappropriated. A situation where Obio Akpor local government became like an individual’s personal estate. It’s a sign of relief to many. The day I was leaving as Chairman of the council, I was ready to submit myself to any investigation. There is nothing wrong with you serving a people and they say come and give account of your stewardship.
Are you in anyway pre-empting the outcome of the investigation of the suspended officials by the House of Assembly?
I cannot. I know that the men at the Assembly are unbiased; they are not from the local government. I have told you it was an allegation raised. It is for the committee to either see it as spurious or confirm. My information was that the allegations against the suspended council officials were so weighty that the House could not afford to ignore.
Twenty seven members of the House were suspended by the new PDP leadership in the state led by Mr Felix Obuah. Any comment on this?
That is another illegality. The party has a constitution, another political rascality. . If they were party members they should know the rules, laws of the party. You don’t just wake up to suspend a party member. First the matter will be originated from the ward. There will be opportunity for response. The chairman of the party has no right to suspend the party, not to talk of suspending ranking members of the House of Assembly
What is your relationship with the Police in the state?
The Police are in charge of internal security and I do not think there is any problem.
You have heard of reported plans to impeach the governor of the state. Any sign so far?
There are thirty two members of the House of Assembly. You and I know there are simple majority or 2/3 majority. Five members cannot be a reasonable number for such action. It is just that these are people with no respect for the laws, it is unthinkable.
What is the way out of the political crisis rocking the PDP in the state?
There was a congress in the state. Before the state congress we had ward congress and local government congress. Nobody came to the state congress because you were a big man. You became a delegate to the ward congress, then another election was conducted for delegates to the local government area just like that. The truth must be told that a congress was held on 17th March, 2012. All the delegates were present at the congress. The electoral committee sent by the party was present; the chairman of the electoral committee, Dan Orbih was also there. There were no contestants to the offices as such. Because of INEC that said there should be election, the governor insisted that there should be election so that we ascertain if the people coming up had the mandates or not and acceptability of the people.
An election held, they called out delegates from each local government. They all came out and voted. At the end votes were counted and results announced. The presiding officer declared Chief Ake winner. Ake also made acceptance speech. Beyond that, the party at the national level also directed the Zonal office to inaugurate the elected executive. Dr Steve Oru did the inauguration. And I was there
The Minister of State for Education, Mr Nyesom Wike is from your local government area. Any word for him on this crisis?
The Hon Minister of State for Education should come back to his root. The laws of nature are fixed. He cannot circumvent them. You have the laws of retributive justice and the laws of Karma. Those things are real. They are here with us.
He should remember that the evil that men do now lives with them not even after them. There is nothing wrong in somebody being ambitious but when an ambition is inordinate then it becomes a vice. So he should get back to his root, know that this is the family that produced him. He would not have been Chairman Obio Akpor local government area if not for the same man he now wants his neck today. Anywhere he is, he should know the family threw him up.
Any word for people of the state?
You know we are very peaceful. I will always encourage our people to remain steadfast and peaceful.
It is one injustice too many but we are following with all amount of calm. We are sure that at the end of the day the truth will prevail. There is no way, no matter how big a big darkness is, just a spark of light the darkness disappears.
Any comment on the ownership of the aircraft that has been grounded
What you must know is that the aircraft was properly procured, due process was followed. What I mean by due process was that the matter was before the state House of Assembly. And the Assembly approved of an aircraft for the governor. And due process was followed in terms of the process .