RIGHT OF REPLY
IN the Vanguard Newspaper of Tuesday, June 14, 2016, page 17, a man whose name is more associated with Human Rights Campaigns, than column writing, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, wrote a very interesting piece captioned, “Rochas Okorocha and the Ragged- Trousered Philanthropists”. In the essay, he made some remarks against the governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, which we had considered necessary to address and if for no other reason, at least, to put the record straight. Mr. Odumakin had written under his column, “CANDID NOTES”, and it was almost a full-page material. We do not intend to respond to all the issues he had raised. We will only take up the salient ones and tell our own story and leave the rest for posterity.
Odumakin had picked offence with the report he read in the Leadership Newspaper, that Governor Okorocha was “to establish a College in Bauchi State to help the poor”. That was the crux of his anger, that warranted the article in question. And the hint on the Bauchi School was given on Monday, June 6, 2016, during an event to mark the state’s 40th anniversary. The governor used the occasion to give account of his stewardship as chief executive of the state for the past five years.
Locations of the projects
The event was to show-case the more than one thousand projects Rochas administration has executed in Imo. As individual commissioners did a roll call for projects achieved under their respective ministries, the pictures and locations of the projects were being displayed on the screens. And to the glory of God, nobody including Mr. Odumakin or group has raised objection with regard to the authenticity of any of the projects displayed. He could only take exception to the governor’s indication to build a school in Bauchi State.
Odumakin also took the opportunity offered to him by the issue of building a school in Bauchi by the governor to make other claims that were nothing but false both in content and on their face value. For instance, Odumakin claimed that “Okorocha is taking advantage of his state to service the poor in Bauchi, thousands of kilometres away from the state he has governed for five years without a remarkable story to tell”. He quoted one Igbo group that asked governor Okorocha in May to “pay workers in Imo State their salary arrears including Teachers 13 months”.
He continued in his claims “Governor Okorocha is playing Donatus in Bauchi ostensibly because he is dying to play second fiddle in 2019”. He also talked about the diversion of the bailout fund to the state. Whenever we see this kind of article, we would be forced to pin it down to something. Odumakin has also justified that feeling when he talked about Governor Okorocha “ostensibly dying to play second fiddle in 2019”. And this is the third time we have read this kind of article on Okorocha. Others written by two other good writers, Shaka Momodu (Thisday) and Bello Emmanuel (Sun).
It is very disturbing that in an event that lasted for three hours and televised live on Channels and NTA, and reported widely by almost all the national newspapers what Mr. Odumakin could pick from the whole lot was the issue of the governor building a school in Bauchi State. He could not even in a sentence commend Gov. Okorocha for the monumental achievements that were on display that day. He could not also commend the governor for deeming it necessary to give account of his stewardship for the five years he has spent as governor and still go ahead to make his point on the school issue.
With all that Mr. Odumakin wrote, one fact could be adjudged obvious. And that is, he has not been following events in Imo State. He has not also been following developments as they concern Rochas Okorocha for a very long time. Otherwise, he would have known that the issue of building school in Bauchi has nothing to do with Imo State or the government of the state which Rochas governs. Rochas as governor of Imo State is different from Rochas the founder of RochasFoundation.
Again, the issue of his building a school in Bauchi State was never part of the programme of the account of stewardship ceremony. It only came up when the governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar who graced the occasion announced to the delight of men and women of goodwill present that he had come with the certificate of occupancy of the land the Rochas Foundation had earlier applied for, to build a college. It has nothing to do with Imo State or the government of the state.
And in case Mr. Odumakin does not know, the establishment of Rochas Foundation was in 1998 and building of colleges by the Foundation began in 2001, about fifteen years ago. One of such colleges is in Owerri. Another one is in Ogboko, the home-town of the governor. There are also Rochas Foundation Colleges in Kano, Jos and Ibadan. These are old colleges of the Foundation with the ambition to build one in one of the South-South States, then in Bauchi and Adamawa States. He has also asked for lands for the same purpose from two South-East governors. A Foundation established in 1998 which began to build colleges in 2001, when he didn’t even know he would become governor, could therefore not be said to have been built for the purpose of “playing second fiddle in 2019”. We get worried when people spend time and energy to make such insinuations.
Free education programme
This lofty development is one of the fruits of the free education programme in the state. And opponents of the administration and writers like our bossom friend Odumakin couldn’t see that. He only saw the story on Bauchi school. The human rights activist/columnist also made another false claim on the issue of salary payment in the state. As I write, the payment of April salary has begun. In other words, the civil servants, teachers, local government workers and so on, have been paid up to the month of April. Which means, only the month of May is outstanding since June has not ended. We stand to be contradicted on these counter-claims. We also make bold to challenge Mr. Odumakin to tell the public especially his readers how he came about the 13 months arrears he said were owed to teachers. The burden is on him now to prove the allegation. And if he had got that false information from anybody, he should not hesitate to give the person or the source one derogatory nick-name, for deceiving him.
Like I had earlier stated in this rejoinder, Mr. Odumakin does not follow events in Imo or read reports about the state. Perhaps, he just stumbled on the one he wrote about. Otherwise, he would have known that we had extensively done enough explanation on the bailout fund issue. The latest was when the ICPC came up with the report that Imo State paid part of the bailout fund into government accounts.
And in our reply which was published as advertorial in the Vanguard, Nation and Sun Newspapers respectively, we admitted interalia: “the ICPC was right that such monies were paid into the mentioned government’s accounts and we had expected the Commission to go further to tell the public what such funds paid into those accounts were used for”: We also came up with certain questions, “before the bailout fund, were there no existing accounts government was using to pay salaries? While giving out the bailout funds, was there any specified account that was given with which the salaries must be paid from and the state failed to do so since the fund was not paid into private accounts?”.
We further explained, “from the mentioned government’s accounts, personnel of Imo Security Network, Imo Community Watch, Youth Must Work teachers, Community Government Council Teachers and Imo Civil Guards were paid all their arrears in December 2015. From the referenced Micro Finance Bank Account, Imo State University, Imo Polytechnic, Imo College of Nursing and Health Sciences Staff and so on collected their salaries also in arrears in December 2015 etc”.
We took our time to explain all these. And we have been looking forward to the day anybody would come up to prove us wrong on any of our claims on the issue. The only problem with Governor Okorocha is that those who feel threatened by his candour, popularity and landmark achievements as governor and even before his becoming governor have refused to go to bed.
They have chosen to remain awake in search of what they could lay hands on to scratch the Imo governor. First, they had used the issue of the 2019 presidency to blackmail him. When he came out to say he won’t run for the presidency in 2019 because President Muhammadu Buhari is doing well, they flooded Abuja with his posters with Borno State Governor Alhaji Kashim Shettima as vice-presidential and presidential candidates for 2019. And since he displayed his achievements in Imo, they have become pregnant with rage without their knowing or pretending not to know that God gives power. The story of Rochas Okorocha is a beautiful one to tell. And that of his governorship in Imo, a success one. And there is nothing anybody can do about that. Our only slogan is, to God be the glory. While we commend men like Mr. Odumakin for taking their turn.
Sam Onwuemeodo is Chief Press Secretary to Imo State Governor
PEACE unto you and may His Grace continue to envelope your coast and pertinently sharpen your Notes. Your comparative analysis on our heartland Nostrademus was a thorough delight and effectively stimulating. It was a message for all those who hide under the cloak of Free Education apostles to perpetuate their dark designs and insult our intellect.
What a shame to realise that in a haven where Education is touted by the governor as the bastion of his untested acclaim, the Imo state University has been on strike in the last four months and nothing is happening therein with no concern from the leadership. – Mitchel Obi
I AM your ardent fan and always look forward to reading your column in Vanguard Newspaper. Thanks very much on your piece on the above subject matter. The points you raised on the issue are very correct. I’m from the State in question and can’t but agree with you. I pray that Almighty GOD will grant you the wisdom, courage and good health to continue the good work you are doing. -Emma Sunny.
WHAT a surprising package in your piece, Rochas Okorocha and the ragged trousered philanthropists. My brother you’ve seen what is happening in Imo State. Yinka,have you by any chance travelled on any road in Imo State of late? Any road at all! People would rather prefer to walk to driving in their vehicles. For it appears safer. Have you seen the impunity by which Rochas is going about his affairs in Imo State. For him there’s no body in that state, and with APC, and surprisingly Buhari,no authority is in Nigeria!-Michael Osorobi
As ‘lifeless'(people may take for capitalism) as he is, he impoverished Imo people just to take advantage of them (as you can see). The man Rochas is one of the most unfortunate circumstances of Imo people.
He seems to be listening to a distant drummer. His dance steps are so strange to Nigeria!