By Ikechukwu Amaechi
LET me be clear from the onset. I am neither a fan of Senator Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo, nor his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, who he wanted to impose on the state as his successor. Okorocha knows that for a fact because I told him to his face in Owerri that he was a big disappointment to Ndi-Imo who preferred him to his predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim, in 2011.
I told Okorocha that if he didn’t mend his ways and provide the people the quality governance he promised while he was out on the hustings, history will be unkind to him. Of course, he ignored my unsolicited advice and doubled down on the shenanigans that became the hallmark of his administration. He capped the political tomfoolery with the attempted imposition of Nwosu. Uche Nwosu’s political ascendancy was tied to his filial relationship with Okorocha, whose first daughter, Uloma, he wedded on January 5, 2013 while he was serving as the commissioner for lands and survey.
After the marriage, he became the de facto deputy governor of Imo and heir apparent to the phantom “Okorocha political dynasty”. Okorocha’s greatest undoing is his insatiable greed for property and power and Nwosu was at the centre of that covetousness. As commissioner for lands and survey, he facilitated his father-in-law’s unconscionable appropriation of the people’s patrimony.
Okorocha’s attempt to impose him willy-nilly on the state was, therefore, not only an attempt to compensate him for a job well done, but also have a third term by proxy. It will all be in the family. Ndi-Imo were insulted by such impudence and rejected him at the polls.
So, Ndi-Imo, who are still aggrieved, will not lose any sleep over any legitimate step taken to ensure that Okorocha accounts for his misdeeds in office. But at the same time, they will not allow Governor Hope Uzodimma to use the anti-corruption facade to feather his own dubious political nest. So, while Ndi-Imo insist that Okorocha must account for his stewardship, there is also a near consensus of opinion that the abduction of his son-in-law from St Peter’s Anglican Church, Eziama-Obaire, Nkwerre, on Sunday is beyond the pale.
Nwosu went with his family for a thanksgiving service after successfully burying his mother, Madam Jemaimah Adaeze Nwosu; and while there, masked security operatives stormed the church, shooting sporadically into the air. While some remained outside, about 18 of them scaled the windows and jumped into the church, stopping the pastor who was delivering the sermon in his tracks. Then the search for their quarry – Uche Nwosu – ensued.
When they saw where he was seated, they ordered him, in the parlance of Nigerian security operatives, to move or be moved. Like a lamb being led to the slaughter, he stood up and followed them. There was bedlam. Congregants ran helter-skelter. The pastor ran for dear life. His colleagues jumped out of the window. Outside, Nwosu was bundled into one of the vehicles and ordered to lie down. One of the security operatives placed his leg on his head, and they sped off.
The circumstances of the arrest led to the conclusion that he had been abducted by the infamous “unknown gunmen”. When the video of the “kidnap” went viral, the police was forced to issue a statement admitting that their personnel carried out the gestapo-style arrest without giving any reason for their action. As Nwosu himself has disclosed, he was striped half-naked in the vehicle, handcuffed, photographed and videoed and driven to Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, from where he was flown to Abuja.
As I write, the police are yet to disclose what crime he committed. But the victim said he was accused of supplying arms to militants and sponsoring insecurity in Imo. Perhaps, appreciating how frivolous the allegation was, the Inspector-General of Police, Alkali Usman, ordered his release same day. It is a miracle that no life was lost in the melee. Many had asked what the madness was all about. Even if Uche Nwosu is confirmed to be a terrorist in the class of Osama bin-Laden, is there no other better way of arresting him without endangering the lives of many?
He was not on the run. Why didn’t the security operatives pick him up at the airports? What about his house in Abuja, Owerri or even his village in Nkwerre? A man who buried his mother barely a week ago cannot be said to be in hiding. Nwosu said he was never invited by the police at any time and challenged anyone with a contrary evidence to prove him wrong. The police have kept mum. What manner of police force would carry out such a dastardly raid without any overriding reason? In any case, if he was going to be set free unconditionally same day, as indeed he was, why the bother? Truth be told, the gestapo-style abduction of Nwosu detracts from the professionalism of the Nigeria police. It ridicules the Force. But most importantly, who wrote the petition and what end is the petition meant to serve?
Even before the dust settled, all fingers were already pointing in the direction of Hope Uzodimma. Okorocha pointedly accused him of framing up his son-in-law and misinforming the IGP to arrest him. Expectedly, the state government fired back, accusing Okorocha of panicking and speaking incoherently. But that is hogwash. If any party spoke incoherently in the aftermath of this tragi-comedy, it is the Uzodimma camp.
The commissioner for information and strategy, Declan Emelumba, said Okorocha should wait for the outcome of the arrest.
“Okorocha is in panic and is trying to whip up sentiment. A man who looted the state dry, he should wait for due process to take place since he now knows it is the security agencies that arrested Nwosu,” Emelumba said. Well, that arrest, with the unconditional release of the victim, is becoming like a storm in a teacup. It is a farce and the joke, sooner than later, will be on Uzodimma, rather than Nwosu.
And talking about incoherence, what could be more incoherent than the allusion to “a man who looted the state dry?” Was Uche Nwosu arrested because Okorocha looted Imo dry or because he is allegedly sponsoring terrorism in Imo? Rather than Okorocha, it is Uzodimma who is trying to whip up sentiment by throwing the bogeyman of corruption into the combustible mix. He knows too well that reminding Ndi-Imo that Okorocha looted their patrimony would dry up the well of sympathy for any member of his family. And since last Sunday, I have heard some people ask: Who cares what happens to Okorocha and his clan? Ndi-Imo should care.
Why? Because, the abduction of Nwosu was not in furtherance of any so-called war against corruption by the Uzodimma administration. It is part of the cynical plot by the administration to frame anyone perceived to be in opposition to its ultimate game plan. Many Imo youths have paid the supreme price. It is unacceptable that Imo State, the Igbo heartland, hitherto a land of peace and harmony has become a theatre of war and gory bloodletting.
Ndi-Imo will like to know who actually is responsible for the mayhem in their beloved state. But Governor Uzodimma should take a peep at himself in the mirror. I doubt, if he is sincere, that he will like the image that will stare back at him. Rather than playing the ostrich, Uzodimma should ask himself the hard questions. The Bible says: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn”(Proverbs 29:2).
Since Uzodimma was imposed on the state by the Supreme Court, peace has become an illusion. Imo now typifies the Hobbesian state of nature where human life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. Uche Nwosu is alive today probably because he is a politically-exposed person who is highly connected. Hundreds of Imo youths have been wasted after being framed up as terrorists because they have nobody to speak for them.
In delivering a dissenting ruling when the Supreme Court dismissed the application for review of its January 14, 2020 judgement which removed Emeka Ihedioha as Imo State governor, and declared Uzodinma as the valid winner of the election, Justice Centus Nweze said the decision “will continue to haunt our (Nigeria’s) electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come”. He was right. But beyond the country’s electoral jurisprudence, that decision has haunted Imo State to perdition. In two years of Uzodimma’s governorship, Imo State has gone to the dogs.