Governor Okorocha Should Reflect on Ohakim’s Message

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (Text only)

The “love” letter written this week to Governor Rochas Okorocha by his predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim is still generating intense debate. In the letter, Ohakim upbraided Okorocha over the “pain” inflicted on the good people of Imo State by his administration. For those who said that Ohakim was not in the position to query his successor; and those who said Ohakim could not achieve any of the things he is asking his successor to accomplish while he was governor, I will plead with them to reflect on the message and not on the messenger. I also disagree with those who said that the letter was aimed at maligning Okorocha. For me, this letter may awaken Okorocha from his slumber and ginger him into action.

The tenure of Okorocha has no doubt been horrendous. The people of this state have never had it so bad, with civil servants going without salaries for months. Imo has become a failed state, with the state government unable to meet its basic responsibilities to the citizens. Civil servants are now walking corpses. The level of infrastructure decay in this state is frightening. Facilities in the health, education and other sectors have collapsed. This is why this “love” letter is pertinent.

Now, let us critically examine Ohakim’s letter. For me, the section where he criticised the senseless demolition of buildings in Owerri is germane. With this action, the Imo State governor has simply compounded the agony of the people. Just as Ohakim noted, the hapless people affected “were neither given adequate notice nor was compensation discussed/paid before bulldozers were sent to destroy their properties.”

Ohakim added: “I am told that some officials of your administration, to whom the people managed to have access, merely told the owners of the houses that they contravened existing regulations on location and specifications of buildings. I also hear that they are told that all land belongs to government and that the latter can take any land at will without giving explanations. You and I know that given the current economic situation in the country, this is the most inappropriate time to destroy the houses of people or destroy structures that house their means of livelihood without adequate alternative arrangement. Agreed, multiple lane roads are desirable but it should not be achieved by suddenly throwing hapless citizens into homelessness, joblessness and excruciating economic pains from which they may never recover.

“The state officials should be told that it is not true that government can take any land and ask the occupants to go to hell. To say such a thing in a place like Imo State is to assault the collective dignity of a people reputed as being among the most educated in the entire country. Your colleague in Ogun State attempted a similar exercise recently but met with stiff resistance and a barrage of court cases. He quickly retreated, organized a public hearing, negotiated adequate compensation and modified the project to reduce destruction of peoples’ properties.”

The former Imo State governor also cautioned his successor against his “penchant for disobeying court rulings and orders, which has turned the state into a lawless enclave, as the people, consciously and unconsciously, tend to take a cue from their governor.”

Ohakim wrote: “There is so much unruliness in the state with government officials showing the lead. But the truth is that they are like the proverbial young goat which watches the mother while it chews cord. Your Excellency, there is a built-up anger over the way the people are being displaced from their business locations, more so as this reminds them of the indiscriminate revocation and reallocation of lands in Owerri for which several complaints have been made in the last five years. Right now, there are over 250 cases in court against the state government by the very citizens you are governing. What an irony! When you assumed office, you adopted, curiously, the policy of awarding contracts without due process, claiming that due process is a waste of time. But at the end, problems have arisen because there is little or no record to enforce agreements even in some cases where the contractors had put in large chunks of their money.

“The ensuing disagreements led to court actions and many of the contractors are getting favourable judgement that have left the state with a total judgement debt and garnishing proceedings in excess of N7 billion. This may rise up to N50 billion in the next two years if care is not taken. Clearly, this will be a huge burden to incoming administrations and the entire state. Besides that, it makes planning difficult, even for your own administration.”

Okorocha should not take this love letter too personal. He should reflect deeply on the message and not on the messenger. The intentions of Ohakim are obviously genuine. My take away from the letter shows this. Ohakim said: “I take full cognisance of the fact that this letter to you may be misconstrued as an attempt to get even with you, or play politics for reasons that are not difficult to fathom. It is definitely not. Let me assure you that I mean well, first because we are both faithfuls of the Body of Christ whose main message is peace and love and secondly because both of us have had the privilege of presiding over the affairs of more than four million Imo citizens with whom we share a collective destiny.”

Still on US Congressman, Tom Marino’s Dispatch
Federal government’s response to the letter written by Tom Marino, a member of the United States Congress, urging Secretary of State, John Kerry, to withhold security assistance to Nigeria was appalling. Instead of addressing issues raised by Marino, President Muhammadu Buhari’s media aides spent quality time abusing the congressman. Issues raised by Marino were valid. For example, he wants Buhari to demonstrate a commitment to inclusive government and to uphold the tenets of democracy. Buhari’s lopsided appointments and open hatred for Igbos, is a reflection of an administration not interested in inclusive government. The facts are obvious and all over our nation.

Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania said that there were a number of warning signs emerging in the Buhari administration that signal autocratic tendencies. He wrote: “The man who once led Nigeria as a military dictator might be sliding towards former autocratic tendencies. I would urge the U.S. to withhold its security assistance to the nation until Buhari demonstrates a commitment to inclusive government and the most basic tenets of democracy – freedom to assemble and freedom of speech. A logical start towards this commitment is for the Nigerian government to hold accountable those members of the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Military complicit in extra-judicial killings and war crimes.

“Human rights groups like Amnesty International have widely documented torture, inhumane treatment, and extra-judicial killings of defenceless Nigerians since President Buhari took office. In the last six months, Nigeria’s military has unlawfully killed at least 350 people and allowed more than 168 people, including babies and children, to die in military detention.

“The Secretary to the Government of Kaduna State even admitted to burying 347 of those killed in a mass grave. And while President Buhari promised swift condemnation, his words rang empty. Instead of swift reforms, Buhari chose to reinstate Major General Ahmadu Mohammed, who Amnesty International revealed was in charge of the Nigerian military unit that executed more than 640 unarmed detainees.

“Also, in separate incidents concerning the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Nigerian Army has killed at least 36 – the real number is likely higher – people since December 2015 in an attempt to silence opposition and quell attempts by the group to gather publicly. Of President Buhari’s 122 appointees, 77 are from the north and control many of the key ministries and positions of power. Distrust is already high in Nigeria and favouring Northerners for key appointments has only aggravated the issue.

“Of additional concern is President Buhari’s selective anti-corruption drive, which has focused almost exclusively on members of the opposition party, over-looking corruption amongst some of Buhari’s closest advisors. Politicizing his anti-corruption efforts has only reinforced hostility among southerners.”
Clearly, we can all see that his congressman backed everything he wrote with facts and figures. Buhari and his media aides should address issues raised instead of grandstanding. This is the only way forward for our great nation.

\Our ‘Deeply Divided’ Nation and UN’s Timely Warning
The scary ethnic and religious division manifested in our dear Nigeria in the last 15 months is indeed unprecedented. Something similar to this was only experienced during the days leading up to the civil war. The alarm raised recently by a United Nations report, drawing attention to this malaise should serve as a wake-up call to genuine patriots to call the Buhari administration to order, in order to pull back our dear nation from the precipice. The UN report on Nigeria’s Common Country Analysis (CCA), (though, not limited to the Buhari era alone) revealed a deeply alienated society based on the plurality of ethnic, religious and regional identities.

The report observed that, for decades, different segments of Nigeria’s population had at different times expressed feelings of marginalisation, of being short-changed, oppressed, threatened, dominated, or even targeted for elimination. The truth that must be told is that this division was greatly escalated in the last 15 months because of a number of actions and inactions of the Buhari administration, particularly his lopsided appointments.

Also recently, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo expressed concern about the continued threats of disintegration resulting from the activities of various armed groups in different parts of the country, noting that aside the 30-month civil war period; Nigeria has never been as divided in history as it is presently. While criticising those calling for the breakup of Nigeria, Obasanjo lamented that the activities of the Niger-Delta Avengers, NDA, Boko Haram terrorists and Fulani herdsmen had fractured the country.

The former president said, “At no time in our history, except probably during the civil war, has Nigeria been so fractured in the feeling of oneness by the citizenry. In the last four months, we have an average of twenty hotspots across the country with huge potential for national disintegration. Our strength as a nation lies in our unity and national cohesion.”

Genuine patriots must rise up and start preaching the gospel of unity in diversity and unity of purpose/cohesion. Our dear President Buhari must also be forced by patriots to always look at the map of Nigeria closely before making appointments. He must also take steps to reverse all lopsided appointments made by his administration, particularly in the ministries of defence and Internal Affairs. Buhari must operate as a father to all Nigerians. I am convinced that this nation will become great as one. May Allah continue to bless beautiful Nigeria.

The Edo Gubernatorial Election Charade
The squabble involving INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu and the police/DSS over the postponement of the Edo State Gubernatorial election is a big threat to our democracy. Yakubu could not see any of the security threats claimed by the security agents and decided he would go ahead with the Edo poll. The police/DSS had to arm-twist INEC to stop the election scheduled for today.

When the INEC boss was proving stubborn, the NYSC boss, Brigadier General Sule Kazaure was brought in to scuttle his plan. The NYSC boss threatened not to make corpers available for the poll; so, Yakubu had to budge. One thing is certain in this drama: some people engineered this postponement for fear of losing. The incumbent government in this state is the key suspect. I am very sure that they have only postponed their defeat. It will certainly come.