By Amby Uneze in Owerri
The Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Diocese, Imo State, Rev. Anthony J.V. Obinna, has declared that he is not afraid of arrest, even as he stated for the first time that the state Governor Rochas Okorochaâ€™s regime for the past seven years came as a default as a result of the arrogance of former governor Ikedi Ohakim in 2011.
The outspoken cleric stated this at the weekend during his homily on the celebration of the Easter at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri.
He also reiterated his stand in condemning the Okorochaâ€™s endorsement of his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to succeed him in 2019, adding that such motive amounted to third term agenda of the governor.
But Okorocha has stated that the Catholic archbishop cannot install a governor of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2019 since he was unable to do that in 2015.
This was just as the governor noted that the Catholic prelate had continued his onslaught against his government using his Easter message as a guise.
In statement by the governor`s Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, heÂ stated that the latest accusation by Archbishop Obinna againstÂ the governor was one too many, and noted that the government would still continue to accord him the desired respect he deserves in spite of the verbal attack.
However, the Archbishop said: â€œI am not afraid of being arrested because on Jesus Christ I derive my strength. I cannot fear the army or police for arrest. I can only fear the Lord. He is my strength and from Him I am made.
Presenting the 2018 Easter Message tagged: â€˜Restoring Confidence and Courage to Imo citizens â€“ A Celebration of Joy of the Risen Christâ€™, he deplored the system which for the past years had kept Imo citizens in fear of speaking the truth because of fear of molestation from the hands of the present government.
â€œJesus Christ is always there to restore confidence and give courage to those who are in fear. For some years in the past, Imo citizens have been living in fear because of bad government. It is absurd and undemocratic for the governor to anoint his son-in-law to succeed him while his daughter will succeed his wife as first lady.
â€œThis is undemocratic and does not give a level playing ground for other party members to participate in the primaries. Christ has liberated us by His death on the cross, therefore, no person can overturn what God has done. It was because the Imo people were not speaking that I had to speak out on March 3 at St. Michael Catholic Church, Ngwuoma, and since then, the Imo people found courage to speak out and condemn unpopular action of the present administration.â€
According to the archbishop, democracy demands equity and fairness so that governance can be rotational. It is the best for zones to take their turns and that is justice.
He said: â€œThere is no way I can endorse Nwosu candidacy because it contravenes equity. I have never endorsed him, I only advised him at the Cathedral during the Cathedraticum. Nwosu has never mooted the idea of governorship because he is not ripe yet. It was Okorochaâ€™s idea to extend his tenure to third term.â€
The cleric described the publication in a national newspaper (not THISDAY) as â€œirresponsibleâ€ because he had never said he endorsed Nwosu in any event. â€œIt was quite unfortunate that The Sun Newspaper should report me in bad light. I have no intention to support the governorâ€™s son-in-law. Does it mean that there is no credible candidate in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe other than Okorochaâ€™s son-in-law?â€
However, Onwuemeodo, who faulted the claims of the Catholic Prelate that the people of the state have been living in fear and panic, challenged him to mention anyone who has been arrested in the state for criticising the governor.
According to him, â€œAnd we humbly wish to challenge the archbishop to mention just one person whom the governor or government has arrested for any reason including criticising him or any other person who the governor has imprisoned since he became the governor in 2011.
â€œWhere the archbishop fails to do this, we ask with every sense of politeness that he corrects that false claim and if he deems it worth doing, he should apologise to the governor.
â€œOf all the governors that had governed the state, both military and civilian, Okorocha stands out to be the most tolerant and accommodating. We stand to be challenged on this assertion.
â€œThe overwhelming love of the Imo people for the governor means more to us than the weak voice of the opposition in the state made up of few politicians.â€
He further pointed out that â€œit has become obvious that the archbishop has intensified his disdain or hatred for APC, President Muhammadu Buhari and Okorocha this time because of the 2019 election. And the Archbishop should know that most people have become fed up with his repeated unprovoked and unwarranted attacks on the governor and his government using every platform and every event available to him. We do not think that the archbishop should be doing that for the benefit of a particular political party or certain politicians.â€