Below is a verbatim reproduction of a passage from a recent article by Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, media aide to His Excellency, Senator Rochas Okorocha, a former governor of Imo state: “In all these, one writer, Ethelbert Okere, was the one who had written to justify the governor’s claim on Okorocha and in doing that too, he showed where he has always belonged, the PDP/Ihedioha enclave by bringing in Ihedioha in any paragraph he talked positively about Uzodimma. Even at that, Okere is one writer that was stopped from writing for Okorocha. His biro is Covid-19 infested.The fingers with which he writes do not bring solution or solve problems.
All past governors he had written for could not stay to tell their stories. Chief Ikedi Ohakim and Chief Emeka Ihedioha… Once Okere writes for any governor, whirl (sic) mind would come. Now that he has began to write for Uzodimma, I pray that the bird that cries at night and the child dies in the morning won’t be the case this time”
Onwuemeodo was writing under the title, “Imo: Governor Uzodimma Raising Alarm, Causing Tension and Heating the Polity, on His Own”, and was apparently responding to an earlier article by me entitled “Okorocha’s Problem With Imolites Is Beyond Uzodimma”. Of course, I was expecting a reaction from the Okorocha camp but little did I know that it would lead it (them) to an inadvertent admission of what Imolites had feared most all this time: That they were under a mystical spell for the eight years Okorocha ruled. Witness the metaphor of the crying bird and the death of a child in the passage quoted above: “I pray that the bird that cries at night and the (sic) child dies in the morning won’t be the case this time”.
Is the above not an affirmation that for eight years, Imo state was ran under the principle of witchcraft and not on scientific empiricism of modern statecraft? Every adult in Igboland knows that the parable of the bird and the dead child at night is all about witchcraft and employing it to illustrate a matter about which Okorocha and his people feel so strongly about is an admission that his administration subscribed to the use and power of necromancy. Little wonder that Imolites behaved like a people in a state of stupor while applauding the practitioners as they manipulated their collective destiny.
Little wonder that the state hardly witnessed any empirically verifiable progress under Okorocha’s eight year regime. It must have been Okorocha’s belief in esoteric principles that made him throw away critical ingredients of governance like due process. It was not a hidden matter that everything Okorocha did never passed through any rigour. Going by the revelations by Onwuemeodo, he must have depended on what the sorcerers told him every morning and not on administrative logic.
Let me, however, put aside the paranoia they habour on me and take a look at what they had to say over the issue(s) I raised in my article under reference. Onwuemeodo’s worry is that Governor Uzodimma made public Okorocha’s request that he, Uzodimma, should disband the panels set up by the administration of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha – which Uzodimma retained – to look into his eight-year misrule. Wrote he: “Before the governor’s disclosure of the reason he fell out with Okorocha, nobody knew that he had any issue with the former governor. Okorocha had never told anybody that he had any problem with his governor …”
Bunkum! So, he expects Governor Uzodimma to trade the collective wish of Imolites – to retrieve their wealth allegedly taken away from them by Okorocha – with a questionable personal friendship with the latter? Did he mean Uzodimma should have kept the matter secret so that Okorocha would go ahead to stealthily instigate some elements in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to continue to ridicule him for continuing with the probe as they now do? The governor would be failing in his covenant with the people if he failed to brief them properly because, as I noted in my earlier article, the matter is beyond him. It is a matter between Okorocha and the people.
Ihedioha set up the panels in response to the wishes of the good people of Imo state and nothing has happened to warrant the latter to change their minds; and they have not. So, Governor Uzodimma would be indulging in an unthinkable sabotage against the very people who entrusted their affairs in his hands by preferring a personal relationship with Okorocha at the expense of their overarching interest. Instructively, Onwuemeodo did not deny that his boss made the request from the governor. His only worry is that the latter disclosed it to the public. Come on, Goodhope Odidika’s mamma didn’t give birth to a fool!
Apart from the crude effrontery on the part of Senator Okorocha to make that request, the other major reason I did that article was his insinuation that because Governor Uzodimma continued with the panels set up by a PDP administration, he is promoting the interest of the latter and not that of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The pedestrian logic of that assertion notwithstanding, and even though it is inconsequently, it represents a blackmail on the entire Imo collective.
Returning to my personal involvement in Onwuemeodo’s article however, let me ask: Do they “write for” people? You could be a media aide or speech writer to a public office holder but I think it is too elementary to say that you “write for”… It is not the proper lexicon to apply. But even so, I could not have craved “writing for” – to still borrow that pedestrian parlance – Okorocha because, at the risk of sounding immodest, I was the arrowhead of the opposition to his perfidy in the early days of his administration. I was the first in Team Ohakim to publicly reproach him for telling lies to the people, especially after he had claimed that Ohakim was spending N150 million every day on frolicking – including N30 million on Champagnes per day. I had reminded him that he had earlier told the people that the income of the state was less than N2 billion per month and that at N150 million per day, as he had claimed, it meant that Ohakim was spending N3.5 billion per month, more than N1.5 billion above the total income of the state. That was in mid June 2011, when most members of the Ohakim administration had left the state due to tension and even fear occasioned by the circumstances that surrounded the 2011 general elections that brought Okorocha to power.
An Owerri-based newspaper carried my statement on Okorocha’s weird arithmetic under the banner headline: “OKOROCHA LIED” and I was made to understand that the governor reported the matter to leaders of the church where the publisher of that particular newspaper worshipped. Still, Okorocha did not relent in his attacks on Chief Ohakim and his administration but I was handy to respond to his several gaffes, as the one above, and as could be attested to by every keen observer of events in the state then. Throughout that period, however, I never came face to face with the governor, until sometime, either in 2012 or 2013 – I can’t quite remember – at the burial of the late wife of Senator Ben Obi in Awka, Anambra state.
Governor Okorocha was seated among other dignitaries including Obi himself and Senator Annie Okonkwo. When I arrived, I decided to go to each of them – there were about five of them – for greetings, beginning with Okonkwo who was seated at the edge of the table. But when it got to my governor’s turn, he bent backwards, pretending to be beckoning on somebody. It was so glaring to everybody present that he wanted to avoid me and a colleague of mine, a journalist from Anambra state with whom I had worked with in Champion newspapers, said to me after the ‘encounter’: “this your governor sef”.
However, sometime in May, 2016, I was in London for medical treatment when I learnt that the governor was also there to give a lecture at the Chattam House. I had recuperated enough to attend the event and during which some members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) attempted to disrupt the lecture but were prevented by security agents. But the report that was carried on the incident by Nigerian newspapers had it that the governor had a near physical encounter with the boys. In short, the story was slanted so unfavourably to the governor but the journalists in me got the upper hand and I felt I should set the records straight, especially as I was already doing an article on the lecture itself, with the particular objective of bringing one salient issue the governor had raised in his lecture for further interrogation.
Governor Okorocha had submitted that the educational curricula bequeathed to Nigeria by the British has become outdated and was, therefore, due for a review. He had queried, in particular, why a credit pass in English language at the O’ levels is made compulsory for admission into Nigerian universities. I somehow saw the point he was making and I felt that the matter needed further interrogation back home. In the course of my article, I made it clear that contrary to earlier reports, Okorocha did not abuse the IPOB boys.
Soon after the article was published, I began to get calls from Nigeria asking me why I was “defending” the governor. I could remember, in particular, that the wife of a prominent politician in the state called to say that the story all over Imo state was that I was “now working for Okorocha”. Surprisingly, Onwuemeodo even called to thank me for my objectivity and to say that “Oga liked” the article.
So, if I had craved for an opportunity to “write for” Okorocha, I saw one in that and, of course, Okorocha would have been glad to have me, at least to display as a trophy from the “enemy” camp. What Onwuemeodo did not know, however, was that some of his superiors in that administration made some attempts to sound me out on coming on board and that their major handicap was the fear that I would turn it down. Of course, they guessed correctly.
The next time I made an intervention that appeared favourable to the Okorocha regime, and which its insiders celebrated, was when I did an article under the title, “I Can Imagine The Beauty of What Okorocha Is Trying To Do”. That was at the heat of the debate and repugnancy over his road expansion programme which, in spite of its potential benefits, was being carried out with what many perceived as deliberate cruelty to the people. I could remember that after the publication of the article, some people called to ask whether I was “now working for Rochas”
But I made that intervention because, notwithstanding that he was characteristically going about it the wrong way – including lack of due process – I was looking at the bigger picture. Let’s give it to Okorocha, the expansion of Okigwe road, Orlu road and Wethdral road lifted the landscape of the Owerri capital city and had potentials of improving the wellbeing of residents even though one of the outcomes of that programme was the erection of two flyovers that cannot be put to use more than five years after completion; for reasons that are too well known to be repeated here`
I think it is a positive commentary on me, even though it was made by mistake, to list three governors and credit me with “writing for them”. There are not many people who can be so trusted regardless of whatever voodoo interpretations my good friend, Onwuemeodo, would like to give it. I did not “write for” Okorocha but his eight-year regime has become the nemesis of the good people of the Imo state.
As I write, the Youth wing of Orluzurume, the apex socio cultural body in Orlu zone, which Okorocha represents in the senate, is agitating for retrieval of the Eastern Palm University, located at Ogboko, Okorocha’s hometown, from him. The reasons the youths are making this push are too well known to be repeated here. There are other examples. I did not “write for” Okorocha but the issues that led to my earlier article, to which Onwuemeodo reacted and now this, have their root in Okorocha’s misadventure in the state. Yes, Ohakim did only four years, and which I was part of, but Okorocha’s eight years was not match to Ohakim’s four years.
Minus Onwuemeodo, it would be difficult to count three other people, outside Okorocha’s family members, who can beat their Chest today to say that they served in his administration.