19th March, 2013
By Kanayo Esinulo
My cousin, Godfrey – Goddy for short – is not particularly unknown in political circles in Imo State. Under Nigeria’s prolonged military rule, I managed to prevail on him not to accept to serve, either as Commissioner or Special Adviser, any military administration in Owerri. We argued several times, and for many hours, on this matter, and in each instance, he conceded that the points I raised were convincing. When he managed to bow to my arguments and accept my advice, he would grudgingly add that a lion does not accept defeat easily. He was at Nsukka in the early seventies and strongly believes that a lion must not feed on vegetables. As politics resumed in 1999, he located on the side of Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu, the man evil men of Nigerian politics severally teamed up to deny the governorship of old and new Imo State by brazenly rigging him out at each political competition in the state. I supported my cousin, Goddy, in his choice of Izuogu as a governorship candidate. Before 1999, Izuogu had solidly established himself as a towering political figure in the East. But somehow, the then formidable Izuogu political machine that my cousin supported and worked for never made it to Douglas House, Owerri. Chief Arthur Nzeribe and all he represented made sure that never happened. Those were the ugly days of political godfathers, and Nzeribe was then a big player in the murky waters of Imo politics.
When the numerous court cases that Izuogu instituted failed to restore his mandate, my cousin went back to his public service job – angry with and disappointed by a rotten political practice that promotes and sustains injustice. Goddy was on sabbatical when he went into the field with Izuogu. As he went back to his regular job, he preferred to remain out of politics. He became somewhat apolitical for a good number of years. But suddenly, his interest in the politics of Imo State was awakened soon after Chief Ethelbert Anayo Rochas Okorocha surfaced in Owerri as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. Surprisingly, Goddy was again ready to take out another sabbatical to work for the man he saw then as a “God-sent rescuer of Imo State”. His sympathy and support were totally for Okorocha and his new love, APGA. I would arrive Owerri, and right from the airport where he picked me, it was Rochas, Rochas and Rochas, all the way. Obviously, he was part of the mass hysteria that greeted Okorocha’s arrival in Owerri brandishing APGA’s governorship ticket.
Happily, my cousin knew where I stood. I refused to be fascinated by his theory that “this man’s entry into the politics of our state would re-configure its landscape.” I was convinced that the incumbent governor then, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, was doing a good job and obviously on the right track and, if given a second term, I believed and still believe, he would transform Imo State. Besides, the resuscitation of the old Owerri Master Plan by Ohakim attracted the attention of some of us who had taken time to study and write on it when several military administrators in Owerri chose to ignore and abandon it. As the general elections of 2011 approached, Goddy, who, like I said, had become so excited by Okorocha’s governorship gamble in Owerri, and was confidently referring to him already as “governor-elect” even when the campaigns were only beginning to gather steam and momentum. I knew that some like him in the state would be carried away by sentiment. And this was at a period of the alleged mistreatment of a Catholic Reverend Father by an overzealous security detail, which was a veritable propaganda material for those who wanted to cut short Ohakim’s socio-economic programme in Imo State. The opposition led by Okorocha had been looking for excuses to give a good dog a bad name in order to hang it. Curiously, my Lord Archbishop, Anthony Obinna, was sold on this exaggerated story and, painfully, he bought it and stuck to it. No apologies or explanations were able to mollify an ‘outraged’ Catholic community. The Okorocha camp feasted on the sad event.
When Rochas ‘won’ in a controversial election that almost divided a homogeneous state right down the middle, Ohakim, advisedly, congratulated Okorocha, welcomed him to Government House and handed over an elaborate and, I am told, self-explanatory note that detailed everything an in-coming governor needed to know or be briefed on. But we all know how he reciprocated that brotherly gesture: as a governor-elect, Okorocha wrote to all the banks that transact business with the state government (on a letter-headed paper that no one has disclosed to us yet!) and instructed them not to honour cheques or any financial instrument from a government that was still in power. I reached out to Goddy in Owerri immediately and told him: “That is your man, Rochas, on duty – Mistake number One. Watch out for more mistakes. Many more will follow, I assure you!” The Deputy Governor-elect, Sir Jude Agbaso, may have been enjoying his new boss’ style and carelessness. And it was too early for a governor that was yet to be sworn-in to be making silly mistakes. But that was a sign of what to expect.
Today, Agbaso, the Deputy Governor, is at the receiving end of an administration that he and his boss have been running on flat tyres. It is not difficult to know why the deputy governor is now game for those who think that the wonderful state should be disengaged from civilisation. The on-going fracas and cracks within the top ladder of the Okorocha administration are not coming as a surprise to some of us. The administration lost focus too early in the day. Instead of concentrating on governance and delivering on his specific promises to the people of Imo State, Okorocha was busy feasting on cheap populism, cheapening and discontinuing many good projects that his immediate predecessor was dutifully executing – the Ring Road that could have decongested and set Owerri free for those moving on to Port-Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar, for instance – wasting time, energy and resources witch-hunting and probing everybody and everything, and in the process may have lost opportunities that could have enabled him to improve the state and the living standards of the people.
Only last week, I called Goddy, my cousin, to know what exactly was happening in Imo State and why the conventional and social media were feasting on the alleged resignation of the Deputy Governor of Imo State, how true were the points raised by the two construction firms about the N458 million bribe that Agbaso allegedly demanded and received from the Lebanese Managing Director and the degree of seriousness and commitment by the state House of Assembly to find out the truth and possibly impeach or punish any culprit. His reply was short and direct: “We no understand this government again. We no understand my man again-ooo.” It appears the Rescue Mission now needs to be rescued. It is a pity indeed.
Kanayo Esinulo, www.kanayoesinulo.com.