George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Chief Press Secretary to Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State, Chibuike Onyeukwu has described the current antics of the immediate past governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha as being in a panicky mood especially with his eight-year administration under intense scrutiny. In this interview, he spoke on various issues.
There have been altercations between the new administration in the state and the immediate past governor, Senator
Rochas Okorocha. Don’t you think it is a distraction to Governor Ihedioha?
There is no altercation at all. What Imo people have seen to their
chagrin, is a spate of premeditated attacks by the former governor on
his successor. Each day, he comes up with a spurious allegation either
against Governor Ihedioha or our leaders, elders and even aides of the governor. As one commentator recently observed, what Imolites now do every day is to ask, what allegation is Okorocha leveling against Governor Ihedioha today? But if you observe very well, you would notice that the governor has never joined the fray. Personally, what we have tried to do occasionally is to curtail the excesses of the ex governor, in terms of his notoriety to mislead the people. If you go to the social media, you will notice that this administration per se does not really need to join issues with the former governor. He is getting more than enough and adequate responses from the Imo people themselves. I can even say that I am perhaps one of the luckiest Chief Press secretaries to serve in the state. To each invective the former governor pours on his successor, there is an avalanche of responses even before we articulate an official statement.
My worry is that either Chief Okorocha and his handlers do not see those responses or they lack the capacity to sustain a debate on any one issue they raise. You will notice that they churn out allegations every day. Once
they are tackled on one, they jump to another. The question as to whether the governor is distracted does not even arise because, the issues they come up with are too common place or too ordinary to distract a fellow like Governor Ihedioha. Moreso, is the fact that unfortunately, Chief Okorocha is not perceived among serious minds as someone to be taken seriously.
The former governor is accusing your boss of witch hunting him especially with the setting up of panels to probe his administration
What do you expect him to say?
It is the usual, common place response each time people are called upon to give account of their stewardship. In the case of ex governor Okorocha, even a teenage school boy or girl in the state would laugh at his claim of being witch hunted. The malady of his eight-years administration is on the palm of every street fellow in Owerri. Go to the markets. Enter the mini buses, schools, all over, what you hear is “Tufiakwa”. Never has it happened in this state, let me not say in the country as a whole, that the debauchery of his administration is so glaring and is being so talked about. The luck we have is that Imolites are very law abiding and would like to be patient for due process to be observed in unraveling the monumental perfidy of the immediate past administration. Otherwise, I can tell you that this administration would have had some problems keeping the people calm.
But even at that, I can tell you that it has not been easy for the governor to restrain the people who are obviously very angry with what have been discovered so far.
The other day, Governor Okorocha hired a crowd mostly from outside the state to receive him at the airport. Were the people deceived? Capital No. Nobody was surprised because it is his usual antics, more so for a man, well known for theatrics. I have personally spoken to someone in that crowd and I know how it came about, and how they feel. Already, discerning minds have come up with the view that what transpired between Chief Okorocha and the crowd he hired was an attempt to incite the people against the governor and his administration. Even plans to recruit hoodlums to physically attack family members of the governor and his close aides have been intercepted. What the ex governor is doing is to put up a false show of bravado. When you watch him closely, you will decode a man who is seriously distressed and of course jittery of what becomes of his stewardship which is being x- rayed by the Judicial Commissions. Again, are the people impressed? No. If I were one of his handlers, or playing the
Devil’s Advocate, I would have advised against that show of shame because it has compounded his problems with the people.
In what sense?
In the sense that it makes the people feel that he does not want to be called upon to account for his leadership. As I mentioned earlier, this is the first time in the history of this state that cases of financial malfeasance are so much talked about that the people are being restrained from going to the streets. Look at what happened when the committee on recovery of movable property went to one of the facilities acquired by wife of the ex-governor. His family members claimed that the warehouse had things from one of the hotels owned by them. Yet, in that warehouse were items, such as kitchen utensils, doors, exotic seats, tables, fridges, plasma televisions with the inscriptions of the Imo State Government House, Owerri. Yet, the ex- governor’s daughter was driving round Owerri with security personnel –police , army, civil defence etc. – threatening members of the committee. What could be more provocative than that? In an interview in a national newspaper, last weekend, the ex governor claimed that state officials went to his daughter’s mega plaza to pack fridges and air conditioners. He has not told the world what fridges and air conditioners with government House inscriptions were doing in his daughter’s store. People who sell fridges and air conditioners display them at open show rooms. Even with all their fabled claims to business success, Imo people do not know the Okorocha family as dealing in fridges and air conditioners. He claimed that his wife, Mrs. Nkechi
Okorocha, was running 70 hotels before he became governor. So, how come she was not known as the owner of the largest number of hotels in Nigeria?
There is no way she or the family could own 70 hotels, even
if they are ordinary short-time outfits, and Nigerians would not know. Chief Okorocha claims that he was a rich man before he became a governor. No problems with that, but why did he have to wait until he became the governor before building 26 duplexes in his Spibat estate which land he claimed to have acquired several years earlier? The point I am trying to make is that the former governor is compounding his problem because he is making the people believe that he sees them as fools.
The former governor says those heading the panels are members of the PDP or associated with the party in one way or the other. So, he says he would not get justice.
Again, I would have been thoroughly disappointed if I were one of his handlers. Apart from the fact that the statement is too cheap, it suggests an admission of guilt. What I would have expected him to say is that the panels will not find anything against him. In fact, the claim that he will not get justice is a sharp contradiction to the ex governor’s braggadocio. If he is sure of what h e is telling his supporters, he would have gone ahead to challenge the panels to go any length. I am sure his sympathizers, assuming that there are any genuine ones, would be disappointed with his resort to blackmail those distinguished citizens heading the panels.
One of the panels is headed by his own kinsman, Chief Eze Daruiheoma (SAN), immediate past Chairman of the National Population Commission, whom he accused to have made utterances in the past that show he will not be fair to him. The natural question to ask is, were things so bad for the ex governor that he could not even be in talking terms with such a personality from his own community, politics apart? That says quite a lot about the man who unfortunately presided over the affairs of our state for 8 years. He says the panels are headed by PDP members. That is not true. Even so, what is the ex governor’s relationship with his APC. That’s why I said that his claim of bias is cheap. As I said earlier, the spirited effort by Owelle to discredit the panels is a pointer that he is not sure of what he is telling his so called supporters or sympathizers.
Senator Okorocha has also alleged that Governor Ihedioha has nothing to point to as an achievement even as his administration approaches 100days.
That’s what we keep hearing. Even when the administration was less than two weeks old, he alleged that it had nothing to point to as achievement. So, we are not worried by such hackneyed allusions. With due respect, Chief Okorocha does not qualify to task the current administration in any ramification. He is the worst example of a public office holder. This is a man, who in 2011, inherited a viable state that was evolving to a model state, in terms of tourism, environment, quality road network, motivated civil service, quality education, healthcare, etc. What did he do? He pressed the reverse button. Not done, he began to uproot the very foundations of the state, deliberately laid since the creation of the state. At the end of 8 years, there is no single good road, hospital, school neither did he spare any sector in the state. I will not be drawn into listing the things the current governor has done since he assumed office in this interview but suffice it to say that he has achieved in less than 100 days what Okorocha could not achieve in 8 years. The biggest success recorded in the state in the last 80 days is good governance which Governor Ihedioha is at the moment entrenching in the state.
The landmark Executive Order number 005, 2019 which saw the full adoption and implementation of the Treasury Single Account, TSA is a pointer to the kind of administration Governor Ihedioha will preside. Due process has returned to the state where Chief Okorocha publicly announced its suspension.
The current administration is not given to playing to the gallery to impress the citizens with bogus claims or projects that do not add any value to the state. Look at the quality of persons that have joined the governor’s team to assist in the rebuilding process. The fact they accepted to serve, signposts the credibility of the governor. It is a huge advantage that this administration has the manpower to lay afresh, the foundation for the rebuilding of the state. The ongoing road rehabilitation in the state has not been very easy because the past administration, aside not completing any road project, did very poor construction and without design. So this government is first of all designing the major roads, preparatory to the award next month. I don’t want to discuss the
recent flagoff of the N10b erosion project at Urualla in Ideato North,
by NEWMAP for which His Excellency has paid N500m counterpart fund.
There is influx of eager investors to the state. You are aware that ex governor Okorocha since 2015, unilaterally paid workers only 70 percent of their salaries and cancelled their allowances. Today, His Excellency has approved the payment of 100 percent salary payment. The number of bills so far passed by the state assembly is 7 and 4 have been signed with 2 to be signed this week.