'N26.6billion and N13.2billion were handed Over to Okorocha by his predecessors Ohakim' Says Chief Okorie
STILL ON OHAKIM LETTERS: RESPONDING TO OKOROCHA, A MUST READ BY CHIEF PETER OKORIE TO OKOROCHA PART ONE
The letters by H/E Dr. Ikedi Ohakim to Governor Rochas Okorocha which highlighted the sufferings of the collective people of Imo State have become the subject of conversations in both social and traditional media, transport buses, drinking joints and other social gathering places. This is a clear indication that Ohakim’s observations are so apt that Imo Society has been reawakened.
Ohakim’s first letter was sent privately to Okorocha via DHL. Knowing that the incumbent Governor does not miss an opportunity to play partisan politics with important issues concerning the people, the author (Ikedi Ohakim) made sure that copies of full text of this letter were sent to five Imo Elder Statesmen, advising them that the original had been forward to the incumbent Governor via DHL and that after a month, if the Governor failed to respond and address the issues raised by the letter to his satisfaction, he would then have the correspondence published.
As predicted by the author, Okorocha immediately leaked the private letter sent to him by his predecessor to the press. The leakage of this initial letter to Guardian Newspaper was by the Imo State administration.
The fall out of that first letter precipitated the dropping of two of the members of the Executive of the administration, namely; Dr. Vitalis Ajumbe, the Commissioner for Information, as he then was, and Dr, Kelechi C. Okpalaeke, the Special Adviser to the Governor on enlightenment and Strategy and also the Director General of Imo Orientation Agency, as he then was.
As a result of the reawakening of the entire Imo society by these letters and the vituperative responses by the administration, I have decided to interrogate some of the lies and abuses to Ohakim by Okorocha and his Rottweilers.
It is pertinent, therefore, to lay a proper foundation on the styles of governance of both Ohakim and Okorocha because it will help Ndi Imo to put the issues raised by the letters in proper perspective.
1. PERSONALITY AND GOVERNANCE STYLE:
H/E Dr. Ikedi Ohakim served as Governor of Imo State from 2007 – 2011. Before being elected as the Governor of the state, he had served as a Commissioner for Commerce and Industry under the administration of the late Senator Evan Enwerem, between1991 – 1993. Prior to his foray into politics, Chief Ohakim had risen from the position of a management trainee to become the National Sales Manager of Tower Aluminum group and Marketing Director of First Aluminum Plc. He was also a Director of Kaduna Refining and Petro-Chemical Company Ltd.
He also founded and he is still the chairmanof MekahogGroup. He was the Honourable Secretary of the Fellowship of Christian Patriots in Africa up to 2006.At only 26 he was the president of Okohia Town Union. In his private life, as well as his business and political endeavors, his abiding philosophy has always been that “Those who labour doeth so in vain unless under the guidance of the Lord”
It is quite revealing that the only landed property owned by Ohakim in Owerri or any member of his immediate family was acquired back in 1992 when he served as commissioner and this property is a three bedroom bungalow located in the PREFAB ESTATE, Owerri. This is still his residence in Owerri capital city. Besides he handed over the only other plot of land which was allocated to him upon his election by the outgoing Governor, H/E Chief Achike Udenwa to Chief Mike Okiro after the latter had informed Governor Ohakim of his intention to relocate to Imo State, after his retirement, but that he did not have a piece of land in Owerri city. Without hesitation, Governor Ikedi Ohakim gave him the same property that Governor Udenwa had allocated to him (Ohakim) at the Civic Center. This is Ohakim for you.
This is an example of the magnanimity of Ikedi Ohakim. There are so many stories of such acts of kindness which only the beneficiaries are aware of. Okorocha himself can testify about this Ohakim’s magnanimous spirit from when he lost his mother and cried to Ohakim for support, to his appointment by Ohakim as chairman of Imo Education Fund Committee and equally the appointment of his elder sister, Geraldene, as the Ideato South Local Government sole administrator.
In the course of Ohakim’s four years in office, a lot of Imo people both retired and still in active service experienced Ohakim’s kindness. For example, upon assuming office in 2011, Governor Ohakim discovered that most of the appointees of the previous administration were being owed their severance allowances which they were statutorily entitled to. None of those individuals served under Governor Ohakim but he approached a bank for a loan to clear the outstanding severance owed them.With these funds, most were able to start a business to the benefit of the state’s economy. Today, over 50% of the recipients of these severance allowances are employers of labour.
Ohakim believes that charity or charitable activities should be motivated by one’s milk of human kindness and should not be made a quid-pro-quo venture. In essence, the act of charity should and must not be motivated by what you will get out of it in return.As a governor,Ohakim supported the private sector, made money circulate, paid salaries as at when due and carried out lifesaving solid infrastructural programs needed for development of human capacity and physical infrastructure.
His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha on the other hand, is said to have dispossessed indigenes, residents and organizations of their landed property in great numbers.Unconfirmed sources have it that His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his close and extended family members collectively own between 200 – 350 hectares of residential properties in Owerri metropolis alone.
Okorocha, for example, has acquired and built for himself a private residence nicknamed “SPIBAT”, aspread bigger than the size of Aso rock. But while Aso Rock is the Government House of the Federation, owned and operated by the Federal Government, “SPIBAT”is personally owned by Okorocha, although operated and run from the Imo Treasury.The SPIBAT mansions numbering about 22 buildings were constructed since Okorocha assumed the office of the Governor of Imo State.
Every member of Rochas Okorocha’s family has at least one mansion in Owerri, all built and acquired between 2011 and now. Okorocha’s son-in-law, who doubles as his Chief of Staff, is said to own at least 10 – 15 major landed properties in Owerri – allacquired while he was the Imo State Commissioner for Lands, a position he held at the beginning of Okorocha’s administration.
Most of Okorocha’s siblings are now business moguls in Owerri, but before 2011, none had any business in Owerri. The Governor’s elder sister is now the owner of an eatery located in Mbari Street.
Okorocha, despite all that Ohakim did for him, has personally authorized several petitions against Ohakim, the latest being the one signed by M.O. Nlemadim Esq, the Honourable Attorney General of Imo State. This is inspite of several personal harassments and intimidation, withholding Ohakim’s legitimate entitlements for six years and removing his picture from the gallery of former governors in the government house.
In early January 2016, the T.C. Chairman of Ikeduru L.G.A stated on air at HOTFM’s Peoples’ Assembly programme, that the Imo state government spent six hundred million naira (N600M) on Christmas decorations the previous year. This amount of money was supposedly handed over to the Deputy Chief of Staff(Domestic)to Okorocha,Mrs. Ogechi Ololo, the governor’s younger sister.
There is nothing wrong with spending such amount to make Owerri beautiful for the Christmas and to spread the Christmas cheer in our dear state, but there is everything wrong in spending such a huge amount when the government is owing salaries, pensions and gratuities. Furthermore, it was the same month that the administration suspended indefinitely, 26 parastatals in the state. As a corollary, the monthly salaries of the entire 10,000 graduates employed by Ohakim’s administration, their salaries came to N450m (Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) monthly but they were terminated so that Okorocha can spend the N5.4b cumulative annual income of these young generation on self-aggrandizement.A whooping N600m(Six Hundred Million Naira) was handed over to his younger sister to do Christmas decorations.
If the government of Imo State spent N600m (Six Hundred Million Naira) on Christmas decorations in 2015, the amount spent on the decoration for 2016Christmas, including the hurriedly put together Imo Carnival must have been in excess of N2b (Two Billion Naira).
One of the reasons Ohakim wrote the second letter was because the Imo State administration continues to engage in frivolous expensive but valueless projects while the Imo workforce and pensioners are dying. Sometime last year, Okorocha took a decision to slash a whopping 40% of pensioners pay unilaterally. On Thursday January 5, 2017 pensioners blocked the government House gate, accusing Okorocha of owing them 47months of pension. If I may quotethe leaderof the
Pensioners, Chief Gideon Ezeji, “Okorocha derives a lot of joy in seeing elders in the state coming out from time to time to the streets on demonstration” Imo state under Okorocha has become a theatre of protests and as a result of which the state economy is paralyzed.
Upon the declaration of Okorocha by INEC, as the winner of 2011 Imo state governorship election, he commenced his reign of terror on the people of the State. His first official act was illegal. With the help of Mr. Chike Okafor, then of Zenith Bank, he wrote a letter to all Imo State Government bankers and froze every government account ignoring the advice of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation. This was before he was officially sworn to the Oath of office.
A week after assuming office, he made an announcement on the State Radio Station dissolving all democratic institutions in the State. He dissolved the newly employed graduates under the Ten Thousand Jobs Scheme, he dissolved elected councils in the entire state, banished the development centers where I was a co-ordinator and removed HRH Dr. Cletus Ilomuanaya as the Chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers. That illegality threw more than 50,000 out of gainful employment and shook the Imo economy to it foundation.
Throughout his first twelve months in office, he stocked hatred towards his predecessor at every government function by making highly but false incendiary statements.He once falsely told the Imo public that Ikedi Ohakim as governorspent an average of N150m(One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) on Champaign on a weekly basis. Ohakim, believing that every administration deserves a honeymoon period to allow it to consolidate support for its programmes and projects abstained from joining issues with the new Governor on this.
Ohakim’s magnanimity emboldened the new governor to make even more outrageous claims against the former administration.
In early 2013, about 20 months into Okorocha`s administration, he caused members of his cabinet to stage a show where they presented roads constructed in their various L.G.As. on television. But the truth was that the roads were nonexistent.But the intention of the televised show of shame was not really to present in pictures their stewardship. It was rather to tell the world that the previous administration headed by Ohakim did not do anything, but instead raided Imo.
This was the last straw that broke the Camel’s back. Ohakim could no longer keep quiet while he was being falsely lampooned by Okorocha at every chance he (Okorocha) got to talk to Imo people. Ohakim would have been perfectly comfortable to allow Okorocha have his say had he concentrated on governance. But Okorocha in his paranoia, felt he can only be respected as governor if he took down every person that had previously occupied that position. A classic trait of inferiority complex.In the last six years, Okorocha tried everything possible to ensure that every lasting legacies of his predecessors were obliterated from the State.
Ohakim summoned members of his cabinet to respond to the outrageous allegations being daily heaped on their administration. It was at this shadow cabinet meeting that all the roads constructed under Ikedi Ohakim’s regime were photographed and presented as Newspaper inserts in four national dailies. It was at this meeting that the amount of N26.6bn he handed over to Okorocha was made public. Another N13.3b proceeds from the bond money raised by the Ohakim`s administration were also handed over to Okorocha as stated in the publication.
Once this publication was made public, both Okorocha and his Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Chike Okafor, were to spend their time defending their misuse of the bond proceeds specifically earmarked for certain income yielding and job creation development projects includingthe Wonder Lake Resort and Conference Center project in Oguta.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Daily Sun of Wednesday, January 23, 2013 quoted Hon Chike Okafor, the then Commissioner for Finance, as follows: “The previous administration of Ikedi Ohakim had secured a bond of N18billion for capital projects such as roads, water and Oguta Wonder Lake project, but when we came to power, we decided to prioritize our projects. Out of the N18 billion that was secured, about N6 billion had been spent and we met only N12.5 billion. We convened a meeting of all stakeholders and got their approval to approach SEC to change the use of the fund.”The report further stated that the commissioner disclosed that “the balance of the bond proceeds were channeled into critical areas of infrastructure development such as the building of 305 classroom blocks, building of ultra-modern general hospitals in the 27 Local Government Areas of the state and construction of vital roads across the Local Government Areas, informing that works were currently going simultaneously in the various communities.”But up till today, about six years after spending of the Ohakim’s bond proceed, less than 2% of these structures (the classroom blocks and the ultra modern hospitals) are yet to be completed. If and when they are completed, shouldn’t the credit go to the Ohakim’s administration?
Again there was a temporary seize fire occasioned by the publication of Ohakim’s “The Legacy That Speaks”, although Okorocha continued in his loquacious nature to attack and lampoon his predecessors at every chance he gets.
The above narration of events are an attempt to give the reader an insight into both the former and the incumbent styles of administration, their personalities, priorities and their understanding of governance. My belief is that the Imo public’s judgment of Ohakim’s letters to Okorocha could only be understood from the context of the motive behind the letters; and on the other hand the motive behind Okorocha’s administration responses. There is no doubt that Ohakim felt the urge to write these letters because as the Igbo say, “The thief who locks himself in a yam barn has not solved his problem” It is also said that once a precedence is established, whether right or wrong,it becomes the law of the land. Since Okorocha’s administration is coming to an end, it ought to be emphasized that any governor that is elected after Okorocha must never be allowed to tow the line of illegality, mindlessness, greed, lack of the due process and brick and mortar mentality.