Opinion

Okorocha and his traducers

For some months now, the governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has received an avalanche of firestorm in his plate. The forces lining up against his administration appear considerable and the nature and rhetoric of their opposition have become indeed sickening. It’s all about dirty politics. And in Nigeria, it involves high-stakes, sometimes a vicious game. Like in war, all lies seem fair and
acceptable. In Imo State, where the governor has been up against organised labour, and beyond the state, and a section of the public at large, there are many people, who would want to see Okorocha crumble in front of them. But there are many who recognize his good works and still keep faith with his government.
As a journalist, I know with a degree of certainty how the media, especially in our country operate. They usually have their own storyline on issues and events that unfold over the weeks or months. It’s often a narrative that may or may not coincide with reality. In that respect, and specifically in relation to the greasy poisonous hysteria that is Imo politics, some of Okorocha’s political foes will do everything they can, to portray the governor, his aides, as a sort of bizarre phenomena that bear constant watching.
Las week, that trial ballon was deflated. The attacks on the administration were in full-throated. The governor’s opponents sought to portray him as corrupt, of fleecing the state of the bailout fund given by the Federal Government last year, for states to offset some of their obligations, including payment of workers’ salaries. The dysfunctional story was one of the big stories that dominated both the social media and mainstream media last Friday. It was a high-tech lynching of sort meant to deliver a hammer blow to the governor in which, if it sticks, it might take the governor a long time to recover.
Lets revisit some of the recent damaging reports against Okorocha’s administration. Trending last week was the vicious story that the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has uncovered a “high-level fraud” allegedly perpetrated by some aides to the governor. The punch line was that the EFCC had “arrested the Principal  Secretary to the Governor, Dr. Pascal Obi, and two others – Uzoho Casmir and Iheoma Kenneth, who were described by the EFCC as directors of Finance and Treasurer”.
According to the report, an “unnamed cashier of the government was alleged to have made cash withdrawal of N456.532 millions between September 3, 2015 and October 10, 2015, from the Government House account in Zenith Bank”. It was also alleged that the said amount was given to an aide to the Chief of Staff to the Governor (Chief Uche Nwosu), following an “approval and directive by the Principal Secretary to the governor”.
Also, more damaging was a report by a national daily (name withheld) that the governor has fled the country because of investigation by EFCC into how he spent N2bn bail out funds for the state. Now, this is the vicious game, orchestrated to tarnish the image of the governor. The governor, contrary to the report, is in his office, in the state, never jetted out anywhere. An angry Okorocha, addressed the press Saturday morning to show that the report was nothing but a calculated blackmail.
The governor said, “If I am with you (journalists) here this morning when someone wrote and published that I had jetted out because of EFCC, you can imagine the level of falsehood and mischief”. But, the governor said he would not take any legal action against the newspaper but would seek a retraction. The reporter of the story is said to be from the same hometown with the PDP candidate who was defeated by Gov. Okorocha in last year’s election.
On the N2bn bailout fund, the governor said the anti-graft agency visited the state several times, as it did in other states, in line with a presidential directive on the bailout funds. In other words, EFCC investigation in Imo State was nothing unusual. The governor said the state has used its bailout fund “judiciously and the records are clear and accessible, and there is nothing like diversion” as alleged. I also know that I spoke with one of the governor’s aides reported to be in EFCC custody, same day he was alleged to be in the anti-graft net. Contrary to the report, the aide was in Owerri, the state capital, not in Abuja as alleged.
One thing I know for certain is that this is poisoned politics, and a frantic search for a smoking gun against Okorocha’s administration. In such a frantic search to get their enemy, the traducers are feeding frenzy. They don’t care about facts. They just run away with the allegation, never bother to get any shred of evidence to support their orchestrated report. The governor’s enemies are surprised that instead of crumbling, the governor is getting up each time from the mat and getting his job done. Okorocha’s opponents also know that if they can’t get at him, link any “misdeeds” with his closest aide, and perhaps it will stick, at least in the eyes of the gullible public. That’s why they are dragging the name of the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Uche Nwosu, who is also a son inlaw to the Governor. I am not holding brief for the COS, but this young man is transparent, of high integrity, but fiercely loyal to the governor. I don’t see anything wrong with that, just the same way the Governor’s Special Adviser (Media), Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo. I have known Sam for over 20 years as a committed journalist who loves his job and loyal to his boss.
All of this boils down to one thing: Nothing is beyond Imo politicians to do. It’s the same all over Nigeria. That’s the battle Okorocha is up against right now. It’s not the first time that his opponents have tried to undo him. If one plot fails, try another. Two years ago, it was all about alleged registration of  northerners’ resident in Imo State. The governor took a hit. It began in the National Assembly, but the masterminds were Imo representatives in the two chamber of NASS, championed by former senator, Mrs. Chris Anyanwu, who delivered a scathing remark, accusing Gov. Okorocha of drawing “unusual attention to himself”, and for not respecting the “constitutional provisions of free movement, free association, free worship which are well-cherished by our people”.
Interestingly, behind that attack was a plot to stop Okorocha’s reelection in 2015. There was no proof that the governor intended to register northerners in the state with the aim of issuing them ID card. That plot to bring Okorocha in collision course with the leaders of the North failed. Okorocha was re-elected last year, defeating former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha. The Supreme Court has since validated the governor’s victory.
Altogether, It is not in doubt that Gov. Okorocha has incurred the wrath of many in Imo State. Last year, he was called a “land grabber”, but the governor denied ever taking anybody’s land illegally. He knows what he’s up against,  possibly to stop him if he wants to take a shot at the Presidency in 2019. As he told a selected journalists last December, “I work for the glory and honour of the job, not for the money”. Rather than take the state’s money, Okorocha insists, he is “the emperor of blocking the ways from where some people embezzle state money”.
He admits that “misinformation” is the problem with his government. His words, “I have good relationship with my people, I am down to earth, and my style of administration is working for Imo”. Gov. Okorocha remains one of the few governors in the country who came to power through the invitation of the people, the ordinary people, not the elite. He doesn’t have godfathers. And they could be the forces behind his present travails. But a word of advice to the governor: Devote maximum attention to what made you the toast of majority of Imo electorate five years ago, and the famed sobriquet, “my people, my people …..,  my governor, my governor”.  All said,  the present spar by his traducers should serve as a sobering experience from which he could learn useful lessons. For more allegations may be in the offing.

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