Lekan Paul

Gov. Okorocha: Of Tyranny And Discontent, By Chido Onumah

A very significant event—a peaceful mass protest against the misgovernance and mindless plunder of Imo State by Mr. Rochas Okorocha—took place in Owerri exactly a month ago, on Monday, December 18, 2017. It was organized by the Imo Peoples Action for Democracy (IPAD), a coalition of civil society and professional groups in Imo State.

It didn’t get much media traction, not because it didn’t deserve national media attention. Part of the problem is the character of the Nigerian media. The other explanation was the concerted effort by Mr. Okorocha and his goons, aided by the Nigeria Police, to suppress the protest.

By the morning of the protest, radio stations in Owerri were running bulletins, issued by the Nigeria Police, claiming that the protest had been called off because the police had declared it illegal. That declaration was, of course, not only patently false but illegal considering that the Nigerian constitution guarantees citizens freedom of thought and expression.

Not trusting their own propaganda, Mr. Okorocha and the police rolled out tanks, deployed various security outfits and laid siege to Owerri, searching vehicles coming into the city centre for protesters. Their machinations, and the massive security presence, notwithstanding, citizens of Imo State came out to show their displeasure with Mr. Okorocha’s harebrained polices. Expectedly, the police confronted the protesters, firing tear gas, attacking those who refused to disperse and confiscating banners and placards.

Interestingly, on the same day, Mr. Okorocha’s myrmidons, suborned by a vicious and clueless chief executive, gathered at the Imo International Convention Centre (IICC), Owerri, with full security protection, singing and dancing, to show their “support” for a man desperate for acceptance and approval even with the national opprobrium his time as governor has drawn.

A day before, as I distributed leaflets about the protest at an anti-imperialist youth camp organized by Social Action in Owerri, one of the young people I met informed me that the Imo State government had made available two million naira (N2,000,000) for youth from all the local governments in the state to dissuade them from joining the protest.

The responsibility of “sharing” the largesse fell on Onwueyiagwu Valentine who was just two weeks old on the job as commissioner for youth development.  The young man in question told me, in an appealingly irreverent way, that when he and his mates were summoned by the obviously edgy commissioner, he had no inkling that he was going to convey Mr. Okorocha’s message that the youth should be paid to put the kibosh on the protest. He said his share of the money was three thousand naira (N3,000) and that he collected it to cover his transportation. He assured me he would participate in the protest. This is just an insight into how far a desperate Mr. Okorocha went to deny Imolites their right to protest his malfeasance.

The December 18, 2017, protest was significant for three reasons: one, it laid to rest the myth that the tyranny of Mr. Okorocha could not be challenged; two, it showed the incestuous, and profitable, relationship between Mr. Okorocha and the Nigeria Police Force in Imo State headed by Mr. Chris Ezike, the state police commissioner; three, it marked the beginning of what would be a long-drawn-out battle to reclaim Imo State and rescue it from the grips of a grotesque mediocrity, to use Karl Marx’s apt description of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. I shall return to this third point.

Anyone who has taken, even a cursory, interest in happenings in Nigeria, will be piqued by the actions of the menace called Rochas Anayo Okorocha, the governor of Imo State. Two years after he took office on May 29, 2011, he orchestrated the impeachment of his then deputy, Jude Agbaso, by the State House of Assembly, on allegation of corruption. Okorocha installed his sidekick and chief of staff, Eze Madumere, as deputy governor.

For Imolites who had gone through a string of ineffectual governors—including Okorocha’s predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim, himself a devious administrator—the emergence of Mr. Okorocha in 2011 was a testament to the beauty of democracy and the power of the people. Mr. Okorocha’s antecedents did not qualify him to run a local government much less a state. His “fame” derived from what Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, describes as being an “appendage of power.”

A semi-literate political freeloader who has toyed with the idea of running for president several times, Mr. Okorocha promoted himself as a “successful businessman and education philanthropist.” In April 2011, he “won” a highly controversial election marred by irregularities and became the fourteenth governor of Imo State since its creation in 1976.

Let it be clear, some of those who oppose Mr. Okorocha today supported him a few years ago. They thought, then, that considering his so-called rag to riches story, Mr. Okorocha could empathize with the harried citizens of the state. Imolites were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the heels of a succession of depraved governors. It didn’t take long before Mr. Okorocha proved that governorship of Imo State was beyond his pay grade.

In a recent interview with Tell magazine, Mr. Okorocha noted: “My ideas drive me crazy.” He wasn’t speaking figuratively. Going by his own insane admission, there is no other way to describe his stewardship other than pure madness. Mr. Okorocha has embarked on the most reckless anti-people programmes Imolites have witnessed. He has demolished markets, displacing poor market men and women without providing succour.

Civil servants are owed backlog of salaries and when they are paid, they are only given a percentage of their salary. Same for pensioners. He runs the finances of Imo State without recourse to the State House of Assembly. In an October 14, 2016, petition addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, a group, Concerned Citizens of Imo State noted, among other things, that Mr. Okorocha had destroyed the civil service in the state and rendered it ineffective.

According to the group, “The first thing he did after he took office was to publicly announce: ‘I do not believe in the use of files or in due process. Due process is due corruption; whenever I wake up, I move where my mind directs me.’ The governor makes appointments bypassing the state Civil Service Commission and with no regard for competence. Workers in the state civil service are the worst hit. Permanent secretaries, directors and professionals like doctors, engineers, architects and surveyors are mere spectators, even in areas where their specialty and experience are most needed. Their jobs have been taken over by Okorocha’s surrogates.”

Indeed, Mr. Okorocha’s mind has been directing him to all kinds of inanities. A few years ago, he woke up and his mind directed him to pull down the central library—an edifice older than Imo State and one which, as an undergraduate at the University of Calabar three decades ago, was a refuge for me and many in my generation and beyond—to construct what has turned out to be his personal cathedral.

Recently, not being able to pay civil servants, notwithstanding the billions of naira from the federal government to meet that obligation, Mr. Okorocha woke up one morning and his mind directed him to declare a three-day work week. He asked civil servants who were owed months of salary arrears to take up farming to make up for the unpaid wages. His latest idle fancy is erecting statues in Owerri.

And Mr. Okorocha’s statues don’t come cheap as he gleefully told Channels TV in an interview a few weeks ago. He recently commissioned one, amid national outrage, of the certified rogue president, Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

Back to the issue of reclaiming Imo State. Today, the state has become the Okorocha fiefdom. For Mr. Okorocha, democracy simply means government of the Okorochas by the Okorochas and for the Okorochas. Last month, he announced his younger sister, Ogechi Ololo (nee Okorocha)deputy chief of staff for internal and domestic affairs—as commissioner for “happiness and couples’ fulfillment,” and later, “purpose fulfilment.”

He has no compunction naming public buildings after his family members. His father-in-law, Prof Anthony Anwukah, a former secretary to the state government under Mr. Okorocha, and now the junior minister of education, is the minister representing Imo State in the Federal Executive Council.

A few days before the December 18 protest, Uche Nwosu, ex-personal assistant, lapdog, and son-in-law of Mr. Okorocha, and currently his chief of staff, launched what was clearly his 2019 governorship campaign, leaving no one in doubt that the son-in-law is being primed to replace the father-in-law; a grand tragedy set to be replaced by a rotten farce, to paraphrase Friedrich Engels. Regrettably, some members of the do-nothing Imo State House of Assembly have already endorsed this caricature.

There is so much a people can endure. It is comforting that the Imo Peoples Action for Democracy has declared 2018 a year of rage! Now that the heat is on, those who aspire to lead Imo State in 2019 must stand up and be counted.

Onumah is the author of We Are All Biafrans. Follow him on Twitter @conumah

Sokoto Distributes 45,000 Desks To Schools

Sokoto state government said it has distributed a total of 45,926 desks to various schools across the 23 local government areas of the state from 2015 to the end of 2017.

Special Adviser to Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, disclosed this while giving an update on the successes recorded in the education sector since the declaration of state of emergency in Sokoto state just over two years ago.

“In the 2015/2016 academic session, government procured and distributed 30,186 double-desk furniture to primary and secondary schools. For the 2016/2017 academic year, 15,740 double-seaters were distributed.

“This number was complemented by the distribution of over 160,000 assorted teaching aides and instructional materials to all public schools in Sokoto state,” he stated.

He said such teaching aids include basic school curriculum, white boards and board markers, admission/attendance registers, school diary, logbooks, visitors books, lesson notebooks, among others.

He named some of the benefiting schools as Ore, Baliyan Dutse and Kabawa primary schools in Binji, Mundawata primary school in Illela, Zumbulu primary school in Sabon Birni, Rundi primary school in Silame, Kalgawa and Banche primary schools in Tambuwal, Alkammu primary school II in Wurno, Magajin Gari primary school in Sokoto North and Baware primary school in Yabo LGA.

He said in 2017 alone, more than 400 desks were supplied to Gada LGA, 600 to Dange Shuni, 700 to Bodinga, 600 to Goronyo, 600 to Sabon Birni, another 600 to Rabah and 550 to Gudu LGAs.

For Sokoto North LGA, 560 seaters were distributed to Yahaya Nawawi primary school alone, while in Tambuwal LGA, 280 double-seaters were supplied in Sanyinna Model primary school after its complete overhaul.

“School furniture is an important component in learning. Government will continue to supply more of such desks until all schools are covered.

“Government is also appealing to individuals and groups to support schools in their community so as to provide a more conducive atmosphere for teaching and learning,” Imam added.

Fayose Summons Peace Meeting Over Killing Of Herdsman

Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, on Tuesday, summoned a late night meeting following the reported killing of a herdsman, known as Babuga Dengi, in Oke Ako in Ikole Local Government Area of the state.

According to Mr. Fayose, the herdsman was allegedly killed by members of the Tiv community farming in the area.

Speaking at the meeting attended by the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, farmers, local hunters, security agencies and representatives of the Tiv community, Mr. Fayose assured that he was committed to sustaining peace in the state.

He also warned Fulani herdsmen and Tiv farmers against turning Ekiti to a war zone, just as he urged security agents to quickly fish out the killers of the herder.

“I can’t accept anybody to be killed. If anybody killed anyone I will make sure you are killed by ensuring justice,” said Mr. Fayose.

Youths Protest Poor Power Supply In Niger State

Youths in Niger state have staged a peaceful protest on Thursday against what they termed an epileptic power supply by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC).

In October last year, they issued a four-week ultimatum to both the AEDC and the transmission company in the state to either improve on power supply or vacate the state. But the state government, including the House of Assembly, waded into the matter.

Speaking to Channels Television’s correspondent, the youths however, noted that they were not satisfied with the outcome of that resolution, hence, the reason they decided to embark on the protest.

Channels

Norway Partners Edo Govt On Agriculture, Energy Production

The Norwegian Government says it will cooperate with the Edo State government in improving agriculture and energy production.

The Norwegian Ambassador Jens-Petter said this at a meeting with the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, in Benin, the state’s capital.

According to Petter, it is important for Nigeria to develop it’s agricultural sector.

Governor Obaseki on his part promised to leverage on the federal government’s incentive of tax holiday to woo more investors to the state.

Cross River Pensioners To Occupy Govt House Over Unpaid Gratuities

Over five thousand local government Retirees in Cross River state have expressed their readiness to occupy all government offices in the state if the state government fails to pay them their nine billion naira pension and gratuity arrears.

Chairman, Association of Local Government Pensioners in the State, Bassey Okosin who stated this at a news briefing in Calabar, said the debt was owed over a period of 11 years.

He said the association has given the governor Ben Ayade-led administration a one month ultimatum within which it must begin to pay the gratuity and pension arrears owed them at least between 2007 to 2018.

He expressed displeasure over the neglect of local government retirees in the state and emphasised that they would embark on a protest on or after February 16.

The local government retirees also asked the Governor to account for  two tranches of the Paris club refund whose purpose was to pay Salaries, Pension and gratuities, but, no single local government retiree has been paid.

SARS Should Be Reformed, Not Scrapped, Says Okiro

Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Mr. Mike Okiro, has rebuffed calls demanding that the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Nigerian Police should be scrapped.

Okiro, who appeared on AIT’s breakfast show, Kakaaki, on Wednesday, stressed that SARS are expected to carry guns in public.

Recall that Okiro, played key role to the formation of the unit.

In his speeched, Okiro advocates for SARS to be reformed so as to meet best international practices and respect human rights which analysts opine it is currently lacking.

 

EFCC Arraigns Ex Nasarawa Gov’s Son Over Alleged Graft

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Wednesday, arraigned former Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Adamu’s son, Nuriani Adamu, before Justice J. K. Daggard of the Federal High Court, Kano over alleged money laundering.

Adamu was arraigned alongside one Felix Onyago on an amended six-count charge bordering on money laundering and illegal diversion of illicit funds of N32 million. The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Counsel to the defendants, Mamman Lawan, made a bail application in respect of the defendants under Section 36 Sub-section 6 (b) 5 and Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

Kwara Speaker Commends Gov Ahmed Over Assent To Town Planning Law

The Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Dr Ali Ahmad, has commended the State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, for  signing the State Urban and Regional Planning Bill 2017 into Law, saying that the prompt assent to the Law has ushered in a new dawn in the State.
The Speaker made the observation in Ilorin, while reacting to the Governor’s assent on the Bill.
Dr. Ahmad in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Abdul Rahman Sanni, said: “The era of proliferation of illegal Petrol Stations in residential areas and erection of corner shops in every available public space are now things of the past in the state”.
The Speaker then urged the Governor to ensure immediate release of the N300m allocated to the sector in 2018 budget, to ensure immediate take off of the two agencies established by the Law, for effective implementation of the Law, adding that “a masterplan for Ilorin is 20 years behind schedule and will still not be achievable, if the state government fails to inaugurate the two agencies and ensure their immediate take off “.
He described the outcome of the exercise as a combination of over 2 years of legislative doggedness and intensive engagement with citizens, professionals and government agencies”.
This according to him, was another clear testimony that democracy was working in Kwara State.
It would be recalled that the legislative arm of government, under the leadership of the Speaker, had in August, 2015, inaugurated an Ad- hoc Committee on Proliferation of Petrol Stations, in which 6 Filling Stations were ordered to be demolished, while another set of Petrol Stations, were recommended for various sanctions.
The Speaker then determined that the weakness in the extant law, was a major problem, and that a permanent solution lied in an entirely new law
Under the new Law, stiffer penalties await culprits, while the state Town Planning and Development Authority has been unbundled, with the establishment of the Physical Planning Authority and the  Development Control Agency to conform with  international best practices.

Revealed: Secret Details Of Rivers Kidnap Kingpin Don Waney

The reign of the notorious kidnap kingpin in Rivers State, Don Waney, may have come to an end, but much more revealing details about his activities and how he was able to carry out his dreaded act has been revealed.

Waney, who masterminded killing of 23 worshippers on New Year’s Day in Omoku, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, was gunned down by a combined team of the Nigerian Army and the Department of State Security (DSS) at his hideout in Enugu.

According to a top official of the DSS, Waney was under surveillance for over a year.

Waney and his squad had planned to kill and maim innocent residents of Omoku on January 8, but the New Year’s Day killings started after he sent some of his members to assassinate his third-in-command; but failed after the target escaped his apartment with gunshot wounds.

According to the source, the killer squad later killed his wife and other close relatives and, thereafter, proceeded to kill five other persons over an existing feud with one of the gang members.

“Some of the people who were killed died from stray bullets during the operation by the murderous gang,” the source said.

“It was easy to monitor Waney because we had our agent on a constant watch that gave us in-depth knowledge of his whereabout and activities.

“Waney had companies that he used as fronts. He used one of these companies to front for surveillance jobs and leak repairs for a major oil company.

“We know where his family stayed; we know that his boys camped at a forest in Imo State from where they usually launched their operation.

“Waney was always hiding in Enugu and Ogoja (Cross River). He bought a car in Imo State and took it to Enugu – as part of his plans to change his identity,” the source added.

Waney had more than 30 active fighters and many volunteers who allegedly worked for top politicians in the state. He also had more than N700 million at some undisclosed banks.

“The banks are fully cooperating with an ongoing investigation which would unravel his financial transactions from the time the accounts were opened,” the source said.

Ethiopia Frees Leading Opposition Leader

People in Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state flooded the streets as they welcomed the release from detention of Merera Gudina, a leading opposition voice in the country.

Thousands of people clad in apparels that bore Gudina’s picture lined the streets leading to his residence where the authorities sent him after his release.

His release comes barely two weeks after the government said it was dropping cases against a number of politician prisonsers as a means of engendering national unity.

Gudina and over 500 others were released in the first phase of the announced reform.

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