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Friday 19 June 2015

Mallam Okorocha at War Against Ndi Eze In Imo State – By John Mgbe

The  Imo State Council  of  Traditional  Rulers is   presently  mired  in  a  cesspool  of  turbulence  as it  teeters   on  the  brink  of   cacophony   on  the   controversial   issue   bordering  on  the  alleged  suspension  of  four  traditional  rulers  and   the   impending  trial   of  more  than 50  others. In  this cacophony   opinions    are   diverse   on   the   true   state   of affairs  as  efforts   to   reconcile the   divergent   opinions have proved futile. Reports from the   press   state   that four of the   traditional   rulers   have   already   been suspended. The  EZEs  who   have   been  allegedly     suspended  include  (1) HRH  EZE Desmond  Ogugua, EZE  Emmanuel  Njemanze  and  two  others. The State  Council  of  Ndi Eze   is  said  to  have   set  up  a  5-man  panel  to   try   the   affected   traditional  rulers. While  the  EZES  are  pointing  fingers  at  the   State  Governor  as   the   architect  of  their  travails,   the   Government  House   has  distanced   itself   from   complicity  in  the brouhaha.

A press  release  issued  from   the   Imo  Government  House  states thus: ”The  attention  of  the Rescue  Mission  Government  in  the  state   has  been  drawn  to  the  reported   suspension  of  four  traditional  rulers  in  the  state  and  the   trial  of   more  than  50  EZES  by  the  state  council  of  traditional  rulers  for  what  the  Council   had  described  as  bizarre  manner  with  which  they  defiled  or  disobeyed  the  directive   of  Council  and  the  state   government  not  to  honour  any  meeting  convened  or  summoned  by  the  sacked  chairman  of  the  Council  and  deposed  traditional  ruler  of  Obinugwu   Autonomous  Community, Cletus  Ilomuanya. It  is  important  to  remark at  this  point  that  while  the   state government takes  exception to  the  action  of  the  traditional  rulers  in  question,  it  has  no hand  in  the  suspension  of  the   four  traditional  rulers and  the  trial  of more  than fifty others  by  the  Ezes’ Council. The  suspension and  trial  of  the   traditional  rulers  remain  entirely  the  business of   the HRM, Eze  Samuel  Ohiri-led  Council. The  State   Government  will  however   not  hesitate to act  on  the  recommendations  of  the Ezes’  Council  as  long  as  it  would be  in  the  interest  of  the  State…”

There  is  a  need  to  say  that   the   explanation from  the   State  Government  on  this  issue   is   lackadaisical  and  perfunctory as  it   smacks  of   treating  a   serious   issue   with  levity. It  is  laughable   for   Governor  Okorocha   to   think   that   he  can   convince   any  right  thinking   person   in  Imo  State  that     he  does   not   have   a  hand  in  the   present  rumpus  in  the   Council  of  Ndi Eze. His  perfunctory  approach   to   such  a   strategic  issue is  his  trade  mark  approach   to  similar  issues  in  his  first  tenure.  Governor  Okorocha’s  penchant   for   ventriloquism   is  a  setback   to   democracy. Each  time  there  was  a   serious  problem   in  his  first  tenure,  he  would  feign  ignorance   of   it  even  when  he was   the   power  behind  the   crises. This bad   habit   of   fomenting crises   and   still feigning innocence or crass ignorance   of the existence   of such a problem is what I describe as ventriloquism. In fact, the Online Wikipedia dictionary defines ventriloquism thus:”the  production  of  the  voice   in  such  a  way  that  the  sound  seems  to  come  from  a  source  other  than  the   local  organs  of  the  speaker:” After   serving   a   first  tenure   of  four  years,   the  governor   should   have    imbibed   the    culture   of   not  shifting  the   buck. In a   presidential democracy, the   buck stops   on the table   of the   Chief Executive and   no other. While  serving  as  40th  President   of  the  United  States(January 20, 1981-January 20, 1989),  the  then  U.S President, Ronald  Reagan,  placed  a   plaque   on  his   table   in  the   Oval  office  with   the   inscription:”The   buck  stops  here”. Governor  Okorocha should  stop making HRM Eze Samuel Ohiri a scapegoat/sacrificial  lamb  on  an  issue   he  is  probably  innocent  of. The  Governor  should  stop  fanning  the  embers   of  acrimony  and  discord   between  HRM Eze  Samuel  Ohiri   and   the   other   traditional   rulers   in  Imo  State. The   predilection of using divide and rule/hide  and  seek template as a  tool of   governance   in a   democracy   is archaic and   barbaric. I  don’t  need   to  be   a  crystal  ball  gazer   to   know   that   HRM  Eze  Samuel  Ohiri  might  be   innocent   of   all  these    tomfoolery   and   buffoonery    in  the   ongoing     crisis   in  the   Council  of  Ndi  Eze. Governor  Okorocha   should   have   the  courage  to   declare  where   he  stands  and  stop  using  fronts   and   surrogates in   his   war   against  NDI Eze. I  expect   the   other   Ezes  in  Imo  State to  see beyond  the   veneer  of subterfuge of  Governor  Okorocha. He  merely   seeks   to   instigate   crises   among   the   Ezes  in  order   to  weaken  their     bargaining  power  over   their   rights  which  are   allegedly  being   trampled   upon  as  well  as   the  incessant  humiliation   of  the traditional  rulers  in  Imo  State. So,  the  point  being  made  here  is  that  NDI Eze   should   stand   solidly   behind   their Chairman, HRM EZE  OHIRI,  even  in  the   face of  insuperable odds. He does   not fit   into   the template   which   the   government   House   is presenting. A traditional   ruler  who   singlehanded   fought   against the   alleged hegemonic  regime of   the  then Governor Ikedi  Ohakim  and   the  then   HRH  Eze  Cletus  Ilomuanya   cannot   suddenly   be   packaged   as hostile   to   his   fellow  EZES. The   tale  is  hogwash  and  there  is  a  need  for NDI  Eze   to get  this   point   clear.

Having  said   that  much,  there  is  a  need   to   state   that   we,  the   analysts, are  hamstrung  to  discuss   this   issue   dispassionately  because the  Babel  and  cacophony   of  facts   make   it  difficult   to  have  a  clear  view  of  the   real  bone  of  contention  in  this  furore. The  only  fact  that   is   clear   is  that   the  EZES  are   being  chastised   because   they  attended   a   meeting   which  was   allegedly  convened  by Cletus  Ilomuanya, the deposed traditional  ruler  of  Obinugwu  Autonomous  Community. The   meeting  was put  together  in  order  to  galvanize   the  EZES  to  attend   a   caucus   in  honour  of  the  visiting   former  President  of  Nigeria, Goodluck  Ebele  Jonathan. My  investigation  reveals   that the  decision  to  ban  the  Ezes  from  the    meeting  was   never  discussed   in  any  of  the  meetings   of  the   Council. Furthermore, there was   no   written   document to   each   of   the  EZEs  that   they   should   keep  away   from   the   alleged     meeting.  The decision   was, perhaps, a brainwave of   someone   who   had an axe to grind with DR. Goodluck Jonathan. I doubt if any  judicial   officer   will   rule  in  favour   of   Governor  Okorocha  on  this  issue,  should   the  EZES  decide   to   test   the   case   in  court. It  is  my  opinion   that   the  traditional  rulers   should  not   lose   sleep   over   the   so-called  suspension   or  trial  by  a  panel  which   is  headed   by   HRM EZE Chidumem  Okoro. He  is  the  Chairman, Owerri Council  of  Traditional  Rulers. The   decision to ban   the  EZEs   from  honouring  DR. Jonathan   is a  classic case   of transferred   aggression. It  is  an  irony  that   a  governor   who   has   ordered   the  daily  recitation of    afternoon  prayer     in   public  sector    organizations   and   has   even   built   a   House  of  Worship(Victory  Chapel)   in  the   Government  House   will  still ban  his   traditional   rulers  from participating  in  an  event   on  the  flimsy  grounds   that  he  has   a   strained   personal   relationship   with   the   chief  host   of  the  event. It’s  a  paradox that   in  spite   of  so  much   religiosity  and  faith-based   activities   in  the Governor Okorocha-led   Administration,  there  is   so  much   profanity  and  mind  boggling  hate,  wuruwuru  and   magomago. If  you  hate   DR Goodluck.Jonathan, why   not  at least   show  him  some   modicum  of  respect   for   having   held   an  office   which   you  are   desperate   to   occupy?   It  is  also   pathetic   that   there  is  not  even   one   person  including  his   Commissioner   for  Justice  and  Attorney- General   to   remind  Governor  Okorocha   that  the     traditional   rulers   enjoy  some  inherent,   inalienable  /Fundamental  Human  Rights   under   the   Constitution. Two  of  these   inalienable   rights  are the  right  to  freedom of  speech   and  the   right   to   freely  associate   with   members   of   society  as  long  as   such  rights   are   not  used   in  a  manner   that  confronts    or  breaches   any  section  of  statute. They also   have   the   rights   to   freedom of expression   and fair hearing. The EZES were not given  fair hearing when   four of  the  traditional  rulers were   suspended   without   the   benefit   of  fair  hearing-  a  decision   that   has   subjected   them   to  public  opprobrium    and  obloquy. The  twin  pillars   of  Natural Justice espouse   that  (1)One  shall  not   be  a  judge   in  one’s  case(Nemo  judex in  causa sua),  and (2) Hear  the  other  side. Prior to  suspending  the  EZES,  the   Government  House was the prosecutor, the  judge  and   the plaintiff(complainant) all  rolled  into  one. Is this   democracy? Is this fair? It  is  despicable   that   such  calibre  of   eminent   citizens   should   be humiliated in  such  a  cavalier   manner  without  any  iota   of  deference   to  their   status  in  the  society. They  have   suffered   loss  of  esteem  in  the  eyes   of  right  thinking  members   of  society  and this   penchant   for  iconoclasm  does   not  bode  well   for   our  ever  nascent   and  fledgling  democracy. The point being made   here   is   that   should   the   matter   escalate into   the court, the probability   of   victory   for the   humiliated   EZEs is very high. Such  a   case  will  also  add  value   to   our political  jurisprudence  as  it  will   checkmate   impunity/executive   rascality  on  the   part   of  our  politicians. It  will  be  in  the  interest of  governor  Okorocha to  settle  this   matter  out  of  court; it  should   not  be  allowed  to snowball  into   the   Temple  of  Justice. These  same   traditional  rulers   were     all  over   the   place   to   honour     the  Presidential  candidate   of  Okorocha’s  Party, All Progressives  Congress(APC), Alhaji Muhammadu   Buhari   on  all   those  occasions   he  visited  Imo  State   for   electioneering. He  was   not  even  a  President   then. Today,  the   same  Governor  Okorocha   who  together  with  the   EZES    prostrated   and   bowed   to President   Buhari  to  the  extent  that   he   told   the   world  that  Alhaji  Buhari’s  great  grandmother hailed  from   Imo  State,  is   today   humiliating   and  harassing   Imo   Ezes   for paying   a   similar  courtesy   visit   on a  sitting  President,  more  so  even  when   the   man, DR. Jonathan, has     been  forced   out   of   office   by   the APC.

However,  there  is  a  need  to  state   that there  is  a  difference   between   legal  justice   and   moral   justice. It  is   my  opinion   that   what   the  EZES  did  in     disobeying  the   alleged   order  not to  honour  President  Jonathan  with  their    presence   is   legally  right   but   may  be  morally   or  ethically  wrong. It is trite   that   whoever   pays   the piper   calls the tune. In  view   of   the  fact   that   the  traditional   rulers were   given   the  staff   of office  from  the   Executive   arm  of  government   which   also   pays   them   salary   and   several   other    executive   largesse  including   making   them   the   heads   of   the   illegal   Community  Government  Council(CGC),perhaps,  common     courtesy   demands   that  the  EZES   would   have   made  concerted   efforts   to   resolve   this   issue  with  him  instead   of   being   too  assertive.  There are   times   when   one   can     forego   one’s   legal   rights   in  order to sustain   a climate   of   peace   and tranquility, after all, true friendship   counts  no error. I am not   unmindful   of   the   fact   that   there   comes   a time   when forbearance   ceases   to   be   virtue. In this State of Imo, Governor  Okorocha   and   the   Ezes   have   done   a   lot   of   things   together  including   the   good,  the   bad   and   the   ugly. So, both   parties   would   have   exercised   restraint   in   handling   this   matter rather   than   allowing   it   to   snowball   into   the   public arena. The problem   with our   politicians   is that   they   do  not   have   effective   technocrats   in   the   area  of  reputation   management. A governor   that  has a   good  complement  of   effective   image   or   public  relations technocrats  who   know   the  distinction  between  “crises   management”  and   “  management   of  crises”  would   not   have   found   himself   in  this   mess. It is   unfortunate   that  most  of   those who   are   supposed   to  manage   the   image   of our politicians   in  Imo  State   are   even   more   combative     and  swashbuckling   than   their  principals. This   is   why   this  storm  in  a  tea  cup   has  become  a   HURRICANE  DOUGLAS  HOUSE . N/B: Douglas House is the   seat   of power   in Owerri, Imo State. I hope   to   elaborate   on this   issue elsewhere. All in  all,  it  is   my  opinion   that   what   the   EZES  did   is   not   illegal,  albeit   it   could   be   said   to  be  morally  or  ethically  wrong. It is a family affair which should   not   be allowed   to   fester. If  not  nipped  in  the   bud,  both  groups   will  dance  naked   in  the   market  square. If  that  happens, that   will  be  a  classic  case   of  adult  delinquency  bordering  on  gubernatorial   rascality. Enough is enough. Both parties   need each other  now  or….

It  is  pertinent  to   state   that   out   of  the   36  states   and  Abuja  Federal  Capital  Territory, it  is  only in Imo  State  that   traditional   rulers   are   being suspended,  harassed   and  put  to  trial   on  the  grounds   that   they   honoured the   visiting    immediate  past President  and  Commander-in-Chief  of  the  Armed  Forces   of  Nigeria, DR.Goodluck  Ebere  Jonathan. This  is  in  spite  of  the  fact  that   in  2011,Owelle  Okorocha   ran  his  electioneering  by  juxtaposing  himself   on  the   same   flex  banner(the  so-called mix-kogbuo) with  President  Goodluck  Jonathan  who  he  described  as   the  Messiah Nigeria  wanted. He  won  the election   on  the   crest   of  “vote  for  Jonathan  in  PDP; vote   for   me   as  governor  in  APGA.”Today, he is  the   only  Governor   in  the  South East   that opposed   a   second   tenure   for   the   South-South zone  where   DR. Goodluck Ebele  Azikiwe hails  from. Yet, Governor  Okorocha   is  desperate  to   occupy   the  same   office   in  2019.There is GODooo!!!

Finally,  there  is  a  need   to   amplify  the   fact  that    although   the  governor   may   lose,  should traditional  rulers   drag  him  to  court,  there  is  a  need   for   the   EZEs  to   know   that   he  could  resort   to  option B  in  order   to   save   face  and   retaliate. I  may   not   delve   into  the   option  B  now  because   I  hope  that   this   matter   will   be  settled amicably   in  the   IMEOBI by   both   parties. If  however,  the   matter   eventually   goes   to   court   ,there   may   be   a  need  to discuss   the implications  and   ramifications   for   both  parties. Governor Okorocha   should   know   that   the   highest form   of heroism   is   the   ability   to   conquer self. It is in his   long term interest to shorn   hubris,pride and witch hunt   and   pull  out   of   this   tempest. A  good war  General   is  the   one   who  knows   when   to   deliberately   lose  a   battle   in  order   to   win   the  war.

At  the   time of  publishing  this  report,  there  was   unconfirmed   report  that   the  Ndi Eze  Imo   have   filed   suit in  court  against  Governor  Okorocha   and  the   Chairman  of   the  Council  of  Ndi Eze, HRM Eze  Samuel  Ohiri, Efforts   to   confirm  this  report   proved   futile. In  a  chat  with MR.Gift  Nwokoro ,the  Chief  Press  Secretary  to  the  Chairman  of  the  Imo Council  of  Ndi Eze,  he  said:”I  am  not  aware   of   any  court   suit on   the   Council  of  Ndi Eze. Since you   know the    EZES you may   ask   them for details. I have   no   information on that.” One   of   the   traditional   rulers  who  spoke   on  the   condition   of  anonymity  blurted  out:”Yes,  we   are   trying  to   file   our  papers   in  court. If the   governor does   not   apologize to us   on this   humiliation, we’ll   pursue the   matter   to   its   logical   conclusion.”  This opinion was   supported   by   three other EZES who   also   pleaded   that   their   identities   should   be   kept secret.

John Mgbe

[email protected]

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