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.