Imo on Lock Down for Owelle Anayo by Tony Ademiluyi
Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha is no stranger to electoral controversies. In 1999 when the nation returned to democracy, he contested for and won the gubernatorial primaries of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Imo State. The godfathers decided that the wealthy businessman then based in Jos would be too difficult to tame and hence settled for the former civil servant turned politician, Chief Achike Udenwa who just took an early retirement from the Imo state civil service to join the murky waters of Nigerian politics. In compensation, he was made the Chairman of the National Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) for three months before he fell out with the then Aviation Minister, Dr (Mrs) Kema Chikwe over allegations of financial misappropriation.
In 2011, he pitched his tent with the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and narrowly defeated the incumbent, Chief Ikedi Ohakim. He was bent on pioneering a dynasty and unsuccessfully sought to install his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu who was also his Chief of Staff and former lands commissioner as his successor who subsequently defected to another party. Owelle Anayo as Rochas is fondly called took the defeat in good faith and sought to go to the Senate which is the referred to as the retirement home for erstwhile governors. He clearly won the election but the returning officer, a Professor at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) said he announced the Owelle as the winner under duress. He later recanted but the ‘damage’ had been done. Okorocha is the only ‘winner’ of the senatorial elections who is yet to receive his certificate of return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He has complained to the High Heavens to anyone who cares to listen of the brazen injustice being done to him. He wants the court of public opinion to compel INEC to release his certificate to him.
Today, hundreds of Igbo youths protested in Abuja and threatened to picket INEC offices nationwide if his certificate wasn’t released by INEC.
Owelle Anayo may not have been the best governor among his peers or in the history of Nigeria. Imolites will never forget the plethora of statues he unnecessarily built with scarce public funds. He owed the state civil servants and pensioners and wanted the civil servants to work part time so as to have time to attend to their farms as he couldn’t guarantee the payment of full salaries. Whatever shortcomings he may have had as governor is inconsequential in the refusal of INEC to release his certificate of return to him. This is clearly a breach of the 1999 constitution and an affront on his human rights as he was declared the winner of the elections. It is unjust for INEC to continue to hold on to his certificate for reasons I term mere political. The Owelle is clearly a victim of witch hunting by some powerful political interests who will stop at nothing to ensure he is totally annihilated not only in Imo but in the whole federation. Some of his political allies contend that his interest in the 2023 presidential elections is the reason for his current needless persecution. They argue that the power shift which has been the clamour by the south-east best favours them and that 2023 is the best time to strike as the iron will be hottest then. The Owelle is being secretly envied and it is best to clip his wings before he becomes uncontrollable in barely four years time. The Philanthropist cum politician won’t be easily controllable by the cabal so it won’t be in their best interest to have him in Aso rock. Even though his adversaries opine that there is no way in hell that he can win or even his tribe can emerge successful, in politics, it is folly to take unnecessary chances hence the need to cut him down to size before it is too late.
The erstwhile national organizing secretary of the APC, Senator Osita Izunaso is in court trying to unseat Okorocha as the rightful winner of the party’s primaries. While the case is going on, Owelle Anayo deserves to be the possessor of the ticket until the court says otherwise.
It is tragic that he is the only winner in the 2019 elections who is yet to receive his certificate of return. This is setting a bad precedent for subsequent electoral victory holders who may have clashes with the powers that be. The face of justice is that of a blind woman holding a sword which she swings with reckless abandon without caring whose ox is gored. That is how INEC is supposed to act — not allowing sentiments becloud their sense of reasoning or judgement.
As the slogan of this administration is the next level, it should extend to this current case of the unfair withholding of Okorocha’s certificate of return. It should be returned forthwith with an unreserved apology for all the inconveniences caused. Justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.
Okorocha must be sworn in as a Senator next month — anything short of this is a monumental injustice which mustn’t be allowed to have a foothold in the supposed ‘Giant of Africa.’
Ademiluyi writes from Lagos.