Eugene Dibiagwu’s swearing-in: Matters arising….

By now, one had expected that the Imo State government under the leadership of Owelle Rochas Okorocha would have become battle-weary. But that has not been the situation. The regime at Douglas House in Owerri seems to court political wars many of which are unnecessary.

 

Its penchant for political wars has paralysed the state. The state is currently in motion without making any headway. The worst-hit are the state’s 27 local government areas. Yes, the democratically-elected administrators have returned to their offices as ordered by the Appeal Court on July 5, but Owerri has ensured that they remain mere figure-heads.

The first thing government did was to order the lower cadre of council workers to proceed on an endless vacation. The top functionaries were also sent on seminar. Think of a governor who could not send his appointees on retreat till a bank came to his rescue sending council workers on accumulated seminar! All were geared towards rendering the returnee council administrators redundant till August 8, the assumed terminal date of their tenure.

But the smart local government chairmen and councillors promptly got a High Court in Owerri to stop their second sack on August 8. The court presided by Justice Ngozi Opara gave an injunction stopping the governor from dissolving the councils on August 8 or thereafter. A day later however, the court vacated its order thereby giving the governor (so he thinks) a leeway to dissolve the councils for the second time. Remember, he had dissolved the councils in mid-2011, nine days after his inauguration.

Buoyed by the court’s vacation of its order, the governor immediately directed the DAGS (Directors of Administration and General Services) in a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Gozie Anthony Anwuka to take over the councils. This was without waiting for the determination of the substantive suit.

If the chairmen were naive in vacating their offices after their first dissolution, they have now become wiser. They have refused to vacate office. They have remained glued to their seats but they have had no access to any council funds. Nothing is virtually happening in Imo’s councils at the moment. It is a ding-dung affair. There is motion but there is no movement at the grassroots. Even at the state level, there is not much happening.

To-date, Okorocha has two major judgements against him. The first was the State Judicial Service Commission which obtained a judgement declaring the governor’s dissolution of its board illegal. The second was that of Appeal Court voiding his dissolution of democratically-elected council bosses. For a man who told bewildered Imo people that he was descending to rule them, (meaning his rightful position is the presidency), does he not think that these verdicts would count against him by the time he kicks-off his presidential campaign? Or has he jettisoned his presidential ambition?

Some commentators have argued that Okorocha was right in dissolving the council administrators. In their judgement, the election that brought the administrators into office was flawed. There was also a court order which stopped the PDP (People’s Democratic Party) from conducting its primary poll that threw up its candidates, which they said was overlooked by Chief Ikedi Ohakim. Should these not have been subjects of litigation? Is it not wrong for the governor to rely on this hearsay to engage in an illegality? Why didn’t anybody challenge the flawed election in an election petition tribunal?

Again, since the governor has come to right the wrongs of the past, since he has come to clean up the Augean stable, shouldn’t he have corrected the mistakes without inflicting pains on the people? Why didn’t he allow the council bosses to have uninterrupted tenure irrespective of how they came into office? If he believes in Jesus and Jesus is his master, couldn’t he have looked at the sinful council administrators and declared them not guilty as Jesus did to sinful man? What is the difference between him and his predecessor if he engages in same misdeeds, if he returns evil for evil?

Last weekend, news has it that he had approved the salaries of the council administrators from May 2011 to July 2012. A statement signed by state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chinedu Offor directed the council administrators to contact the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs for payment. To some observers, the council administrators should accept their salaries and go home quietly to rest.

But are these struggles merely for salaries? Think of President Goodluck Jonathan sacking Okorocha, keeping him in cold for the rest of his tenure and asking him to come forward for his salaries at the end of his tenure? Will the governor gladly come forward for his salaries? If he is on the job for the glory of it and not for the profit, does he not suppose that others may also be on the job for same purpose?

Of all the altercations in the state, the postponement last week of the swearing-in ceremony of Chief Eugene Dibiagwu, member-elect for Oguta Constituency was unnecessary. Dibiagwu was elected on the platform of the PDP in the August 11 State House of Assembly re-run poll. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared the April 26, 2011 State House of Assembly poll in Oguta Constituency inconclusive after declaring results of seven of the 11 wards in the area. Incidentally, Dibiagwu had won in the seven wards. Pundits said even if he had lost in the four wards, he would still have won. Fortunately, he polled the highest number of votes cast in the four wards in the re-run to emerge the clear and undisputed winner.

The INEC declared him winner and had issued him with a certificate of return. Dibiagwu approached the House to be sworn-in on August 14. Instead of swearing him in, he was rather advised by the House to perfect his documents (whatever that meant) and come forward on August 22. But the swearing-in was not to be. In the morning of the event, the House via a statement signed by Chief Acho Ihim, chairman, House Committee on Information postponed the swearing-in. According to him, the House was also not going to sit till August 29.

In a statement signed by the speaker’s media aide, Samuelson Iwuoha, the House said it postponed the swearing-in following security report which suggested that there would be breakdown of law and order if the ceremony held or failed to hold. Reports later said that mayhem was still recorded at the precincts of the House on August 22.

Those said to be supporters of Dibiagwu allegedly massed at the Assembly complex only to find its gates under lock and key. Obviously frustrated by the development, they were said to have molested passers-by and motorists including raining abuses on the governor over the botched swearing-in.

Oguta people have every reason to be angry against the state. They have been without a representative, a voice in the house in the last 14 months. On April 26 last year, they trooped out to the poll like other Imo people. INEC said that election was inconclusive. On May 6, last year too during the controversial supplementary poll, INEC could not conduct any poll there. The people endured.

But they knew who they want to represent them. Dibiagwu is their choice. They voted for him on April 26. However, some people think going by their position in the government of the day, they would determine who represents the constituency. The APGA (All Progressives Grand Alliance) which to me is still alive because of holding the governorship position does not want any other party producing the occupant of the seat. But the snag is that its candidate is no match to Dibiagwu. I have it on good authority that APGA wanted to change its candidate but could not because the rule does not allow it to.

The house is also not comfortable with the coming of Dibiagwu as his coming will help give the PDP a majority more so when there are plans by defectors like Chief Benjamin Uwajumogu, Chief Acho Ihim, Mrs Adaku Ihuoma and Hon.Ugonna Ozuruigbo to return to the PDP. In fact, as this piece was in the works, news filtered in that Hon. Ozuruigbo had secretly gone back to the PDP. Truly, the governor and his party are afraid that they would be faced with the unsavoury reality of having a minority in the house. They should dash to Anambra State and ask Gov. Peter Obi how he was able to confront the challenge.

It is this fear rather than any security breach that made the house to postpone Dibiagwu’s swearing-in. But how long could the house postpone his swearing-in? As at now there is no court injunction stopping his swearing-in. Any aggrieved candidate or party is advised to approach the tribunal. Let us stop this unnecessary politicking that retards the progress of the state. The APGA is also called upon to stopping crying wolf where there is none. It should stop raising unfounded alarm.

Imo State belongs to all Imolite including those holding positions at Abuja. Politicians including the governor who are plying their trade at home should interface with those in Abuja for the good of the state. These political wars have to stop if Imo must make progress.

Gele Agbai 

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