HRH Dr.Cletus I. Ilomuanya is the Chairman of the South East Council of Traditional rulers. In this exclusive interview with Joi John, the Obi of Obinugwu speaks on his legal battle with the Imo State Government and the recent withdrawal of his Certificate of recognition.
It’s been 3 years of a long drawn legal battle with the Imo state Governor,Owelle Rochas Okorocha. What is the bone of contention between both parties?
ILOMUANYA: I find it difficult to say what the bone of contention is, Joi. I wish you could find out what the bone of contention is for me. I remember when he wrote to me asking me to accept an appointment as a Director in his Foundation. As I sit with you here, I am a Director in Rochas foundation so how the matter degenerated to this issue is what I can’t explain.
Let’s go back to the 2011 gubernatorial elections in Imo state. It is alleged that you used your office as the Chairman of the South East Council of Traditional rulers to dissuade traditional rulers in the state from receiving and identifying with the with Governor Okorocha’s candidacy at the time. Do you think the present situation has anything to do with the part you may have played during the campaign?
ILOMUANYA: First of all, I never did that. As you are aware, Rochas and I are both from Orlu zone. When Rochas was campaigning, he did not have my support because it was not our turn. Everyone knew that it was the turn of the Okigwe man so when he (Okorocha) came out to contest, we refused to support his candidacy because it was the turn of an Okigwe man. That was my offence and I have no regrets.
Moreover he never came to me. Rochas never informed me that he was running for Governor. Going by the established protocol, he should have written to me to request audience for a courtesy call visit but he did not. When Buhari came to campaign in 2011, he wrote me and I received him. Rochas did not so, I don’t see why he should say I used my position to frustrate him. Am I a politician?
Would you have been able to work with the present state government effectively?
ILOMUANYA: As traditional rulers, we are bound to support any government in power. What I would have done was to resign midway into my tenure if the Governor had properly informed me that he could not work with me.
On June 6th, a statement signed by the Secretary to the State government announced the withdrawal of your certificate of recognition. How do you react to that?
ILOMUANYA: There is no cause for alarm; I am still on the throne. Since Rochas (Okorocha) became a Governor he has been fighting me but I boldly say that Rochas in one thousand places cannot defeat me. I have won Rochas and Ohiri (Eze Samuel Ohiri) every step of the way in court but they have refused to comply. In one of the cases, I was awarded N1om million naira which he has not paid as I speak to you. Yet, he forgets that he is a product of law and it is that law that makes us to respect him as Governor. There is no point chanting “rule of law” in the Imo Anthem when you cannot obey the law.
It appears that this is clearly an issue between Your Majesty and the Imo state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha; where does HRH Eze Samuel Ohiri fit into all of this?
ILOMUANYA: Ohiri should have been able to advice the Governor. He should have been able to tell the Governor where he erred. As it is, many people are already questioning if Rochas is truly an Igbo man. It’s unfortunate. Everybody knows that a full-blooded Igbo man will protect our traditional institution and not to destroy it. Ohiri is not a Commissioner or P.A to the Governor. You don’t need to be used as a house-boy. He is a Royal father so he should be able to stand firm and call the Governor to order.
Aside from all that has transpired, how will you assess the performance of the Okorocha administration over the last three years ?
ILOMUANYA: Joi, how can you ask me to assess such an administration? (Pause) This is an administration of terror. There are so many issues wrong with this administration. Erecting building structures is not development. Allow private investors to come in and invest. Build industries that will create jobs. Not halls or squares all over the place. What are we doing with all the halls?
Look at Imo Concorde hotel; he announced to the whole world that Imo Concorde hotel was now a 7 -star hotel yet the same 7 – star hotel has no lift working. Few days ago, I was made to understand he has closed down the hotel. No due process. The workers were just asked to go. You can see that this is an administration of terror. Rochas has caused so much damage to the people of Imo state.
What final word do you have for your supporters?
ILOMUANYA: Like I said, there is no cause for alarm and I have made some press releases to that effect. The most important thing is that my community is standing firmly behind me. They are with me one hundred percent. The governor himself knows that he has no power to dethrone me. If it weren’t for immunity clause, he would have been sent to jail for contempt of court.
The law that established Imo Council of Traditional Rulers is very clear, as the only way that the chairman of the council could be replaced before his tenure of office lapses is either by death or voluntary resignation, or if he is indicted for any criminal activity. But I was never indicted for any offence and I was elected for a tenure of five years. I will keep fighting to protect the integrity of the institution to avoid this happening again in the future.