by Cyril Aririguzo, KSM
The 11th of March 2018 will make it exactly three years when the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri organized the botched debate for the nine governorship candidates of the participating political parties in Imo State. In the melodrama that ensured before the physical discretion of the Altar and disruption of the debate by suspected thugs of the All Progressive Congress (APC), little did we know that the use of referee’s “Red Card” invented by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could be a very useful tool in a political contest like ours as a society. Like in a real football match where “Red Card” can only be given to a player for committing serious foul play and the referee blows the whistle and uses “Red Card” to send the player out of the pitch as punishment for the offence and such a player is never replaced till the end of the match.
When we recalled what actually happened that faithful day, the brandishing of the PDP’s “Red Card” as well as the blowing of whistle by virtually party supporters of PDP who were joined by other parties like UPP, APGA, Accord Party and the host of others against the incumbent Governor Okorocha, the candidate of the APC, at the venue of the debate reflected another dimension of political intimidation which the APC were unable to withstand as an organized political party in a nascent democracy. Resorting to the use of state power to attack and assault political opponents, priests and desecrating the Altar of God was an issue taken too far and unreasonable. We may recall, in 2011 the same political debate was instrumental to the emergence and acceptance of Okorocha as governor of Imo State. It was at the same venue that Okorocha supporters in APGA then used the debate ground to garner support and launder the unknown image of Okorocha to Imo electorates as the alternative then, when it was obvious that Governor Ikedi Ohakim has fallen out of favour with the entire Imo people for allegedly assaulting a Catholic priest. He, Governor Ohakim not minding the level of attack and being in such limbo humbled himself to the debate and never used state power to muzzle anybody or encourage his supporters to go haywire and attack all the opposition, even when Okorocha’s APGA supporters were mobilized to physically stage manage to boo and intimidate Governor Ohakim at the venue.
When it was the turn of Governor Okorocha to test real opposition through the debate he chickened out in fear and resorted to open fighting and discretion of the Altar of God at Assumpta Cathedral causing confusion and embarrassing all those that came for the debate. Hon Uche Nwosu, the governor’s son in-law and anointed governorship aspirant of the APC for 2019, Prof Anwuka the Minister of State for Education another in-law to the governor in the company of Sir Jude Ejiogu, the former Secretary to State Government, SSG were allegedly said to have been present when the thugs moved to destroy the Altar of God, assault priests and fight the opposition with dangerous weapons when they perceived they were not prepared with anything to defend themselves other than the Red Card and Whistles which they were using to intimidate Governor Okorocha into bungling at the debate.
The action of the trio for Governor Okorocha by disrupting the governorship debate was a deliberate ploy for Governor Okorocha to be absent and avoid direct debate on barrage of accusations bothering on financial impropriety and looting of Imo treasury. Okorocha’s government has come under heavy criticism for the critical condition of the state economy going by the alleged staggering debt profile of N93,267,764,679 and $61 Million which seem to cripple the socio-economic nerves of Imo state. The state has allegedly accumulated so much debt that it can hardly sustain the management of its debt, resulting in severe distortion and contradictions in Imo domestic economy. The state Governor is yet to address Imolites on the application for the 1st and 2nd trenches of Bailout Fund from the federal government, 1st, 2nd and 3rd trenches of Paris Club Refund, 35% Derivation Fund, Ecological fund, Local Government allocation for the past 7 years, SUBEB, NEPAD, UNDP and about N30 Billion left behind by Ex-Governor Ohakim before the handover in 2011.
Since Governor Okorocha having fallen out of favour with the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, may have decided to use the opportunity to vent his anger and rubbish the Church with the view to humble them to supporting him against the general perception of his dwindling political career which in no small measure has been criticized for alleged misgovernance and, unconventional style of not doing what he preaches. The referee’s “Red Card” as issued by Imo people in unison at the botched governorship debate is a clear indication that the PDP which spearheaded the Red Card and Whistle weapon was more on the ground, more prepared politically to honour the Archdiocese and present to the people their packages for salvaging Imo economy.
The Red card and whistle as a virile political weapon of sort has been adjudged by many in Imo State as a credible innovation, invented to send warning signal to the inept leader of APC Governor Okorocha and his family and in-laws that they are no more needed in Douglas House then. This is because the imposing image of supporters which was captured in the cameras with “Red Card” and whistles made very wonderful pictorial statement. The PDP which initiated the card and whistle after a renowned Comedian, Uche Ogbuagu released his “ka Opuo” album, perhaps in their wildest imagination did not envisage the dimension the raising of card by party supporter could make a beautiful and award winning artwork, occasioned by its intimidating power of sort to the APC government whose stock and trade seem to leverage on deceit, undemocratic practice and the use of crude unconventional methods to usurp power even when majority of the people are fed up with them.
With what happened recently at St Michaels Catholic Church Ngwoma Owerri North LGA during the burial Mass of late Mrs Mbata, the mother of the Pro-Chancellor of Imo state university Owerri, Chief Alex Mbata is an eye opener, where the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Dr. AJV Obinna was openly insulted and embarrassed by hired thugs in the presence of the Wife of the Governor, Nkechi Okorocha and his son in-law, Hon Uche Nwosu, the APC governorship aspirant for speaking against bad governance shows that the madness with the APC is still prevalent. The alleged assault on the archbishop is an insult to many to bear. Come to think of it, how would the duo not call to order those thugs even to the point the Chairman of Imo State ENTRACO Mr. Jeff Nwaoha allegedly disrupting even with their security attaches watching the molesting of the Archbishop. This act of recklessness is unacceptable and I know many have condemned it. Time of reckoning is fast approaching and APC should watch the body language of Imolites of today and ask some critical questions. People are fed up and angry and if APC should continue in this direction the outcome may not be difficult to imagine. No one group has monopoly of violence, I expect APC to show and exhibit political maturity. Imo people of today are already regretting their not supporting PDP who had a more prepared and humble servant of God like Rt. Hon Ihedioha. Hon Ihedioha like we all know cannot be mean and do what Governor Okorocha is doing to Imolites. Imo People shine your eyes in 2019.