AS the discussion on how to deepen the integrity of the Nigerian electoral process continues to attract attention, the son of the late traditional ruler of Isiekenesi and old Ideato Local Government Area, Eze Cyril Okwarauba, where the Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, hails from, Prince Nixon Okwara, has commenced the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) for withholding the certificate of return of Okorocha as the Senator-elect for Orlu Senatorial District.
Okpara surged that issuing the governor the certificate of return in the election which the returning officer publicly claimed that he was forced to declare the result under duress would give some people the impression that might is right.
He said that Okorocha should be used as a scape goat for those who always think that they could get electoral result by hook or crook or visiting mayhem on innocent citizens and INEC staff. In this interview,he also spoke on other issues.
Governor Okorocha is your kinsman, what is your view on INEC`s withholding of his certificate of return as senator-elect?
Yes, Owelle Rochas Okorocha is my kinsman. In fact, when he was going into politics, he was a frequent visitor to our palace. Then he was saying that he was coming so that my father would teach him politics. But unfortunately, the type of politics that he turned out to be playing is not what my father taught him. My father was a man of peace. He believed that whatever concerned him and his immediate family should come last. For instance, during the electrification project of Isiekenesi under the late Sam Mbakwe as governor of Imo State, my father as the traditional ruler of Isiekenesi and the whole old Ideato local government area went for the transformer and the other equipment that were needed for the project. He hired the trucks that brought them from Owerri to our community with his personal money. But our house was the last to have electricity. Go and verify this. But Okorocha type of politics is familiocracy, that is government of the family, by the family and for the family.That is why I said that the type of politics he is playing now, he did not learn it from my father. Then coming to the issue of certificate of return, I want to say that INEC would be setting a very bad precedence if it gives Okorocha the certificate. If INEC does that, it means that wooing voters for election is no longer necessary. It simply means any political office that you want to occupy, all you need is to hijack the returning officer, put a gun on his head or scare the hell out of him and he or she would declare you the winner of the office and INEC would issue you certificate of return. This would mark the death of our democracy because there cannot be democracy if there is no integrity and credibility in the manner that candidates emerge.This style would also put the life of the INEC staff in danger because they would become nothing, but pawns in the hands of desperate politicians.
From your point of view, do you think that he won the election in the first place?
Win which election? I was there in the village on the election day. He lost in Ogboko that is his own ward. So, where did he get the votes from? Is it from Ideato South or North, the people that he kept in darkness for eight years. As I am talking to you now, there is no water, no health centre, no motorable road, no good school in our local government area. Who would he claim voted for him even in Ogboko? Is it the people that he forcefully took their lands in the name of state acquisition which later turned out to be private investment? Or it is the people of Obioha, Umumaseaka, Ntuke Umuchima and Umueshe that have been almost submerged by erosion? The truth of the matter is that Senator Osita Izunaso of the All Progressives Grand Alliance won the election free and square, but Okorocha used thugs from Ohaji Egbema to wreak havoc on the people and upturned the result.
But he has gone to court to challenge INEC on the certificate of return issue?
This shows you the type of character that we are dealing with .This is a man who has not obeyed any court order since he came into office in 2011. If somebody had told me one month ago that Okorocha would go to court to seek for justice, I would not have believed it. This is a man who destroyed the justice system in Imo State. He has never for one day obeyed court order. Instances include the judgement against him by local government chairmen in Imo State in 2011, the numerous judgements that Eze Ilomuanya has won against him, the case with his two deputy governors, the case with contractors. So, I wonder how he would feel standing before the justice administration that he has shown nothing, but disdain to seek for justice.
What advice do you have for the governor-elect, Hon Emeka Ihedioha?
In fact, we cannot wait to see the end of Okorocha’s regime so that Emeka Ihedioha would get to work .There are a lot of things that Imo State indigenes are dying to know about. That is why we feel that probe is absolutely necessary. Some of them are, how Eastern Palm university became a private university. The owners of the land where the university is situated would want to know how official acquisition of their land has become private purchase because they did not sell land to any individual. Imo State indigenes would want to know what happened to the Imo Transport Company parks and lands. Imo State indigenes would also want to know what has been happening to their local government allocations since 2011 because for more than seven years, Okorocha did not conduct local government election. He just appointed his cronies as caretaker committee chairmen. Imo State indigenes would also want to know what happened to the money that was earmarked for rural electrification because nothing much was done in that regard. Like I told you earlier, in Isiekenesi, the transformer that is there now was installed under the government of Sam Mbakwe and it warn out. That is why we are in darkness. In short, the last electrification project was over 30 years ago.
What agenda do you want to set for the governor-elect?
To be honest, I don’t envy the governor-elect because the outgoing governor has vandalized the state. What is left of Imo State now is just carcass. So, the governor-elect should start by building hope and trust on the people. He should also try to resuscitate the institutions like the civil service and judiciary to mention just a few that the outgoing governor has destroyed. Most importantly, he should sack the so-called local government chairmen which the outgoing governor hoisted on the people and conduct a fresh local government election as he promised during his campaign. On road, he should look at the road networks in Okigwe and Orlu which are in very deplorable conditions as well as the electricity challenges of Ideato federal constituency. Salary of workers and pensions for pensioners should also be paid as and when due. If he can do all that he would have succeeded in his first term.