At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, there are currently over two hundred hotels under construction in Owerri, the Imo State capital. When completed, these will add to the existing over two thousand hotels in the city. This development, more than anything else, serves as a pointer to the tourist status that your state has attained in the South-East region over the past couple of years.
These hotels are being built because the clientele exists. Owerri has become the go-to city for fun lovers drawn from various neighbouring states, especially on weekends. These people throng to the city not just because of the availability of hotels and other fun spots, but also because the city has been peaceful. Unfortunately, this peace has come under threat in recent times; primarily due to your actions and inactions.
Last week, what would have served as a debate among all governorship aspirants in the state, of which you are one of them, and organized by the Cathedral Archdiocese of Owerri, ended in violence. Supporters of various political parties engaged in a free-for-all that resulted in the cancellation of the debate. Witness accounts state that your supporters responded to catcalls with fists. A member of your cabinet was alleged to have physically assaulted a priest.
Last month, protesting widows were attacked in front of the state’s government house by persons alleged to be your aides. The widows had held up traffic as they marched, bearing placards, towards the government house. I was stuck in that traffic, and watched as your convoy had to drive through the wrong side of the Wetheral Road to approach the government house. Unfortunately, I remained stuck in traffic and so could not see your reaction to the assault on those women.
In September, a former House of Assembly member in the state and House of Representatives aspirant, Kingsley Nkemka, was murdered while he campaigned. Several other political actors in the state have either been kidnapped and freed or physically assaulted.
Your Excellency, I reiterate these examples of the growing violence in Imo State because the general public may not be aware of them. You, of course, as the Chief Security Officer of the state, are aware of all these and more. And I am sure you would be worried, as I am, at the growing possibility of violence-wracked elections in the state on April 11.
Or are you really worried? Various media and citizen reports allege that you and your party – the All Progressives Congress (APC) – have encouraged the violence; and in some cases instigated it. Your frequent altercations with a serving female senator from the state are public record; so are your various inciting and vitriolic statements made against political opponents. I would therefore not need to rehash them here.
What I am doing here is to plead that you tone down the heat and get a better grip on your supporters and aides. You were voted into power, defeating an incumbent, because of the immense public goodwill you enjoyed in 2011, and have continued to enjoy. The fact that you have lost some of this goodwill should not translate to a desire to secure a second term at all costs.
Imo residents are peace loving people and can be ferocious with anyone and anything that threatens the peace. One of the many reasons why you defeated the incumbent Governor Ikedi Ohakim four years ago was because he was alleged to have physically assaulted a priest; among other numerous violent misconduct. Do you really want to go down this same route?
Despite the various recent protests by sections of the public, from owed teachers to aggrieved widows, you still enjoy a remarkable level of popularity that may just enable you clinch a second term. This therefore makes it very perplexing that your aides and party members would be promoting violence. It is in your own interest, as the state’s Chief Security Officer and leading governorship aspirant, to ensure that the elections are violence free.
The alternative is not something you, or any right thinking person, would want. This is hoping that you would therefore do the needful and reign in your hot-headed aides and party members; as well as put in place all necessary measures to ensure that residents of (and visitors to) the state can continue to enjoy the tranquility that Owerri has come to be known for.
Thank you and God bless Imo State.
A concerned citizen, Chidi Okoye