Democracy does not start and end with electoral declaration or electoral victory. Democracy cannot be limited only to majoritarian rule. The essence of democracy is really the conferment of inalienable rights by law to the governed.
A Law could be legitimate or illegitimate. A Law is illegitimate when its passage offends the generally accepted norms, or when the Law in question, does not have majoritarian support. But a Law that has the necessary majoritarian support enjoys legitimacy and must not only be obeyed but vigorously executed and implemented.
Governance through terror, brutality, intimidation and/or brigandage lacks the necessary legitimacy of a democratic government. This is a lesson yet to be understood by the Okorocha’s Imo government.
Today, Okorocha’s government of Imo State has lost every speck of theGoodwill of Imo people simply because of its use of intimidation, brutality, terror and brigandage in governance.
Okorocha’s government of Imo State while still retaining its legality, and constitutionality as the official government of the state, has lost its legitimacy to govern. The people of Imo State now support and obey this government out of fear than loyalty. The necessary voluntary citizen attitude towards government policies and directives are at all time low.
This citizen attitude started from the inception of Okorocha’s administration. The constitution of an Asset Recovery Committee at the inception of the so called Rescue Mission administration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, coupled with the brief and conduct of that committee started the government on a downward spiral towards illegitimacy in the annals of Imo public opinion.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with any government establishing a committee to ensure that government Assets is returned. But the operational method of the recovery of the Assets may leave a taste of illegitimacy in the mouths of the governed. And that was the case of the Asset Recovery Committee of Okorocha’s Administration.
This committee, in going about its official business, discarded all norms of civilized society. They invaded homes of friends of the previous administration of the state at ungodly hours and broke into their compounds without warrants, to cart away vehicles, and generators. Even elder statesmen of Imo State were not speared.
The story of their escapade at the home of Chief John Enyogasi, a premier Imo elder statesman from Onuimo, credited with pioneering the creation of Onuimo L.G.A. brought tears to my eyes; may be because he is my fourth cousin or simply because I took it as an affront, but it surely did bring tears to my eyes. To compound the insult, Chief John Enyogasi was not a government functionary during the Ohakim’s administration nor has he held any government office in his life. He was just an elderly Imo state business man and government contractor. My personal conclusion was that Chief John Enyogasi was subjected to the inhuman treatment by Okorocha’s administration simply because he was an Okigwe Zone indigene. I made this conclusion on the grounds that no other business man from the other zones without direct ties to the Ohakim’s government were subjected to the same treatment by this committee.
A personal gift of car from Ikedi Ohakim to Chief John Enyogasi was forcefully taken and today a member of Okorocha’s government is driving the car around town, adding to the humiliation endured by O.K 2000 at the invasion of his home and disturbing the quiet enjoyment of his residential property.
True to his peaceful nature, Chief John Enyogasi (O.K. 2000) swallowed his pride and did not even challenge his humiliation in the courts.
Chief John Enyogasi, a leader of Onuimo and Imo State in general is one of those elder statesmen expected to support the administration and drive home the policies of the administration to his people in Onuimo. How can a man of his caliber are expected to do that after the humiliation he suffered in the hands of the Okorocha’s Government Asset Recovery Committee.
Not only was an elder statesman like Chief John Enyogasi humiliated by this government Committee, but the seating chairman of South East Council of Royal and Traditional Fathers was not speared.
From the accounts of some of the participants in the face-off at the residence of His Royal Majesty, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, the face-off could have led to serious loss of lives. Just recently, the court ruled against Okorocha’s government and fined the Imo State government Ten Million Naira (N10m) for the illegal invasion of the home of Eze Ilomuanya. But the official response to the judgment by the Honourable Attorney General was that Imo State government did not know the individuals responsible for the invasion of Ilomuanya’s residence.
One should expect that a government that sees terror and intimidation as a tool of governance should at least stand up and defend its modus operandi to test its legality and legitimacy, instead of denying it and hiding its head in the sand like an ostrich.
Okorocha’s administration Asset Recovery Committee has since disappeared from the landscape of Imo administration, but terror, intimidation, brutality and/or brigandage has remained tools of governance under the administration. This goes to proof that the actions and conduct of the Asset Recovery Committee in executing its official duties and functions is purely the product of its official brief.
Every administration is different because of the difference in personalities. But the yardstick of measuring any administration in a democratic government remains its respect for the rule of law and civilized norms of governance. It is therefore safe to say that the style of government upon which Okorocha’s administration of Imo State is comfortable with is the use of terror, intimidation, and brutality as a tool of governance.
This is the only way to explain several unfortunate incidents around the Imo administration in the past three months. In early October, Imolites woke up one Sunday morning with news report in a Punch newspaper that their Governor, His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha slapped or punched an aide of a fellow South East Governor, Governor Obi over a struggle for a seat at an official function marking the 80th birthday celebration of Dr. Alex Ekwueme. It is believed that the alleged fisticuffs could have been avoided but for the failure of Imo Rescue administration’s in paying her prorate share of the agreed sum for the event. In essence, the event planners did not make any sitting arrangement available to the Imo Governor because of the belief that the Imo Governor was unlikely to honour them with his presence since he failed to make the necessary financial contribution for the function.
Failure to pay an agreed sum is arguably a deliberate act by the Imo administration. It can therefore be argued that the Imo government deliberately created the enabling ground for what later transpired. The attempt by the Imo Governor to forcefully take over the seat reserved for the governor of Anambra State can only be likened to taking matters into his hands and bulldozing his way through.
The news of the above incident was still percolating in the various media, both print and electronic, when the local press broke the news of the mayhem visited on some elected councilors, and a chairman. The invasion of three local governments, namely Owerri Municipal, Owerri North and Orlu conclusively proves that terror, indimidation, brutality and/or brigandage has become the chosen tool of Rescue Mission Administration’s governance. Three commissioners of Okorocha’s administration invaded the three local governments with trained thugs and proceeded to visit untold violence on elected government Councilors. Even the elected chairman of Owerri North LGA was kidnapped but later released after being brutalized by those thugs. The only crime of these elected local government officials being their return to their offices at the local government by the July, 6th, 2012, Court of Appeal decision on their illegal and unconstitutional dissolution by Governor Okorocha.
However, a deliberate creation of an enabling environment to rain terror on the governed leads to unintended victims. The alleged slapping of governor Obi’s aide may be an example of unintended victim. The governor’s anger could have been directed at the event planners who excluded him from the VIP seating arrangements. But Obi’s aide became a victim simply by doing his official duties. The same could be said about the victims of the Okorocha’s administration’s Asset Recovery Committee. But because the act that led to the incident was deliberately created, the victimization of innocent people cannot be dismissed as mistake. There is no such thing as a deliberate mistake because it is simply a paradoxical oxymoron.
The alleged face-off between the governor and the senator representing Imo East which graced the front pages of both local and national newspapers over the Christmas holidays is another example of the use of terror and brutality as tools of governance by His Excellency Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha.
It is now certain that under this administration intimidation and terror do not take vacation. Splitting the skull of an innocent aide of a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria a day after the Christmas day, the birthday commemoration of our Lord Jesus Christ, conclusively proves that terror as a tool of governance by the administration takes no vacation.
During New Year dinner party at my country home with old friends from the states, the subject of our dinner conversation invariably became the face-off between the governor and Senator Chris Anyanwu. My friend, a native of the Mbaise nation was livid. His argument was that the attack on Senator Anyanwu’s convoy was really an attack on the Mbaise nation by the Imo Governor. When I asked why he held such believe? He stated that the fractured relationship between the Senator and Mr. Governor could only be because the governor and his party could not carry the three local governments of the Mbaise nation. While my Mbaise friend saw the whole incident from the Mbaise nation’s perspective, his wife’s view was primarily based on gender equality. Her argument was that Senator Anyanwu was subjected to such treatment because she is a woman. Had she been a man, the governor and his security details would have thought twice before engaging a Senator who is the chairman of the Committee on Navy. She continued; that with the elevated testosterone level in such face-off, there would have been a shoot-out and several innocent people would have died.
Whatever may have been the reason behind this face-off, my take (my personal opinion) is that it was premeditated and pre-planned. I reached this conclusion based on the account of the incident as reported by Nation, a national newspaper.
Based on this account, the Senator actually paid a courtesy call to the Governor earlier the same day. After which she headed home. If the account was correct, then how could the senator’s convoy ramp into the Governor’s convoy since the Senator left the Governor at the government house when she left? Furthermore, it was stated that during the exchange of pleasantries, that the governor actually inquired whether the Senator had adequate security which she responded in the affirmative. Additionally, another question to be asked is, was there any function in the general vicinity of the incident that the Governor was hurrying to attend? It is based on the answers to the above questions that led to my conclusion that the incident was premeditated.
The story of the government house gate policeman brutally assaulted for wasting time in opening the gate was yet to die down before the splitting of the skull of a driver attached to a Senator. In all these, I guess an argument could be made on behalf of the Governor that he did not perpetrate the mayhem on these victims himself. But frankly that argument does not hold water.
In analyzing incidences of violence officially perpetrated on innocent citizens, what one must look at is whether there is a pattern. Once a pattern is established then one can safely conclude that there is an official culture of violence as tool of governance.
Under the law, Imo State Government could be held responsible and liable for negligent supervision. Security detail attached to a governor or any person are like trained watch dogs. A trained watch dog does not attack a visitor or stranger in the presence of its master without command. Similarly, security personnel do not attack any person in the presence of their master without command.
The office of a Governor of a State does not necessarily accord the holder respect, but fear. If a governor must seek respect, the governor must be willing to accord respect to his/her people. Respect cannot be extracted by intimidation, brutality, terror and/or brigandage but simply by extending respect to others. No condition, they say, is permanent in this world. Mike Tyson for sometime was the brute and bully of the boxing world, but Mike Tyson had his marbles handed to him by James Buster Douglas, Evander Hollyfield and Lennox Lewis in the later part of his boxing career.
Anybody qualified can be elected a governor of a state, but only those who respect the office of the Governor and the electorates that elected them are respected as Governors. Terror, brutality, intimidation and/or official brigandage as tools of governance are anathema to the culture of civilized society.
Imo must be better, but fellow Imolites can we really be better under terror, intimidation, and official brutality and brigandage? It is best to return Imo back to the hands of God.
Happy new year to you all Imolites
Dr. K. C. Okpalaeke on the Horn