One of the things Governor Rochas Okorocha has scored very high marks in, is the demystification of certain individuals in the State who were hitherto untouchable or made it look like they were. The irony in this is that these individuals who are being steadily dealt with by the Ogboko born politician are the same people to whom he mostly owes his successful ascendance to the governorship seat of the State to. The present demolition exercise going on in the State has been described by some observers as another strategy by the government to get back at opposition elements who they passive to be wielding much influence in the State. This is as one of the popular opposition figures in the State has cried out that two of his houses will soon be visited by Governor Okorocha’s bulldozers.
From Chief Martin Agbaso who ceded his APGA political structure to Governor Okorocha, after he was allegedly settled with some money and offered the Greek gift of making his younger brother, a political neophyte, the running mate to the Chief Okorocha, to His Excellency, Chief Achike Udenwa who had to coalesce the ACN structure in the State into the APGA family during the 2011 governorship election, which ensured that the latter emerged victorious, albeit controversially, to Chief Alex Obi, whose political gimmicks cannot be taken for granted, to Senator Christy Anyanwu who deployed her powerful media tentacles to advance some of the most toxic political blackmails against the government of Dr. Ohakim, thereby propelling the image and chances of Okorocha to all the other big wigs who worked in one way or the other to ensure Chief Okorocha’s metamorphosis from a perennial aspirant to the executive Governor of Imo State, Governor Okorocha has turned out to be their collective nemesis. The State Government under Okorocha has left no stone unturned in ensuring that they are all shut up, and most of them ran out of town.
The demolition of structures that are seen to be distortive of the Master Plan of the Owerri Capital City would have been a most commendable government initiative, if it had followed due process and observed the necessary laws of the land. Governance is meaningless if it does not consider the citizenry for whom it is meant. After all, laws are made for humans and not humans for the law. No government policy is worth the effort put into its conception and implementation if it will ultimately hurt more members of the population than it would benefit. A government policy may be unpopular, and yet beneficial, but a policy that is both unpopular and at the same time not beneficial either at the short or long term must not only be discarded but the government, if responsible and respectful to the people it governs should also apologize for ever conceiving such a policy.
Some of the excuses that have been adduced by the Governor and his image makers to justify the demolition of peoples’ houses in Oweri and some other cities and satellite towns in the State is that the government either wants to expand the road around that area or that such buildings are blocking the drainage systems within the areas affected by such demolition exercises. It is illegal and inexcusable for anyone to build structures that obstruct a city’s drainage system or affects the road design of a city, but when the owners of these structures convincingly insist that their structures followed the right developmental planning and did not at least at the time of erecting these structures obstruct either the drainage system or the road, then, the government needs to prove them wrong before embarking on any demolition exercise, especially, when such buildings do not pose any immediate security or safety risk to the citizenry. The haste with which the government embarks on this demolition exercise is suspect, especially as some observers allege that the Governor is most keen on expanding and beautifying the roads leading up to his expansive palace, by demolishing houses and electricity poles around Akwakuma, Amakohia and Orji Mechanic village areas.
Another reason why the government’s demolition exercise is unpopular and highly unacceptable among the people of the State is the allegation by some of those affected by this demolition that the Governor is being selective and unjust in picking out houses to be demolished. A former Minister of Interior and Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2015 general elections, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho whose house is marked for demolition alleges that the Governor’s houses are on the same lane with one of his houses marked for demolition.
Captain Iheanacho has being spitting fire ever since he got the news that the government has marke his house for demolition, but those who are familiar with the oil magnate’s political history will have little sympathy for him if we remember the role he played in bringing this government to power, even against the candidate of a political Party which he was serving then, as Minister.
Captain Iheanacho as Minister of Interior was accused by people who should know better of being responsible in no small way for the emergence of Owelle Rochas Okorocha as Governor as he allegedly helped the then opposition candidate to have more access to the para-military forces under his command as the Minister of Internal Affairs and also allegedly ‘commandeered’ all the votes in his booth, ward and local government to Chief Okorocha’s APGA. Some people had alleged then, that the oil tycoon had a secret arrangement with Chief Okorocha to take over from him after the latter’s first term, but they fail apart after Governor Okorocha allegedly derailed from this agreement, and the Emekuku born politician decided to try out his luck under the All Progressives’ Grand Alliance (APGA), where he had a very bad outing.
Some people had argued that the immediate past Governor of Imo State, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim also carried out similar exercises, hence their confusion with the hullaballoo that has greeted present demolition exercises. The truth is that Dr. Ohakim is not a scatter-head who would wake one morning and begin to demolish peoples’ houses without giving adequate notices and exhausting all necessary legal channels to avert crisis and undue suffering to the people. To clear a city of shanties and illegally constructed kiosks, a government does not need to undertake any legal processes; neither does it need to give occupiers of such shanties any notice. Yet, Ikedi Ohakim’s government which only embarked on the demolition of shanties and illegal structures gave adequate notices to owners of such shanties and even provided an alternative to traders who sold their wares in such shanties by providing branded tents and umbrellas as makeshift stalls to them. This is what it means for a government to be responsible and humane to the people it governs. Even though, a number of people who are today affected by the present demolition exercise misrepresented Governor Ohakim most unfairly for that exercise, posterity is in judgement already.
Governor Okorocha’s bulldozers are not only affecting those whose houses have been demolished or marked for demolition, it also affects most people living within any city affected by this demolition exercise as the Governor’s bulldozers pull down electricity poles without giving a hoot as to how it affects businesses within and living standards within such cities. For instance, all communities within the Governor’s Federal Constituency of Ideato have been without public power supply for the past five years of Governor Okorocha’s administration, as one of the first projects embarked upon by the Governor was to commence the expansion of the Orlu-Mgbee-Akokwa road. Work is yet to be completed on this road, five years after, and most small and medium scale businesses have packed up as a result of their inability to run their businesses with alternative power sources like power generating set. The few businesses that have remained afloat are merely struggling, while the ordinary people are at the receiving end of all this, as the prices of goods and services hit the ceiling top because business owners have to build in the cost of providing their own electricity into the goods and services they provide.
There is little hope that one will make any headway in convincing the government to reconsider its decision to demolish these buildings till all legal issues concerning this exercise have been ironed out when the government in responding to the Nigerian Bar Association’s criticism of this demolition exercise which they argued is not in tandem with the law of the land, declared through its spokesperson, Sam Onwuemedo who is its Chief Press Secretary that the Government neither observes due process nor respects provisions of the law in carrying out government businesses, as this would delay the running of government and its businesses.