Obasanjo’s Big Thief And The Small Thief – By Collins Ughalaa
Sometimes some people have very short memories. But not all the people have short memories.
In the build-up to the 2011 governorship election in Imo State former President Olusegun Obasanjo stormed Owerri for the reelection campaign of Governor Ikedi Ohakim. He had his opinion of the front liners in the election. He had insisted in 2007 that Senator Ifeanyi Araraume was not going to be the Governor of Imo State. And he achieved that.
If you know that the former President does not forgive easily you would know that by 2011 when Araraume showed up again for the governorship election he had yet changed his opinion of him. Not only was he not worried about him, he was sure Imo people would not brook the idea of his becoming Governor, no matter how many times he tried.
Therefore, Obasanjo’s worry in 2011 was the “big thief”, and it was huge. Many Imo people have remained grateful that they were fore warned, as the former president was sure that Governor Ikedi Ohakim, in his worst imperfections, was better than the “big thief”. He was sure that Imo people needed Ohakim to continue to tap her greatness potentials.
Was Obasanjo in any way saying that Ohakim was a thief? Not really. Obasanjo was only speaking the prevalent language of the greedy politicians whose fixation was to capture power at the time. They had accused Ohakim of all kinds of evil that you would think he deserved to die by hanging. But the former president was saying that the politicians were ignorant and selfish, that they did not know the *thief*. And he has been proved right.
Characteristically, Obasanjo did not keep his opinion close to his chest. In a visit to then traditional ruler of Owerri-Nchi Ise, HRM Eze Njemanze, in his palace, he told the traditional ruler that Imo people should not make the greatest mistake of their life by voting the “big thief” and warned of great consequences. This warning was given credence recently by Sir Bob Njemanze, during an interview on AIT’s Focus Nigeria.
The former President did not stop at telling the traditional ruler the overwhelming need to vote back Ohakim and reject the “big thief”. While addressing Imo people during a rally, the former president warned them not to choose the “big thief” over the “small thief”, because he knew them both very well.
But as things would turn out, Imo people chose to free Barnabas and crucify Jesus Christ, who committed no sin. Since then Imo people have lived with the painful consequences of voting the “big thief”. Though this has provided the people the rare opportunity to see that the man they crucified was their saviour, the reign of the “big thief” has destroyed all that had been done and rendered a nullity the value system and the society itself. In fact, what we have lived with for more than six years has been the reign of a god and the tyranny of a beast.
Not a few people in Imo are miffed that while other governors in the country have commissioned one project or the other none has been commissioned in Imo State. Worried at this reality, the troubled state government contrived to bring some outgoing presidents of some African countries to launch/commission their personal projects with the greatest fanfare possible.
Thus, within the period of one month Imo State witnessed the presence of the embattled President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia. But this contraption has only worsened the situation as the anger of the people has built-up.
The built-up is because the people have become aware that there has been one set of business thriving in Imo State since June 2011, and that is the businesses related to anyone who is related to the man at the top in Government House. And all of a sudden the Governor’s moribund hotel came back to life and even got an annex and the Rochas Foundation College gets a facelift too. Next, the Spilbat Mansion springs up to fully insult the sensibility of Imo people. On top of that, a new university emerges in Ogboko, the home of the Governor.
Next, everyone in the ruling Dynasty becomes big business men and women. That you are an in-law gives you greater advantage. Ask Hon Cele Ololo and wife. Ask the Chief of Staff, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu (I don’t know where he comes from anymore. He has become a hybrid, a sort of “motor mixture – a kind “Yellow Fever”, according to late Afrobeat King, Fela Aninulapo Kuti). You would find it very difficult to find in the ruling Dynasty anyone who is not a landed property merchant, so much that Uche Nwosu has become a Real Estate mogul. Shameful?
It would have been shameful if we were dealing with sane people. But we are unfortunate to be dealing with a set of people that have shaved their eyelids and they are dancing naked in the market square. This madness has taken place for so long that many people are now forced to ask whether this people do not have kinsmen; whether they don’t have shame. These questions have become pertinent because the Igbo say that an elder does not sit idly at home and watch the she-goat deliver in the tethers.
It is disgusting therefore that within seven years some people who were poor applicants have become chief dispensers of favour and owners of choice properties and businesses, from hotels to real estate and supermarket – you name it. It has come to the extent that if any business does not belong to the Dynasty you are sure not to find it in Imo. Otherwise, can anyone point at any business that thrives in Imo that belongs to someone outside the Dynasty? Such business stands the risk of being pulled down in the name of urban renewal, or you would not get the necessary land papers for your business.
How Imo came to this sorry passé remains linked to the wrong choice we made in 2011. It is baffling and reduces our worth as human beings that since seven years of the rescue mission only ventures owned by the Dynasty has stood and commissioned. From the House of Freeda which began as Government House Souvenir at the former library office few months after the coming on stream of the government. Then we had Elfreeda Foundation, both belonging to the Governor’s daughter. Remember She Needs a Roof Programme? Did you forget that the land on which the Rochas Foundation College was freshly built in Orji, a suburb of Owerri, used to house Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and as such belongs to the state government? Did you forget that the plot of land provided for public utility at the Civic Center, Owerri, has been taken over by the Dynasty and a gigantic house sprouted on it? This is more so when you consider that the owners of these eye-popping properties and investments were applicants few years ago while some were roaming the streets abroad. Life could be very sweet when you are in power.
Should Imo people not rather ask these overnight wealthy people and dispensers of favour to tell us what businesses they have been doing 2011 to warrant the stupendous wealth.
Regrettably, Imo State we have seen in practical terms how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts little minds absolutely. Swimming in impunity, the Dynasty has continued to behave like the ostrich and buried it’s head. This might be the reason they have set up yet two hotels: Willywood Hotel and Westbrook Hotel. And they don’t care what happens. After all, they banned keke operation in the state and suddenly they floated a cab service company. Anyways, we have seen no difference between the Dynasty and the state government since 2011. It is like “half-full” and “half-empty”.
And to crown their ignominious acts, the Dynasty organized the commissioning of WODDI, a center said to belong to the First Lady of Imo State. And guess what! It was built on public property at the old secretariat along Orlu Road. But what has turned my stomach is how the Vice President and his wife were in Owerri to commission the project. This gives more worry considering that the APC led Federal Government made the fight against corruption its cardinal policy. Add to do the fact that it was the VP’s wife that commissioned Elfreeda. Perhaps we ought to have known that the anti graft position of the APC is only a shadow but no substance, only good to sweep the opposition.
If you are still not clear of how Imo State has become the property of the Dynasty, cast your mind back to the years 2010 and 2011 when Dr Ikedi Ohakim was Governor. Recall that he was accused of owning half of Owerri, particularly Douglas Road and Wetheral Road. Close to seven years after he left office, not even the state government has been able to point at any property belonging to Ohakim or his wife. On the other hand, both the government and Imo people are amazed that not even the trappings of owning a house at the highbrow Civic Center could stop Ohakim from giving out the plot of land allocated to him to someone else. Yes. Not many will believe Ohakim does not have a plot of land at the Civic Center. But that is just the truth.
Who will not be impressed that in Ohakim is the personification of good governance, due process and rule of law, quality projects and value for money. None of Ohakim’s policies can be compared to the ramshackle policies of the current government. Moreso, Imo people are impressed that the only house belonging to Ohakim in the whole of Owerri is the bungalow he built in the 90s on one plot of land. That is what Ohakim has as house, and not the mansions and estates belonging to governor, his deputy and numerous others. I was told that it has become a status symbol for people in government to showoff their houses.
Particularly interesting is the fact that no one has been able to show us the hotels and mansions Ohakim was accused of building in South Africa. Not even those who were printing pamphlets and others can raise their hands and utter a word. They have all been proved to be lies told against an innocent man just to get him out of power and destroy the state.
Having paved the way for the destruction of Imo State, not only have the people seen the emptiness and pettiness of those who love power, they have also seen a government that lacks planning and is bereft of ideas. As a result, no one who has a conscience in Imo State will fail to wail at the level of degradation and backwardness Imo has become. All the fine projects and policies put in place by Ohakim to grow the economy of the state and better the conditions of the people have been eroded. Moreso, Imo has been so precariously positioned that it requires urgent attention in the emergency ward.
In place of the fine policies Imo people have been fed with the dislocation of peoples businesses and homes. They have seen a government that sets itself against the people through its pain-inflicting policies. As things are now, not even the constant wailing of the people touches the hearts of their oppressors.
It has become clearer that much bitter kola does not taste like it sounds in the mouth, those who found themselves in government through backstabbing and injurious acts have been doing what we feared. And now that they have succeeded, we have seen that they are tyrants and “big thieves”. Though we might not remove them from office today, we are sure to remove all the vestiges of their oppression, including every attempt to seek a third term through an inlaw, because the Egyptians we see today we shall see them no more.
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