Furore over actor Okonkwo’s letter to Ugwuanyi
Since he left office in 2007, former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim has resorted to communicating and conveying his thoughts on the incumbent administration of Rochas Okorocha through letters to the governor.
This approach had on two occasions strained the relationship between him and the governor, who believes that he (Ohakim) failed the people of the state as governor and does not have moral right to advise his government.
A similar scenario however is playing out in Enugu state. But unlike in Imo where the battle is between a former governor and an incumbent, that of Enugu is between a popular Nollywood actor Kenneth Okonkwo (Andy) and the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. The issue at stake is the administration of the state and non-conduct of local government election since 2015.
Ugwuanyi had blamed the inability to conduct the councils’ poll on the paucity of funds. This is after he allegedly railroaded the State House of Assembly to alter and extend the three months window originally in the state laws for operation of caretaker committee in the local governments to three years tenure.
But Okonkwo who claimed he had watched the “absurdity” said the governor lacked moral rights to do so. In the four-page letter dated March 23, 2017, Okonkwo who is a lawyer and an indigene of Nsukka local government of the state said that Ugwuanyi’s administration has not impressed the people in nearly two years in office, despite ‘abrogating’ democracy at the council level.
In the letter which he personally signed and entitled: “Democracy at the local government level – An Imperative”, the actor argued that it was a failure on the part of the governor to refuse to conduct election at the council level, even when he inherited a functional and democratically elected council in 2015.
“Let us state categorically that you have no legal right to abrogate democracy at the council level in the first place having regards to express provision in section 7 of the 1999 constitution as amended and several Supreme Court decisions on the matter.
“Let us state without equivocation that you have no moral right to abrogate democracy at the local government level in Enugu state seeing that you inherited a blossoming democracy at the local government level from your party, PDP and from your predecessor, Sullivan Chime.
Your party democratically had 100 percent control of the structures at the local government level. Our only conclusion therefore as to the reason for your action is to give you the opportunity to grab all the money of the local government through your cronies whom you appointed chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the local governments for your personal consumption and aggrandizement,” he alleged.
Besides, Okonkwo contended that his people of Nsukka has been marginalized by the state government, explaining that from two Commissioners and four councilors during the Chime administration, they can hardly boast of any in the present administration.
He said: “Your Excellency, your disdain and hatred for Nsukka Town indigenes, for no good reason, is legendary and well known. You can afford not to make any of them Commissioner as this is within your discretion so to do, but you cannot afford to deny them their four Councilors and indeed the entire Enugu state of their 260 Councilors and the opportunity to choose their leaders at the local government level which is beyond your powers to do so.”
He stated that even with the resources available to the state government, it had continued to “embark on an unending refurbishments of already paved roads to appear as if you are providing infrastructure to the people … the road from Opi junction to Nsukka town of about 15 km is taking almost two years to build without completion.”
Okonkwo, demanded that the administration should take steps to restore democracy at the council level before May 29, anniversary or face litigations.
Since the letter became a public knowledge, many have been divided on the mission of the actor, who recently joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after he failed to secure the party’s ticket to contest the House of Representatives election for Nsukka/Igboeze south federal constituency in the 2015 general elections.
While some accused him of championing an ethnic agenda on the ground that Nsukka was not the only area affected in purported lopsided projects, others insist that politicians are using him to cause disharmony in the state. Many also hail his posturing especially on the non-conduct of council election.
A Coalition of Civil Society and Human Rights Activists in the state led by Ibuchukwu Ezike, had condemned what they described as “an attempt by politicians to destabilize the Ugwuanyi government,” warning that the people of the state would resist such persons with every breath in them.
The coalition which goes by the name, “Civil and Rights Activists” insisted that the prevailing peace in Enugu state was something that residents of the state should be grateful for, stressing that the government had “done much in the face of prevailing economic difficulties to continue to move the state forward to the benefits of component segments.”
An activist, Godswill Ugwu said: “I think it is within the rights of the actor/lawyer to take the position. He has made his views and any reasonable government should act wisely. Let the governor conduct election and end the matter.”
But the state government has risen in defence of the actions of the administration under Ugwuanyi, dismissing as “blatant lies” the allegations that the governor or his so-called sycophants referred to the people of the state in any way as “wretched.”
The commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Charles Ogbonna Asogwa, who led the Transition Council Chairman for Nsukka council, Prof Mrs. Rose Onah and other stakeholders from Nsukka to respond to the issues, stated that Okonkwo’s “baseless allegations can only be initiated to incite the people of Enugu state against the governor.”
He asserted that the governor has done more for the people through his numerous grassroots oriented policies and programmes.
Justifying the non-conduct of council election in the state, Asogwa stated that in the period of lean resources, a way of reducing the cost of governance is the application of Caretaker Committee or Transition Committee because of the few membership of the committee, stressing that such informed the state government’s use of Transition committee at the local government level.
He maintained that the main purpose of election at the council level was not for “provision of source of livelihood (meal ticket) for them (councilors) but that their primary function is making laws and policies for the promotion of good governance and democracy,” adding that, “the extent to which previous councilors have effectively done that remains a contentious one.”
On the alleged meddling with local government funds, the commissioner said: “We are aware that on several occasions the governor has solved local government problems with his security votes. The allegation of grabbing local government money against the governor is not only malicious but an exhibition of ignorance of the operational process of Ugwuanyi’s administration. And I wish to state categorically that the governor does not touch the allocation of the local governments.”
Furthermore, he said that Nsukka Town, which is part of Nsukka local government area has gotten its fair share of appointments of commissioners with positions like the Attorney general and Commissioner of Justice, Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, Commissioner for Education and Special Adviser to the Governor on Education among others.
The Guardian confirmed that Nsukka has three commissioners in Ugwuanyi’s cabinet as against two under Chime’a administration, putting a lie to Okonkwo’s claim.
Maintaining that it is highly “mischievous” to describe road construction taking place at Nsukka as refurbishing, he stated that Opi junction to Onuiyi Nsukka, Achara road to Ikenga hotel, Ikenga junction to Oforonu to Odenigbo and Orba to Obollo road are of high quality accomplice by drainage systems, pedestrian pathways and streetlights.