Okorocha is playing God in Imo State – Eze (Dr.) Cletus Ikechukwu Ilomuanya C.O. Nobi
His Royal Majesty, Eze Cletus Ikechukwu Ilomuanya is a 57 year-old First class traditional ruler, and the Obi of Obinugwu in Orlu Senatorial District of Imo State. He was 35 years when he ascended the throne, and for 22 years, he has presided over the affairs of his people, the Obinugwu Autonomous Community with love and affection. But, his resolve to keep to the agreement reached by the Imo State Council of Traditional rulers on the zoning of political offices has brought about a disagreement, which the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, has refused to forgive and forget.
The disagreement between the governor and the Eze has got to the Appellate Court, where Eze Ilomuanya won. But despite the court ruling, Governor Okorocha, according to the Eze, is determined to take his pound of flesh because of the Eze’s refusal to support his in 2011.
Now, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN), has again waded in the matter, asking Imo State Government to obey the Appellate Court’s decision, which has not been heeded.
In a letter dated November 10 2016, entitled ‘Re: Case Of Intimidation, Suppression, Disregard For Court Judgment/Rule Of Law And Impunity Against Me And The Traditional Institution Likely To Occasion Threat To Public Peace And Good Governance In Imo State. Re: His Excellency, Governor Rochas Okorocha, OON. Signed by F. K. Bebu, Director Citizen Rights Department in the Attorney-General of the Federation Office, the Chief Law Officer of the Federation asked Governor Rochas Okorocha to reinstate Eze Cletus Ilomunaya as Chairman of the Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers.
Eze Ilomunaya was dethroned as Obi of Obinugwu in 2011, immediately Okorocha assumed office as the state governor. The monarch filed a suit to challenge his removal, and the Appeal Court ruled in his favour. But the state government allegedly refused to honour the judgment. Eze Ilomunaya subsequently petitioned the Attorney-General, who responded to him in the letter cited above.
In the letter, the Ministry said the Imo State Government had been instructed to obey the court order.
What would you say is the problem between you and Governor Okorocha?
WELL, it is up to Governor Okorocha to say why he has become vindictive over a political decision the traditional rulers in Imo state decided upon, long before he ever became Governor of Imo State.
What was this political decision, Your Majesty?
I must confess I have no personal problem with Governor Rochas Okorocha. No matter what, he is today the Governor of Imo State, while I am a traditional ruler in the same Imo State. I, therefore, have no other option than to honour and respect his person and office. This I have always done, in spite of his calculated attempts to dishonour me. But what I oppose in all ramifications is Governor Okoracha’s dictatorial tendencies. He is playing the god in Imo State. This is not good for our people. It is also not good for the image of Imo State. We are in democracy, and this type of behaviour should not be encouraged anywhere in the country.
Now to the core of the matter, when Governor Okorocha was an aspirant and wanted to become governor of Imo State alongside other candidates, we, the traditional rulers of Imo State met and took some decisions. As you might be aware, we have three senatorial zones in Imo State: Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri zones.
In 1999, Okigwe and Owerri zones agreed that an Orlu person should become the state governor. It was through this arrangement that the former Governor Achike Udenwan became the Governor of Imo State. That was because Okigwei and Owerri zones agreed to our arrangement. In 2003, when Udenwan wanted to go for a second term, we, the people from Orlu zone, where Rochas, Udewan and I come from, met again with our other brothers from these zones, and pleaded with them, requesting that they allow our son, that is Udewan, to go for a second term.
When he completed his two terms of eight years in office, we, the people of Orlu zone also helped them produce the governor of the state for another eight years, and they all agreed. It was based on this arrangement that Udenwan made sure in 2007 that no Orlu person became the Governor of Imo State. That was the reason the Governor’s seat went to Okigwe zone, which produced Ikedioha Ohakim.
In 2011, some of the traditional rulers from Okigwe and Owerri zones asked why people from Orlu zone were jostling for this position again, when we already had an arrangement on how the governorship position would rotate among the three zones.
Before then, we the traditional rulers in Imo State had all agreed that once Okigwe was done with the governorship position, it would go to Owerri zone before coming to Orlu. And we all agreed to it! As traditional rulers, we have to keep faith. People make this type of arrangements all over the places. If you decide to take a look at the political arrangement in Anambra State today, the Obi of Onitsha signed the document, wherein they made this type of arrangement.
The last election in Bayelsa State, which brought about Seriake Dickson as Governor, King Alfred Detie-Spiff signed a similar document. The Traditional Council in that state took a position. So, based on the arrangement we had, we all agreed to allow the Okigwe zone complete two terms of eight years. Fortunately, Rochas Okorocha, an Orlu man from our zone, won the election and became the Governor. Despite our position then, when Rochas was declared the state governor, all the traditional rulers in the state went to pay him a courtesy visit, and pledged our loyalty to his government.
Ordinarily, that should have ended such a matter, but not for a man like Rochas; he will never overlook such a thing. Rather than forget, he has is doing all within his powers to take his pound of flesh. My offence is that, as a king from Orlu, his zone, I had the gut to abide by the agreement all the traditional rulers in the state reached. This principally is his reason for persecuting me.
We did everything within our powers as traditional rulers to support and help him stabilise. We even went to the extent of organising a meeting for him, where he thanked me. I was, therefore, surprised when he started doing all these things to diminish me and my throne. I was shocked, when he first dissolved the Council of the Imo State Traditional Rulers. I went to him and said: “Your Excellency, if you had told me you were going to dissolve the Council of Imo State Traditional Rulers, I would have resigned my chairmanship of the council with all my Executive members, so you could appoint whosoever you pleased, if that would give you the satisfaction you need.”
I continued: “the existing law that governs the affairs of Traditional Rulers and the Council you have just dissolved does not give you the power you have just exercised. That particular law I am citing said: “A member or members of that council can only be removed, if he resigns or dies.”
The first time I met with him on the issue, he agreed that he made a mistake, but on a second thought, he said he couldn’t reverse his decision, as he was going to appear weak before the public. It was at that point I went to court. He sent some people to go and break into my house, and the people he sent carted away so many items from the place.
Again, I went to court over the matter, and the Federal High Court in Owerri gave judgment against him and his government. I was awarded N10m as damages. This fine he has not paid up till now.
How do you get Governor Rochas Okorocha to obey court orders, since he is the number one citizen of Imo State?
I don’t know. I am not a member of his Executive cabinet; I do not play any advisory role to him. But what he is doing, ignoring court rulings as a civilian governor, is not at all a good example, especially, for a man who is still nursing political ambition in the country. The world is watching, so let us see how far he will go. One thing is sure: nothing lasts forever. One day, his tenure as governor of Imo State will be over and another man will take over his position. That is the beauty of democracy. I remain the Obi Obinugwu, by God and my people’s grace.
Simultaneously on June 6, 2011, when he dissolved the Council of the Imo State Traditional Rulers, in a broadcast, he also sacked all the Local Government Chairmen in the state. I took time to draw his attention to Law No.6 promulgated in 2006. The law in question first came into effect during the tenure of the late Governor Sam Mbakwe. It was again looked into and amended in 2006.
That particular law is known as “Imo State Traditional Rulers and Chieftaincy Law.” Without mincing words, I told him that what he had just done was beyond his powers, but when he refused to reverse his decision, I went to court. Before we got judgment in 2013 from the Federal Appeal Court in Owerri, we were in court for a considerable length of time.
During that period, he went to the Court of Appeal, where he was told, and “the law in question is very clear. You have no powers or right to dissolve the Imo State Traditional Rulers’ Council.” He was told to go and re-constitute the Council. Again, he approached the court for stay of execution of judgment, but the Court said NO. He went further to the Supreme Court, but the Apex court also threw away the matter for illegal prosecution. And rather than make a U-turn and obey the rule of law, he has refused to do what is right and proper. That is the type of person we have presently as the Imo State governor.
Is it true that the Governor appointed another man to take over your position as Obi of Obinugwu Autonomous Community?
Yes he appointed a man from his area, Orlu and my people said, “NO,” we don’t know him, we will never accept the leadership of the man he appointed. That was the end of the matter for him and the man he appointed.
How did the matter get to this point?
When we discovered that Governor Okorocha was not ready to obey the judgment of the Appeal Court. It is shameful that a sitting governor of a ruling party is involved in the deliberate refusal to comply with the laws of the land. I think the Chairman of APC, and the President, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari should talk to him, as his actions are not helping the future of the party.
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