[Ohakim: Imo State Governor]
By John I. Mgbe
The travails of Rev. Fr. Eustace Okorie who was humiliated by security details attached to Governor Ikedi Ohakim are so well known to warrant a recap. As a participant observer in the unfolding of drama, the perfunctory and superficial approach in the reporting of this sad incident has necessitated my incursion in order to give a fresh insight into the brouhaha.
I wish to state that on this particular issue all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. In discussing the travails of Rev. Fr. Eustace Okorie, every social cluster must have questions to answer in regard to its actions/inactions. Today, I wish to focus attention on the Government (the political sector) in order to ascertain the remote and immediate causes of that dastardly assault on the Catholic Church.
As has already been widely reported in the press, the Governor and members of his Executive Committee (EXCO) promptly paid a nocturnal visit to the Archbishop and they apologized profusely over the sad incident. I was not surprised at the Governor/s prompt visit to confess his sins and seek forgiveness from the Archbishop. I had stated incessantly that the Governor is a very smart politician who has always found ingenious ways to wriggle out of any tight crisis and still come out smelling of roses.
The Governor should be highly commended for not allowing hubris, pride, and the trappings of office to becloud his sense of rationality. I had stated elsewhere that the highest act of heroism is the ability to conquer self. On this occasion, the Governor simply conquered himself and went to confess his “sins” to the Archbishop. In fact, once the Archbishop granted him forgiveness, the episode could be treated as a storm in a tea cup, in spite of its unique aberration.
It was on account of this that I was not initially part of the restive crowd that scrambled to use the incident as sensational, screaming and banner headlines. I am aware that the Catholic Church is not a democratic institution; once the Archbishop, Bishop or Reverend Father has decided on an issue, that’s final.
I am aware that in spite of his shortcomings and imperfections, Governor Ohakim would never have asked any of his hordes of staff to visit such calamity on a Reverend Father of THE CHURCH. In one of my controversial viewpoints, I did say that the Catholic Church is not a denomination; it’s ‘THE Church”. Yes, Governor Ohakim would not have directly instigated the shameful episode of 8th August when Reverend Father Eustace Okorie’s integrity was torn to shreds by overzealous officials of the Government House.
However, subsequent developments make it imperative that Governor Ohakim should be kept in the dock in order to make critical clarifications. After all, as the Chief Executive/Security Officer of Imo State, he is vicariously liable on what transpired on that day. It is only in a mob group that such an incident can take place and yet nobody is held responsible. What happened to Rev. Father Okorie cannot belong to the template of the “unknown soldier” who was said to have burnt down the Kalakuta Republic of the late Afro Beat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Since Imo State is not a mob, a rioting group that has no leader, the buck must stop on Governor Ohakim’s table. At each point in time, somebody must be answerable for the breakdown of law and order in a democratic society. It’s on account of this that the late President of United States, Ronald Reagan, had a plaque on his table emblazoned with the inscription: “the buck stops here”.
Now that Governor Ohakim is on the dock, can he provide sincere answers to the following posers: Who smuggled in the photographs of Reverend Father Eustace Okorie and a lady, Miss Iroka, said to be his passenger which appeared on the front page of the Newspoint Newspaper of August 19,2010 ? Since the correspondents of the Newspaper were not at the scene of the sad incident, it is logical to conclude that some overzealous personal aides of the governor instigated the scheme with the sole purpose of tarnishing and besmirching the reputation and integrity of both the Reverend Father and the Catholic Church.
A scenario where Reverend Father Eustace Okorie was placed in the front page of a Newspaper looking morose and sitting beside an allegedly improperly dressed girl and with the banner headline:” Female Companion indicts priest” is beyond depravity. It is unacceptable as this smacks of crass insensitivity to the sensitivities of the mood of the Catholic faithful who constitute the overwhelming majority in Imo State. The fact that the Governor was not directly involved is not enough reason to plead that those who planted the picture of Rev. Father Okorie and fabricated a story on the aforementioned newspaper cannot be identified or should be given an unconditional reprieve. Those in government can tell that to the marines. Imo State is too sophisticated for such shenanigans, tomfoolery and buffoonery.
The irreducible minimum for peace is that those who spearheaded this unprofessional expedition should be unraveled and severely sanctioned. Surprisingly, those in government have in their watery explanations accused their political opponents of politicizing the episode.
Nothing can be farther from the truth. If anything, it’s the government people that are playing politics/Russian Roulette over an issue that demands instant action. The easiest way of politicizing the issue is to continue to shield the perpetrators of that dastardly and heinous act.
The Rev. Father at the centre of the controversy is not one of the so-called hack writers (as our local journalists are often called) but rather a Reverend Father of the Catholic Church and member of the Holy Order of Melchisedec and the anointed of God. He was fully dressed in his ecclesiastical regalia with all the appendages and accoutrements of the Sacred Order of the Catholic Priesthood. Yet, he was treated like a common criminal and a month after that nothing has been done to ferret out the perpetrators of this abominable act.
This cannot be another case of the bizarre episode of the “unknown soldier”. It is absurd and repugnant to rationality that while the Governor went to seek forgiveness from the Archbishop; his foot soldiers were dispatched to use the newspaper to do more damage to an already bad situation. The intention of this hatchet job is to criminalize and demonize both the Catholic Church and Rev. Father Eustace Okorie.