By Barr. Emperor N. Iwuala
In the beginning of the controversial =N=458 million bribery saga in Imo State involving the impeached former Imo State Deputy Governor Sir Jude Agbaso, Governor Rochas Okorocha appeared not to be part of the whole drama. I could remember that when the episode started, the Governor once invited Sir Agbaso to his official residence to know whether Agbaso would admit that he collected the alleged bribe sum from Mr. Joseph Dina of Jpros International Company Limited. When the admission was not made, he advised his former deputy to subject himself to investigation so as to prove his non-culpability in the allegation. That was some weeks before Agbaso was impeached.
But one thing is very remarkable, throughout the Agbaso impeachment saga and even few weeks after the impeachment, Governor Okorocha completely ‘kept himself out of the whole plot’ pretending that he was not part of it. Interestingly, in as much as the whole world knew that Okorocha was the chief protagonist in the whole frame-up, yet his then media handlers, completely and diplomatically ‘shielded’ him from being ‘directly’ linked as part of the cast in the whole episode.
Recently, in a letter dated the 27th of November 2013 written to Sir Agbaso and signed by the Director of Operations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) , Mr. Olaolu Adegbite MFR, it was stated unequivocally that Sir Agbaso was never in any way involved in the =N=458 Million Bribery Scam. For better appreciation, let me reproduce part of the contents of the letter:
‘…The total sum of $5,538,830.00 USD was found to have been remitted to the personal accounts of Dina in Dubai and Lebanon. There is no single evidence so far that you (Jude Agbaso) benefited from the funds.
‘In his statement to the Commission (EFCC) on 28th March, 2013, Dina revealed that he never gave any money to you (Jude Agbaso) or any other official of the State (Imo) Government over the contracts which are yet to be fully executed…
‘The Commission’s legal department is working on the case file with a view to taking appropriate legal action…’.
Ordinarily, one would have expected Governor Okorocha to be happy that his former deputy whom he said served him well had been absolved from the scam.
However, I see it as a big blunder and madness for the Governor who had earlier confessed to the whole world that he had no problem with his former deputy to recently turn around to discredit this unequivocal clean-slate given his ex-deputy by the anti-graft agency.
This indeed has exposed the Governor and his administration to higher suspicion, public attack and unwarranted ridicule.
Incidentally, the Imo House of Assembly that did the impeachment was forwarded a copy of the above named letter. Till the time of this write-up, it has not reacted to the absolution. Therefore, as one would be compelled to ask, what interest is the Governor protecting by rejecting the non-culpability of his former deputy? The Governor was not among the people who accused Jude Agbaso of allegedly taking =N=458 Million bribe. He was not among the investigative panel that recommended for Sir Agbaso’s impeachment. He was not part of the legislature that did the impeachment and is not a party in the three cases challenging the impeachment. Also, the Governor did not submit any petition to the EFCC against Agbaso, did not institute any criminal charge against him in any law court or set up a probe panel to recover the alleged bribe sum. What then is his interest?
The question now is what would have been the Governor’s opportunity cost if he had maintained his initial ‘silence’ on the matter and allowed Agbaso to face his fate?
I believe that it would have been better for the Governor to maintain his silence on the issue as he had done in the past since the EFCC clearance does not concern him and is also not harmful to him.
Therefore, it is my view that Governor Okorocha and his media aide’s spontaneous and unrestrained reactions against the said absolution of Sir Agbaso by the EFCC was out of unconsciousness and yet-to-be explained anxiety. It is like a secret which was long been kept, is about to leak. It is like the nemesis which hunted Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ for killing the innocent Ikemefuna that used to call Okonkwo his ‘father’.
To worsen the matter, the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant (Media) Sam Onwuemeodo in a bid to corroborating this evil, went into disputing what was obvious and ended up telling open lies to the public. This has also dealt a very big blow to the earlier perceived ‘integrity’ and ‘credibility’ of the media aide which may have taken him many write-ups in the past to earn.
However, I feel the latest involvement of Governor Okorocha in the clearance episode has opened the Governor’s alleged involvement in the scam so well. It has also shown the darkness in his heart and the fact that his hands are not clean. It is also instructive to note that with the media hype, people are now more aware that it was the Governor that brought the confessed fraudster Joseph Dina to Imo State. That it was also the Governor that gave the Lebanese fraudster the contract and paid him the whole contract sum when substantial work has not been done. The media hype of the Governor and his media aide on the subject matter of this piece has indeed subjected the Governor and his administration to much public ridicule and media attack.
The drama in the saga is now clearer. This is because till the time of this write-up, the Okorocha Administration has failed to arrest his close business associate and former Special Adviser to the Governor on Project Monitoring, Prince Macdonald Akano who is the second largest shareholder of the controversial Jpros Company. This is the same Macdonald Akano whom the Governor cunningly ceded the entire Imo State Legislative Quarters to his wife Chinwe Akano. He is the same Macdonald who always sits and wines with the Governor while over =N=1.3 billion of Imo money was laundered abroad by Mr. Dina without any government effort to recover same.
Who is fooling who? This has given the Governor’s political opponents more arsenal and vista to fight him to the finish.
This I feel is as a result of poor media approach to sensitive issues like the one under discourse. ‘He who lives in a glass house should not throw stones’.
‘We must continue to clap for Jesus’.
(Iwuala is an Owerri-based private Legal Practitioner. He can be reached on: 08037247295)