The Imo State government recently inaugurated the board of Ikemba Ojukwu Centre in honour of the late Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu. The State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chinedu Offor, in this interview, explains the reasons behind the move. He also clarifies some recent controversies in the state.
Can you tell us the aim of inaugurating the Ikemba Ojukwu Centre by the governor?
Actually, a people without culture have no future and, of course you know the importance we attach to the Eze Igbo Gburugburu. Remember that His Excellency Governor Rochas Okorocha had put up an edifice in his name before he passed on, so he deemed it fit to dedicate it to him. Also, remember that the edifice was the only place the entire Igbo deemed it fit to lay him in state.
So after this, His Excellency decided that the place should be a place for Igbo research and culture, Igbo education, for the Igbo to find themselves out and their history, and also to teach that language to our young people. It is sad to note that a lot of youths, especially those in Diaspora, can not speak their language. There was this prediction that the Igbo culture may die in the next 50 years, so His Excellency is just acting fast to prevent that. Well known Igbo scholars would have to start propagating the courses as you can see from their selection. Their task would include to make sure that Igbo language stays alive. Right now, you can no longer gain admission into any Igbo higher institution except you have at least a credit in Igbo language, and all traditional rulers have been banned from speaking any other language besides Igbo at social events. This is to emhasize its importance.
Also when His Excellency travelled to America, there was this agreement among those in Diaspora to build an Igbo school in Houston Texas, Washington DC and Maryland and also in New-York Jersey. All this practically demonstrates His Excellency’s keen interest in keeping the Igbo culture alive world wide.
What is the criteria for choosing the members of the board?
First, they have to be Igbo; secondly, they have to be very brilliant; thirdly, they have to be accomplished in everything they have done. For instance, Professor George Obiozor is the chairman of the board. He has been an ambassador, a national instructor and has held so many distinguished positions. Others are Professor Fabian Osuji, the former minister of education, Professor ABC Nwosu, former minister of health and political adviser to the president. Anyone you mention there has pedigree, impeccable character and accomplished in all facets of life. They have to have a burning desire to develop Igbo language and culture, to do research works, to understudy Igbo. We are actually proud of these people who are not being paid to serve the Igbo cause; that is what Ikemba is all about .
APGA and PDP in the state have not been in good terms; what do you think is responsible for this?
Well, it’s all politics. Political parties have different ideologies, different agenda which they can use to achieve their purpose. Before any election, they articulate their various manifestoes. So PDP with its own manifesto ruled for four years, carried out its programmes and policies. The people rejected those policies because there was actually nothing to show despite the billions of naira expended.
Now after four years, people said, ‘we don’t want you again, you have not performed, we like APGA better, we like Rochas better, so we are going to elect him.’ Elect him they did, and as if that was not enough there was a supplementary election and he still won. PDP went all the way to the Supreme Court; of course, they lost again. They have been shamed that a man has been able to do in just one year and three months what they could not do for four years; you know it can be annoying. They now said to themselves: ‘why didn’t we see the vision that he has see; why did we lack in ideas, why did we not think of renovating the Concord (Hotel); why did we allow him to do it; did we not see the Heroes’ Square, why did we not think of changing it; what about the Concord Apartment that was almost falling down before - where criminals inhabited, why did we not think of renovating it: why did we not think of building schools, 27 general hospitals, ICAPS, roads? It’s annoying they woke up and said to themselves ‘oh my God, we messed up big time! What were we thinking for four years? Look at the Government House that is now glittering with different structures in it. They are ashamed that they worked in that same place that was formerly looking like a shanty.
Did you think they would come clapping for Okorocha as a performing governor?
They felt the best thing to do is to pull him down because they know that, after four years, the way Okorocha is turning things around, no PDP politician can hold any position in the state. People would not allow them because they have now seen that it is possible with their money to achieve all these things. That is why they are afraid. PDP is trying to heat up the polity. It is a tactic but it is not working; it is called diversion - you start talking bad about somebody so that people would not see anything good in him.
The people of Imo State are now wiser. We now know how much it takes to build a kilometre of road - N60 million; before, it was a secret, and they have been using that to squander the resources of the state.
They said free education was not possible but they forgot that Obafemi Awolowo did free education and it worked. They were completely oblivious of the fact that the man was running free education before he became governor, Rochas Foundation College. You see, they are just completely dazed by his achievements which look like miracle to them.
So, they are now saying: ‘if you let this man continue like this in Imo, we are finished; so let us bring him down. But you can never bring a good man down. He was voted in by the masses; he has no god father. The same poor people who voted him into power, are the people he is fighting for and he is contented with their love and support. When Jesus came - pardon me, I am not using this as a comparison but as a fact - as a young boy, they could not comprehend his intelligence. When he was discussing with them in the synagogue, what did they say? kill him! And all their intrigues could not work until they got to Judas; he remained a mystery to them. The same thing they want to do to Okorocha.
Do you think the dissolution of the 27 council chairmen was the best decision taken by the governor?
I think so, and I will give you reasons for it. First, there was no election - people seem to forget this; there was supposed to be an election but they gave a court injunction against that election, so that election was not supposed to hold but the people in power used their executive lawlessness to impose them on us. There is still this injunction against the election, so in the eyes of the law, the election never took place.
So tell me if you are the governor voted by the people, entrusted with their tax payers’ money, would you allow such people? Anybody who is stealing the people’s money, or being a conduit pipe should be cut short; that was what happened. Despite all this their tenure has elapsed.
Considering the controversies and the crisis it has generated, do you think the governor is regretting his actions?
Why would he regret his action? His action is in the interest of the masses. It is lawful and constitutional, but I don’t know what you mean by crisis. The crisis is only in the PDP where people are fighting one another. APGA is at peace, the state is at peace. It is the PDP people who are fighting among themselves and going to court. There is no crisis, it is just among the PDP and those who believe that the elections are not over; those who do not want to wait for four years; who want to come back to government through the back door. When they can’t do that, they instigate people to go and cause trouble. All these court cases, are they free of charge. If the council chairmen said they were kicked out of office, and so they don’t have money, who is funding them? Who is funding their million naira jingles in the media?
What is your reaction to the allegation that the governor is behind the delay in the swearing in of the Oguta state House of Assembly winner, Eugene Dibiagwu?
The last time I checked, there is the legislature, executive and Judiciary. His Excellency is the governor of the state; he is not the speaker or the Chief Judge of the Imo State judiciary. Anything that happens, they call Okorocha - even when they fight among themselves. Did you ask if parties boycotted the election? Nobody is asking about that. If they boycotted the election, why did they boycott it? When there is a dispute and a party boycotts election, is that the end of it? There is a judicial process. Did Buhari not challenge Jonathan when he won election? Did they not challenge Okorocha at the courts? So we have the right to challenge his (Dibiagwu’s) acclaimed victory; we are not in a jungle society. In answer to your question, His Excellency is not behind the delay in his swearing in.
We learnt that the governor has commenced the payment of the salaries of the dissolved council chairman.
He has not commenced but has only approved, and it is on September 5 that all those affected should go to their DAGs.
How many months was approved?
Two monthsWhy two months?
Ask the chairman; it is specific to them. That is what they specifically requested, May 2011 and July 2012.