The press release by the outgoing Governor, Owelle Anayo Okorocha setting up a 21-Man Transition Committee showed how much eight years in governance of the state has impacted on the outgoing governor. It is either Governor Okorocha was ill-advised on how to go about a descent transition program or that he is guilty of deliberate arrogance in pursuance of his usual illusionary emperor of Imo State disposition. There is no gainsaying that Governor Okorocha before now used to see Imo as a conquered territory. The way and manner he embedded his family into state business and his insistence on imposing his son in-law as his successor showed how much the governor wanted to stamp his emperorship status over Imo State. It is not surprising therefore to see the governor wanting to extend his emperorship designs on the transition program where he is the outgoing governor.
Reference must be made that since the 11th March, 2019 declaration of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the outgoing governor never deemed it fit to extend a phone call to his apparent successor. That symbolic call and the informal meeting that follows on the invitation of the outgoing governor is a minimum gesture but fundamental to show goodwill. It is what would display good sportsmanship. Governor Okorocha held-off and refused to extend that symbolic gesture, even when his contemporaries in other states have done so. In fact he continued running the state as if a Governor-elect does not exist, whom the Constitution has lined up to mandatorily take over from him come, 29th May, 2019. Governor Okorocha’s body language prior to the release of his transition team was suggestive of one who feels he was doing his successor and his party (the PDP) a favour. Respect, decorum, decency demands that Governor Okorocha ought to have extended a call, a handshake on informal private meeting before the official business of setting up the transition team.
It was the refusal or withholding of any gesture of goodwill by the outgoing Governor that made the Governor-elect to set up the committee he called the Transition Technical Committee. When Hon. Ihedioha set up that committee, many people misconstrued his action. Those who wanted just anything to oppose him felt he was being too forward and should have tarried. But not many understood the man Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha. By that committee, he demonstrated that he has come to work. He showed that he was up to the new challenge. He got down to the details of his new job, seeking new ways to confront the huge challenges ahead of him. The setting up of the TTC by Hon. Ihedioha was to show Imo people his readiness towards rebuilding the State. Many would have preferred the Governor-elect goes on vacation or continue to merry, pending when his predecessor decides to kick-start transition activities. But to Ihedioha, it was a call to duty. He needed to hit the ground running even with the outgoing governor holding off against extending the minimum symbolic call and a meeting. Ihedioha has been justified by the recent statement by the outgoing governor setting up his transition committee.
There is nothing wrong in the governor setting up a transition committee as such is necessary for a smooth transfer of power. But there were many things wrong in the way and manner the outgoing governor chose to go about it. One fundamental flaw was the manner the governor unilaterally scheduled and published list of activities even before the two transition committees would have the first meeting and in total disregard to the disposition of the governor elect. In the press release, the governor stated the terms of reference of the transition team as follows; “This 21-Member Committee will interface with the Committee set up by the Governor-elect, Chief Emeka Ihedioha to ensure a hitch-free transition”
With the above statement by the governor charging his transition team to liaise with the team of the incoming governor towards a smooth transition, the governor needed not go further to announce list of scheduled activities with dates, time and venue. That statement was elaborate enough to capture all that the joint committee needed to do for a smooth transition. The governor going ahead to announce a list of activities with dates, time and venue already chosen from the 1st day of May, to the 29th May, 2019 was a sharp contradiction to the terms of reference given to the committee and the mutual gesture to the committee of the Governor-elect who would make inputs. Curiously, the governor held off on the official hand over to his successor for the 29th May, 2019, this was the most critical pre 29th May official swearing in event, which the outgoing governor ought to have made a definite decision, inviting the Governor-elect on the date to come forward for same. In 2011, the former Governor Ikedi Ohakim invited the incumbent Governor when his handover documents were ready and did the official handover to him. Hand over need not be on the 29th May, which is a busy day marking the Swearing in. In fact at the day of the Swearing in, official handover is deemed to have taken place and consummated, because the outgoing governor ceases to be an occupant of the Government House or the office of the Governor. So why hold off hand over to the 29th May?
A look into the program events outlined by the outgoing governor shows that the out going governor wants to drag the Governor-elect to a meeting with members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Labour Congress and NUJ, Traditional Rulers, Inauguration of the Joint Committees, tour of projects etc. In the first instance, the outgoing governor is wrong to think he can hoodwink the incoming governor into attending his valedictory meetings with his selected groups he feels he needed to address as he takes his exit. Rt, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha is the Imo Governor-elect and Governor of Imo State come 29th May, 2019. Even if Governor Rochas Okorocha refuses to do an official transition and handover ceremonies, it won’t stop Hon. Ihedioha from assuming the office automatically by act of the Constitution. It is foolhardy therefore to think that Ihedioha as Governor-elect does not have the liberty to meet with the members of the NLC, NUJ, CAN and Imo Traditional Rulers if he so desires. Rt. Hon Ihedioha as governor-elect can choose to meet those short listed groups or any other group he deems important as Governor-elect or after his swearing in. The purpose or agenda of the outgoing governor for meeting them may be radically different from that of the incoming governor. Therefore the outgoing governor must allow the transition teams to meet and choose what program for the transition.
Another twist is that Governor wants to use the transition as a ploy to get Hon. Ihedioha to a photo-ops of his most controversial and poorly throughout projects, many of which have become a serious burden to the Governor- elect. For instance, Governor Okorocha wants to use the meeting with NLC and NUJ to drag the Governor-elect to the New Imo Government House land at Area “H” which has been balkanized and shared amongst his family members. The NUJ and NLC are cited on the now shared New Government House land possibly to divert attention of an incoming administration from reviewing how one family got a large chunk of the land meant for New Government House in the Owerri Master Plan. Most of those programs look like an attempt to use the in coming governor to get validation for the illegalities.
Another funny program was the choice of an interdenominational church service at the Heroes Square without consultation with the Governor-elect. It may be necessary to state here that besides the official handover and the project reviews by the transition teams, the outgoing governor is dispensable in the celebrations prelude the swearing in. The Church service for instance is about the incoming government. The outgoing governor can choose to do his valedictory Church Service and Reception even after 27th may, 2019. The transition Church Service is to thank God for a smooth transition and the prospect of a new order. Therefore the choice and consent of the Governor-elect is necessary here. The unilateral choice of the Heroes Square and the choice that it be an Interdenominational Service out to come after consideration and deliberation of both transition teams. The explanation is that the pre-swearing in Church service would amount to nothing if the Governor-elect rejects it or elects not to attend.
Another controversial line is the inclusion of the non-existent six universities for review and the now dead Community Government Council CGC program for review with the incoming transition team. The outgoing administration does not realize that the Governor-elect has the powers to jettison and cancel most of those things even on his first day as Governor. One wonders why the 27 Hospitals were deliberately omitted after eight years of sinking Imo funds to the failed project.
My advice to the governor is to allow his transition team and that of the Governor-elect the time and opportunity to meet, brainstorm and draw up a reasonable, accommodating and acceptable transition program. The Governor should remove his valedictory meetings and ceremonies from the transition program. He must be made to realize that the incoming Governor must assume office even if he does not handover officially.
The governor-elect does not need to tour any project with the outgoing Governor. The projects are Imo projects, they are not Okorocha projects. Upon handover all the projects would come under authority of the Governor-elect, who shall have unhindered powers to superintend over them. Hon. Ihedioha does not need a Rochas parade round Jacob Zuma and Ellen Johnson Sirliff Statues. Governor Okorocha must realize that his time is up. He should just do a comprehensive handover and gradually begin to take the back sit as the curtain fades on his eight years reign as Imo Governor.
His attempt to impose his emperor-ship status on Ndi Imo even at this transition program will fail. Let the two transition teams liaise and draw up a program that mutually captures the mood of Imo people who cannot wait to see life after Rochas Okorocha eight years. Rochas cannot impose a joint celebration of his valedictory ceremony and the ushering in of a new administration in one piece. Governor Okorocha cannot get that which he failed to get when he sought to impose his son inlaw on Imo people, through the back door.
Lets Rebuild Imo.
Kissinger Ikeokwu Esq. served as Spokesperson to the Ihedioha Campaign Organization.