By Ikechukwu Amaechi
Last week, my friend and former colleague, Oguwike Nwachuku, responded to my article penultimate Thursday titled, “Uzodimma: The governor as a quisling.”
Typically, Oguwike, media aide to Governor Hope Uzodimma, attacked my person, making baseless claims on what he described as my political affiliations, motive for my writings and presumed hatred for President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
I will come back to these infantile insinuations shortly. But first things first. He called me “one Ikechukwu Amaechi.” That is too childish and a gross misapplication of grammar. Until a year ago when Uzodimma poached him from TheNiche, Oguwike was my subordinate in the office. As the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, I appointed him editor in 2014 and signed his appointment letter to the chagrin of some senior editorial staff who subsequently left in protest.
But knowing Oguwike’s proclivity for mischief and treachery, addressing me so offhandedly was a deliberate attempt to insult, which speaks to the lack of character that precipitated the rebellion against him at TheNiche. Since Oguwike’s article, “Imo and quisling commentators,” was published last Thursday, I have received numerous calls from mutual friends who could not believe the rather condescending tone, the manifest hubris and what they perceive as the deleterious effect of power on people even those that only saunter along its corridors.
But anyone who knows Oguwike well will not be surprised. As Michelle Obama, former United States First Lady, famously said, power doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are. The fact that he has gone berserk, literally, dishing out insults to all and sundry who dare cross his path by criticising his principal, no matter how constructive, is true to character.
When Shaka Momodu, Editor of Thisday on Sunday, wrote an article in February 2020 titled, “That Supreme Court Magic Judgment,” condemning the judgment that sacked Emeka Ihedioha as Imo State governor, Oguwike alleged financial hanky-panky.
Oguwike wrote that “Shaka was comfortable abusing the Supreme Court …. He did so in ways his collaborators, nay paymasters who have been lamenting their loss of power in Imo State … have carried on for more than two weeks now.”
He tarred Chido Nwakanma, a communications strategist, with the same “pen for hire” brush for his February 6, 2020, article in BussinessDay titled, “The hunchback on Hope Uzodinma.” For daring to criticise his boss, Oguwike accused Nwakanma of joining “the band of cheer leaders and hired writers who dot the country’s landscape.”
“I do not know,” he pontificated, “how much thought Nwakanma has spared evaluating the circumstances that brought his pay masters into office in the first place.”
It smacks of intellectual laziness if the only way Oguwike knows to defend his boss is to accuse anyone with a contrary opinion of being a hack writer even if that is his brief at Douglas House, Owerri. Now, to the main issues in Oguwike’s diatribe.
He wrote: “There is nobody who does not know that the only problem Ikechukwu has now is President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC …. His, is hatred borne out of allegiance to another political party and benefactors he has psychological attachment to.
“Therefore, he cannot comment objectively on any APC governor or government just as it is an anathema for him to say anything good about Buhari.”
I didn’t know that Oguwike also speaks for Buhari, a job Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, in my estimation, are doing well and, therefore, don’t need the help of an interloper. Oguwike’s insipid accusation that I hate Buhari is laughable. Truth is, I don’t, but I loathe what he has done with power. I detest the fact that his bigotry and penchant for nepotism has pushed Nigeria to the precipice.
I hate the fact that Buhari’s supremacist agenda is nudging Nigeria to the brink of another civil war. And the depth of my angst is a measure of the profundity of my disappointment. Oguwike knows that I voted for Buhari in 2015 because I was convinced that the then ruling party – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – had become too conceited and undemocratic. When the fact of an impuissant Goodluck Jonathan’s namby-pamby presidency was thrown into the mix, I came to the inevitable conclusion that Nigeria needed a new leadership.
But, less than six months after Buhari mounted the saddle, I found out, regrettably, that it is what it is. Most Nigerians who supported Buhari in 2015 have also come to that inevitable conclusion. The only difference is that as frustrating and challenging as the Buhari presidency has become, some people believe that since the status quo cannot be changed, it must just be accepted without a whimper. I say no. Buhari must be called out for the harm he is doing a country that gave him his all.
That is also my disposition to Hope Uzodimma, the man who was elected governor of Imo State by seven justices of the Supreme Court, via a judicial fiat that Justice Centus Nweze said “will continue to haunt our (Nigeria’s) electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come.”
Oguwike mentioned my April 29, 2020 article, “Hope Uzodimma’s 100 days of hopelessness,” claiming that some “very senior colleagues” called him to wonder “what commentator could have said a political office holder did nothing in office in 100 days.”
But he should tell his imaginary senior colleagues that his principal, not me, said so.
In his April 27, 2020 speech, a whopper cocktail of falsehood and fairytale, Uzodimma said he had nothing to show for his first 100 days in office because the circumstances of his “historic victory” did not avail him “the luxury of a transition period, which most governors-elect have the privilege of using as a preparatory phase to actual governance.” He lamented that “the situation was not helped by the sorry state of affairs,” he inherited. “There was no handover note from the previous government to mine. This left me with no definite starting point.”
Uzodimma also claimed he was unable to hit the ground running because he “inherited an empty treasury and a disillusioned, disoriented and dispirited civil service.” Those were his words, not mine. I agree we are in a post-truth politics era and Oguwike wants to impress. But he should do so with some decorum because post-truth politics poses a serious challenge to the values of truth, and consequently trust, two value propositions in public office without which good governance is a mirage.
When falsehoods in public space are left unchallenged, a lot of things are compromised and the integrity of our politics or what is left of it collapses irredeemably. Oguwike’s inane allusion to my so-called allegiance to paymasters is pathetic. It is too cheap a blackmail that deserves no response. I don’t know why he is feeling so self-important doing a job I turned down in 2007 – 14 years ago. So, this is neither about Emeka Ihedioha nor being beholding to some political interests. At stake is the fate of a beleaguered Imo State and its over five million people.
I was in Abuja on January 16, 2020 when Oguwike called to inform me that Uzodimma had offered him appointment. I had nothing against that. They were friends and I gave my blessing. With the Supreme Court ruling, Uzodimma’s governorship had become a fait accompli. But I have always told him that his principal didn’t win the March 9, 2019 governorship election, having come a distant fourth. That is the crux of the matter. So, while he remains governor, it is sacrilegious for Uzodimma to continue claiming that the Supreme Court judgment restored the “mandate the good people of Imo State freely” gave him.
Uzodimma was made governor on a platter of doctored election results by seven justices of the Supreme Court, none of whom voted in the election, and who subsequently refused to right their manifest wrong on the grounds that the court lacked powers to sit on appeal in its own judgment. That is the truth that is haunting Oguwike and his co-travellers on the boulevard of falsehood. A truth Justice Nweze amplified when he disagreed with the Supreme Court heresy by insisting that a judgment or order can be set aside on merit.
“This court once set aside its own earlier judgment and therefore cannot use the time frame to extinguish the right of any person. This court has powers to overrule itself and can revisit any decision not in accordance with justice,” Nweze reminded his colleagues in his minority judgment. But all that, perhaps, wouldn’t have mattered if Uzodimma is providing good governance. He is not, thus proving that while one can easily obtain power by trick (OBT), governing by deceit and propaganda is a much harder task. Oguwike said no amount of hate commentary on his principal will make him remove his eyes on the governance ball to reposition Imo State.
That is exactly the wish of every well-meaning Imolite. Unfortunately, there is no ball right now in Uzodimma’s governance field, hence the resort to blatant falsehoods. Oguwike ranted that Ndi-Imo have seen the construction/reconstruction of roads that will stand the test of time, reforms in the civil service like never before, and claimed they are getting their due from the government without being dehumanised.
Really? Which state is he talking about? The same Imo State where pensioners, old men and women, were beaten mercilessly by thugs for daring to demand payment of their pension arrears? It is good to hear Uzodimma has turned Imo into a giant construction site and work is ongoing on the dilapidated Owerri-Orlu, Owerri-Okigwe roads. Does that mean that the construction giant, Julius Berger, has mobilised to site after signing a memorandum of understanding on those two roads with Uzodimma last year?
Oguwike wrote about the unprecedented reforms in the civil service without elaborating. Do the reforms entail non-payment of civil servants and teachers or pay cut for those who are lucky to be paid anything at all? By the way, what has happened to the N2 billion Uzodimma claimed last year he was saving every month for the state through his “painstaking exercise of eradicating the stinking fraud in the public service payroll system?” Is there no longer limits to lies?
Granted, even at the best of times, the job of image making is a tough call. It is even more so when dealing with a principal with a mountain of baggage. But by his churlish antics, Oguwike is making a bad situation even worse, wrecking further, rather than remaking Uzodimma’s bad image.
Amaechi, a highly celebrated journalist is the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of TheNiche online newspaper.