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Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Karma and the parable of ‘Filadefia’ By Louis Odion, FNGE


So, after the mammoth burnt offering at the altar of greed, Rochas Okorocha will still end up with the bread of political sorrow?

The Imo west senatorial seat meant to be a “consolation prize” after the defeat of his stooge in the governorship polls of March 9 has been withdrawn by INEC over allegation that it was secured at gun-point on February 23.

Now, not only is the humbled Imo emperor left to mourn the defenestration of his son-in-law (Uche) and his daughter’s inability to succeed her mother as Imo First Lady in a failed aspiration at monarchy, he also has to endure the taunts of a gloating victor in his remaining days at the Douglas House.

From the camp of the governor-elect, the cosmopolitan Emeka Ihedioha, came a raft of disturbing accusations. Suggesting Okorocha may have decided to help himself for the two months left of his tenure, the victorious PDP candidate has alleged a last-minute looting of Imo.

ODION
Specifically, massive cash withdrawal amounting to N17b was allegedly made from Access Bank, Zenith Bank, Unity Bank and Skye Bank (Polaris Bank Limited).

Added PDP: “In the last two days alone, Governor Okorocha and his cronies have transferred ownership and re-registered over 150 government vehicles to individuals. Government properties including furniture and electronics in Government House, Owerri are being moved out to Ogboko, Ideato South, the governor’s country home.”

Expectedly, the official response to these grave allegations has not only been denial but a counter-accusation that Ihedioha is a busybody too impatient to grab power.

Well, this is a political season when facts get twisted willfully and lies are dressed as truth or a little grain of truth magnified beyond the borders of logic.
So, it might be very imprudent yet to crucify Okorocha or applaud Ihedioha here.

But nonetheless, it is impossible to deny the shadow of Karma now engulfing Okorocha. Some eight years ago, he too barely waited for then Governor Ikedi Ohakim to write his hand-over notes before bombarding banks with letters from the “Office of the Governor-Elect” to dishonor cheques presented by the Government House then. So pathetic did the situation become that the State Accountant General reportedly absconded from work, obviously to ingratiate himself to the incoming governor. Throughout his imperial reign of eight years, Okorocha relentlessly pursued a policy of vendetta against his predecessor, even refusing to pay him his statutory entitlements.

Alas, the wheel of retribution has turned full cycle. It is now Okorocha’s turn to taste the bitter portion generously administered on Ohakim with malicious pleasure.

Seeking to rationalize Uche’s drubbing on a surrogate platform, Okorocha’s cited a gang-up by “those who “traded away the people’s mandate in Imo”.
In the final analysis, let it however be admitted that Okorocha is no guiltier than the fawning hypocrites who, for the love of dollars, mortgaged APC interest away in Imo, thereby making the party forfeit its only foothold in Igboland. Were Action Alliance’s 195,364 votes added to APC’s 96,458, the aggregate would have dwarfed PDP’s 277,002.

Instead, the visiting scavengers from Abuja were busy counting dollars while poor, unsuspecting party women sang and danced barefoot around Owerri streets.

It is alleged that Okorocha also made a dollar bid for the party's ticket, but apparently lost out to "market forces", as the highest bidder carried the day. So, during the party primaries, the air literally stank of the aroma of dollars (or "Aromadollars" as the episode is now commonly remembered).

Of course, everyone within the family knows the dark truth, but they have been keeping a sepulchral silence, perhaps only awaiting the swish of President Buhari’s acclaimed moral sword in a redemptive rite of propitiation.

The tail of Okorocha's serpent may indeed have been dealt a savage axe blow by Imo voters, but the reptile's lips are still managing to twish, as he now lays boastful claims to the senatorial seat withheld by INEC, even while lamenting "the wickedness of man".

But elsewhere in South-west, the story is different. It is a case of funereal quiet in Abeokuta as hitherto loquacious Ibikunle Amosun still appears unable to comprehend what hit him. What we now see are furtive glances of the subdued, too shy to make eye-contact.

By audaciously seeking to enthrone his anointed (Omilade) as successor on the surrogate platform of APM even while sitting as APC governor, Amosun undoubtedly wanted to prove some political omni-potence. But that dream was cut short on March 9 as Dapo Abiodun trounced Omilade.

It is not only Amosun’s claim to invincibility thus invalidated; the stock of the fashion item he glamorized has also fallen. The usually impish social media has lately been agog with the shaming of Amosun’s trademark flamboyant, sky-high cap. “Fila” is Yoruba word for cap. To capture Amosun’s humbling, mischievous folks now whisper around “Filadefia” - a corruption of the popular Philadelphia city in the United States. It is the new onomatopoeia of mischief.

Of course, Amosun’s now rumpled hat would henceforth be designated as a monument to hubris and self-demystification. Outside the governor’s family circle, it is doubtful how many would continue to proudly wear the Amosun cap once his tenancy expires on May 29. It is not unlikely therefore that many a perceptive tailor in Abeokuta would, in fact, have started offloading their huge stock of “Filadefia” at give-away price to cut their losses.

All said, the supreme lesson should not be missed: power is transient. The message: humility.



Oseni Elamah @ 60

The rapid footfalls on the staircase were eerily amplified by the pervading silence of that ungodly hour. Wiping sleep from my eyes instantly, I then could perceive the urgency in his now audible voice near my bedroom door.
“Louis, we just lost Olaitan!,” screamed Chief Oseni Elamah as soon as I opend the door. “They shot him at close range at home.”

“What?!!!” I yelled back in disbelief, trailing him as he paced back downstairs to his study which door was ajar.

The desk was yoked with a mountain of files awaiting scrutiny, the Plasma TV on the wall humming softly.
There we now stood in grieving shock on May 4, 2012, but still trying to imagine we were dreaming, hoping to be awakened from a nightmare.
Time was roughly 2AM.

What made the moment all the more chilling, more ghoulish was the haunting memory of one’s encounter with Olaitan Oyerinde (also a top functionary of Edo State Government) just some moments ago - fraternal banters over what would now appear the Last Supper; and one’s own near-death experience barely five days earlier.

It was the season of political peril, treachery and dark conspiracies in Edo State.

Earlier on April 29, providence had led me to pass the night at the residence of a fellow commissioner, Clem Agba, and so was absent when the gunmen stormed my private Benin residence at 2.30AM. They only fled after gun battle with the gallant vigilante boys who came to my folks’ rescue.

So, I was supposed to be in "protective custody" in Elamah’s GRA home when this tragic news of a colleague’s killing broke. From emerging facts, it is quite debatable if Olaitan’s brutal murder could not have been avoided. Critical intelligence was not shared. It is a story for another day. More insights will be offered in snippets from my soon-to-be-unveiled Edo memoirs.

Well, today is about the celebration of life. In recalling how the news of Olaitan’s passing reached me, I only wanted to draw attention to the often grueling routine less acknowledged actors like Elamah kept to change the Edo story at some point. Through creativity, courage and uncompromising stance, he, as the Chairman of the Edo State Inland Revenue Service, inspired the team that drove Edo’s IGR (internally generated revenue) from paltry N300m to N2b at some point. With Godwin Obaseki as the chairman of the Economic Team.

Elamah’s work ethic is quite exemplary. Then, he was always at his desk by 8AM and would be the last to leave the office. Even then, at home, he would treat files, forever concerned about fresh ideas to pursue to further boost the state’s revenue.

Such sterling qualities must have impressed the reverred Benin monarch, Oba Erediauwa, to later decorate Elamah, an Auchi indigene, the Okaoivbiore of Bini Kingdom.
His outstanding record in Edo obviously led to his being head-hunted later in 2017 to serve as Executive Secretary of the Federal Revenue Service in Abuja headed by Tunde Fowler.

Indeed, shortly before my Edo odyssey, my big brother and media icon, the durable Nduka Irabor, had made some comments that turned out prophetic. Having himself left the newsroom to serve the Ika Federal Constituency at the House of Reps between 1999 and 2003, he counseled that I would likely find the new environment very strange as against the values of candour, self-criticism and forthrightness of the newsroom, jovially hinting that I would certainly encounter swines, ugly monkeys, serpents and rats, but reassuring: “I’m sure you’ll also find a few decent ones like Oseni Elamah. With people like Oseni around you, you’ll never feel lonely there.”
True, after the trauma of April 29, Elamah proved more than a true brother for the remaining period I was in Benin.

I attest to his generosity not only in material terms, but also in spirit. Despite wide age gap, he has remained a loyal friend also.

The Okaoivbiore of Bini Kingdom turns 60 on Sunday (March 24), incidentally a day ahead of my own. Here is wishing the fellow Arian happy birthday in advance!

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