July 8, 2006
Most Nigerians would readily lavish praises on the governor of Ebonyi State, Dr. Sam Egwu of Ebonyi state because of the glowing pictures often presented by the Nigerian media about his administration. He has been named various glorious names and given innumerable number of awards both within Nigeria and beyond. Just search the internet and news archives and see one governor in Nigeria that seems to have no stain on his name, courtesy of the disgustingly corrupt Nigerian media. Thisday Newspaper in particular cannot deny its culpability in this “mother of all frauds” against a hapless people. There is hardly any Thisday issue that passes without a potion for praising either the governor or his wife for some bogus achievements. Sometimes, one wonders whether it is about not being strategically located or just the fact that Ebonyi indigenes are barely represented in the mainstream media which is responsible for the apparent poor media coverage of true events in the State. One also wonders whether the fact there are not many rich and powerful enough citizens of Ebonyi State could be the reason why the governor simply does what he likes with public resources without regard for anyone. This is a case of one man desperately plundering the state government resources as he pleases with those who are supposed to challenge him either scrambling for their own cuts or intimidated by the large armies of assassins and thugs he pays with public funds. Even the Human Rights Watch has long observed the terrible state of basic human rights and freedoms and the dearth of media reportage of the situations to the outside world in its report on the conduct of the 2003 sham elections in Nigeria with focus on Ebonyi State. Their website details the series of assassinations and other violent incidents spearheaded by the state government against political opponents before and during the heavily flawed elections. However, what astounds one most is the fact that the people of Ebonyi State especially those who reside there and feel the pains directly are not known to be complaining at all.
The fact that one man has wickedly commandeered the resources and entitlements of over two million people for over seven years with no reactions from the people in terms of protests and oppositions is deeply disturbing. It is puzzling that a supposedly elected civilian governor having no command over any armed forces (except perhaps, illegal armed thugs) could muscle up every arm and institutions of the state government for over seven years without protests either by civil servants, elders or even politicians. So many atrocities that cannot even be dreamt of elsewhere have happened without any squabble and the governor seemingly emboldened by the general ignorance and primitiveness of his people has continued to go beyond bounds.
For instance, in 2001, he sought to convert his minority people into a majority by embarking on a fraudulent creation of more Local Government Areas (LGAs) with the effect that his clan Ngbo/Izhia which was one of the smallest groups would become a majority by way of more administrative units and most importantly more electoral constituencies and therefore more votes than majority clans such as Izzi for example which is about seven times larger both in population and land mass. Even though the federal legislatures outlawed the exercise, he has used it as a basis for distribution of infrastructures and amenities within the state. For the sake of non-Nigerian readers who might not understand the issues here clearly, this primitive act could be compared to having a Scottish Prime Minister in the United Kingdom who decides to delineate extra 100 constituencies for Scotland and only 40 extra for the whole of England which is 80% of UK. One can then imagine where such evil act could happen unchallenged.
To say that Mr Sam Egwu runs Ebonyi State like a conquered territory might not be adequate to describe the level of impunity with which he has trampled on the rights and entitlements of the people. Even an Emperor from the much we learnt from history classes could not have been so callous in running a conquered land. A governor who has been striving desperately to ensure that he acquires more wealth than the state government which he is supposed to be running for the benefit of all, must be a terrible bandit. Perhaps, the clearest demonstration of his disregard for the people has been his style of dissolving the state executive council and running the government as a sole administrator for up to six months, only to reappoint the same people back. This shameful act of denigration of his people has happened on three occasions and as usual without complaint from anyone. Those supposed to challenge him even scramble to be appointed into the cabinet to participate in the looting of their own resources.
However, the most humiliating insult to everybody in Ebonyi state has been the building of an ultra-modern private school for his wife obviously with public funds, while public schools are generally left in dilapidated conditions. Hence, the only standard primary and secondary schools reasonably equipped in Abakaliki is the Hope High International School, built by the governor’s wife at the expense of the people as a private business venture. Top government functionaries in the state are mandated to send their children and wards to Mrs Egwu’s private school while ordinary people are left with the uncared-for public schools. Of course, the governor’s children were immediately taken away to the best schools in the world at the expense of the state government on his dubious rise to governorship in 1999. As if that was not enough slap on the face of the hapless people of Ebonyi state, he embarked on crazy property acquisitions ostensibly to ensure that he literally grabs as much estates in Ebonyi State as the royal family owns in England. He has built the best hotel in the state with public fund as his private enterprise. The worst aspect of this is that he embarked on building what he touted as a five star hotel for the state (even though it was never a necessary need for the people) and suddenly as if stung by something, abandoned it and built a powerful edifice which is clearly the tallest and most magnificent building in Abakaliki, the capital city as his own private hotel. We are not yet talking about the properties and funds stashed abroad or elsewhere in Nigeria by he and his wife because those ones are unseen by the people. All that we know clearly is that a man who probably never travelled beyond Nigeria, on becoming a governor of the poorest state in Nigeria on 29th may, 1999 has today made well over 200 foreign trips mainly to the richest countries like USA, UK, and Australia for missions which cannot be far from dubious. It is also bitter to know that a man who has siphoned the monies meant for the provision of Medicare for his people flies himself or his family off to the US for every trivial medical need at the expense of the people.
One can go on and on to enumerate the acts of wickedness being perpetrated by the so-called democratically elected governor of Ebonyi State of Nigeria on his own people, but the most critical issue of deep concern is why there has never been any serious opposition to this evil ruler till date? Where are other political figures as well as traditional and religious leaders in Ebonyi while all these atrocities are being perpetrated against the people? Where are the women of Ebonyi state whose children’s future are at stake assuming there are no men left standing? We all know the power of women in Igbo land where men have failed to act as in the well documented Aba women riot against British colonial rule in 1929. It is true that challenging a ruthless state governor in Nigeria without federal support is a very dangerous game to play, but everybody cannot hide under fear to allow one man uninhibited power to play with the destiny of two million people for over 7years. Even if all the supposed opposition politicians have been bought or silenced by intimidation, one wonders why a person like the Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki diocese who is the spiritual head of more than 60% of the population has never stood up to condemn the fraudulent system or even mobilise the people against the rogue government. I have already written to His Lordship Dr. Michael Okoro, the Bishop on this issue because one believes that a person of his calibre is best positioned to speak for the people being a respected beacon of morality acceptable to the generality of the people including non-Catholics. It is also reasoned that since, religious leaders have the most advantaged access to the people that they generally have the greatest power and influence to bring about change in their immediate societies. This is because the kind of change needed is mass mobilisation for better awareness of modern societal structures and governance.
The greatest problem we suffer is not really about wicked or corrupt leadership, but more critically about mass ignorance and primitiveness. The fact that nobody sees the looting of public treasury as affecting him or her personally is the greater problem in not just Ebonyi State but the entire Nigeria. We must understand that the fact that Tony Blair or George Bush cannot fiddle with public funds is not because white men are saints, but more crucially because the people will not let it happen. Even if you can buy over the media and all opposition politicians in those countries, the Cardinals and Bishops would not fail in their duties to mobilise their flocks. Our cardinals and Bishops are therefore failing their people by having not stood up against bad governance. The most important point which ought to strike the mind of any enlightened person from Ebonyi State whether a Bishop or a Politician or Professor is the fact that their share of the good things of modern life such as motorable roads, water supply, electricity and good medicare and shool facilities has been wasted over seven years by one man, unchallenged. We must realise that if there occurs a serious health emergency in the state anyday, that our own people are going to die needlessly because the monies that should have been well channelled into providing quality medical centres and road access to them have been siphoned by one man and his cronies. Sam Egwu and the few big men from Ebonyi state might be able to afford treatment elsewhere from their ill-gotten wealth, but at the end of the day they will all be losers because a handful of opportunists alone will not enjoy life better in Ebonyi State if a deadly disease wipes out the poor.
Moreover, it is necessary to consider the grave implication not challenging a fraudulent government would have on the future of the state. It is not only that the next governor would come with vengeance and would strive to surpass Sam Egwu in fraudulent wealth acquisition, but that a bloody conflict may not be avoidable since a terrible seed of discord has been sown for seven years among a relatively homogenous people. One wonders, what moral justification, anyone would have to ask the next governor who would probably come from another section of the state, not to buy his own assets overseas, build the best private university and a 7star hotel in Abuja and also seek to multiply the number of his local government into ten. Of course, without mass actions, only a military coup in Nigeria can stop Egwu from installing his wife or any trusted person as governor in 2007, but the real issue is that a potentially bloody crisis awaits the future of Ebonyi State. All that needs to be done now to avert the despicable level of hatred hatching among people now before it becomes terribly late is for a trusted leader and elder like the Catholic Bishop of Abakaliki to rise to his responsibility as a leader, elder and father by calling for reconciliation or carrying out a mass action against an evil ruler. The Bishop must realise that he is part of the society for now and owes responsibility as per what he has done on his own part. Preaching at the pulpit is not enough. We must begin to build a good and responsible society beyond the church environments. God knows that one has not set out to be seen as challenging His anointed, but merely expressing one’s harmless thoughts on the way forward for the future of our people. Since, the media and politicians have failed us, the only trusted leaders people are prepared to listen to, being the religious leaders cannot also fail to show leadership for their flock. It would be most unfortunate!
London, July 8 2006.