While Nigeria was being firmly gripped by the ostensible “showbiz” of anti-corruption promoted by the new Nigerian government before and after the 2015 elections, many crimes were largely kept out of the mainstream media mostly because they were not expedient. Only anti-corruption mattered. A popular political youth leader, Dr Ugonna Omereonye, was brutally murdered in Imo State where his main enemy was the Governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha. This is not an attempt to implicate the governor in the murder but examine a very disturbing reality. Ugonna’s death needs proper revisiting.
Ugonna’s murderers might have been identified and found but that only happened due to the bravery of his mother, i.e. by an unforeseen contingency, a mistake. The police force alone would never have identified and brought the culprits to justice all by themselves. This is the state of policing in a country that often boasts that it has one of the “best police forces in the word”; murderers and assassins never get caught by them even by accident. However, the world clearly knows the trail of issues that led to Ugonna’s untimely and unfortunate death. Ugonna’s death is an event that should never be forgotten in the annals of Nigerian history.
In April 2015, Dr Ugonna Omereonye was assassinated at the doorstep of his home in Umuehie Nkwo Akata in Oru East Local Government Area on his return from the second round of general elections. Ugonna was slaughtered in the presence of his mother who was also assaulted and injured while she tried to defend her son, raise alarm and uncovered the identities of the culprits. What an experience for a mother! It is the choice of political assassins in Nigeria to kill their victims in their own living rooms, bedrooms or hotel rooms in the presence of at least one family member.
Surprisingly, a good photograph of Ugonna does not exist in the public domain. Dr Ugonna Omereonye, a veterinary surgeon, was the chairman of a group representing the ‘10,000 employees’ previously employed by former Governor of Imo State, Ohakim Ikedi, but subsequently sacked by the incumbent, Rochas Okorocha. For four years (2011-15) Ugonna had competently and persuasively contended with Governor Okorocha in court over the sacking of the 10,000 employees. Ugonna was also a ward youth leader for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), something that sounds “politically interesting” but is “politically insignificant”. The only political significance Ugonna had in Imo State was as leader of 10,000 sacked employees. No youth leader of any party deserves to die for their genuine political beliefs. Democracy!
Political assassinations are commonplace in Nigeria. From the head of state, to ministers, to heads of parastatals, to major political organisers, to NGO leaders, to political aspirants at federal, state and local government, assassinations are a variable part of the Nigerian democracy. Government by discussion though advocated by many reeks of delusion and denial. Since the return to democracy in 1999, countless major figures like Bola Ige, Marshall Harry, Barnabas and Abigail Igwe, Funsho Williams and many more have been assassinated. That does not include substantive assassination attempts.
As assassinations and murders feature increasingly in Nigeria’s so-called ‘fledgling democracy’, they are spreading to very local spheres of activity and to the people who participate in them, far away from big time politics and state capitals. At the time Dr Ugonna Omereonye was murdered, the youthful Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (Ughelli Chapter), Barr Austin Ichege, was assassinated in his home in Ughelli, Delta State. Youth local leaders without a treasury to loot, in nation obsessed with the word “grassroots”, are being assassinated and murdered because they dare to pursue truth and justice with conviction and commitment.
One would have thought that anti-corruption would reduce and eventually make the resort to assassination and murder to achieve political ends obsolete. However, it has ‘contrarily’ created a blind side to mortal crimes. Political assassinations do not count. Not in the next four years. In fact, the way the spoils of the 2015 election victory are being shared we should anticipate more murders and assassinations.
One may ask what Governor Okorocha has done with the money accrued from abruptly sacking 10,000 employees? Nigeria is in no shape whatsoever to practice neoliberal policy competently or healthily. Nigeria does not have the markets and is not willing to develop them. Besides direct theft, Nigeria’s rich and richest people all made their money purely from government (“political patronage”) inclusive of acquiring / obtaining expensive state assets at dirt cheap prices, shares on the cheap in nationalised corporations, preferential / exclusive import licenses, oil sector licenses, financial round-tripping, two-tier exchange rate exploitation, policy manipulation and other cronyist tricks. What is Governor Okorocha’s economic miracle? He should let the world know in comprehensive terms.
Nigeria has taught itself that life is more important than anti-corruption because the people have survived its persistent hyper-corruption. Alas, life in Nigeria will continue to remain more important than anti-corruption. And that is what is important.