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Chekwas Okorie: 70 feathers on the cap of a man of vision and character



By Sunny Igboanugo

He struck gold more than four decades ago, when God blessed him with wealth, a lot of it. He was still a young lad on the second floor of life’s existence. At that stage, he would have hit the streets like many of his age, painting nightclubs and social events red with money or be junketing around the globe, especially when Nigeria was practically at the beck and call of the world, with countries on bended knees, begging them to come and spend their money.

But not for this Prince of Alayi, in Bende Local Government of Abia State. He had other noble and far more enduring fancies. This was captured in a burning desire, the same David, must have been imbued with while kitting up to do battle with Goliath.

At that stage also, it was wont for the older generation, to quickly dismiss and refer his kind as a child on whose head the patch of amniotic fluid was yet to dry. But if they did, they could have found out so quickly soon after that this was not just an ordinary child. For in no time, he became a member of the prestigious Elders Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation.

This particular one, was equipped with the tools needed not only to navigate through the maze of life’s vagaries and vicissitude, but the soap and water, with which to wash his hands clean enough to sit and dine with them at the elder’s table.

The trajectory of life for Chekwas Okorie, was one that saw him navigating through the shark-infested waters and contending the tempestuous wind, yet with eyes on the compass as the ship he captained headed to harbour.

Perhaps, very few people know or still remember that the political tide sweeping across the country today, has Okorie’s imprimatur somewhere in it. It was through him that Peter Obi, today’s political phenomenon cut his teeth on the turf, when he got the opportunity to run for governorship in Anambra State on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which Okoria founded in 2002.

Like every visionary with eyes on the big picture, he had started small by founding a group named Nzuko Abia N’Imo, where the then indigenous people of Abia and Imo met to discuss issues of commonality amongst them and when Ebonyi was carved out from Abia and Enugu, the meeting expanded to Nzuko Abia, Imo N’Ebonyi.

It was at the success of that effort that he decided to expand the vision to include the entire Igboland, hence the formation of Igboezue Cultural Organisation, a powerful body that acted as a major think-tank for the younger elements of the Igbo people, as well as serving as the supply chain and footsoldier for Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex decision-making body of Ndigbo.

As the leader of Igboezue, there was never any dull moment at the Zik Avenue office of Chel Waters Nigeria Limited, the head office of his company, where the young, debonair, forthright and outspoken Chief Executive Officer (CEO), combined his thriving business with daily engagements with various groups on how to advance the lot of the Igboman.

It was from that engagement that the idea of forming a national political party from the South East sprout out. The idea, Okorie, had severally explained, was to offer a platform for Ndigbo to meet their counterparts across the nation at the negotiation table to enable them get a fair share of the popular national cake.

That thinking and the subsequent effort put into its actualisation, eventually bore fruit, when APGA, was birthed on Saturday, June 22, 2002, ahead of the general elections the following year. This was after an initial failure to register the Peoples Democratic Congress (PDC).

It was Okorie’s vision that led him to bringing the late Ikemba Nnewi, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, a man he had associated as a major ally and right hand partner. The idea was with Ojukwu’s name and influence, the party would garner the needed fillip to attract Ndigbo and thus galvanise it through the South East into the national arena.

Indeed, contrary to wide-held view that Ojukwu founded APGA, the party was actually Okorie’s baby. In fact, the formation of the party, retold the story of Noah and the Ark in a certain way, in that he was actually abandoned by many people, who never thought it would amount to anything at the time the journey was on.

That was until he returned with certificate, which was handed over to him on that day by Abel Guobadia, National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). But despite the carnival-like activities and atmosphere that heralded its birth, many Igbo politicians still avoided APGA in preference to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Peoples Party (APP), they believed had the levers of power.

It was Okorie’s persistence and power of persuasion that to led to the dragging of Ojukwu, who was actually not making any major headway in his APP into the new platform. With the handing of the APGA presidential ticket to Ojukwu on a platter, Okorie eventually recorded achieved his goal. For in no time, the party began to gain traction across the country, which led to the big wins in 2003. That was how Obi came into the fray, though he was declared the winner of Anambra governorship, three years after.

In fact the process was in itself a hard work on Okorie’s part. For despite the fanfare which was evident when Ojukwu hosted Okorie and his team from Abuja at his number 4 Isi-Uzor street, Independence Layout, Enugu home, when they returned with the party’s registration certificate, seemed to have gone no further thereafter.

No doubt the Ikemba was visibly excited, which he displayed with a huge bear-hug he gave Okorie, which he followed up by ordering a carton of Moet Chandan, to be handed to the new party boss as a symbol of his appreciation, while hosting the team on that day. Yet, he still stuck with the APP, perhaps out of apparent political reality, until he was persuaded otherwise.

Elsewhere, the late former Vice President of Nigeria, Alex Ekwueme, who was equally enthusiastic, when he received Okorie’s team to bless the certificate, appeared too deep into the leadership of the PDP. Ekwueme, who was the arrowhead in its formation of the then ruling party, had twice failed to claim its ticket as the presidential candidate. Yet he seemed not moved with his misfortunes to leave the party.

Even the Eze Ozobu, then President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, made his own efforts in attempt to ginger Igbo patronage of the party. Earlier, when the party’s certificate had landed in his house, the former Chief Justice of Enugu State, was so excited that he proclaimed on touching the document that he was ready to die at that moment, because he now had something positive to report to departed Igbo heroes like the late Owelle of Onitsha, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Iyeonukara Okpara and others.

There and then, he had directed Ndigbo to troop en-masse to APGA as their party of choice. Indeed, so celebrated was the party among Ohanaeze and the Igbo leadership that Okorie was conferred with the Ogbatuluenyi Ndigbo, at the meeting of the body in Asaba that year where, again, emphasis was made on Ndigbo adopting it as their platform.

But then, the dream and vision were shared by few. But Okorie dreamt on. Just like the story of Joseph, the trajectory points to an unravelling. Just like the story of Joseph sons of Israel was full of ups and downs intrigues and mischief APGA has also witnessed its own fair share of crisis, part of which it is still suffering today.

But it was out of that set of events, strung together by God himself that Moses emerged to lead the people out of Egypt. Today, does the picture not seem similar. Does the story of Nigeria not appears like resemble that of Israel in the land of Egypt?

Is the political struggle in Nigeria today not akin to the confrontation between Moses and Israel on the one hand and Pharaoh and Egyptians on the other? Are the intrigues not there – the hard-heartedness of Pharaoh the sufferings of the oppressed and the hopelessness? Are they not quite apparent?

If indeed, God is planning to manifest Himself once again as He did to the freedom of the Israelites in the land of Egypt, if it is His plan to set Nigerian free from their oppressors, where would Chekwas Okorie be found in the whole story? Could he be denied the position of a Joseph who dreamt dreams and through whose dream God’s plan for his people was made manifest?

Like Joseph, he dreamt dreams, like Joseph, he was betrayed by his brothers and thrown into the prison by the evil deeds of Potiphar. But in all those trials and burdens, God still showed His hands and the reasons for them made clear.

Perhaps, it is still God’s plan divide the Red Sea of Nigeria to allow his people pass through the dry land. He might yet clog the chariots of Pharaoh and drown their charging soldiers in the sea that would return. Nigerians, to the last man, might look back to see as their traducers who refuse that they would never be free struggle with the red sea as it swallows them. They may sing songs of praises as Israelites sang as they to the Promised Land. If and when all that happens, historians would have to connect the dots and fix Chief Chekwas Okorie in his own place.

On this Monday, April 10, 2023, as friends and well-wishers, both at home and in the Diaspora, gather at the BMO Event Centre, Riverplate Park, 174 Ahmadu Bello Way, Wuse 2, Abuja to pay homage to the Ojeozi Ndigbo, who has just turned 70, only those who know the true story would put it in proper perspective.

Indeed, others would have other reasons to be at that party. Having climbed the biblical three scores and ten, who knows what else God is planning. For Ojeozi is a good man. Still in stable health, mind and spirit, there might just be something else to end his efforts with a crown of glory. But that decision lies with the Almighty, whose ways confounds creation. Happy Birthday, Ojeozi Igbonine!

Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Lagos


Imo massacre: Armoured vehicles procured for police used to rig elections – LP



Labour Party, palpably in anguish at the slaughter of eight soldiers in Imo State on Tuesday by some rampaging gunmen, has raised questions over the whereabouts of the nine Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) Athan Achonu, it claimed its governorship candidate for the November 11 election, repaired and donated to the authorities in the state.

The party, all but called out the leadership of the Imo State Police Command, to whom they claimed the equipment were handed over, alleging that the last time they APCs were seen was during the last general elections, where they were used by members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party in power in the state to snatch ballot boxes for candidates in the national and state assemblies.

The claim, was made when Nick Opara-Ndudu  and Nnaemeka Onyeka Obiareri , chieftains of the party appeared as guests on The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise Television to sell the candidacy of Achonu, whom they said would never have allowed the type of insecurity in the state to endure under his watch.

Both men, who said that Achonu, whose highest political office so far, was his short stint in the Senate, where he served via the 2015 election before he was removed through the courts, remained the only solution not to the insecurity, in the state and even the South East,  but the one to rescue the people from years of underdevelopment from poor leadership.

Obiareri, spokesman of the LP in the state, argued that if the APCs had been in place, Tuesday’s incident in which the military men were killed alongside some policemen and officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), would probably not have happened, said a check on the social media would reveal how they were used by party men of the APC for rigging the 2023 general elections.

He said: “The military men that were killed if they had armoured vehicles patrolling, they wouldn’t have been shot by those criminals. Athan Achonu, go and confirm from Innoson, paid hundreds of millions of naira to Innoson, Innoson is still alive, you people can still go and interview him, to repair nine armoured vehicles for the police. Five were supposed to be in Okigwe zone. Till today, we don’t know where those nine armoured cars are.

“If you go to Youtube, you’ll see Youtube record of members of the House of Assembly in Imo State using those APCs to carry ballot boxes. It’s there on Youtube, you can search it out. What Athan Achonu will do is very simple. Every local government area will have one humvy vehicle for the police. Police stations had been totally burnt in Imo State and Athan repaired most of those police stations.

“Then, there will be community vigilante. We’ll train those 50 youths per community – train them, equip them and arm them. They should guard their communities. When you have over 50,000 hectres of land, reclaimed from the bandits, and you have youths who are not only just farming, but who are trained to protect their communities, they’ll do the job.

“Then, we have to set up a security trust fund. Ndi-Imo are not scared. As at today, there are some communities in Imo State, where bandits – unknown gunmen, are ransacking and collecting levies from the communities. Basically, Athan Achonu will provide training, recruitment for people donated by the communities. Communities know those who are the terrible ones in their midst. And I tell you, in six months, they will flush them out.”

Opara-Ndudu, who dismissed the claim by the state governor, Hope Uzodimma that the carnage and other killings in the state were politically-motivated, blamed the governor for misplacing his priorities and failing to provide jobs for the teeming youth population in the state, questioning why nobody had been arrested and prosecuted fully in the courts if the insecurity in the state was all about politics.

Hear him: “The security problem has to do with objective conditions in the state. The young people are frustrated. The government is not making any investments in the areas that are required. We’re busy pursuing projects that are designs in deception. Look at the roads that are being done in Imo State, you know for you to deal with the problem of poverty and other economic challenges, you have to deal with the problem of infrastructure.

“In Imo State, the government has dedicated all of its time and half of its time to reconstructing federal roads without any attention – little or no attention paid to the rural areas. If you go to length and breadth of Imo State – Ngor Okpala, Ezinifte Mbaise, even in the governor’s local government – everywhere in Imo State, you find that the rural areas are looking desolate and abandoned.”

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Police find body of missing female student dumped in the bush, vow to get killers



Operatives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), command, have vowed to fish out the killers of a university student, Blessing Karami, whose body was said to have been picked up from the bush days after she was declared missing on September 11.

The FCT police, which released the painful news on Thursday, said in a statement by its spokesman, Josephine Adeh that the remains were found in the woods in the Karimu area of the city.

The police spokesman acknowledged that her disappearance was reported to the police authorities last,  Thursday, September 14 added that 26-year-old Blessing, a student of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), was declared missing after leaving her place of work in Garki, Abuja.

She said in the statement: “The body of Blessing Karami Moses, a 26-year-old woman who had been missing since September 11, 2023, was tragically discovered in a wooded area in Karimo. Her disappearance was reported to the authorities on September 14, 2023,” the statement read.

She said Commissioner of Police, FCT, Haruna Garba, had directed that command should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, adding: “While we are working closely with the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to facilitate the respectful retrieval of the decomposed remains acknowledging the sensitive nature of this task, we will continue to provide updates to the public as our investigation progresses.”

Adeh, a Superintendent of Police (SP), also commiserated with Blessing’s family and loved ones over the incident.

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Ogun cult massacre: DSS raid home, pick up PDP lawmaker, five others



Damilare Bello Mohammed, a serving member of the Ogun State House of Assembly (OGHA), is currently telling operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) his side of the story, after he was picked up over his alleged involvement in the rival secret cult clashes that occurred in Sagamu town.

Mohammed, recently elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Sagamu State Constituency 1, was picked up on Wednesday by the agency over the incident in which at least eight persons were killed last weekend during the violent clash in the town, alongside five other suspected cultists allegedly involved in the cult violence.

The five other suspects; Debbo Animashaun, Bamidele Saheed, Ismaila Onitire, Adewale Otesanya and Tobi Owoade, were arrested by the DSS operatives during a sting operation after a tip-off at the early hours of Thursday within the residence of the lawmaker.

Lekan Adeniran, spokesman to Dapo Abiodun, the Ogun State governor, announced the development in a statement on Wednesday, saying the secret police tracked the six suspected cultists to the official residence of the lawmaker.

Accusing the lawmaker of providing shelter to the cultists, Adeniran, said in the statement, that the suspects were presently undergoing interrogation in DSS custody after many dangerous weapons, including guns, were recovered from them.

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