I received with some shock the exonerating news of the very much popularized case of embezzlement and profligacy leveled against the Ahoada East Executive Chairman Hon. Cassidy Ikegbidi ‘Mayor of Orashi’ region. My utter consternation with the news strictly stems from the fact that the committee appointed by the Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA) was headed by one of those calling for the council boss removal-Hon. Nname. This arrangement to every well meaning and objective thinker in Rivers State was already a flawed one. Presumably, to every onlooker, Hon. Cassidy Ikegbidi, whether right or wrong was summarily going to be castrated. With Nname in charge in the committee, it was clear where the pendulum was going to swing to. For, an adage says- grasshopper can never win a case in a court where a fowl sits as a judge. Probably, if another neutral committee had looked into the case maybe the hype the matter generated would have been minimized.
Besides, a source had said that this same group that fingered Ikegbidi has always linked the chairman with one form of allegation bordering on sleaze or the other. The source further stated that in Ahoada East and Rivers State generally, Ikegbidi’s notoriety for embezzlement can rightly be traced to this very group. He noted that nothing can ever be right in their eyes as long as Hon. Ikegbidi’s name is involved in the running of affairs in Ahoada East.
All these he stressed is because Nname who is a representative of Ahoada East Constituency I in the Rivers State House of Assembly is suspected to have an overt interested in representing the zone in the Federal House of Representative and would want to be seen to be doing a yeoman’s job of effectively policing the chairman of the local government. Again, political watchers in the area point to the fact that he (Nname) seemed not favoured in the political equations in the zone occasioned by the recent party congress and so in other to beef up his relevance and political profile in Ahoada East he wants to create a platform from which the youths might begin to pander to him as Saviour of the masses and a political leader of sorts. Somehow, all these might have suffered a stillbirth with the House verdict.
So coming out of that hallowed chambers last Tuesday with his mandate as a local government helmsman unscathed and intact after the House deliberations and subsequent verdict of stay of action for lack of ‘Due Process’ on the side of the committee was a big surprise, a volt-face development.
To the RSHA and for this objective assessment of issues I would want to say well done.
Definitely, there is nothing wrong in being a watchdog for your community. As a representative, it strictly falls in Nname’s sphere of responsibilities towards his people to monitor leaders like Ikegbidi and how they not only generate funds but also how they expend it. Sincerely, if Nname does not lookinto such matters for his people then he has no business staying in the State House of Assembly for his community.
So, he just might have been right in pointing out what he suspected was a case of profligacy. However, there is a clear line of separation between an allegation and a confirmed case of embezzlement. There needs to be pointer to the fact that Hon. Ikegbidi was stealing from the peoples till. But curiously, if the council boss was that light fingered why did his people bring him back for a second tenure? Or was Nname one of those who had wanted to bring their own only to be shocked that their own could not match the popularity of Ikegbidi? Is this therefore another avenue through which he wanted to foist his own candidate on the people of Ahoada East? Well, if that is the case then, Hon. Ikegbidi has got to be warry. For, he has to know that he is under the kleiglights of this group. This may not be their last effort to deny him of his mandate.
Frankly speaking though every community, state or nation needs someone like Nname who should be in opposition, to checkmate executive lawlessness and so serve as a watchdog for his people. But in Nigeria, you need courage to do this especially these days in Nigeria when opposition has been whittled down by compromise or the love for filthy lucre. Nevertheless, in doing this there should be discretion, care and sincerely of heart and purpose. You should not be parochial, myopic or sentimental. You do not raise an unsubstantiated allegation without drawing the ire of the masses. Furthermore, it is most benefiting to walk on the side of honour than to sheepishly chase a man with an array of unsubstantiated allegations.
Instructively, with all the allegations erupting against Ikegbidi I would want to ask where did his traducers situate the magnificent edifice he built as a local government secretariat, almost the best in the state (and probably the most expensive), what of the scintillating information and communication centre (ICT) standing side by side with the secretariat, do they also not see the councillors’ building, I was also meant to understand there were boreholes numbering about ten (10), road projects, cars to honourable members, health projects, programmes for indigent Ahaoda East people, widowhood emancipation projects etc, while I saw some skills acquisition programme ongoing, some of which were students to be ferried overseas under the sponsorship of the LGA.
If these myriads of programmes were undertaken by the Ahoada East chairman then should not one expect cash to be expended? No one can run such emancipation cum enhancement programmes and projects without expecting to spend money. Besides, the bulk of challenges to democracy in Nigeria reside with the grassroots administration. We have, strictly speaking, a coterie of unemployed youths roaming the nooks and crannies of our local government areas. These have no means of livelihood. And as one of the allegations against Ikegbidi was the engagement of criminals in his administration I am prompted to pose these questions to both the accusers and to whoever is reading this article- If the federal government of Nigeria found it worthy to both pay and train Niger Delta youths/militants under the amnesty programme who is Cassidy Ikegbidi not to follow suit? Again, we have several hundreds of thousands of youths roaming the streets searching for non-existent jobs should a local government chairman elect to engage such people under one guise or the other to take them off the streets why should that become a problem?
Giving people a sense of belonging and helping them ………… is one of the cardinal programmes of every democracy and I do not find fault with such efforts or is it because it is Cassidy Ikegbidi?
Let the truth be told, by engaging this crop of youths I think Ikegbidi deserves encomium rather than attacks. Who knows what form of militancy or agitation they could have visited on the Ahoada East were it not for this noble engagement when there is no form of social security benefit/allowance being paid to people of the Niger Delta as it should have been? Ikegbidi simply rose to the challenge when it beckoned and I very much justify that effort. Without mincing words if there are more resources the chairman should go ahead and engage more youths, the Niger Delta region is in dire need of leaders that can trim down the number of unemployed youths in the zone.
Clearly speaking to lead a people has never been an easy task. In the act of governance theorist have always asserted that you cannot please everybody at the same time. You please some, you displease others. This assertion of course, is a policy thrust matter because, while some policies would work for a group, it also may not work for others in the same enclave. Saint or villain, Ikegbidi will definitely not please everybody at the same time. For those his policies and programmes are repugnant to, they need to exemplify some serenity and imbibe the grace to accept what they cannot change. But for those in rhythmic consonance with his programmes and policies let them try to buttress that he (Ikegbidi) did not waste his time, energy and resources in enunciating those policies by telling others and doing the best they can to up the ante.
The judgment or verdict from the State House of Assembly strictly has proved that a case is always sweet when stated only from one perspective.
Ikegbidi in all fairness should be saved all these distractions so that he can conclude most of the works he has stated for the good people of Ahoada East. ###