I Regret Making Okorocha Governor, Says Agbaso
Economist and politician, Chief Martin Agbaso, is one of the leading lights of politics in Imo State. He was the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in the 2007 gubernatorial elections, following which he made claims of victory. In this interview, he faults the actions and attitude of Governor Rochas Okorocha, especially in the controversial impeachment of his younger brother, Sir Jude Agbaso, who was his deputy. RAZAQ BAMIDELE brings the excerpts:
What was the allegation that led to your brother, former deputy governor, Jude Agbaso's impeachment?
If you recall in the third week of March last year, my brother, Mr. Jude Ikechukwu Agbaso, then deputy governor of Imo State, was accused of receiving N458 million bribe from a Lebanese contractor.
Then, I, in very clear terms, said my brother had nothing to do with the money that was alleged to have been taken as bribe money.
It was Rochas Okorocha, who approved the contract, awarded it, paid the said contractor N1.3 billion of Imo State money without due process, without even an award letter or any form of advance payment guarantee. So, the curious thing at the point was, why would a man, who did all this, who got all the benefits that were unprecedented from the governor, go to the deputy governor, who was away in India on official assignment, and give him a bribe of almost 40 per cent of the money collected?
That didn't make sense to me and I said that we, as a family, would do everything humanly possible to get to the crux of the matter; we would do everything to find out who took this money, where the money was domiciled and who the beneficiaries were.
Late last year, the news broke. The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), after putting us through grueling, painful, eight months of investigation finally cleared my brother, or any Agbaso for that matter, of any wrong doing, of any involvement whatsoever in the alleged bribe scandal. Again, this man, who went to the Imo State House of Assembly and said to them: “I am a Lebanese journey man, criminal contractor. I have taken 458 million naira of Imo State money and given to the deputy governor,” was kissed and told to walk away. A man, who said: “I have committed a crime against this state, against this nation,” they turned around and let him walk away and began hunting a deputy governor who knew nothing about the scandal.
Why then was your brother impeached?
Okorocha said that I, the deputy governor's elder brother, tried to impeach him, so, he was trying to retaliate. Later on, he said as long as Jude Agbaso remained the deputy governor, his life was at risk, that Agbaso could kill him. So, someone who got into office on the same ticket as him, was impeached in the most brazen manner, malicious and mischievous manner, in a show of shame that this country had never seen before.
Before the impeachment panel could even sit to look at the papers, a report had been sent to the House of Assembly. Before the House of Assembly could finish the process, a deputy governor nominee had been selected. Before the man could say Jack Robinson, a new deputy governor was sworn in and yet he said he didn't know anything about it.
What is this insinuation about an agreement on one term about?
Okorocha had an agreement with me that he was going to be governor for four years and we both signed this agreement witnessed by the national chairman of APGA. And you made this pronouncement in churches, in halls, in stadia, everywhere you said to people that you had an agreement with Martin Agbaso that you would be governor for one term and after that the governorship would go to Owerri Zone, which rightfully should produce the next governor.
Instead of doing that, you are looking for a way to tarnish my image. But it is not going to work because there is God out there, who rules in the affairs of men and women. You can't continue to mislead the people and lie your way through life as if it is business as usual. No, it is no longer going to be business as usual.
But how could the EFCC clear a suspect without taking him to court?
For the first time in this country, somebody was accused of something and the person wrote to EFCC, ICPC to come and investigate him. He said: “If you find me guilty, jail me. But if you find me innocent, say it so I can clear myself. Now the job of EFCC is to investigate the matter. When they are through with investigation, if they find you wanting on any of the allegations, then they take you to court for prosecution.
EFCC has concluded this investigation and found nothing. We know where these monies are. EFCC has confirmed that he (Jude) did not commit the crime. Joseph Dina himself has said in a written statement that he did not give him bribe. If Jude Agbaso committed any crime, EFCC would have been prosecuting him in court by now.
Why do you say you owe Imo people an apology? What offence did you commit against them?
I owe the people of Imo State a big apology because I was misled by Gov. Rochas Okorocha. I did not know his antecedents before I went into an agreement with him. By everything he has done in Imo State, he has shown that he is a person, who does not honour his word.
What I saw was a philanthropist, who trains other people's children and I believed that if he could do that, when he got into a position of authority, our people would be better off. Everything I did was to put Imo State forward.
Why did you have to anoint somebody for governorship race when you are also qualified to contest?
I did so because I was already in court for three and half years, fighting a legal battle over elections I won in 2007. I was not prepared to go into an election in 2011. This guy came and with his normal talk-talk, I thought we had a good candidate. Please, Ndi-Imo, I am sorry for bringing this man. He brought himself and I helped him. I thought it was the best thing to do at the time. But that is the limit of a human being. I could not see tomorrow.