Ohakim's $60,000 dollars bribe rocks Catholic Church
An alleged Fifty thousand Dollars' gift to catholic priests at the Okigwe Catholic Diocese by embattled governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, has become the subject of an investigation by the Bishop of Okigwe, Most Rev. Dr. Solomon Amatu, pointblanknews.com has learnt.
Governor Ohakim was said to have called a meeting with the clergies to discuss his political future and what role the catholic priests are expected to play ahead of the April 2011 Governorships election on February 12, 2011. About seventy priests were said to have attended where the cash was shared.
Sources close to the Government House in Owerri and the Catholic Diocese in Okigwe, who confirmed the meeting said that the Imo Governor's 'semi-secret' meeting on February 12, 2011 with some priests of the Catholic Diocese of Okigwe, was aimed at appeasing the Catholics who he believes are against his candidacy.
However, a mild drama was said to have ensued before the meeting held at one Tony Chukwu's residence in Okigwe because the invitation did not disclose that the Governor will be in attendance. The unedited invitation read “Rev and Dear Father, Chief Tony Chukwu wants to address Okigwe Diocesean Priests and religious leaders on issue bordering on Okigwe zone on Saturday by 2pm at his house in Umueze 1. You are highly invited”. The invitation was circulated by text message.
The drama, it was further learnt, heightened when Governor Ikedi Ohakim surprisingly showed up at the meeting and distributed Fifty Thousand Dollars to the Priests, with Tony Chukwu supporting it with One Million Naira. The priests in attendance were said to be mostly those who just got ordained and were largely clueless about Ohakim's running battles with the Imo Catholic senior leadership over the recent humiliation of a Catholic priest in Imo by security operatives in Ohakim's convoy.
But before the meeting, a group of Catholics had circulated counter text messages urging the priests and reverend sisters not to attend the meeting. In the text circulated, the group called the meeting “a mockery on the catholic church”, and urged the priests not to accept the money that will be likely distributed at the meeting. A lot of priests who received the text message were said to have boycotted the meeting. A source said that “the meeting was moved to Tony Chukwu's house at the last minute because the Bishop, suspecting some unholy intentions, had politely declined to host any such meeting”.
At the meeting, the Governor was said to have told the priests that he chose his new deputy, a Catholic female Professor, as a mark of respect for the Catholics in Imo; and as a way of making Catholics feel included in his next administration if he wins. But one of the sources who spoke with this reporter said that one of the priests told him that “every one of them knew that Ohakim chose his deputy as a way of appeasing the church after seeing to the humiliation of a catholic Reverend Father recently”.
At the meeting, Ohakim was also said to have prominently brought up the issue of what he (Ohakim) called his “recent troubles with the family of Professor Maurice Iwu”. Iwu, the immediate past Chairman of INEC is not known to harbour any personal political ambitions of his own; but his younger brother, Chief Cosmos Iwu, a former Deputy Chairman of PDP in Imo and until very recently, the Secretary to Imo Government, is contesting to represent his Senatorial district.
The Iwus and Ohakim hail from the same Senatorial district. Chief Cosmos Iwu was said to have boycotted the PDP primary at the last minute because of irregularities said to have been orchestrated by the Government House at Owerri. Cosmos Iwu has now become the ACN Senatorial candidate in a wave of decamping that followed the highly acrimonious Imo PDP primaries.
According to a source at the Government House in Owerri, “Cosmos Iwu's failed attempt to become a PDP Senatorial candidate, even as it was Ohakim that urged him to resign and run became the last straw that broke the festering testy relationship between the Iwus and Ohakim”. Continuing, the source said that “Prof Iwu particularly felt bad that his brother was hoodwinked so brazenly by a Governor he so much trusted and has helped to sustain over the period of the many legal and political troubles with his mandate”.
Another source said that Ohakim tried to use the meeting to drive a wedge between the Iwus and Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu Chukwu, a prominent Okigwe politician and Catholic of national stature and whose wife was said to have also been misled by the Governor to run for PDP Senate primary “only to turn around to use Government House to rubbish Mrs. Ozichukwu”.
At the time of filing this report, the revelation that the priests who attended received personal monetary gift from the Governor and Tony Chukwu has ignited a firestorm in Okigwe Diocese. The Bishop of Okigwe and the lay council in the Diocese are disturbed and gearing to investigate “the whole purpose of the meeting and the personal distribution of money to the priests that attended”.
A text message circulating after the meeting and signed off by one of the priests in attendance took issues with what the Governor said at the meeting, criticising him harshly for his “disgrace of Okwuonu”, who is currently the Deputy Governor of Imo State but recently dropped by Ohakim in favour of Prof Onwuliri.
Another dimension to the whole drama of the meeting and distribution of money is the fact that Professor Maurice Iwu, whom Ohakim castigated at the meeting as “contributing nothing to making him Governor” is perhaps one of the biggest donors in the Diocese, having raised tens of millions of naira for the construction of the Cathedral for the Diocese. Prof Iwu also raised money from friends to build an ultra-modern Church for his Catholic parish at Ehime Mbano; besides other philanthropic gestures he has extended to the Church.