Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, has drawn the battle line with Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Diocese, Most Reverend Anthony Obinna.
The state government has vowed not to succumb to blackmail, ahead of the 2019 governorship election in the state.
The state government’s position was in response to a recent allegation that some supporters of Okorocha physically attacked Obinna during a funeral mass in Owerri.
Liaison officer in Imo State liaison office, Abuja, Dr. Edward Ihejirika, and the governor’s aide on Electoral Matters, Steve Asimobi, who addressed a press conference in Abuja, at the weekend, accused archbishop Obinna of blackmail and intimidation, with intention to play a prominent role in the choice of Okorocha’s successor.
They told newsmen that the state government had already known the position of the archbishop on issues that concern the governance of Imo state, even as he re-affirmed it at the funeral mass.
Asimobi said: “The Catholic archbishop had always wanted someone from his area to be the governor of Imo state and he had tried to use all available antics, including blackmail and intimidation to realise that.
“It was this same archbishop Obinna who lied to Nigerians that a Catholic priest, Eurestus Okorie, was physically attacked by government supporters, a day after local government election was conducted in Imo state, during former governor, Ikedi Ohakim’s tenure.
“I was Ohakim’s aide on Electoral Matters then and local council election was within my mandate.
“We cried and tried to make the world understand what truly happened, but, they failed to listen to us. Four years after, apology was tendered after the damage was done.
“Archbishop Obinna succeeded in his blackmail then because Ohakim’s government handled the issue with kid gloves.
“But, that would not be the case this time. We will not tolerate any intimidation or blackmail coming from anybody or anywhere even from the spiritual realm.
“Archbishop Obinna had finished his sermon at the funeral service and was making closing remarks.
“Instead of focusing on the issue of the day, he began to call names. He described Okorocha’ s administration as dictatorial, and threatened to work against the success of the governor’s choice candidate, Uche Nwosu.
“He made all the verbal attacks to the face of Nwosu and the governor’s wife, and non of them responded to him. He gave (the) microphone to a parishioner after his remarks, who, surprisingly countered him. After that, someone else wanted to make contributions, but the bishop previewed him before permission was granted.
“The bishop was happy that the parishioner castigated the governor and his preferred successor. He described them as bunch of failures, who have led the state into poverty and underdevelopment. That was when people started booing him, saying the statement was untrue. There was no altercation between archbishop Obinna and government officials. In fact, he could neither be reached or touched because of a barricade that separated him from the congregation. It was the intervention of their security aides and church officials that calmed the situation.”
Meanwhile, the state government officials have explained how Nwosu emerged as choice successor to Okorocha.
They said it was not the decision of the governor alone, but that of the entire people of the state.
“When requests for endorsement from gubernatorial aspirants became much, the governor asked them to go and get people’s support first. That was how they all went out to canvass support from the local governments and other stakeholders.
“Afterwards, delegations from virtually all the councils visited the governor to pitch their tent with Nwosu, as who they would support in 2019 governorship election.”