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Aloy Ejimakor, counsel for a former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, speaks to ALEXANDER OKERE about the ongoing crisis between Ohakim and a businesswoman alleged to be his estranged mistress, one Ms Chinyere Amuchinwa.
There were reports in which Ms Amuchinwa claimed to have been in a relationship with the ex-governor. What was the relationship between the two parties?
They were friends and politically associated. Two men can be friends and a man and a woman can also be friends. That’s all I can tell you. I have no specific knowledge as to the nature of the friendship, but they were friends.
What is your response to her allegation that the former Imo governor visited her shop in Lagos, took some luxury items, including suitcase, bags and shoes, and refused to pay for them?
The former governor categorically denied that and his denial is contained in a statement he filed at the police headquarters in Abuja in the form of a petition. There might have been one or two items that the former governor saw as gifts that were given to him by this lady. So, whatever he received was not even as many as this lady is now alleging. It might have been maybe one or two gift items. These were gifts that were given to the former governor by Ms Amuchinwa as presents. I think she had taken a trip overseas and she came back and gave him those presents. There is nothing extraordinary about that. Friends do exchange presents. But for a friend to come back later because of estrangement or disagreement and begin to allege that the presents suddenly turned to purchases says so much about the credibility or trustworthiness of such a friend.
Both the governor and the woman disagreed over who arranged the private meeting at a hotel in Asokoro, Abuja, where he claimed to have been assaulted by her. Who invited who?
The governor had made it clear that the invitation, I believe, was extended to him by the lady. I don’t think that really is very material. I think what is material is, like friends that they were, both of them met at the hotel. Whether the invitation was extended by the former governor or the lady, I don’t see how material that is. That has been overtaken by the event being that they met and from meeting at the hotel, a criminal incident allegedly occurred, and that incident involved an assault, as already stated by the governor in his petition.
Is there evidence to prove that?
The assault was captured clearly on the CCTV of that very hotel and the police at the force headquarters investigating this incident are in possession of the reel of the CCTV where the assault was seen occurring. So, whether it was a chance meeting at the hotel or not doesn’t matter anymore. The petition by the former governor marshalled those allegations out. If someone was demanding money she believed she was entitled to for purchases made and she kept those demands within the boundaries of that, even though those purchases were denied as having been made by the governor, I don’t think it would have snowballed to this extent. It got to a point where the lady began to shift the goalpost. So, he perceived this as something that was no longer a demand for a reasonable amount she was alleging to be entitled to from those gifts that later on turned to sales.
How much did she claim the former governor Ohakim owed her?
She was mentioning different amounts. At some point, she was mentioning these purchases only; at some point, she tagged along what she alleged to be a political donation to the former governor’s 2019 governorship bid in Imo State. Then at some point, she began to allege that he sold a piece of land in Lagos to her for N500m without giving her the land. But she never adduced any evidence, any paper trail of effecting such payment. And if such payment was carried in cash, that means that would have been an offence on her part because that could be money laundering. But she never adduced any documentary evidence. There is no power of attorney or deed of conveyance or deal of assignment. So, when she began to make these conflicting claims of money that now totalled over N700m and at some point downgraded to N610m, it was reasonable for the former governor to conclude that this had got to the point of extortion and blackmail, especially because she accompanied demands with threats to his life and threats of violence, which she actually carried out.
How do you mean?
She implemented her threat on that January 2020, incident at that Abuja hotel. Before then, she had gone to his house in Abuja and barricaded the gate and created quite a violent scene. It didn’t come to a head because he avoided joining issues at his gate with her. I think that incident too was reported to the police. And she was making threats to his larger family and she also suborned unknown individuals to be calling the former governor on the phone to be making threats and so on and so forth. It got to a point where it crossed the line of making reasonable demands for money allegedly due to her to now making threats. And having failed to manage this between two of them, having felt threatened, having felt so bad, having felt so harassed in his life, he was compelled, especially after the assault incident in Abuja, to bring this matter to the attention of the authorities.
Ms Amuchinwa denied receiving N100m from former governor Ohakim for his governorship campaign in 2019 and demanded proof of payment. What is his position on that?
I think the amount was in excess of N110m or thereabout. This was disbursed, according to him, in the nick of the campaign and everyone knows, as it is customary among politicians facing an election, that they deal a lot in cash. It might be in small cash of N500,000, one million naira, N200,00, N300,000. But he was keeping tab of what he was disbursing and these were good times. This was when the relationship was subsisting and this relationship was based on trust. So, I don’t think in an electioneering atmosphere that was fluid, someone would be writing too many cheques, especially if some of these expenses fell on a weekend or were required to be expended or applied immediately. So, the urgency of electioneering demanded that these things do occur in cash. But I believe there might have been one or two persons who might have witnessed when some of the disbursements were made, and when time comes to prove that in the appropriate forum, such proofs will be supplied.
Did the former governor not raise a false alarm when he alleged that the woman rushed to grab something he strongly suspected was a gun from her bag during their scuffle in the hotel room, especially since he offered to give her a ride after their interview at the Asokoro police station over the incident?
No. He told the police what he felt. If you are involved in a confrontation where you are not the aggressor but only defending yourself and your oppressor is very livid with rage and really traducing you with lots of physical aggression, and reaching inside her pocket or purse, you have the apprehension that some kind of weapon might ensue. Your characterisation of the weapon that you fear might ensue could be a knife or a gun or some kind of weapon. So, his (Ohakim’s) characterisation of that being a gun was his present first impression and it was based on the type of violence that had been uttered against his person by this lady in the past. She might have boasted about the capacity to shoot or to knife someone and all that. So, his mind told him at that point that this lady might be reaching for a gun. Why should we blame him for that? That was his state of mind.
How has he been dealing with this ‘scandal’ that seems to have brought him to the public domain after his tenure as Imo State governor ended in 2011?
He is coping well, just as well as anybody who is trying to survive blackmail, libel, defamation and character assassination will be expected to cope. It has not been easy. I can admit it, but Dr Ohakim is a very strong man, is a very upright man and he did nothing wrong. So, he is very upbeat and he is looking forward to any forum to which he might be invited to prove his innocence. And as far as his family is concerned, his family is solidly behind him. They see this as something that shouldn’t be happening to him. He doesn’t deserve it. He did nothing wrong in befriending this lady. This is a friendship that resulted into a lot of windfalls towards this lady. So, this lady cannot stand up anywhere and claim that she absolutely didn’t benefit from that friendship.
Does the ex-governor regret ever befriending Ms Amuchinwa?
Who would not regret something like this? This is not what he bargained for. You don’t start friendship with a male or female with the expectation that you will be so harassed and defamed and your life so rendered miserable. Nobody really goes into friendship expecting this. So, when this kind of thing occurs, of course, the recipient of this will have some regret, not regret in terms of him doing something wrong in having friendship with this lady. He thought she was a very good person, but by hindsight, it didn’t turn out to be so.
Was she aware the ex-Imo governor was married?
Dr Ohakim’s marriage is a matter of public record. So, for her (Amuchinwa) to now claim that she didn’t know Dr Ohakim was married, when, in a lot of text messages she sent to him which he turned over to the force headquarters in Abuja, she had mentioned his wife by name and by reference, is something that completely destroys the credibility of every single claim she is making against him.
The woman also accused Ohakim of using a phoney property along Airport Road in Lagos to defraud her on the pretence that he would sell it and pay her…
No, no. There might have been discussions about that (land) but I had addressed that issue earlier. That’s not just what she claimed. She claimed the property was sold to her and that she paid N500m to the former governor. She is not telling the media or the police that he merely told her about the property. She claimed he sold the property to her and that she paid N500m to him. That’s what she told everybody and that’s not true. There was no sale. If anybody claims to have made a purchase, the onus of proof lies on that person.
What steps has the former governor taken to resolve the issue?
This matter is not yet in court. It is before the (police) force headquarters in Abuja and they said a police investigation is ongoing. But Dr Ohakim said he is disappointed by the fact that since the petition was brought to the attention of the police authority in January (2020), it’s still lingering. He expected it to have been resolved by now but, all of a sudden, the thing just broke out in the press. The presentation made by the lady and upon which you have been asking me questions indicate what she claims against him is purely civil. He expects her, if she believes that her claim has merit, to proceed to a civil court. His petition is pending and he is expecting the police to do the needful.