There is no doubt that many Imo people would be very eager to tell other Nigerians and even advertise that they hail from Imo State now more than ever before. And there are so many cogent reasons they would readily disclose their Imo roots.
They would be happy that they have in place a government that is working and living up to public expectation. The government may not be perfect, and no human government is perfect, but it has a sense of duty and commitment to the people. For the very first time in the history of the 40 years old state, Imo people have witnessed massive tarring of rural roads and free education up to the university. Unfortunately, Governor Rochas Okorocha’s numerous achievements in Imo have been largely downplayed by opposition elements in the state and the government is seemingly not publicizing its works.
From all indications, Okorocha seems to me as a man who is adequately prepared before seeking for elective post in Imo State. His rescue mission agenda demonstrates such preparedness. Recall that he had wanted to be the president of Nigeria and contested in many presidential primaries before he decided to contest the gubernatorial election in Imo against an incumbent governor in 2011 and won.
Against the backdrop of public goodwill and general acceptability, Rochas used the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) platform and won the election through well articulated campaign messages that resonate with the people, especially the masses, the Okada and Keke Napep operators. Later, he abandoned the APGA platform and joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a move generally regarded as political suicide then, but today, the rest is history.
In spite of the mass appeal of Okorocha’s campaign messages, it was not so easy for him. It took a supplementary poll and Imo people’s resolve to protect their votes for him to eventually emerge victorious. He also went through a supplementary poll during his reelection in 2015 after failing to make it at the APC presidential primaries. Before coming to power, Rochas has imagined his kind of politics and how he can achieve his set goals. Five years down the line, the man in Douglas House is steadily achieving his vision for a new Imo, not minding the daunting criticisms and some man-made obstacles.
While some elements are busy criticizing his style of governance, the governor is not distracted. He is busy working and restoring Imo lost glory. But one major noticeable snag is that Okorocha has neither publicized his achievements so far nor commissioned any of his projects. Okorocha’s governance style is a mixture of corporate and bureaucracy or the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. This is hardly surprising considering that Owelle came from a business background and have equally served in government.
In terms or infrastructural renewal, the governor has rebuilt Owerri and given it a befitting urban outlook. Okorocha has eased movements in Owerri by constructing many access roads to link different parts of the town. The roads are Akachi road, Freedom road, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Inland roads and Ochiedike road. The newly constructed roundabouts along Okigwe, Naze, Assumpta, and Warehouse roads have helped in this regard.
His entrepreneurial acumen is obvious in his management of men and resources. He does not tolerate wastages. His real estate experience and aesthetics are eloquently reflected in the numerous edifices he built in Imo. These are the Heroes Square, Ikemba Ojukwu Centre, Freedom Square and People’s Assembly and ISOPADEC Office Complex.
Others include the Governor’s Lodge, Odenigbo Guest House, Imo International Convention Centre, Imo Ecumenical Centre (Chapel), schools, markets, three zonal cultural centres in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe, Community Government Headquarters and the Eze Imo Palace in Owerri.
The governor is living his dream to make Imo a one-city state. He is dualizing Owerri-Orlu road and has almost completed it. He is also dualizing Owerri-Okigwe road with high measure of success.
His simultaneous development of Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe is the first of its kind in the state. His era can only be compared to that of Sam Mbakwe period. Without being immodest, I think that Rochas achievement, so far, is far above those of all civilian governors that had ruled the state since 1999.
Although Rochas is doing his best to build industries in the state, the biggest industries in the state now can be located in the education and hospitality sectors. Traditionally, Imo has an agrarian economy. It produces food and cash crops. It is one of highest producers of cassava, yam, cocoyam and palm oil. But its agriculture needs to be mechanized for more effectiveness. In fact, Imo needs industries that will provide employment for its teeming jobless youths.
Imo ranks high as one of the best tourist destination centres in the country, with state-of-the-art hotels and conference centres. Most of Imo internally generated revenue comes from tourism. The State capital, Owerri, has the highest concentration of higher institutions in the country. These include the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Imo State University, Federal University of Technology, Federal Polytechnic, and College of Agriculture.
Okorocha is also opening up admission spaces for Imo students with the building of the ultra-modern Eastern Palm University at Ideato. Even though it is not yet completed, the university is indeed a piece of architectural marvel to behold.
Like other edifices of Okorocha, it shows that the governor has taste for quality and beauty. Billed to take off in September this year, it will definitely rank as one of the best universities in the country. But is Okorocha’s administration perfect? No.
With his unorthodox style of leadership, which appears to be working for him, there is no doubt that he may have alienated some people. His free education is not perfect. Imo University lecturers are on strike. The allegation that he owes workers two months salaries, many months of pension arrears is not good and ought to be addressed forthwith.
In fact, workers in the state are not happy with the administration. Life in the state is hard. Some of his rural roads are caving in. Some of his critics admitted that he has worked in providing physical infrastructure but failed in providing welfare for the people.
They lament that Rochas is not attending to workers’ welfare. He is not attending to the welfare or stomach infrastructure of the people. With three years to go, Okorocha should concentrate in completing ongoing projects; attend to the lapses of the administration, especially the welfare of the people and payment of workers’ salaries. The best thing Owelle should do now is to consolidate and complete all ongoing projects before his exit in 2019 and improve on the welfare of the people.