By Patsy Oparaku
“A noble’s birth,” they say “is by accident, but a noble’s action characterizes his greatness,”
This has manifested in the person of Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha as he pilots the affairs of Imo State. The character Owelle Rochas Okorocha may not be appealing to some, in particular those who have not been opportune to interact with him closely. But I think it is about time we engaged in constructive criticisms devoid of here say when it comes to assessment of some people. Some people were born leaders, some were made leaders and some earned leadership by themselves. Prior to now, Okorocha, says, he has thought and dreamt leadership. Little wonder, the overwhelming mandate given to him by Imo people in 2011 didn’t come as a surprise. It takes conviction in one’s ability to lead.
Imo State, fondly called the Eastern heartland was created on February 3, 1976 by General Murtala Mohammed. It was like farmstead with few or no infrastructural amenities, few accessible roads, within the ambience of its geographical setting. The only breakthrough made in its 40 years of existence could only be traceable to late Governor Sam Mbakwe of blessed memory.
Recently, a select media practitioners embarked on a tour of Imo State to have an on the spot assessment of Okorocha’s administration. I was privileged to be among the journalists. The governor is an administrator of a unique breed. He is humane, passionate and committed to championing the things he believes in. This, he has demonstrated in his massive transformation of the state, which spans from education, infrastructure, agriculture and healthcare.
In infrastructural development, the expanded Executive Chambers, fondly called Ndubuisi Kanu Chamber, the administrative offices in the Government House, Governor’s residence, and the entire premises of the Government House, have taken a new look. Odenigbo Guest House was newly constructed to lodge high-profile visitors who hitherto had to travel as far as Port Harcourt and Aba in search of a befitting hotel to lodge in and transact business in Imo State. Also newly built is the official residence of the first lady who was previously occupying a three-bedroom bungalow and that of the deputy Governor. A new Governor’s Lodge is nearing completion; while a chapel for worship was also built to enhance the spiritual upliftment of the workers since the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Every 12 noon, offices are shut down for prayers to appreciate God. A new Dee Sam Mbakwe Banquet hall in memory of first civilian governor of the state has been constructed. Entering the state capital, is where the governor defined his vision. This, he did, at various roundabouts he constructed, first the Okigwe roundabout, Owerri which has the images representing 27 local government areas of in Imo State, with 3 pillars representing the 3 senatorial zones. Also is a status of a young girl with a book signifying the premium the governor attaches to education, especially girl-child education. Another status is the picture of a palm-wine tapper, which depicts agriculture. There is also a status of the Holy Bible which is the ultimate without which nothing works. According to the governor, the statue is like a tripod upon which his administration stands.
The Imo International Trade and Investment Centre is a beauty to behold. The entire landscape of the new Owerri which is a rallying point has edifices like the Heroes, Square, Ikemba Ojukwu Centre, Concorde Apartment, Heroe’s Bridge, children’s Park and Hall of Fame where pictures, historic documentary and videos of heroe’s are kept.
In the bid to take governance to the grassroots, the Community Government Council was established to complement the efforts of the Local Government Council and has a functioning headquarter. Built also is New Eze Imo Palace, the People’s Parliament, Eze Imo Lodge/office, Okigwe, Orlu and Owerri cultural centres. The administration says it is proud to be the first to pay its civil servants N20,000 minimum wage when the federal government is still paying N18,000 and also the first and last to introduce corporate attire for its workers and teachers. Today, with their black and white suit on a red tie, you hardly can distinguish Imo civil servants from bankers.
To solve the problem of traffic congestion in the state, many roads have been constructed, like Akachi road that links Wethedral road to Naze junction, the dualization of Owerri/Aba road from Emmanuel College to link Freedom Square which stops at Dee Sam Mbakwe Road and to Warehouse road. Also is the construction of 1st, 2nd , 3rd inland roads and the Ochiedike roads to ease traffic congestion. New Owerri Layout was opened up to link it to Port Harcourt road so that people coming into the state will not bother to get to Assumpta Cathedral before entering into the state capital.
Education is one of the pivots upon which Okorocha’s administration stands. He says he forfeited over N4bn of his security vote to enhance education and make sure it is free from primary school to tertiary levels and yet maintained its high standard. This attracted a 100% enrollment from 127,000 to 800, 000 as people come from outside the state to attend school in Imo State. The young scientist’s college was also built to stimulate interest in science education. Imo Girls’ College was built to replace Owerri Girls since the mission took it over. Each has over 4000 students. The tertiary institutions are not left out. Imo Polytechnic has been transformed, so also is Imo State University which subvention was boosted from N57m to N297m every month.
In healthcare, Imo State Teaching Hospital has been revived and MRI machine installed. Their subvention was increased from N50m to N120m every month just to make sure that the workers and teachers are paid as at when due. Ongoing is the building of 27 general hospitals of 100 beds in each LGA which is almost completed with each specializing in a particular health area. This is geared towards making Imo State a health tourist state.
The industrial programme of his administration is focused on creating jobs. Avutu Poultry Farm has been reactivated and transformed, shoe industry has been started, Imo Palm Plantation is doing well except for occasional communal clashes. Resin Paints in Mbaise and Paper Packaging Industry in Orlu have been repurchased.
In the area of security, Okorocha has introduced, Imo Community watch, Imo Security network and Imo Civil guard to curb the menace of criminals and kidnappers. He provided 100 security vans and involved police and traditional rulers to assist in security matters.
In the area of tourism the Imo Concorde Hotel received massive transformation to a model five star hotel. other tourists places have long sprang up and remodeled, such as, Oguta Lake Motel and Oguta lake turned into a blue lake of treasure, the Akachi Park and renovation of Imo zoological garden. Imo carnival which comes up every December was introduced for the citizens to showcase their culture.
Behind every successful man they say, is a worthy woman, Okorocha could not have achieved all these without the full support of his wife, who is not only playing supportive role but also passionate about issues she has made her own. Her SNARP programme has contributed immensely to the success of the administration. She has reportedly built over 177 two-bedroom apartments for the poor and the widows.
*Princess Oparaku writes from Lagos