The opponents of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration in Imo State appear somewhat frustrated. Out of this self-inflicted frustration, you see anger, hatred, and, to a large extent, stagnation. To ease this frustration, they always try to make something out of every incident or situation in the state. They pursue with vigour whatever they think can help them out of this frustration, but all to no avail. They have not been able to make any headway. And there is a reason for that.
The reason is this: All those leading the motley opposition in the state have been one thing or the other. Some of them were senators, governors and House of Representatives members. And Imo people know them, their antics, their antecedents, weaknesses and strength, if any. They have, therefore, no valid claim to make against Governor Okorocha or against his administration. So, what they normally do is to use every issue that comes up to scratch the governor to see whether that can help them in any way.
For instance, look at the alleged attack against the Catholic Bishop of Owerri Diocese, Archbishop Anthony Obinna. The opponents of the administration have been labouring in vain to see if they could score any political goal with that false allegation, even when the man at the centre of the matter had spoken, indeed, the truth of the matter. The Archbishop himself told The Guardian, one of the most reputable newspapers in this country, on Monday, March 5, 2018 (Page 8): “Please tell the people the truth. Nothing like that happened. Nobody beat me. I was neither beaten nor manhandled by any person.” That was 24 hours after what was said to have happened at the burial service. If it were any other person that said that, they would have said the government had gone to bribe him or her to say the opposite of what happened. But they cannot say that about the Bishop. Yet, they have continued to make much noise about an incident that only occurred in their blurred imaginations because they are not keen on the truth but on blackmail.
And mind you, up until now, the Bishop has not denied The Guardian report. You then ask, whose report do we believe? The report of the Archbishop said to have been beaten but who said he was not beaten, or the report of a few political opponents in the state? These guys have a fundamental case. They do not know what to do to stop Imo people from loving Okorocha and appreciating his administration. Don’t forget too that when the incident happened, they first said it was Hon. Uche Nwosu, Chief of Staff, Government House, who asked the people to attack the Bishop. When they could not sustain that blackmail, they began to talk about Okorocha, who was not even at the funeral church service. They are desperate about 2019 and have gone haywire.
Writing on the issue on the back page of the Daily Sun of Wednesday, March 7, 2018, one element picked on Governor Okorocha over the issue. He is one of those hired briefcase writers these desperate politicians have engaged to write for them from their hotel rooms. The guy said his name is Ndii Duroha. “Ndii” is not a name. “Ndii” in Igbo is a small creature that looks like a monster and you can use it to frighten little children. And “Duroha” is not also a name. What the Igbo have is “Duruoha.” These are all couriers of blackmail.
You do not also forget that, in 2015, there was nothing they didn’t call Okorocha to also see whether that could help them. They called him “Alhaji in Government House, Okoro Hausa, Buhari-Rochas,” and even said the chapel he built in front of Government House was a mosque. And that the cheque of N450 million he gave to mission schools was dud, when in actual fact it was cashed. They also said that he joined the merger that gave birth to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to assist President Muhammadu Buhari to Islamise Igboland. Unfortunately for them, all this blackmail never helped them in 2015. And there is also no possibility that it would help them in 2019.
Have you asked why they do not talk about demolitions again in Owerri and environs? The reason is that Imo people would stone anybody who talks about that again because they have seen the gains of the Urban Renewal Programme, with Owerri and environs having 10-lane roads at the moment. The exercise is going on now at Wetheral Road, but nobody is talking about it anymore. Why do they not talk about Ekeukwu Owerri Market again? Because they have also seen the differences between the ultra-modern markets built by the government and the shanties they had called markets. Why have they stopped criticising the free education programme? It is because Imo people have seen and are enjoying the benefits of the programme. The state has since 2012 sustained its lead in JAMB applications and is doing well in all spheres. Poor parents do not give out their children again to serve as houseboys or girls. And hawking has disappeared on the streets of Owerri.
The school enrolment that was 280,000 in 2011 has snowballed to 1.2 million at the moment. The poverty level in the state as at 2011 was 57 per cent but today it has gone down to 19 per cent. The record is there.
In fact, have you also asked yourself why these opponents do not accuse Rochas Okorocha of non-performance? None has ever said that. They can only talk about pensions because we have some issues with pension matters. And the issues will soon be resolved. We do not owe salary. And we have always claimed that the achievements of Rochas Okorocha in seven years as governor have far exceeded or surpassed all that those who had governed the state before him since its creation in 1976, both military and civilian put together, had achieved. We have also claimed that Okorocha has more than 1,000 verifiable amazing projects to his credit. And we have challenged anybody who has a contrary claim to that effect to come forward. Luckily enough, some of the ex-governors are still alive. Why is nobody challenging us on these innocuous claims? Money cannot be their problem. They have it. So let them publish what they have, from 1979 to 2011, and we publish ours, with their locations, from 2011 to 2018. That is the best way to go. Blackmail does not make any meaning but valid claims.
What is also the headache of our opponents is 2019. They have no response to our achievements and Imo people see these exploits. So, what would someone tell them in 2019? Okorocha has said he would want someone who would sustain these monumental achievements to succeed him, including free education. And you think Imo people will listen to those who have eaten fat from the purse of the state, than listen to a man who has shown that leadership is all about service to God and humanity? Like we have always intoned, our achievements would be our electoral talisman in 2019.
Now, the issue of Nwosu succeeding Okorocha! Even before the governor came out to say he would support Nwosu, if he comes out for the 2019 governorship, hundreds of thousands of youths, students and women had embarked on solidarity rallies calling on the guy to contest. As we write, 24 out of the 37 local governments in the state have endorsed him because they have seen him as someone who would even work to surpass Okorocha’s record. And it is like a revolution. Why is everybody, including those in APGA, PDP and others, talking about Uche Nwosu? He has become the hottest political figure in the state today, because opponents are yet to see anybody who can beat him in the 2019 election. The major voters in Imo are the youth and women. I am yet to see any aspirant or candidate that will appeal to these groups more than Nwosu. That is the reason for the whole noise.
Again, one of the leading opponents, for instance, was the governorship candidate of PDP in 2007 and he failed. In 2011, he was the candidate of ACN and in the election he came fourth. In 2015, he failed in the PDP primary. So, what did he not have in 2007, 2011 and 2015 that he will have in 2019 to the extent of defeating Nwosu? Another one was governor for four years. He was voted out after his first tenure. In 2015, he failed the PDP primary.
What will be his magic in 2019? One of them had all the federal agencies at his disposal in the 2015 governorship election.
Yet, he could only win in the three local governments that make up where he comes from. So, what other miracle would he perform in 2019? Other aspirants have only come to be counted. This is the reason behind all the political noise in Imo. They know that Nwosu is the man to beat.
They have not also said any other thing against Uche Nwosu except that he is an in-law to Okorocha. And even those who should now better are talking about that. An Nkwerre man cannot be governor because he married the governor’s daughter from Ideato. They have dropped the issue of zoning because they have seen that, since 1979, the governorship of the state has never been left exclusively for any particular zone. That is the campaign for weaker aspirants. And we are contending that, if the only issue Nwosu has for which he cannot be governor is being an in-law to Governor Okorocha, then we should give America back their democracy, since that is where we copied from. The same America, where George Bush became the 43rd president, after his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, had been the country’s 41st president. Again, Bill Clinton was president of America and the wife, Hillary Clinton, was senator and became the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in the 2016 election. And Americans never talked about her husband being president of that country but concentrated on the capacity of the woman. The question becomes, when will our own democracy grow?
The truth of the matter is that the fate of Uche Nwosu is, first, in the hand of God and, secondly, in the hands of the Imo electorate and not in the hands of weak opponents.
• Onwuemeodo is Chief Press Secretary to Governor Rochas Okorocha.