The sight of immediate past governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, being led to a police vehicle that took him away from the Royal Spring Palm Hotel and Estate confirmed to me that power, and even life, is transient. It brought to me the image of former Governor of Bayelsa State, the late D.S.P. Alamiesegha being led away in handcuffs when he was in office, or shortly after he had been impeached, I cannot recall the sequence, but that picture hardly leaves my head.
I had written an article with the headline ‘When Tomorrow Comes’ at that time, wherein I stated that tomorrow is bound to come for everyone. When it comes, you will stand face-to-face with your past. Tomorrow will give you a mirror to see yesterday. President Goodluck Jonathan granted state pardon his former boss, an act that obliterated allegations against him. But I will never forget the image of that highly revered man walking in handcuffs to a waiting vehicle or helicopter, I cannot remember now. Those are the hazards of politics.
The root of the matter is that the immediate past Imo State governor, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who was removed by the Supreme Court to pave way for Sen. Hope Uzodimna, had instituted a panel of inquiry to investigate the activities of ex-Governor Rochas Okorocha. The process was in motion when Ihedioha was removed for Uzodimna, but Uzodimna did not abandon the process. It was said to have indicted Okorocha, and produced a white paper, which said that Eastern Palm University and some projects ought to belong to the state, not Okorocha. The Royal Spring Palm Hotel and Suites, which belonged to the former governor’s wife, was one of them. But Okorocha said it was not true, insisting that no court had indicted him on the matter. No court of competent jurisdiction had adjudicated on the matter and found him guilty. But the Imo State commissioner for lands and physical development, Enyinaya Onuegbu, led some state agents to seal off the place, given that it was built in unauthorized area.
That was when the smelly thing hit the fan. Rochas called police authorities and other security agencies and, according to him, they refused to send operatives to unseal the place. Rochas went to the place, and opened it, believing that the closure was illegal. He did not know that he had touched the tiger by the tail. There is only one governor in the state. The governor bared his fangs. The police were called in to arrest Senator Okorocha for breach of peace. He was taken to the police headquarters in Owerri, where he was later released. But the matter of legality of the closure ceased to be contentious when the commissioner for housing and physical development said the state government acted on the strength of a gazette that empowered it to seal the property. In other words, nothing illegal happened from the side of the government. The implication is that the former governor disrespected the office of the governor by opening the place.
The legality or otherwise of the closure and opening of the property do not answer the moral question trailing the matter: should Okorocha have developed that property while in office? If his wife owned the property, should he have encouraged her to do it when he was still in office? That question, for me, is the heart of the matter. It was smart for the investment to have come in the name of Okorocha’s wife but it certainly does not bring down the eyebrows raised by such a project during the pendency of the former governor’s office. I am in the league of those who believe that Okorocha left Owerri far better than he met it but revelations about such ‘investments’ made while he was still in office turn his achievements into ashes in the mouth.
Those investments may have come from his personal resources but the timing was morally wrong. In a clime where people view government with unmitigated suspicion, no explanation can suffice for such humungous ‘investments.’ Rochas has always been a man of means but it does not explain the kind of ‘investments’ linked to him while in office. The investments may well be genuine but the timing makes them very suspicious. If I knew that such investments existed, I probably would have taken my previous positive views with a pinch of salt. Okorocha has always wanted to provide leadership, even at the national level, but such ‘investments,’ as we now see, may be chalked up against him in due course.
People from the state may now thank their stars that Okorocha bungled his attempt to instal his son-in-law as successor. Imputations would now be rife that the intention was to protect the ‘investments’ rather than provide leadership. Someone who believed I had direct access to the senator, given my well-known view that Senator Okorocha left Owerri far better than he met it, had told me to tell the senator that Imo is not Lagos. Such a message is pregnant given how the only cock that crows in the politics of Lagos has held the state in a rather strong grip. I had long held that people of the South-East are so republican that no one can make a Lagos of any state in the zone.
Ihedioha and Uzodinma had the audacity to set up enquiries about their predecessor because they have no godfathers. No governor in Lagos can dare such a move. I hear that governors in the South-East and top guns in the All Progressives Congress (APC) have opted to wade into the matter. Reason and patriotism demands that such intervention should not result in sweeping things under the carpet. If the ‘investments’ belong to Imo people, the interventions must not convert the commonwealth into personal wealth in the name of peace. That would be a rather crude way of robbing Imo to pay Rochas.
The intriguing thing is that Okorocha still commands a large political following, a clear indication that his political weight is still heavy. Imo people must not lose their commonwealth on the altar of politics. There is life after politics.