Ray Ekpu, a notable veteran writer had, on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, written under the referenced caption on Page 47 of The Sun. In the piece, he was liberal with lies and too mean with the truth. From the first to the last paragraph of his work, he massaged falsehood with ointment and never cared about the truth of all the issues he raised. At the end of it all, we concluded that either he has never been keen on the affairs of Imo State or he chose to do some media works for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and its candidate in the March 9, 2019, governorship election, Chief Emeka Ihedioha. Perhaps, to also pave way for the kind of media-related jobs he had done for the previous administrations in the state with leverages, which Governor Rochas Okorocha never bought into.
For instance, Ekpu accused Governor Okorocha of having “wielded power with a tremendous sense of ultimate, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent controller of the people’s destiny.” He never explained how. And this is one of the reasons we had stated that he has not been following events in the state. For the almost eight years Okorocha has been governor, no Imo man or woman has been arrested, detained, maltreated or molested on the orders of the governor. Imo people had never exercised the level of political freedom they have exercised under Okorocha as governor or the level of political tolerance the state has witnessed under his governorship. Owing to this freedom, opponents abused or insulted Okorocha more than they had done to any of the past governors.
Under Rochas Okorocha, no politically-related killing or kidnapping associated with the administration has been recorded. In the history of the state, Okorocha has the shortest convoy and even taxi drivers ‘drag’ the roads with his convoy unmolested. And most of the time he drives himself. It is under Okorocha that people come into the Government House without protocol and without being subjected to undue security scrutiny. And that was the reason the Government House was changed from ‘Douglas House’ to the ‘People’s House.’ One had expected Mr. Ekpu to mention one instance when Okorocha exercised ultimate power. But he added nothing to justify that blackmail.
Ekpu also wrote, “The day I heard the governor pronounce that he was establishing three state-owned universities in Imo State I shouted, Chineke. It was clear to me that he thought a university was a primary school.”
Here again, this veteran journalist sat in his office and imagined things. And a situation like this obviously won’t be helpful to the younger generation in the media vocation. In case he does not know, Okorocha did not pronounce to build three state-owned universities, but the truth is that he has built seven universities that can compete favourably with some of the premier universities in the country, Four polytechnics and two colleges of education, including University of Creative Technology, Nkwerre; University of Medical Sciences, Ogboko; University of Science Technology, Onuimo; University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Aboh/Ngor Okpala; Eastern Palm University, Ideato (PPP); Claritian University (PPP); and Marine University, Oguta, which is under construction. Then, Ahiara Polytechnic, Ahiazu Mbaise; National Polytechnic, Arondizuogu; Imo Polytechnic, Ehime campus; Imo Polytechnic, Orlu campus; Ihitte-Uboma College of Education and Ohaji/Egbema College of Education.
One may also ask why Governor Okorocha is building all these institutions. Of course, since 2012, Imo State has continued to lead in JAMB applications till date with the least being that of 2013 with 134,610 applications. And year in, year out, thousands of Imo students who qualify for university admission don’t get admitted because of this issue of catchment areas. Indeed, with the free education programme, which has made the school population in the state to grow from 280,000 in 2011 to almost one million in 2018, Imo indigenes qualified for admissions on yearly basis can always fill these institutions. Again, the governor is not building for today only, he is also building for the future. The same reason behind the building of 27 ultra-modern hospitals of 200-bed capacity each.
Mr. Ekpu had written too that there was “no difference between his government and his family.”
This allusion only added to our concern that this media guru had allowed himself to be fed with baseless rumours and he made no effort to verify these rumours before taking them home. And this is unfortunate. The only member of Okorocha’s family that was appointed into his administration as personal staff was Mrs. Ogechi Ololo. She was Deputy Chief of Staff, Domestic. With the title of the office, one could easily fathom what the job specifications of the lady were. Let Ekpu or any other interested person mention another Okorocha that served or was appointed into the administration.
He also talked about Uche Nwosu and his governorship bid. And one had expected men like Ekpu to know better. Could Uche Nwosu marrying the governor’s daughter submerge or abdicate his civic or constitutional right to vie for any office of his choice? I have the feeling that those who have travelled widely and have got certain level of exposure, like Ekpu, should have helped in this debate. What if Okorocha’s wife decides tomorrow to run for the governorship of the state, would his husband’s own outing as governor ultimately kill her own ambition? At times, it looks as if the problem of this country is the elite. They are not helping this country at all. They allow tiny sentiment to drive them. The same Ekpu had written in support of Bill Clinton’s wife for the Presidency of America. He didn’t say no to Mrs. Clinton’s ambition on the ground that the husband had been President of America.
We do not know whether Mr. Ekpu would be keen in hearing that the achievements of Governor Okorocha in eight years have unarguably surpassed the achievements of all those who had governed the state since its creation put together. Okorocha has more than 1,000 landmark verifiable projects to his credit. We have continued to say this and nobody has said it is not true. To the average Imo woman or man, Okorocha remains a hero. His only problem is the elite and their grouse is that he did not give them the chance or room to function as usual, at the expense of the state.
And for the record, Okorocha never exercised political power as governor but exercised tremendous political will. And it took the exercise of political will to transform Imo to the large extent he has done. Today, why is it that nobody is talking about the relocation of Ekeukwu Market again? It is because Imo people have begun to see the wisdom in taking that painful decision and action, which people had thought was impossible for any governor to take. While Okorocha has taken the blackmail associated with the relocation of the market, the benefits are for Imo people. Ditto, the urban renewal policy. Amakohia Road and Okigwe Road today, 12-lanes respectively. Owerri, the state capital, has between 12 and eight-lane roads with streetlights. Owerri City that stopped at Concorde Hotel has today connected Naze.
Again, writing on the just-concluded governorship election in the state, Ekpu would have shown class by querying how one local government in Imo could have 64,291 votes with the card readers in the governorship election. That is Aboh-Mbaise LGA, where the PDP candidate comes from. And out of the 270,000 votes the PDP candidate got, half of the votes came from the three local governments of Aboh-Mbaise (64,291), Ahiazu Mbaise (32,987) and Ezinihitte Mbaise (30,035), while half of the votes came from the remaining 24 LGAs. Imo people know what happened. And that was why there was no jubilation or celebration of any kind in any part of the state. And Ekpu must have also heard about the PDP candidate not meeting the constitutionally specified 25 per cent in 18 LGAs that constitute 2/3 of the 27 councils in the state. It is people like Ekpu that should lead the debate on some of these anomalies. But when they begin to write as if they have taken sides, it gives room for worries, worries about the future of this nation.
Undoubtedly, Imo people will miss Owelle Rochas Okorocha. He had wanted Nwosu to succeed him just for the sake of the sustenance of the transformation his administration has enthroned in the state and nothing more. Can a PDP government sustain the free education programme? The answer is NO. In their propaganda, they had said there was no free education. Let the PDP government say tomorrow that there is no more free education. Then Nigerians would know whether Imo has been enjoying free education since 2011 when Rochas Okorocha came in as governor or not. The inscription on one luxury bus in Imo is “time will tell.”
Obviously, time will tell whether Owelle Rochas Okorocha is a hero in the state or a villain. In case Ekpu has forgotten, Sam Mbakwe was also maligned when he was governor by the elite. At a point, there was mass promotion of students because that administration couldn’t pay teachers’ salary.
In 1983, they tried to scuttle his second term ambition, to the extent that he had to go on the state-owned radio (IBS) then to announce the results of his election ahead of FEDECO. Today, the late Mbakwe is being celebrated. In the case of Okorocha, he has lived above expectations as governor and Imo people have continued to appreciate and celebrate him. But the elite will join in this appreciation with time and when they must have seen that Owelle is no more there to deny them access to the state’s treasury and so on. May God bless Ekpu.
• Onwuemeodo is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okorocha.