Six and half years ago, Rochas Okorocha, as governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), could pass for an irresistible force in Imo State. Running against then incumbent governor of the state, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, who fell out of favour with the powers-that-be, in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Federal Government, Imo State and the people, Okorocha shone like a thousand stars.
With Ohakim immersed in so many controversies, including a problem with Catholic Church faithful over allegations that his security aides flogged a reverend father, among others, Okorocha was the darling of many voters. Everything was in his favour in the election. APGA, on whose platform he contested, had large followership in Imo State. The people were behind him. And history was on his side. It was not, therefore, a surprise that he won the election, to end the reign of Ohakim.
Between 2015 and now, much water has passed under the bridge, as we say in local parlance. Okorocha, as governor, has undergone much metamorphosis, summersaults and transmogrification, which have left the people bemused. In six and half years, he has squandered the goodwill that brought him to power. He has crumbled from the Olympian height of a hero to zero, where many see him as a jester in government. He has made Imo State, which had seen serious and focused governors like Chief Sam Mbakwe and General Ike Nwachukwu, whose landmarks still stand out, a laughing stock and reference point for inanities. He has turned Imo to a reality show.
Incidentally, Okorocha did not start off like this. He looked serious in the beginning and did some good works. Yes, he constructed virgin link roads and expanded major roads in Owerri, the state capital. He did some intra-city and intercity roads, even if the quality is suspect. He built general hospital buildings in local government areas, pending the requisite equipment. He built skill acquisition centres, through his wife, as an empowerment programme for women. He offered free education in primary and secondary schools, even if not properly funded.
However, it appears the bug of confusion did bite Okorocha somewhere along the line and he began to fail in his conduct. It started when he defected from APGA to the All Progressives Congress (APC). For a man who came to power with a popular mandate, riding on the crest of APGA’s Igboness, to dump the political party for APC, he gave the people a blow below the belt. He took a mandate “freely given,” like the late Chief Moshood K. Abiola described the June 12, 1993 presidential election victory, and surrendered it to a party, which has not fully given the Igbo their due. That action still rankles in Imo State.
Okorocha’s brand of development is a study in absurdity. For instance, in his perceived plan to change the face and landscape of Owerri, he has distorted the skyline of the state capital. He started with the erection of pillars with concrete crossbars at street junctions and graduated to erecting iron crossbars in streets. Where others are planting trees and flowers, Okorocha is erecting pillars along the roads and using iron bars to connect them across the road. The joke in Imo State now is that the governor is trying to roof the streets. Can you imagine the waste of public funds it is to build pillars along roads and connect them with iron crossbars? Good money that should have been used for more important things is being wasted on pillars and iron crossbars that add no value to roads, in a state capital, where many roads are in terrible condition.
In the politics of succession in Imo State, there is the talk that Okorocha wants his son-in-law and now Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, to take over from him. Although he has not come out to say so, there are indications to that effect. When a Chief of Staff is openly publicising his “empowerment” programme, with his Ugwumba Organisation, to the extent of having his photograph on buses, running round Imo, there is obviously something cooking. I do not have anything against Nwosu. He is a young man who, in his own right, is qualified to aspire to any office. However, what I find wrong about him is that his only credential for wanting to be governor is his marriage certificate. How would it sound that Okorocha’s son-in-law takes over from him at Government House and his daughter, consequently, takes over the same bed her mother slept in? This would sure be a slap on the faces of Imo people.
I am really ashamed that Okorocha has taken nepotism to a new height, appointing relatives and in-laws to offices in the state or recommending them for federal appointments. Statistics show that some of his appointees or those recommended for federal offices are his relatives or in-laws. For one, the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, is his in-law. His sister, Mrs. Ogechi Ololo, is Commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment. His son-in-law is Chief of Staff. His cousin, Prof. Adaobi Obasi, is vice chancellor of Imo State University. His elder brother is in charge of revenue collection at motor parks. His daughter was appointed to the governing council of a federal university, before she rejected it. This is a glimpse of the Okorocha Dynasty or Okorocha Republic in Imo State.
A major feature in Okorocha’s reality show is the establishment of the Imo State Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard or seen in government. It is the debasement of governance, to say the least. What is this all about? What happiness and purpose fulfilment is Okorocha talking about, when he has brought about agony and pains on the people? A governor frittering away millions naira, of Imo State resources, on things that add no value or lift the poverty level of the people can’t be talking of happiness for the people. A man who blows millions of naira to erect statues for all manner of people can’t be talking of happiness. A man who wastes millions of naira decorating streets during Christmas or organising self-serving carols and rallies cannot be making the people happy. A man who has put Imo in huge debt without much to show for it cannot be talking of happiness.
Since Okorocha likes to copy, he should have at least done it properly, as regards the so-called Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment. In Dubai, where he could have got the “happiness” idea, there is a “Happiness Agenda,” which is a programme to help the tourism industry in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) enclave. While the Dubai “Happiness Agenda” is aimed at ensuring that hotels and other tourist sites in the city are in good state, to make the visit of tourists memorable and enjoyable, among others, the Okorocha “happiness and purpose fulfilment” has no sound basis. It is a contraption for ego trip, an indication of a warped thinking and programme.
With 2019 elections barely one year away, the Imo people have the opportunity to end the Okorocha reality show, once and for all. Yes, he will complete his tenure, but he should not be allowed to have his way thereafter. Since the state House of Assembly has been so emasculated that it has failed in its responsibility of calling the governor to order, the people should, in 2019, pass a vote of no confidence in him. This they would do by ensuring that Okorocha’s plan to install his son-in-law or any lackey whatsoever fails. Allowing Okorocha to have his way in who succeeds him will entrench his republic and subjugate the Imo people further. This should not be allowed. In Akwa Ibom State, then Governor Victor Attah tried it in 2007, and the people resisted it. The Akwa Ibom people chose Godswill Akpabio as governor instead. History beckons on Imo people to do the same.