It was indeed a very sorry spectacle! Watching a video clip of the immediate past Imo state governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, during a recent visit to Owerri was a most nauseating experience. If any outing qualified as truly despicable and unstatesmanly,it was watching the former governor make inciting remarks about the new administration capable of fanning the embers of hatred and disharmony amongst imo people. To the former governor,what made sense to him was a resort to jungle Justice to counter the Ihedioha administration in their efforts to recover looted public property. The former governor also wanted to gain some media mileage by putting out the false narrative that he still had overwhelming support in the state. Nothing could be further from the truth!
For a start,I do know that most of those involved were ferried into Owerri from different parts of the state with the sole aim of creating the impression that Rochas Okorocha still retained some modicum of popularity amongst imo citizens and residents. That is certainly a false narrative if the real mood of the people were to be gauged. What is Rochas Okorocha’s legacy that would account for any real followership? From an educational system characterised by declining standards in the past eight years to a health sector that has no single hospital or health center in a functional state, alongside the so-called ”27 general hospitals”not completed and long taken over by weeds, Okorocha’s legacy would remain questionable. With pensioners whose entitlements remain in arrears for over sixty months to a state now ingloriously redefined as home to the worst network of roads in the south east, what we see all over is bad governance writ large. Are we to mention the Owerri capital territory which has been taken over by flooding with the city severely challenged in all facets of service delivery- a direct consequence of an ill-advised and thoroughly misguided “urban renewal” program that has seen the complete destruction of the world class drainage infrastructure delivered between the Ndubisi kanu and Dee Sam Mbakwe era in the state.
From the uncompleted “305 schools in the 305 wards of the state” and badly constructed buildings to poorly built flyovers across Owerri already caving in and, perhaps, racing ferrociously towards fulfilling their purpose as death traps, what can one really say is the redeeming feature of Rochas Okorocha’s stewardship in Imo state? The jury is still out.
In the eight years of Okorocha’s stewardship,there was no single road that was constructed that lasted beyond six months without yielding to cracks and potholes. Such roads were neither designed nor supervised by competent firms, just as the state’s Ministry of Works was completely left out of the procurement process.
What Imo state witnessed in the course of his misguided rule was a proclivity for fantasies in the conception and execution of projects. In practically all situations, Rochas Okorocha and his cronies were the de facto consultants, supervisors and awardees of most significant contracts in the state. The consequence of the misadventure which his regime has come to represent,was the unfortunate transformation of imo state into a wasteland of human and physical assets.
Presiding over a state in which he held sway as an emperor, almost all known rules of engagement in the discharge of the functions of his office were observed in the breach. From the absence of due process across the entire spectrum of the state’s procurement system to the near-total emasculation of the bureaucracy, another defining feature of Rochas Okorocha’s era was the elevation of impunity in the manner state resources and assets were dealt with. It was a better- forgotten administration whose eight years in the saddle amounted to a signpost of bad governance which most imolites and the general public would always remember.
With an approach to governance and an attitude considered repulsive, Rochas Okorocha chased away most imo citizens and Professionals of repute and standing thus depriving the state of the invaluable contributions of such Patriots to the development of their state. His era was a nightmare better forgotten. His allusion to the appointment of Prof Viola Onwuliri, former minister of Education,as the state’s commissioner for Education, clearly underscores Rochas Okorocha’s repulsion for intellectuals and Professionals that abound in the state. It also explains why,for the period he was governor,most of his appointees were not fit to occupy such positions. In most of the local government areas, a good number of these persons would not make the mark if competence and experience were the yardsticks for consideration to occupy such positions. To Rochas Okorocha, anyone including his driver,cook or steward, could be appointed to any position even if they lacked the credentials. What counted was a psychophantic allegiance to his dysfunctional ways regardless of what toll it took on our common purpose and collective interest. Given where Rochas Okorocha left Imo state,he should realize that Imo state would require the sacrificial intervention of her technocrats and Professionals to retrieve the state from the abyss of his maladministration. It is in recognition of these challenges, that professionals and technocrats like Prof Onwuliri are volunteering their services in different areas to help the state clear the rot created by Rochas Okorocha. Sadly,he is incapable of appreciating the paradigm shift given that he is very uncomfortable in the company of such intellectuals and Professionals.
Luckily Governor Emeka Ihedioha cuts a totally different image and approach, opening up his government to the contributions of imolites with solid records of achievement. If he continues along this trajectory,it would be a welcome departure from an era characterised largely by the engagement of all manner of characters and phoney intellectuals.
As a master of deception,Imo citizens would always remember Rochas Okorocha as one who was adept at manipulating our poor citizens and casting himself in the mould of their liberator and benefactor. With what is now emerging as the unbridled and wanton looting of state resources,have we forgotten Rochas Okorocha’s imo anthem and the stanza where unsuspecting citizens were made to sing and believe that “corruption must stop?” With Okorocha’s imo anthem and its despicable pretensions to noble ideals,you need not look further to for a testament to a deceptive personality.
As the Ihedioha agenda continues to unfold,we all need to watch the antics of Rochas Okorocha. He is a perfect theatrician who craves attention with a huge capacity for tantrums. Imolites and Nigerians in general would find that he would generate distractions consistently with the intention of having the new government dissipate it’s energy on needless controversies. That is the essential Rochas Okorocha and he revels in such milieu. His foot soldiers and media people would seek to engage the rest of us in an unending battle for visibility and relevance. Therefore,
Governor Ihedioha’s media team would need to devise the appropriate strategy to engage Rochas and counter the adversarial narratives that he would disseminate from time to time. And as far as possible, Governor Ihedioha must be left out of this to enable him concentrate on issues of governance which Chief Rochas Okorocha would rather wish were left unattended to. Coming from Rochas Okorocha,it would be all tantrums and hyperbole, and he has the resources to sustain such a campaign.
But beyond all of this,I am aware that a majority of Imo people are determined to turn the corner and move on to a new and better future. They crave the return of the glorious past when Imo was an outstanding state,defined by distinction in numerous fields of human endeavour. That also explains why,for instance,a distinguished son of the state, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, would accept the responsibility of leading the vanguard of those citizens who seek a return of the state as the cleanest in Nigeria,and it’s capital the most beautiful amongst its peers. What drives such individuals are not the spoils and perks of Office but a commitment to restoring our dear state to its glorious past. Expectedly, characters that do not appreciate the essense of sacrificial service would see it from another perspective. So we should not be discouraged as Rochas Okorocha tried to do in his inglorious outing in Owerri.
As we move forward with the right leadership which has so far been provided by Rt.Hon Emeka Ihedioha,we shall take our state back from the forces of retrogression that have undermined our collective progress in the past eight years. And in the end, tantrums and hyperbole would pale into insignificance to the eternal chagrin of the likes of former Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Nick Opara-Ndudu, a Chartered Accountant and former banker,was at various times Chief Economic Adviser to IMSG and Honourable Commissioner. He currently serves as the Secretary of the Imo State Financial Advisory Committee.