An October to remember in Imo State – Dr. Kelechi Okpalake

As humans, we are slaves to our memory.  Our future, whether good or bad, is usually shaped by our experiences and these experiences are the product of our memories.  Some school of psychology believe that we are better off suppressing bad and traumatic experiences, hence graduates of these school of psychology believe that it is best to suppress the traumatic experience of child sexual abuse victims by not reminding them of the experience.  Some even ask parents of such victims not to ask them any questions relating to their sexual abuse experience.  Other school of thought is of the opinion that the healing process starts only when the victim is made to recall the experience in-spite of the trauma and that the exposure of the traumatic experience also exposes the appropriate treatment solution

The Jews went through a very traumatic experience as a people in Hitler’s Europe.  The Jews had chosen to remind even their generations yet to be born of the experiences of their parents under Hitler.  Their belief being that by exposing these traumatic experiences, they stand a chance to ensure that it never happens again.  Consequently every Jewish home has two things written in its front door, “Shalom” and “Never again”.

Whether you are advocate of suppression of traumatic experience or not, we as human beings remember both pleasant and traumatic experiences in our lives because we are collectively endowed with a powerful brain and our ability to recall past events are not limited to just pleasant events.  Hence we tend to celebrate both pleasant and unpleasant events for various reasons.  The Jews do not want to forget their experiences under Hitler and by so doing they educate the world and thereby ensure that it never happens again.

Nigerians cannot forget the month of October because on this month in the year 1960, we became independent from Great Britain.  But October 2012, will not be remembered in Imo State for the independence celebration.  There were no independence celebrations in Imo State.  For the first time, in the 36 years history of Imo State, the Chief Executive of the State, while in the State, made no public appearance in the state not even to take the traditional salute of the State’s School children at the Stadium.  For the first time in 36 years history of our state, school children in the twenty seven local councils of the State were denied independence celebration.  Yes October 2012, was a month to be remembered in Imo not because of the independence celebrations across the nation but rather for the coronation of her Governor as an emperor through his birthday celebrations that was merged with the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of his non-profit foundation – The Rochas Foundation College.  Furthermore October 2012 will forever be remembered in Imo for the alleged slapping of an aide of another Governor by the Imo State Governor as reported by the Punch Newspapers.

October in Nigeria begins with the independence celebrations in the entire 774 Local Councils around the country, and the thirty six (36) states.  Each recognized constitutional government conducts its own celebration.  Celebratory events are planned in each of the local governments independent of the state celebrations at the state capital.  As a result, no matter where you are, as a young pupil of an elementary school, you are factored into the independent celebration either at your local council headquarters or at the state capital.  Prizes are given to the best marching bands both at the local council headquarters and at the state capital.

These marching bands of the various schools in the state spend hours practicing for the October 1st march past.  But these hours spent practicing by the pupils in the local government areas of Imo State was virtually in vain because of the political wrangling going on between the state governor and the elected chairmen and councilors.  It has been reported that the Governor of the State ordered the teachers and the local government civil servants to stay away from any type of independence celebration in the local council simply to deny the elected chairmen the privilege of taking salute at the march past in their various local councils.  This is downright petty. To deny the children of Imo State the right and privilege to celebrate Nigerian Independence in the traditional sense just for the above reasons is unpardonable.  It is really true that when two elephants fight, the grasses suffer.  And for a Governor who claims to favour school children, this particular action has exposed his true nature.  Every thing about his love for education and school children is purely cheap propaganda, if he would deny these children a pleasant experience only to make a petty political point.

While pupils and students of Imo primary and secondary schools were denied the pleasant experience of celebrating Nigeria Independence, no cost was speared by the State Government in celebrating the tenth anniversary of Rochas Foundation College.

Students of Rochas Foundation College were bused into Owerri from the West (Ibadan) and from the North.  These students were camped at State Government buildings, such as the Imo Statesman buildings and Imo College of Advanced professional studies (ICAPS). The Government raided the Umudi State Youth Corpse station for mattresses, for the Convenience of the Rochas Foundation Students.  The previously missing municipal or Township buses procured by the Ohakim’s administration reappeared on the streets of Owerri, only this time, it was completely refurbished and rebranded with the picture of the Governor and only used for the convenience of Rochas Foundation students.

It is pertinent here, to remind the reading public that these municipal or Township Buses were procured by the Ohakim’s administration to ease the suffocating gridlock in the capital city created by the ban on motorcyclist (Okada).  The ban on (Okada), created a vacuum in public transportation that was quickly filled by the Tricycles (keke) and the multiplication of keke in the Owerri metropolis was the beginnings of the excruciating traffic jam in the city.  Only the presence of the municipal buses, with its passenger volume, helped to keep the number of keke in Owerri Street down.  The withdrawal of the municipal or Township busses from the public transportation fleet meant more keke on Owerri streets and inadvertently excercabated the traffic gridlock in the Owerri metropolis.  The average time to travel from the Port Harcourt Road Secretariat to the Government house on a weekday is now 2 hours on the average.  The municipal or Township buses was specifically procured with the capital city resident commuters in mind, therefore the removal of the municipal bus fleet from public transportation infrastructure is downright anti-public policy and thereby unpardonable. But the purpose for the removal of this Township bus fleet from public transportation infrastructure is downright criminal because the only purpose to be inferred from the October 8th Celebrations is to ferry non indigene, non citizen, private college students of the Governor’s non profit Rochas Foundation College from one point to another in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the college.  In essence, the act of subjecting Imo capital city commuters to untold hardship was purely for personal aggrandizement.  This simply means an elected servant leader elevating his personal image and image of his private concern above and beyond the public convenience using public resources.

While, the Imo state public transportation resources were conscripted and deploy for the convenience of the Governor’s private students in the celebration of his Foundations College’s Tenth Anniversary, taxpaying indigenes and citizens of Imo, from the 2012 flood ravaged communities of Egbema and Oguta L. G. A.’s were suffocating from the ravages of the flood without transportation to be ferried out of the worst of the flood ravaged areas of their community.  Is October 2012 a month to be remembered in the annals of Imo State?  Absolutely! The flood victims of Egbema and Oguta L. G. A. will not forget this October anytime soon.  So also are the Imo State primary and secondary schools students who were denied the opportunity to compete in the October 1st March Past.  Even the primary and secondary school students from the Owerri capital territory will forever groan for the absence of the state’s chief executive at the March past in  the capital,  Owerri.

But the reason for this October to remain an October to be remembered in Imo State did not stop here.  On Sunday October 21st 2012, we all woke up to a raging debate precipitated by a punch Newspaper reporter’s account of an alleged fight between our Governor and an aide of the Governor Peter Obi.  At about 10am, a friend called me and told me to check out the debate on  page.  Being that I either lost my ipad the day before, Saturday October 20, 2012, or it was stolen, I politely asked my friend to explain to me exactly what he was talking about.  He told me that the raging debate on the page was instigated by a report by  Punch Newspaper that our dear Governor slapped or punched an aide of Governor Peter Obi.  Before I could ask for any details, the line went dead due to our less than commendable GCM Network services.  In any case, the information spurred me to immediately locate my laptop computer to find out exactly what was happening.  I read the post by a member of the page and followed the comments.  But what was missing, in the story nobody amongst the commentators explained in their comment.  As a lawyer, who learnt logic from the Socrates method of learning, I know that something was missing in the entire story.

Later on, this past Sunday, I was having dinner in Awaka with some old friends when the Issue of the Punch News report came up.  I know that most people believe that I am an avowed critic of his Excellency Owelle Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha.  But inspite of my criticisms, I have always defended Okorocha in private when any person attacks him other than his policies.  I have always criticized Owelle’s policies as a Governor.  I have even made conclusions of his person only based on inferences that could be crown from his policies and his conduct.  But I have privately defended my Governor whenever I cannot see any basis for character attacks.  And this time was not different.  When the issue of the alleged fisticuffs was raised, I asked a simple question which was, “if Governor Peter Obi was reserved a seat with his name tagged on the seat, why was my Governor wasn’t similarly reserved a seat with his name tag on the seat?  Is Governor Peter Obi bigger or more important than my Governor when they are both Governor’s of two very important Igbo states?  Why should Peter Obi aide protect the seat for his principle when obviously my Governor got to the function before Governor Peter Obi?

Based on these questions, I was ready to jump on the event planners of the Ekwueme birthday celebration and my Anambra Friends.  But the response I got from my above questions completely sobered me.  I was told by my Anambra friends that the event planner had no inkling that my Governor would come to the occasion, and when I asked why? My education of this particular event became downright embarrassing as an Imo indigene.  I was told that the event planners did not reserve a seat for my Governor because they were of the opinion that Governor Okorocha will not be gracing the occasion due to his refusal or in ability to contribute monetarily for the Ekwueme birthday celebration.  It was during this dinner conversation with my friends from Anambra in Awka that I became aware that the Ekwueme birthday celebration in Enugu was funded by the South East Governor’s Forum.  And that every South East Governor that contributed was reserved a seat.  But due to the Governor of Imo State did not contribute, the event planners presumed that he (Governor Okorocha) will not be gracing the occasion; consequently no seat was reserved for him.  Now if this explanation is the truth, Governor Okorocha, our dear Governor was actually gate crashing into a birthday party and expecting to be treated as an invited guest.  I cannot authenticate the veracity of this embarrassing explanation of the reason for the alleged slapping of another Governor’s aide but if the explanation is true, then the actions of our governor is actually worse than we thought.

If the explanation is actually true, the question is if Governor Okorocha could spend an estimated 800m – 1.2b Naira celebrating his own birthday, why can’t he spend about six to ten million Naira on the birthday of an Igbo son who has exemplified the best of Igbo nation in all ramifications, for the 80th Birthday celebration of such as Igbo Icon.  Mind you, this explanation by my Anambra friends has yet to be verified but the fact that no seat was reserved for Governor Okorocha, when the deputy Governor of Egbonyi State representing his principle was already seated will make anybody believe that the explanation is more probable than not.

For the better part of eight months, I have tried through my somewhat in coherent – writings and commentaries to point out to my Governor some of these issues.  In return, I have received not so pleasant text messages and sometimes downright threatening ones.  I have been personally attached in lectures by my brother Prof. Nwajiuba and even my Uche Onwuchekwa, the media PA of the Honorable Chief of Staff.  I do not think that attacks on my person are what the government needs, so I have not bothered to respond in kind to these attacks.  There is nothing wrong with being a renegade, a trailblazer, or even an eccentric Governor but your conduct in office must be dictated and guided by diplomatic sensibilities.  If Governor Okorocha felt that the contribution for such a birthday party was frivolous, he could have abstained from contributing but instead of appearing at the function he could have sent his deputy to represent him, while he makes a private visit to His Excellency, former Vice President, Dr.  Alex Ekwueme.  But the brazen act of making a personal appearance when he out rightly refused to contribute monetarily towards the function may have ruffled some feathers prompting the altercation that ensued.  Now whether the explanation given by my Anambra friends is true or not, no one can deny that this was not another black eye to the people of imo state in the October to remember in Imo.

Imo must be better, but can we really be better under these pilling missteps? We must therefore first return Imo back into the hands of God.





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