If you throw a feast for your people they will eat it all up to the last morsel but should your people cook for you, surely you will be gorged with food. This is the wise saying of Ndigbo and it holds true for the on-going stand-off between Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and his counterparts from the other states of the Southeast.
The story is abroad how the occupier of Douglas House in Owerri engaged in a fish-wife bickering with his colleague in Umuahia, Abia State, not over a matter of state, but over a small issue of protocol. We also hear that the Imo governor who is just one year old in office is hardly on talking terms with his brother governor in Anambra who happens to be in the same party with him and who is also the chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum.
On two consecutive occasions this year, Governor Okorocha has shunned the meeting of the Southeast governors which gather as the need arises, to deliberate on issues affecting the zone. By the same token, the governor who was overwhelmingly voted into office, has not been visible in such strategic gatherings as the National Economic Council, among others. We are too few to engage in an internecine warfare, is another Igbo wisecrack. If there is any group in Nigeria today that must bond together and act as one, it is Ndigbo. Especially so now when the drum of regionalism beats stridently across the country and no one is sure what tomorrow portends.
For an okorocha who has hungered for high office in the last two decades, his first year as governor has been rather disappointing even though not entirely a failure one must admit. While one sees a boundless zeal to upgrade infrastructure and develop the state, his method is much flawed and he runs the state as if it were a motor parts shop. He has run the state in the last one year with warped procedures and processes; he has acted like an overlord passing down ill-digested ideas and brainwaves. Examples abound but few will suffice: he woke up one day to insist that civil servants in Imo State must turn out to work in suit; black suit at that under the tropical African sun. For what purpose, to what end? He woke up another day and decreed that civil servants must earn their keep. Great idea, but must be carefully worked out and implemented; distinguishing the commercial enterprises from the social and phasing the processes. Major contracts are awarded on mere word of mouth and the delicate art of statecraft is put in abeyance.
The mother of all aberrant action is his new-fangled Community Council Government also known as the fourth tier of government. Perhaps it may be salutary and beneficial to create many more levels of administration but again, it has to be carefully worked out and implemented over time. But that is not the method of Governor Okorocha; workers are simply yanked off their seats and sent to their villages as staff of a 4th tier government that has neither structure nor basis. The question, is what has he done with the second and third tiers he already has? Has he succeeded with them by any inch? Has he applied his budget to the letter in the last one year? How much allocation has he received on behalf of the 27 local government areas in Imo state and how much did he disburse to them in one year?
All these are stories for another day but they are pointers to his attitude at the zonal and federal levels. Ndigbo never needed leaders like they do now. Igboland is today, in the wilderness – politically speaking; it is like a headless body thrashing… The Governors’ Forum is all that is left and no matter how ineffectual it may be, boycotting it does not make it better. Okorocha must fix it from within as he cannot achieve much as a lone ranger. Attempting to form some opportunistic body with jobbers and charlatans will not help either. Especially now that our good old Ohaneze Ndigbo is comatose having been consigned to one obscure corner of Aso Rock where its present leadership led it to. Governor Okorocha hasn’t got all the time in the world. If he really wants to leave the kind of legacy he desires, he must retrace his steps, take a sober review of the first one year. He should stick to the basics, which is to draw up realistic budgets and implement them to the letter. Of course he must curtail his political ambition, shun greed and cut corruption to the minimum. He must think global and cooperate with his fellow Southeast leaders. These are the recipe for success.
Written by Steve Osuji as published in The Nation today Friday 15th.