Chief Rochas Okorocha, the Governor of Imo state, has a penchant for inundating the people with hyperboles, so brazenly that it is usually a wonder to observers if they ever believe him. Recall that in the earlier days of his administration, Governor Okorocha on a daily basis reeled out figures of amounts he had discovered were frivolously expended by his predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim. And he did it in such a manner that suggested that it was only a matter of time and Ohakim would be in jail.
But nine months on, Ohakim is not only not in jail but he has become so influential (out of office) that he is today leading other top Imo politicians to, according to Okorocha himself, get him out of office. How did it happen? The same Ohakim who, a mere nine moths ago was “jail bound”, is today a tormentor of Okorocha to the extent that the governor had to summon hapless Imo citizens to a gathering, beamed live by three national television stations, to lament his latest plight.
Although the gathering was dubbed “state of Imo address”, it was not difficult for even the least discerning observer to see that it was nothing but a political rally hurriedly put together by Governor Okorocha to provide him with a platform to invoke the sentiments and emotions of unsuspecting Imo citizens over the subsisting challenge against his continued stay in office by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Below are some of the things Okorocha had to say to the gathering made up mostly of civil servants who were forced to the venue of the event: “… we are concerned about some disturbing signals being received that clearly point to a conspiracy against this government and the people of Imo State by external forces working in concert with some elements within the PDP. They now boast that they would stop this government at the Supreme Court by using all forces at their disposition”
Not satisfied that he had driven home the point, Okorocha had to narrow down his lamentations by pinpointing the real ‘culprit’: “… let me also advise our leaders at the federal level who may have been approached by former Governor Ikedi Ohakim for assistance to unseat this government that he is our son and we know his character”.
Okorocha then pleaded: “I urge these leaders who have SIGNED on to this agenda to remove this administration to have a rethink and retrace their footsteps”. Yes, the same Ohakim whom Okorocha had painted in a picture of a pariah a mere nine months ago is today capable of signing on “IMO LEADERS” to move against the ‘saviour’ of Imo State, I mean the “Rescuer” of Imo State. Does that tell him anything?.
And did Governor Okorocha think that the people still believed him? Why is Ohakim not in jail as he had told them?. Why would “IMO LEADERS” choose to pitch tent with Ohakim instead of the messiah? Evidently, Owelle Rochas Okorocha did not quite realize that he had inadvertently alerted the people of Imo state that their “leaders” have deserted him. Of course, the evidence was quite glaring. The gathering was devoid of the presence of any notable personality in the state. Apart from Pascal Dozie whose bank now warehouses the state’s federal allocation, no recognisable face was present. but regardless of that covert admission, Okorocha, went ahead to reveal the real intention for gathering the state civil servants for a political rally on a date that was most inauspicious.
He said: “… I am convinced that Imo citizens will not accept the return and imposition of a discredited leadership through the backdoor”. And in just the next sentence he continued: “may I counsel those behind these moves to allow justice take its proper course”.
What a contradiction? Which do the people take, the “Back Door” theory or “proper course” theory? Put in another language, which is the “Back Door?” Or isn’t Governor Okorocha, knowingly and unknowingly, referring to the Supreme Court as the “Back Door”? This question arises because, as far as Imo people know, the only way the PDP and if we like Ohakim could unseat Okorocha is through the case currently at the Supreme Court.
So, assuming that the apex court in its wisdom rules on March 2, 2012, that Ikedi Ohakim (and not Okorocha) was the fellow dully elected to be governor on April 26, 2011 would that amount to Ohakim returning through the “Back Door”? And why would Governor Okorocha insinuate any fears that, in the instant case, “Justice” may not “take its proper course”?.
Taken together or singularly, both theories by Okorocha are indecorous, cheap and least expected of a fellow who claims to lead a people as sophisticated and informed as Ndi Imo. His allusion to the “Back Door” in a case that is before the most revered and highest temple of justice in the land betrays his well known lack of regard for the judiciary. Clearly, Imo people and their true leaders do not subscribe to this “Back Door” theory.
Just in the next paragraph of his address, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the governor of Imo State, did another violent assault on the collective sensibility of Nigerians when he alluded to “another theatre of conflict in the land”. This is what he said in full: “Today, Nigeria is confronted with several security challenges and we should not allow forces of destabilization open another theatre of conflict in our land”.
Like the “back door” theory, this is another euphemistic assertion that he, Okorocha, has already come to the conclusion that Imo State will witness mayhem should the case not go in his favour. What is this “another theatre of conflict”? Conflict between who and who?. Apart from amounting to a threat to the entire nation, such an assertion is at once inelegant and two presumptuous to come from the direction of a state whose people are known for their eclectic and robust intellectual disposition to issues of power and politics. Clearly, Imo people are too civilized to allow their state to be turned into a “theatre of conflict” for a mere hypothetical reasoning of a governor who, by his own admission, has been abandoned by the leaders.
Imolites are not that cheap and cannot be so blackmailed or brain washed into believing that the heavens will come down if Okorocha does not continue as governor after March 2, 2012.
What the governor is doing is to attempt to fixate the minds of the good people of Imo State on the instant case. That’s most unfair. Imo people have an unflinching confidence in the judiciary. Between May, 2007 and about the same time in 2009, they were taken through a litany of election litigations that almost marred their expectations from a government they fully gave a mandate. It is on record that not a single public protest was embarked upon despite desperate attempts by some politicians to recruit them into taking precipitate actions.
If the case goes in favour of the PDP, this will not be the first time a sitting Governor would be ousted through a court ruling. It happened in Anambra state some years ago when the then Governor, Chris Ngige, adjudged then as the best performing, lost his seat to Peter Obi after three years in office following a court of appeal ruling. The same was seen in Edo State in 2008, when Osarenren Osumbor,a Professor of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, lost to Adams Oshiomole at the court of appeal after over one year in office. Ditto for Amaechi and Omehia in Rivers state. The heavens did not fall in those areas.
To further demonstrate his disdain for original thoughts and independence of mind among the highly cerebral people of Imo state, Governor Okorocha in his address at the rally also alluded to another issue through which he has tried, to no avail, to blackmail the Catholic Clergy in the state since his assumption of office.
To the shock of the hired audience, Okorocha again took to the Reverend Father Okorie saga, nonetheless, long forgotten by the good people of Imo state after they had discovered the truth. Said the Governor: “It is not my intention to remind Governor Ohakim of the Reverend Father that he derobed and flogged in the government house” . Pray, what does that matter got to do with a “state of Imo” address? The answer is not far fetched.
It was just an attempt to irreverently sound as if the highly revered men of the Ecclesiastical Order have been recruited into his current orchestrated campaign that “Imo state will burn” if he looses the case at the Supreme Court. I shudder to think that anybody could think that the Catholic Clergy in Imo State could be part of a cheap political gimmickry, even after close to two years since politicians began to create the impression that members of the Holy Orders in the state have been completely immersed into partisan politics.
Recently, I did a piece under the title, “The inevitable consecration of Bishop Okorie” in which I alerted the Catholic Clergy in the state to be wary of an attempt to portray it as a group that has been expecting to reap political capital out of that fabricated incident. The article under reference was in reaction to a sponsored local (Owerri-based) newspaper report which was slanted to mean that the Catholic Clergy in Imo had been waiting to be “settled”, politically, by Okorocha for their perceived role in his emergence as governor. Of course, some critics thought I was merely defending my principal, Ikedi Ohakim. But now, I have been proved right.
Governor Okorocha alluded to that saga in order to insinuate that the Catholic Clergy in the state are part of the perfidy that has characterized Imo politics since April 26, 2011.
In my view, it is high time the Catholic Clergy in the state repudiated such an ascription or attempt to so ascribe them. It is high time they told Governor Okorocha that they cannot be recruited into his campaign of calumny against Ohakim whom they have, in any case, since discovered was innocent of that accusation. My hunch is that until the Catholic Clergy men in the state come out boldly and openly to admit that Ohakim was indeed innocent, the likes of Okorocha will not cease to try to blackmail them over that incident. Is that what they want?
In the so called state of Imo address, Governor Okorocha made promises that are out of this world. He said he will, within the next three years, build a Five Star hotel in each of the three senatorial zones in the state. Yes, Five Star hotels even when there is none yet in the state (not even Concorde Hotel in Owerri in a Five Star Hotel); give scholarship of N25,000.00 per annum to every primary school pupil in the state; N40,000.00 scholarship to every secondary school student in the state; N60,000 scholarship for every OND student of the state Polytechnic; N80,000.00 scholarship per annum for every HND student and N100,000.00 scholarship for every Imo State indigene studying at the Imo state University in addition to receiving tuition free. Meanwhile, out of the over 35,000 student enrolment at the Imo State University, about 31,500 are indigenes of Imo State. Governor Okorocha also announced that he will build three new universities in the state, one in each of the three senatorial zones, before 2015. Already, about 6,000 students are currently enrolled at the State Polytechnic. Imo state has an estimated 700,000 school enrolment in primary and secondary schools. When these figures are put side by side with the Governor’s promises, the following scenario will emerge: It will cost the state N3.5 billion to offer scholarship to the University students as proposed; N416 million for Polytechnic students; and N21 billion for primary and secondary school pupils and students, each year.
This comes to a total of N24.56 billion per annum. Meanwhile, the average annual income of the state is N 34 billion. With a recurrent expenditure of 70 per cent or N 23.8 billion ,a balance of N10.2 billion will be left for capital expenditure. That is not all.
Three Five Star hotels and a 25 storey office building is estimated to cost N180 billion. As at today, projects already embarked upon by the state government amount to N1.275 trillion. If this figure is divided by 34 ( the state’s annual income figure),it means that it will take 37.5 years to complete the projects, assuming that total income accruing to the state will be put into them. You then ask: what sort of abracadabra is this? Why does Governor Okorocha believe that Imo people are this daft.
I can bet that Okorocha’s colleagues, especially in the sister Southeast states, must have been stunned by Okorocha’s claims. How will they now cope with the wrath of their people who will soon confront them on why they cannot perform the same miracle as their Imo counterpart?
Back home, the implication of the Governor’s fairy tales is that he has come to a cross road. There is also total confusion in the state. As I write, the same state university whose students have been promised heaven-knows- how scholarships is under lock and key due to non payment of salaries. Primary and secondary schools lack consumables, contractors are not being paid, road contracts already awarded without papers stand at N850 billion while those advertised for award are worth N87 billion. To crown it all, none of the things promised by the governor is captured in any budget. With this bizarre and weird economics, Governor Okorocha has suddenly brought the state to a bind.
But there is a window of escape for Owelle Ethelbert (my name sake) Anayo Rochas Okorocha. There is an opportunity for him to save himself from the mess. If I were him, I would pray that the PDP wins its appeal at the Supreme Court. He will be the biggest beneficiary of such a victory because it will save him the wrath of Imo people whom he has made to look like people without brains.
Written by: Ethelbert Okere
Media aide to former Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim.