Okorocha: A Governor Indicted By Rebellion, Vindicated By Unbeatable Scorecard
He could be better described as a rebel with a cause. His rebellion is an indictment against him for the political class and among the political circles angry at him for going against the old political traditions, starving the polity of cash, ending the Ghana Must Go Republic, breaking the jinx of domination of the polity by a privileged few, and not honoring the gesture of the Godfathers who played great role in electing him to power. However, his cause is a vindication for him before the masses, the common electorates and the people yearning for change in the way the polity has been run, and for Imo citizens, both home and abroad, clamoring for the development of the state and its people. His cause is to deliver the dividends of governance to the commonest of the common people “for the sake of the glory of the job and not for the sake of the profit of the job.”
He was almost the last, if not the last candidate, to secure his nomination with a party during the 2011 general elections. Ordinarily his emergence and journey remains an interesting one. First he was at the door of his party, the PDP, where the then serving governor, Ikedi Ohakim, fought ferociously to keep him at bay. From ACN to an array of choices of possible credible parties he made an interesting foray. All he needed was that ticket, not actually the party. His political personality was already a hot sale and his name was as palatable as iconic in the minds of the political class. He was also as charismatic as courageous to earn the confidence of the power brokers in the ruling PDP who were already managing a mutually hypocritical relationship with the incumbent governor. They considered Ohakim a hard sale for the coming elections owing to his unhidden blunders in human relations, especially the catholic community whose influence in the polity is well known.
He, Rochas Okorocha, was expected to emerge the best choice of the masses who had a mental picture of him as “Rochas of The schools For The Poor and The Less Privileged.” His brush with the Red Cross Society and his exploits as the global organization's Nigerian President constituted a great leverage. For the masses in all the political regions of the country, Rochas is a selfless philanthropist and a lover of the common people and the masses. Voting him into power with access to huge state fund would help him to do more than he had done. Of course, before this moment he had built free schools with free education in all these regions, catering for not less than 5000 students. His oratorical prowess was also a charm of some sort and a great tool at that. Luckily he had a window of opportunity in All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) where he negotiated his way to secure the guber ticket already considered to be in Chief Martin Agbaso's palm. That was all Okorocha needed to become the governor of Imo state.
As soon as Okorocha secured the candidature of a party, he had a lot at his disposal to help his dream come true. There was an enormous goodwill of the masses, as many were quick to demonstrate their willingness to volunteer at no charge. But beyond all these, he had his political foot soldiers led by the former Chief Of Staff in his first one year plus in office, and his current deputy Prince Eze Madumere (MFR). Madumere came from the flanks as an American trained management consultant whose exploits in political strategic thinking took the incumbent governor Ohakim and his ruling party by a shocking surprise. He was a long time ally of Okorocha and his COS before the elections. Sooner than later, Rochas Okorocha, the APGA candidate, had taken the shine off every other guber candidate including the then incumbent governor. School children began to sing his name like national anthem, and the fear of Okorocha's son became the beginning of wisdom for the then Gov. Ohakim. The energy around him was too engulfing, warranting former president Obasanjo to visit the state to help the then Gov. Ohakim. By this time, the PDP had decoded Madumere's ability to upturn the tables against them. Sooner Madumere was jailed on fictitious grounds and later freed by the court to continue his onslaught. Minus-plus into the electioneering campaign, Owelle Rochas Okorocha won the elections. He is now Gov. Anayo Okorocha, the executive governor of Imo state.
The emergence of the Gov-elect, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, was simply symbolic in all sense of it. The celebrations and the events that followed were as historic as memorable. Personally, I vividly recall the frenzied crowds; I recall the wild, wild jubilations, and the endless celebrations in colorful admixture. I also recall the tears rolling down the faces of a people long held hostage by old powerful political establishments that left nothing but carnage and plunder on its trail. Even the Military guys, the Customs, the Road Safety, the Police and the Civil Defense joined the frenzied crowd to gyrate and chant “Ikiri Bu Onye Ohi (Ikiri is a thief- a cynical reference to the then Gov. Ikedi Ohakim who was alleged to have looted the state to bankruptcy with his allies in the PDP)”. I can't forget a soldier dancing with a man holding a live cock, the symbol of APGA. But beyond the celebrations, Okorocha's victory represented many things for many people; some for good, some for evil; all masked within the hearts of men. Of course Shakespeare, the legendary writer once said that “you can never know a man's mind by the configurations on his face.”
For the political class, Okorocha was one of them who also understood the reason why they abandoned Ohakim for being greedy and selfish. So he had to be liberal to avoid Ohakim's kind of fate. Okorocha cherishes his popularity, so oiling the system is one unavoidable way he would choose to keep this beat, some of them believed. Minus or plus, Okorocha's emergence would allow some banana republic kind of politics and governance- the chop I chop kind of thing. In fact, some opinions among the political class viewed Okorocha as a business politician who must inevitably need some kind of “Ghana Must Go” atmosphere to thrive. But for the masses Okorocha's election marked a new dawn of freedom, development, peace, security, stability and progress. He was the Messiah that would bring the change so long needed. As an individual he had demonstrated the messianic attributes and now he has a better chance to do more, and he shouldn't fail. The point is that all were happy with Okorocha's victory. But this happiness was soon to be overshadowed by the fallouts of Okorocha's approach to politics and governance, especially his stand against bribery and corruption.
All were happy for one man's victory. Each group's happiness for this victory was for different reasons. The complicating dimension to it came from the fact that all the reasons ran on contradictory narratives. This contradiction created a hard choice for Okorocha who must choose to go with one group against the other. Without blinking Okorocha chose to go with the masses and the people. Today he has created an unbeatable record of achievement in developmental strive, but I am sure that by now the governor would be shocked to discover that blackmail sells like pure water and the stunts of media demonization sticks as long as a birth mark. He has received enough of it. However, Okorocha, a leftwing politician with a typical mindset of a rebel against the old order, is not willing to bulge in his fight to reclaim the soul of the state from a set of powerful figures who have ever held the state and its people to ransom politically, no matter the price he has to pay. At whatever price, “Imo Must Be Better” and his mission remains “My people! My people!”
At his inauguration the new governor was too quick to distance himself from the old political traditions. For the Godfathers of Imo politics and the guys of the old political establishments, Okorocha's stern words on stamping out corruption were a clear indication that their support for Okorocha's emergence has become “euphoria turned tragedy”. The governor added salt to fresh injury when he stated without equivocation “I am not driven by the profits of the job, but by the glory of the job.” If you are a smart insider of the Imo politics or a seasoned analyst with his fingers on the pulse of the Imo politics, you would notice without much ado that this statement belies more than it seemed.
While branding his administration's agenda “the Rescue Mission” the new governor told an unimaginable crowd of Imo people like never seen before that he was in a hurry to develop Imo state. In the people he saw dejection and poverty, and the deep yearning to be freed from these limiting vices. Then when he saw the love of the people for him, Okorocha felt and confessed his indebtedness to the people, letting go of his emotions at a point and weeping tears while delivering his inaugural speech at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri. “If delivering these promises is what it means to be poor, then I choose to be poor” “ If not being corrupt is what it means to be poor, then I choose to be poor” the governor told an elated crowd, giving the people every reason to believe the messiah is here with us. Today, to every honest Imo citizen, Okorocha has justified his statements.
Sooner the governor swung into action, cutting the bogus security vote as enjoyed by his predecessors, downsizing an oversized staff, and ministries. But first, he had stopped last minutes looting of the system by the previous administration of former governor Ohakim. His manner of appointments for commissioners, SAs, and SSAs was the first signal that a rebel was on the horizon, and stopping him should be the highest priority of the political elites if they hoped to see the old system preserved. Ordinarily, appointments were doled as slots to political elites who would in turn share among their most loyal disciples. Okorocha's own format was funny. It was as weird as unthinkable for the old guys. It was an absurdity in all logical realms. From one corner of the state to another the new governor, poised to break from the past and stamp his political will on the polity, picked candidates from among the common people who had the zeal to be part of the rescue mission. He showed the same attitude in the manner in which his government gave out contracts to younger people and commoners, people who before now would never dream of such opportunities.
Sooner than later the old political establishment went for the governor's head- a head hunt they were ready to invest or stake anything. Career blackmailers went on the rampage, and paid fifth columnists churned pages after pages of fictitious allegations and character assassinations aimed at discrediting the governor's agenda, his vision and his personality. His closest ally and the most consummate insider of his political dynasty, Prince Eze Madumere, was also not spared of the damaging stunts. The primary aim of the plotters of these machinations was to create loss of confidence in the system and to create disaffection between the governor and the masses, especially the electorates, with the 2015 elections in view.
Of course, Gov. Okorocha parades a combination of compelling qualities and factors working for him, including his unassailable charisma and a rare kind of political will that provides an inner steel to make him unstoppable in his vision to develop the state, while stamping out the cancer of corruption within the polity. Yet, the fact remains that the governor, being a first timer into elective offices, especially an office as sensitive and tasking as the one he occupies currently is bound to find himself in blunders. At the slightest misstep, his opponents and detractors jump out of their hiding to attack him like caged hyenas released unto a man with bloodied red meat in his bare hands. Some even established local newspapers charged with the task of publishing everything unpalatable about the Okorocha administration and misrepresenting facts about all his noble strides with the aim of misleading the gullible and largely uninformed masses. In the midst of all these, Gov. Okorocha has remained undaunted in his effort to develop every facet of the state and end looting and corruption.
First the governor kicked off his agenda with huge dive into infrastructural development of an unimaginable extent. Every Imo citizen was shocked to learn that a state government could undertake such magnitude of infrastructural development in all the geopolitical zones of the state. Today, new cities and modern market facilities are springing up in strategic locations in all the geopolitical zones. Sooner his detractors went to town to misinform the public that with huge investment into the infrastructural sector, the governor would render the state bankrupt. What they failed to tell the people is what the fund to be reserved has been used for in the past, if not for sharing it among corrupt elite politicians and elite civil servants.
As if he was not listening to the distracting voices of his detractors, both real and imaginary, the governor unveiled a massive road construction blueprint that touches all the communities in the 27 local governments, while opening new special new roads within the state's cardinal cities of Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu, and rehabilitating all the old ones. Today, the governor's name and administration has become synonymous with road construction and infrastructural development. No one denies him that credit. The immediate and remote impacts of the government's massive rural road project remains unquantifiable.
Aside his giant strides in the above two areas, Gov. Okorocha has left an unbeatable record in the area of health delivery services and improved health infrastructures. In all the 27 local governments, new hospitals to be well equipped to world class standard are springing up, with some already completed to takeoff stages. In education, the governor shocked many Nigerians when he declared free education for Imo people from primary to tertiary levels and encouraged school children by paying them stipends. He followed up with complete and comprehensive implementation of the policy. Today, to the extent the available records indicate, the governor maintains a leading record in educational infrastructures.
At least each community has one of its schools being retouched or completely overhauled. Meanwhile the infrastructures of the Owerri City School can compete with some universities in Nigeria. There are a lot to be said in this sector of a governor dubbed “The grand commander of free education” in Nigeria due to his unassailable record in that sector. Just few weeks ago, tens of thousands of free school desks and chairs were made available to the schools in each of the 27 LG council areas, in addition to other free material provisions earlier made available to the students of these schools.
From Agriculture, power, environment, community development, youth and women empowerment, job creation, to security of lives and properties and numerous areas, the governor is building a sterling record of achievements that cumulatively forms a most credible compelling scorecard for vindication from all kinds of blackmails, discredits and constant stir of negative sentiments by his detractors. He has changed the face and quality of civil service in the state, and workers welfare remains a priority to his administration. By 21st of every month salaries have been paid. The governor has also given the teaching profession the credibility and attraction it ought to have. Today, unlike what obtained before, kidnapping and armed robbery have abetted to the lowest ebbs. The prospects and the development benefits of the Community government council system (CGC), a fourth tier government system pioneered by the Okorocha administration to bring governance closer to the people, is a vindication for the governor against stiff opposition that greeted its introduction.
The fact is that giving an appreciable and fair account of the achievements of the Okorocha administration can never be a paper affair. Probably it will take the entire pages of a newspaper edition to capture the entire developmental strides. Gov. Okorocha's choice to go with the people against the elites of the many political circles in Imo has stood him out as a rebel.
As impressive and unbeatable his performances and achievements are in just 2 years of his coming to office as the governor of Imo state, it is evident the governor might be fighting the biggest battle of his political career. Of course, today in Imo state, after Gov. Okorocha has tinkered with the system, we can't afford to ignore the fact that a new civilization of governance and politics is emerging in our lives as a state. Unfortunately, blind men within the powerful political circles are trying to suppress it. They are frantically and desperately fighting to restore the dying world that gave them birth. In the midst of this life or death fight, the governor has earned a barrage of unfounded blackmails, destructive criticisms and all manner of attacks from the opposition and the old political establishments. But while the grand plots to stop him by 2015 by a desperate opposition continue to gather momentum, the fact remains that his scorecard remains next to none after the legendary Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe. Hence, with a considerable accuracy, but with appropriate discount for uncertainties, the governor remains a candidate to beat as his record makes it almost impossible for the opposition to offer the electorates a more credible alternative come 2015.
Politically, both now and come 2015, the choice is for Imo people to choose between mediocrity and excellence. It is the choice of the people to either decide to choose to support the governor in his mission to rescue Imo from the hands of slave masters or remain slaves in the hands of these slave masters. For me and other people of goodwill, Okorocha, no doubt, is a rebel, but he is a rebel with a cause, vindicated by his sterling scorecard.