- By Chinedu Nzeribe
AFTER a whole 10 months without commissioners, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State announced on Monday, December 4, an unwieldy cabinet of 28 commissioners. Among the new appointees is his younger sister, Mrs Ogechi Ololo, as the Commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment, a very strange and ridiculous portfolio. With this appointment, Okorocha has not only taken nepotism to new heights, he has taken official comedy too far. Mrs Ololo had previously served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs and Food Security to the Governor. Rochas’ in-law, Uche Nwosu who is married to the governor’s first daughter, is the powerful Chief of Staff Commissioner, having served as Commissioner for Lands, Survey, Housing and Urban Planning. There are widespread reports he is being groomed to succeed Rochas.
It is regrettable that the only state administration in the South East geopolitical zone controlled by the All Progressive Congress (APC), the government party at the national level, has become the butt of all manner of joke across the nation. The Rochas Okorocha administration in Imo State is unfortunately deserving of all the jokes. Governor Rochas Okorocha has in the last few months engaged in a number of bizarre actions. For instance, he invited President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to Imo State in October and treated him like a hero, complete with a chieftaincy title. He even erected a statute for him which the media reported cost tax payers some N500m, even though both retirees and workers in the state are owed a huge backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities. Zuma is facing some 700 allegations of bribery and corruption in his country. And Nigerians, including indigenes of Imo State, are massacred in South Africa in a relatively new phenomenon in the country called xenophobia, that is, irrational fear of and hatred for foreigners.
Rather than bow to public opinion and stop such practices, Governor Okorocha chose to double down, as the Americans call such behavior. He invited the next month the outgoing Liberian leader, President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, to Owerri and gave her royal treatment. Rochas built a statute for her, too. The statue cost probably another N500m. People of Imo State now routinely joke with one another and even with non-Imo indigenes: “Has Rochas built a statute for you in Owerri?”
But Rochas has not always been like this. He showed signs of seriousness and purposefulness for the first two years. He was building roads and paying salaries and gratuities and pensions regularly. This was an important development in a state which some people refer to as a civil service state, in contrast to neighbouring states like Abia which has the commercial city of Aba, and Anambra which has such commercial cities as Onitsha and Nnewi. When Rochas was working for the people, he was in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) on whose ticket he contested the gubernatorial election and won. But the moment he joined the APC, everything changed dramatically. Things changed for the worse for the people of Imo State.
It is doubtful that Rochas could have closed down and demolished the oldest and foremost market in Owerri, Ekeukwu Market, in August if he had remained in APGA. Rochas shut down the market without following due process, and then used soldiers to enforce his will. When the people tried to protest peacefully, which is their right in any democratic environment, they were met with force. One of the casualties was 10-year Somtochukwu Ibeanusi who came to assist his father clear his wares when the market was being demolished.
The magic of Rochas’ maladministration is that the APC, to which he belongs, has never deemed it necessary to call him to order. The institution which should serve as a check on excesses of the administration, the Imo State House of Assembly, has unfortunately long lost its soul; it sees itself as the governor’s chief cheerleader and an extension of the governor’s kitchen cabinet. It would seem that, judging from the current embarrassing drama in Imo State, Baron Montesquieu, the preeminent French philosopher who developed the theory of separation of powers among the three branches of government, made a mistake. While the practice of democracy worldwide rests on the principle of separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, it is not the same in Okorocha’s Imo State. Hence, the governor gets away daily with blue murder and other forms of sacrilege.
Given the fact that the APC has woefully failed as a party to call Rochas to order and the fact that Governor Okorocha was doing well when he was the APGA governor of Imo State, the time has really come for Imo people to press to have an APGA administration once again in the state. There is no way the APGA leadership could have turned its face the other way while Rochas deepens a culture of maladministration if he had remained in the party. The APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may not have any kind of ideology, but APGA is purpose-driven. This fact manifested glaringly during the electioneering campaign leading to the November 18 gubernatorial election in Anambra State and also during the election proper.
APC members behaved like crass opportunists and mercenaries. They were interested in the huge amounts of money flowing freely from moneybags like Prince Arthur Eze. Many APC members and supporters collected humungous sums meant for the election but pocketed most. APGA members, on the other hand, behaved like true believers. Whatever little money each of them received as allowance to work for the party was used exactly for the purpose. There are therefore no stories of betrayal. In contrast, stories of outright stealing, embezzlement and diversion of funds by APC members are very common. Read, for example, on the Internet the account of what transpired in his native Obosi and the entire Idemmili North Local Government Area by Tony OneWeek Muonagor, a popular musician, comedian and APC member of the Anambra State House of Assembly.
In other words, it is no coincidence that Peter Obi did well as the APGA governor of Anambra State from 2006 to 2014. It is also no coincidence that when Obi left APGA and joined the PDP, he started to behave strangely, thus the people of Anambra State rejected him and his PDP right from his native Anaocha Local Government Area which APGA swept like the other 20 local government areas in the state. It is also not a coincidence that Governor Willie Obiano as the APGA candidate in the November 18 poll set a record which will be difficult for any Nigerian governor to beat. Obiano has a record of solid achievements. He has made APGA synonymous with democracy dividends.
Imolites, who regrettably have had no administration which can in any sector rival any of the APGA governments in neighnouring Anambra State, will have a golden opportunity during the next gubernatorial election to end the vicious circle of misrule in their beloved state. APGA is the way to go.
Nzeribe, ex manager with Keystone Bank, is a public affairs analyst.
– Dec 8, 2017 @ 14:03 GMT |