When last year, after the guber polls in the state, he took over from Ikedi Ohakim, having beaten him soundly in the election, Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha cut the image of a gentleman: handsome, urbaine, rich, experienced and soundly educated. Governor Okorocha holds a Masters degree in Law from Unijos! Like Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State we are very sure of his academic pedigree! And as a pan-Nigerian philanthropist of repute, he has succeeded through his Rochas Foundation in alleviating the plight of the less-privileged in the society as a basis for economic emancipation and social justice. Nigeria needs more of such humanitarian gestures from the privileged class.
A detribalized Nigerian, a devoted Christian married with six children Okorocha is known to have adopted many children demonstrating his natural love for the sacred creatures of the Creator. So from the foregoing one can safely say that the affable Governor is a man of the people and a man for the people since he was made governor by the people of Imo State.
Before he took over in Owerri ex-Gov. Ikedi Ohakim, the ‘Ikiri’, was heavily enmeshed in scandals stewing in them as though he had become answerable to no one, not even God! But fortunately the people power swept him away ushering a new era in Okorocha. Democracy prevailed in Imo State to the glory of God and to our gladness!
Born in September 1962 Okorocha looks every inch like a well-bred man worried genuinely by poverty in the land hence his commitment to providing relief to thousands of its victims nationwide. Since he is a self-made man one only hopes that he will not emulate the dishonourable likes of former governors Ibori, Sylva and Igbinedion. As a man who has a heart, a soul for the poor it is our belief that the trappings of power will not change such good character.
In Igboland kidnapping for money has become a multi-billion naira business with well-organized network. When people from other ethnic groups in Nigeria often accuse the Igbos of being too materialistic we often rise in defense of our people and tribe but the truth remains that with the advent of kidnapping the Igbos have taken it to another terrible level confirming the long-held view that Igbos love making money by hook or by crook! When it comes to money issues and how to make money the average Igboman is not lacking in ideas! Without conscience some go to any lenght (including right inside the church premises) to either kill for money or kidnap for same!
Kidnappers and killers have taken over Imo State and Gov. Okorocha seemed powerless to do anything about it. There is no day that passes by without horrible tale of kidnappers snatching someone especially in Owerri. And the hinterland is worse: with little no security and porous entry and exit points these wierd drugged boys are going about the ‘business’ as if it is now a legal way of making money. Not long ago these kidnappers had terrorised Abia state forcing some Aba residents to flee the city for fear of falling victim of this abhorent trend. Now people of Imo are relocating en masse to avoid being hit by these dangerous criminals. Yet all we hear from the Owerri government house is stoic silence!
The upsurge in kidnapping of prominent indigenes in the 27 local councils that make up the state raises crucial questions which the Imo government are not answering. Questions like: who are the brains behind these abductions? What is the government and police doing to nip it in the bud? Are politicians in the state using this strategy to intimidate their opponents and run them out of town?
According to recent reports many affluent families have either gone into hiding or relocated to either Lagos or Abuja, far away from home, in order to be off the radar of the mobile hitmen using sophisticated technologies and weapons that are difficult to trace or arrest!
The tragic case of one Pastor Anslem Iwuala is instructive here. Just recently the man of God was nabbed by kidnappers on his way home in Egberede Nguru, Aboh Mbaise local council area of Imo State. And after holding him captive for some days with his family paying the negotiated ransom of N500,000 the abductors still went ahead and gruesomely killed the pastor/businessman dropping off his lifeless body somewhere in town for the family to pick up! Who did he offend? Which business ‘deal’ went wrong?
Dropping off on my way to Nigeria (for a weekend) in Lome Togo early last year my good friend based there had asked me to accompany him near the border to see a man of God. While there inside the pastor’s office I made it known to my friend that that part of the city of Lome was very cool; you could hear and see Ghanaians (especially little children) playing from the other side of the barbed-wired fence border which is Ghanaian territory! As the Pastor said prayers after a brief encounter we were about to leave when the car suddenly developed a little mechanical problem and we decided to fix it immediately since there was a mechanic workshop very close.
While the mechanic was on it I asked my friend to take me somewhere for some refreshment. As a car dealer in Lome he knew the city inside out. We took a brief walk down the street and saw a provision store. There we ordered for some buscuits and canned beer. Munching away the buscuit and sipping beer in a cool evening we soon struck a conversation with an old woman sitting comfortably close by whom we imagined onwed the shop. She told us, as we introduced ourselves as Nigerians, that she was Nigerian too from the Yoruba extraction. Another gaze inside the shop and the big portrait of the footballer Emmanuel Adebayor caught my attention.
Upon inquiry the woman declared without equivocation that that was his son playing football abroad! It dawned on us then that we were with Adebayor’s mother! Perhaps to convince us further she called up Adebayor and spoke with him offering to pass the phone on to us. We declined of course convinced she was real. She said her son Adebayor opened the shop for her and whenever he was in town he always came there to relax and entertain some friends. Wonders shall never end!
As we drove away from the vicinity towards another part of town I told my friend that Togo was indeed peaceful and the Togolese less money conscious. International footballer Adebayor’s mother selling somewhere in town without kidnappers visiting her? If it were back home, like they did to Mikel Obi’s father, Adebayor must have paid millions to free his mother from captivity and perhaps he could have decided that closing the shop or ‘hiding’ her sweet mother away from the public was the solution! In my village in Anambra State that was exactly what one of my brothers did when kidnappers nabbed his mother and from Lagos he had to cough out millions of naira! The old man and woman are now ‘exiled’ in Port Harcourt!
Is Gov. Rochas Okorocha an executive kidnapper in Imo State? No one can answer with certainty in the affirmative for now, for, there is no concrete evidence linking him to any of such heinous activity. But we may re-consider our position soon (if he does not declare a state of emergency and open war on the kidnapping syndicate terrorising the state as the chief security officer of the state) by labelling him officially as an executive kidnapper masquerading as a Chief Executive Officer of the state. One thing would then be clear: either himself is the godfather of the kidnappers or their sponsor or some of his appointees are kidnapping kingpins themselves. You can never tell in Nigeria!
Yes of course, you can never tell in a Nigeria where nothing is impossible any more! Nothing is impossible indeed, not when people now organize their own kidnappings in the hope of making money or when armed robbers raid banks at broad daylight and dare the police for an open combat. Not when those ‘elected’ to provide leadership at the federal and state levels device new strategies daily to launder huge budgets placed under their care, not whe
n our Honourables and Senators are making history in the world as the best paid ‘legislooters’ even when they are notoriously indolent and unproductive.
Nothing is indeed impossible right now back home! Not when the ‘transformation agenda’ of the present political dispensation has only succeeded in ‘transforming’ Nigeria into a haven for criminals in high places. Not even when ‘Baba’ himself, ‘firing’ a salvo from Lagos recently, described the Nigerian National Assembly as populated by “rogues and armed robbers”! Not when internet scammers and spammers have been replaced officially by government functionaries and officials with everyone trying to outdo each other in terms of who steals more and goes free or gets caught!
The present terrifying situation in Imo State (in which the people are being held captive by roaming gun-totting assassins and kidnappers) calls into serious question Governor Okorocha’s capacity to continue occupying the state house. Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha’s credibility is at stake here; he risks losing the spontaneous goodwill through which he rode to power unless he lives up to his responsibility and finds urgent solution to the Imo security crisis. The Imo people never had it so bad even in the scandalous years of Ohakim. And the grim reality of harbouring professional kidnappers and killers in their midst must rankle every sane mind!