If he had any of such titles as Major General or Lieutenant Colonel prefixed to his name, Owelle Rochas Okorocha would have failed woefully in the 2011 election. However, Okorocha came a true democrat with mountains of philanthropic gestures to his credit, riding coolly on a platform provided by All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), whose national leader, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, has soft spot in the heart of any Igbo man with good sense of history. These were certainly reasons; with Ojukwu and APGA playing better roles in the conglomeration of other factors that made many Ndi Imo risk their lives in not just voting but insisting that their votes counted to make him the governor of Imo State.
Rochas also had many things working for him. His choice of words could melt hearts. He easily appeals to emotion often with little logic. This works well among a population that looks for reasons to forgive even known criminals, simply because saints are in short supply among the political elites. Okorocha’s philanthropic gestures could easily give him out as a saint. He has several schools across Nigeria and beyond, where he trains secondary school students freely in best facilities that could be found in Nigeria. His name usually evoke emotions, as people who have not personally benefited from his charity, tell tales of those they know, who had enjoyed his philanthropy in one way or the other. And Rochas knows how best to do it! He gets involved in his philanthropy business, and often takes the lead in the ‘service’ to the poor. He jokes and plays with them. And whenever he is doing this, he ensures he has his cameramen by his side. He keeps the videos and snap shots as evidence of his goodness. No one has problem with this. As a young catechumen in the Catholic Church, we were taught, after all, that philanthropy did not necessarily mean love. All charities are philanthropy but not the other way round. Politicians offer theirs with intention beyond serving God in humanity. Hence, against Jesus Christ’s teaching that we must not parade our good deeds to get praise, many Christian politicians go pharisaic. They won’t show love without the cameraman. And it works. That was one of the selling points of Rochas Okorocha in the 2011 gubernatorial election in Imo State. Ndi Imo did not just want a change to former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, who had become everything but a leader, they wanted a total opposite to the man. They wanted a governor with human heart. Hence, as per his philanthropy, Rochas easily sailed through with the masses not inquiring about the love content of this act.
Then began the business of governance! He did not want to fail. Rochas Okorocha actually started well. No dispute to that. Within his six months in office, Rochas had renovated or built many new structures in the infrastructure deficit state. However, like many villains, he began to drift. The ovation became so loud among a people who had not seen such speedy development. And like the proverbial dancer, Rochas stopped listening to the rhythm of his drummers and started dancing to the noise of his admirers. Projects became a matter of self glorification and no longer necessity. Overriding ambition started writing straight on every act of the governor. You could boldly spot inscriptions of pride, inordinate ambition and highhandedness in the otherwise good works of the hitherto, People’s Governor. The result is the clear statement that Imo has become an abandoned project. From the Ring Road, which was initiated by Ohakim in the twilight of his administration to roads Okorocha awarded contracts for in the remotest villages in Imo, it is now story of gully erosion. Whereas some of these roads were unpaved but motorable, excellently maintained by villagers who had wonderful tradition of Oru Iro, where the youths in community came out en masse to maintain their roads by themselves, Rochas simply sent caterpillars that cleared the surface soil, removed culverts, uprooted gutters and left the road at the mercy of erosion. Today, many people are unable to access their villages. While one may drive through a dual carriageway from Orlu to Orie Akokwa or Afo Urualla, he might spend the whole day trying to negotiate from there to his village in Umualaoma or Obodoukwu in Ideato North LGA. The story is the same from Awomama to Ugiri (Mbaino), and from Ehime to Avu near Owerri. Even when this people get home, perhaps without their cars which were held back by mud at the village square, they may discover that their electric poles connecting them to power supply had since been brought down in the name of road construction. It is this singular road projects logjam that affects more than the many uncompleted buildings that should serve as schools, general hospitals etc.
Recently, the Debt Management Office of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) listed the state as insolvent. The government has denied this but the denial looks infantile. A better defense should have been an Imo with started projects going on simultaneously, according to governor’s promise. But that is not the case. Many people whose houses were pulled down are yet to be compensated and the governor’s tenure is expiring. Retirees, who had smiled on television screens, do not have opportunity of retelling their woes to the world. There is no mention of gratuities. Policies are formulated and reformulated without any consultation. Bribery accusations and counter accusations are made and withdrawn at will. Indications are that the governor has merely made Imo an unworthy stepping stone to his ambition. Ndi Imo are seriously concerned on how their money is being spent. The Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, known for his objective stand in Imo politics recently pointed this out directly to the governor during a church service.
Okorocha pretends to be fixing all the ills in Imo State at once. However, it is obvious the state has run out of funds. Yet, in every gathering, he still makes promises, though he seems to get lesser applause as people now see his promises as suspect or what Igbo would call egbe onu.
In the prime of his administration, he had stopped uninvited wherever he saw large gatherings to make new promises. He could stop at a traditional marriage venue or burial ceremony. After laughing or crying as the situation warrants, he drops three or four promises. Often times, there were no aides to note these promises down and remind His Excellency later. So, they go with the winds, but the masses take note. The governor may have good intention but there is more to governance than good intention.
Recklessness is rampant. The disabled persons are protesting. Young Engineer Corps are angry. Government House security details are threatening fire and brimstone. His dumped party, APGA, is at his throat. Even All Progressives Congress (APC) is not yet a safe haven because, people who were there before he jumped board still see him as usurper. His subdued House of Assembly members are raising their heads. The religious bodies are now very suspicious of him. Admission seekers are accusing him; job seekers see all his acclaimed palliatives as fraudulent. Trust is at lowest ebb simply because promises were made and never fulfilled. Rochas has simply undone himself.
However, he needs to retrace and once more dance to tune. Rochas must listen to Ndi Imo. He must once more dust his manifesto and work according to reality. There is no way he could do his wish and want the masses to give approval to that. Ndi Imo are too wise to be deceived by smiling face and dancing steps. We have outgrown the era of governors roasting corns by the roadside or attending wedding ceremonies uninvited just to attract unschooled applause. Ndi Imo wants the Rochas they voted for. Infrastructure building is good but a listening ear is better. In fact, the later begets the former. Despite his role in the provision of Germany’s infrastructure, Adolf Hitler was never wanted because people wanted to be heard. That is the essence of
democracy, in which people’s sovereignty has been vested on the leaders. Also, Okorocha must cease making promises and focus on redeeming the litany of pledges he already made. He must not be seen as over ambitious or coaxing people into working for his selfish goals. Finally, he must also remember that he has a date with the masses in 2015.