Iberibe may have been a common word in Igbo Language which signifies imprudence or better still “foolishness” in English. The word may not have had enough relevance among Igbo speaking people of the Eastern part of Nigeria not until the immediate past governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha came on board. Armed with the knack to manufacture Igbotic vocabularies mixed with English styles, Oko0rocha came up with a popular word coinage known as “Iberiberism” ostensibly, drawn from the Igbo word Iberibe.
According to Okorocha while adducing reasons why makers of English dictionary should include Iberiberism as part of its vocabulary, certain absurd acts can be termed “Iberiberism”. There is no gainsaying the fact that the former governor’s approach to governance corresponded with his infamous “Iberiberism” theory, which could be said to have necessitated the clamour for the celebration of the word.
Six months after Okorocha left office, indications are high that Imo people may witness another round of Iberiberism except the incumbent, Emeka Ihedioha departs from deep interest in folly and thoughtless action that would make a mockery of his administration.
Regular commentators in our mould who took time to review actions of the former governor and his administrative style had relaxed our pens for a while to allow his successor who is of the PDP settle and understand governance. Having been aware of the humongous challenges awaiting the new governor after the locus years of the past regime, enough time had to be reserved for Ihedioha in office before prying eyes begin to evaluate what he has in stock for the people.
I was chanced to be among the coterie of journalists who had a media parley with Ihedioha on Sunday night. For the first time in about six years, it was an opportunity to listen to the state governor speak to the press.
The last time I had the chance was in 2013, before Sam Onwuemedo, my bosom pal, and then Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to Okorocha, stopped my medium and editorial team from joining others in Government House, Owerri for the former governor’s regular interactive sessions with journalists.
After a careful review of what the governor said about his six months in office, during the interactive session, I had cause to pause for a while to ponder if Ihedioha has the magic wand to match his Rebuild Imo mantra words with action since coming into office.
The governor spoke on wide range of interesting issues which I intend to give a thought in my coming commentary. But for now, there is need to add this piece before he falls victim to the proverbial “banana peel” that afflicts office holders whenever they get the mandate of the people to be governor.
Recall that in 2011, Imolites saw Okorocha’s predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim as a “monster”. Several unprintable allegations were leveled against the Isiala Mbano born politician. Unfounded stories of Ohakim’s alleged infamy were created to paint him black in the public and to be rejected by the electorate. The consequence was that Okorocha won the Governorship election against Ohakim” second term bid. And Imo erupted in jubilation because the man branded “Ikiri” by haters had got a red card to pack out of Government House, Owerri.
Okorocha launched a Rescue Mission which was meant to rewrite the supposed unpardonable “ills” of Ohakim. But, after eight years reign and irrespective of claims that he had done what other past Governors of the state never did, and unsubstantiated boasts that only late Sam Mbakwe, the revered builder of old Imo can be compared to him in term of achievement, the parting words from Imolies to Okorocha remains “Ikiri ka onye oshi mma”. What Ikiri ka onye mma means is a story for another day.
The coming of Ihedioha elicited fresh hopes that a new Messiah for Imolites is in town. Fertilized by his Rebuild Imo mantra, enthusiasm of a better Imo is at feverish peak again that the state, fondly, called Eastern Heartland is about to enter greater heights.
I can vividly remember that the state, especially Owerri, was electrified with joyous mood and funfare, the day, Ihedioha was declared governor-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Between March 10 and 11th 2019 after the governorship election, Imo witnessed historic moments when it became obvious that Ihedioha was coasting home with victory. Apart from saying goodbye to Iberiberism; a signpost of the past, there was a new vista as people believed the new governor may make real his verbal identity which is my “word is my bond” and “Omenkeahuruanya” title in his administrative style.
But after six months in Government House, Owerri, there are ominous signs that the “Iberiberism” hook is yet to completely remove its claws from the body of the state, going by the presence of Christmas trees at some roundabouts in the state capital and other distasteful antecedents witnessed so far in the act of governance.
One of the permanent features Owerri town wore during the festive periods of Okorocha era was Christmas trees at all corners and major streets in the state capital. It was said that Owerri housed the highest number of Christmas decorations even as the longest Christmas tree in Africa was also spotted in the state capital. Fanciful ornamental flowers and china-made lightening were also part of the permanent features Owerri wore, whereas pensioners and civil servants suffered within this period as they had their salaries and pensions slashed. Irrespective that Okorocha didn’t pay pensioners duely and left them with backlog of arrears, Ihedioha considering the fact he is barely 6 months in office has managed to pay only 3 months pension arrears.
The money used in the decoration of Christmas trees would at least go a long way in paying more 2 months of pension.
It was more of the “suffering and smiling” situation, the music legend, Fela Anikulapo-kuti discussed in one of his music labels.
Unconfirmed stories even had it that not less than N600m was used for the Christmas decoration during Okorocha’s time while workers and pensioners starved overtime.
What suggests that “Iberiberists” tendencies are trying to rear its ugly head again in Imo is the return of Christmas tree on Owerri Roundabouts.
Few weeks ago, workers were stopped at various roundabouts trying to fix irons. Their presence brought suspense of the return of Christmas tree. The fear was confirmed early this week when a masquerade-like Christmas tree appeared at one of the Roundabouts.
While it is trite to say that there is nothing wrong in mounting Christmas trees, a conscious minded government responding to the heartbeat of the people will not taunt the deprived masses now with the erection of a Christmas tree.
One had expected Ihedioha to look at other sectors that needed urgent attention in the mean time than embarking on theatre of absurdities about a Christmas arrangement. Any resident of Owerri can confirm that roads in the state capital have been in dilapidated conditions since the rains started. Like I said in my last edition, the general feeling was that Ihedioha knew what happened about the rains because he was accused of not willing to handle the roads.
For over four months, Imo roads have been like a war-torn location with motorists witnessing nightmarish experiences accessing the roads. Instead of fixing the roads that lead to the Roundabouts, the state government decided to be insensate with xmas trees.
Ihedioha would have responded to the body stimuli of Imolites by fixing the roads first than erection of an absurd Christmas tree on pothole filled roads. It is preposterous for the state government to negate the feelings of the people about the bad roads in preference for Christmas tree.
This insensitive approach to governance may have also been responsible for the decision of the Ihedioha government to embark on 27 stadium projects. A discerning mind would know that the problems of LGAs in Imo State are not about quantum of stadiums for sports but of roads and social amenities for the residents at the grassroots.
The desire for stadium is akin to Okorocha’s 27 General hospitals which have turned to be a huge waste of resources as they are not functional. Even the so called chapel projects are not desirable because religious worship centers are scattered in each LGA.
LGAs in Imo State suffer serious road kwashiorkor which may make the stadiums and secretariats another waste if there are no access roads to the councils. The money sunk into the stadiums and secretariat projects would have been used for road projects. Again, nothing stops LGAs from establishing money-making outfits that would boost the internal generated revenue of the councils than perennial over dependence on federal allocations from Abuja.
Would it be a misnomer in the LGA system for Imo councils to establish pure water, toiletries and plastic rubber manufacturing outlets than squander LGA funds on frivolities in the name of projects? This write up won’t end without highlighting the governor’s neglect to certain promises he made to the people during the campaigns.
Except Ihedioha intends to toe the abracadabra governance of the immediate past, he should keep to the promise made to the traders in the state capital. During the campaigns, he promised to rebuild the Old Stadium shop, Owerri for the owners. Today, the Old Stadium shop Owners in Owerri are beginning to doubt Ihedioha’s “my word is my bond” mantra as the place is being rebuilt without notice or consideration to the owners who suffered untold hardship in the hands of Okorocha.
Ihedioha is expected to avoid sad reminders of the past to ensure that Iberiberism is not back to Imo State.