OKOROCHA: AFTER ONE YEAR, HOW FAR?

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May 27, 2012 will mark exactly one year Dr Ikedi Ohakim Officially handed over to his successor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. This was followed with the ceremonial swearing- in which took place on May 29 at Dan Anyiam stadium.

On this particular day, Owelle Okorocha then governor – elect stormed Douglas House Owerri with his top aides, who today occupy various positions in his administration. They are Jude Agbaso, Prof. Tony Anwuka, Prince Eze Madumere, Dr Obi, Chinedu Offor etc.

On Ohakim’s side were myself, Ada Okwuonu, Prof Viola Onwuliri, Ken Njemanze, Prof Jude Njoku, Bright Nwelue etc.

Before this day, the out – going administration had arranged for an elaborate hosting of the then governor – elect, where he would meet the entire expanded State Executive Council.

A date was chosen and all the Commissioners, Special Advisers S.A and Senior Special Assistants SSAs were seated, waiting for the Governor – elect, only for a message to come from Prince Eze Madumere, Owelle’s long – time Chief of Staff, that Okorocha will not be attending the meeting, as he was out of the country. The August gathering then dispersed.

Then suddenly on May 26, 2011, the Owelle stormed the Government House, under a heavy rain pour and at a time nearly all top functionaries of Ohakim’s administration had gone home, except for the inner staff of the former Governor.

Okorocha was received by his predecessor, as they hugged, laughed and exchanged banters.

Both Okorocha and Ohakim drove in one vehicle, as Ohakim took him round the Government House including his personal residence, until the both retired in the Governor’s office, where only two of them locked themselves in for over thirty minutes for personal discussion.

They emerged later, holding hands. I ambushed them into an emergency press conference which both of them addressed.

Immediately Okorocha left, Ikedi Ohakim went straight to the Airport and left Imo state never to return to the state until over four months.

I recall that at the official handover on that May 27, 2011 at the Imo Exco Chamber, Ohakim read his stewardship, what he left in the state coffers, and even debts the administration owed.

In his reply, Owelle Okorocha expressed peace and unity among Imo people, adding thatImoStateis one family and urged all hands to be on deck to move Imo forward, adding that he will not discriminate against any Imo citizen.

Looking around the Chamber, Owelle mentioned Profs Onwuliri and Njoku and others as people he had known for years, concluding that there is no person in that chamber he did not, including yours faithfully.

However, on May 29, 2011, Governor Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha was sworn – in as the fourth civilian Governor of Imo State. Within weeks, he had demolished every policy structure left behind by his predecessor. That is now history.

Today, Owelle has spent one year on the saddle, and must have acquired a lot of experience as concerns managing a people like Imo folks, with their diverse orientations and attitude. This is an education he could not have acquired in any formal Institution in the world.

Before I proceed, I want to state here that as the Governor of Imo State, the greatest guide that will lead the Governor to make decisions are information available to him.

But unfortunately, he will live on information channels given him second hand. Either from the security personnel or trusted aides. And none of these information would be as accurate as it would have been, had Owelle the opportunity today to sit down in one corner of a restaurant as a common citizen with a bottle of mineral, guaging information by himself, than the one being fed him now by informants and official quarters.

Therefore, from my own experience, the only persons that can tell Okorocha the truth today are two persons. One, his wife, because she is part of him, and not only a Christian, but a born again. Two, a strong man of God, who can look him in the eyes and tell him the truth. Then to an extent also, writers and columnists who his aides may see as enemies of progress, because they are angry with these writers for letting out what they would not want the Governor to hear, by pretending that all is well, when it is not so.

These are what kill our leaders and it is no fault of theirs, but because of the system and environment under which they operate.

In my sincere assessment, within one year, Okorocha has stunned some of his detractors, with the massive infrastructural development going on all over the state. That of road is baffling, and has opened many eyes that Owerri city which we thought had all its roads tarred, still has about 40% of them in bad shape since after Mbakwe left. Today, you connect any part of Owerri from where ever you live or coming from.

 

The question everybody is asking now is “Where will this man get the money to pay for all these projects?” and the government has assured that the projects will be paid for before Okorocha leaves. So, let us wait and see. We hear there is free education in Imo, but the awareness has not really gone done to the populace. Many parents still have their children in private schools. However, if the situation gets better, we shall see if by September parents will join the free – education mantra.

No parent would love to continue to spend through his nose for these private schools that does not have enough facilities like public schools. For instance, my children attend a school with paved compound, without football field, basket ball court or any other sporting facilities. So, how do they develop other parts of their qualities? Education does not end with writing English and Mathematics.

I remember that when we were in primary school, teachers do take us outside the class rooms to teach us the names of grasses, flowers, trees, even ants, first hand. And during brakes, we indulge in various sporting activities. So, we are waiting for the free education.

Still on education, the issue of relocatingImoStateUniversityhas remained a contentious one. But it needed not to have been because I am still confused why the Governor is taking that decision. Since the Institution has its permanent site, somewhere in Owerri, it should be left there, because up – rooting an Institution existing for 19 years in a particular zone in Imo to another, will breed troubles. The Fourth tier government beign initiated by the government sounds good. It will take development to the grass root, and curb urban migration. However, it should be implemented without political selfishness, and all laws guiding the system must be in place first, before it takes off.

The dressing of Imo workers now is good. They look sharp and clean that they are distinguished from others on the streets of Owerri.

The security situation in the state is not a bad as its neighboring states. Apart from occasional kidnappings and Bank robberies, the state looks a little stable.

If there is any fear, it is that of the opposition thugs, who threatened none APGA members for their views in a democratic environment like ours.

It was on Nov 22, 2011 that a group of APGA thugs attacked me at Owerri High Court and left me for dead in a gutter. Till date, I visit the hospital every two weeks on my doctor’s instruction, because of constant chest pains. I limp now because of a broken toe, and hardly venture out. I am virtually living in fear everyday, because I was told I would be finished.

The youths who attacked me said my sin was that I criticize the incumbent government a lot in my write – ups. But I disagree. Any regular reader of my articles will agree with that I write on policies and does not attack individuals. This has been my style right from the Udenwa’s era. I did same under Ikedi Ohakim. God knows that every Journalist who knows his onions must write for the people, not for himself or to destroy another. That is the ethics of Journalism.

On the area of Rule of Law and Judiciary, Governor Okorocha has not done well. According to him, he is in a hurry and wants to work for Imo people, before his four years expires. But must the rule of law and due process suffer? Today, Okorocha has a lot of litigations against him which borders on perceived impunity. He is in Court with the Ten thousand Job beneficiaries, past commissioners, Special Advisers SAs, and Senior Special Advisers SSAs, sacked Local Government Chairmen, Judicairy Commision and others who believe they were relieved of their offices without due process.

The Information machinery of the government is not too effective. It is the job of this Department to let Imo people know the projects being executed by the government, and its benefits to the people.

For instance, Imo people are yet to know what all these gates being constructed in Owerri are for. Is it for beautification, security or collecting of toll fees in the city? Nobody has told them, and this causes communication breakdown between the government and the people. Even the fourth tier, there is no adequate sensitization on the policy before it was thrown at the people.

Apart from Late Sam Mbakwe who developed Ikenegbu and Aladinma Estates, no other administration has dared that venture. Although, Gov Udenwa did, but it was carried out with clannish tendencies which denied him that laudable legacy. Why he sited a Housing Estate in Okporo Orlu, which is off the capital city without the required population baffles me. However, let’s see how Okorocha’s government will tackle housing issue in the next three years. What Imo people need now is low cost housing estate, for the poorest of the poor.

Apart from FADAMA this, FADAMA that, which is an old story, Imo State has not made use of its vast and arable lands for massive production of Agricultural products for its teeming population.

What every citizen regard as agriculture is when there is available garri, poultry, vegetables, yam, rice etc. Agriculture does not require much grammar. Okorocha should avoid the mistakes of the past.

Going toAbujato attend United Nations Conferences, FADAMA demonstrations, and collection of fertilizer quotas for Imo, by the Commissioner for Agriculture is not it. Imo need farm settlements, like the Yoruba States are doing now.LagosStatejust Commissioned a Rice plant last Monday.

In the area of Health, what is of most important now is the reinvigoration of the clean up exercise which usually takes place in the state every last Saturday of the month. It worked wonders. Even though it was initiated by the last administration, Okorocha should forget the messenger here, but take the message. Owerri is gradually returning to the era of Achike Udenwa where for eight years no single dirt was evacuated from the city.

When we talk about Sports, football comes to mind. Therefore, Heartland Football Club is the pride of the State. and the club gave Okorocha a big welcome, with the Federation Cup it won against Enyimba of Aba.

Sports is a very big weapon in politics. Both within and outside the shore of the country. Many people may not have still remembered Governor Orji Kalu’s achievements in Abia state, but there is no mention of Enyimba without his name.

Therefore, Governor Okorocha should halt the rot going on now in the Heartland FC. He may not know that there is a big battle ragging between the Management and the Ministry of Sports.

Even within the club, officials are fighting among themselves, scheming how players sign – on fees would be shared. Gov Okorocha, do you know how many players that have been sold in Heartland FC since you became Governor? The wont let you to know, ask now.

I want also to state here that there is a general murmur everwhere that there is no money in circulation in the state but government has made it clear that it is carrying out massive projects that demands huge funds. They masses say they are seeing these projects, yet they ask “Is it road we go chop?” It is very unfortunate. The masses are hard to please. Burden of leadership!

But the worst is that most top government functionaries are not left out in this story of lack of funds. It is good if it comes from others but not the government aides, because it is a bad public relation for the government.

I learnt a Commissioner can not dash you N1, 000 if you visit him. Some of them claim they do not have money to fix even their private vehicles.

But this is an old story to me. During the Udenwa era, what we heard was that he was only empowering his “ Orlu brothers”. When Ikedi Ohakim came, the story was that he and his younger brother has hijacked Imo, leaving others empty handed.

Today, the story is that Okorocha and his in laws and relations, especially those from Orlu are “enjoying” while others are suffering. But how many of these complaining aides have thrown in his or her resignation letter? But look deep and you will attest that no matter how much these people complain, their lives and that of their families have not remained the same since they were appointed.

That you are appointed anything at all, among millions of Imo populace, is a privilege, which one should be grateful to God. At least ones profile has been enhanced with that appointment.

However, the notion that Government appointment is for “Food is ready” should be done away with, because it leads the appointees to be desperate to meet up the high expectation of those nudging them on.

Meanwhile, I want to state here, that it is unfortunate that after one year in office, Owelle Okorocha, it seems still nurses some animosity against a section of people in the State.

Naturally, the moment election campaign ends, and a new governor is elected, all things are passed away, till the next election.

Today, Governor Okorocha is the number one citizen of the state, and therefore is the father of all, because he is the governor of all Imo people, not only of APGA, which was a platform he came into office. After one year, there should be fence – mending and reconciliation among the people, for the progress, peace and unity of the state.

Governor Okorocha is lucky as he has no serious distraction within his first one year in office. His predecessor, Ikedi Ohakim had over twenty eight (28) political cases in various courts in the land.

In order words, an average of one case every month for the four years he spent in office. Okorocha defeated an incumbent, who already had his mouth on the “breast”. So, between Okorocha who snatched the “breast” away from the one already sucking it, who should be angry?

There are a group of people today in the state who feel they are maltreated and unjustly discriminated against. Something must be done to give them a sense of belonging that this is their state and that they served their fatherland, not an individual.

They include the Imo citizens who served the last administration, whose statutory entitlements and salaries have been withheld by the present administration. They had to use their “last card” to seek justice in court, but the matter, continues to linger.

It is Ironical, because, Ohakim whose appointees are suffering this discrimination, paid off Udenwa’s appointees, including past Council Chairmen and Councilors owed billions of naira by the past administration he succeeded.

Another group is the 10,000 job youths who are also in court. They are Imo citizens and the Governor should temper justice with mercy.

One irony about it all is that these Ten thousand youths may have voted for Owelle during the election.

If these youths, their parents, wives, husbands, relations and friends had voted for Ohakim and protected their votes, that would have been 20% votes already garnered. That is why most of them openly lamented today that “had I known”.

Even they sacked Local Government Chairmen of the PDP cannot swear that they fought as hard as they would have had their election came at the same period with the Governorship election.

That is why many of them are also surprised that Owelle hit them bellow the belt with that shocking sack.

In conclusion, I will say that Owelle Okorocha, as all human beings, cannot be said to be perfect. And again, he has a four year mandate to governImoState, therefore let us wait and see.

However, he should do a little fine – tuning to break the hedge between his administration and perceived enemies. He should sieve every information available to him, as selfish Hawks would not like him to see or hear what they think will affect their own chances, not that of Okorocha orImoState.

 

And whether Okorocha will run again in 2015? Absolutely yes. He will run because of many factors. One 2015will be a no – go – area inAbuja, as there will be tough battle for who becomes the next president. So, no vacancy there for people like Okorocha.

With the way he is going, if he sustains the momentum there is the tendency that he may leave some solid evidence on ground to persuade the people for a second shot. The allure of office may push him to run again. A group may emerge, calling him to run again, and he will tell them “since you have me I have no alternative”. And most importantly, it is not easy to leave power, because of its aura and other benefits. And the constitution guarantees Okorocha to be governor for eight years of two terms. Now, do you think he will not try to run?