“A man who sold his dog to buy a monkey still has a squatting animal in his house.” This Igbo proverb seems to capture appropriately, the situation of the people of Imo State. In 2007, the people of the State were on the verge of getting it right again in their choice of governor until the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) mishandled the governorship politics in the state. That singular mistake threw up a third-rate opportunist, Ikedi Ohakim. of the People Progressive Alliance (PPA), as the governor after an illogical voting pattern.
By the way, Ifeanyi Araraume was declared as the authentic PDP candidate by the Supreme Court contrary to former President Obasanjo’s choice, Charles Ugwuh. But rather than support Araraume, Obasanjo flew into Imo State after the Supreme Court verdict to declare that his party, the PDP; was not fielding any candidate in the election. And true to Obasanjo’s stance, PDP abandoned its official candidate and supported PPA’s candidate, Ohakim. Yet this is the same Obasanjo that accused President Goodluck Jonathan of anti-party activities in Anambra, Ondo and Edo states. If Obasanjo is right in his recent 18-page letter to President Jonathan, then the President has been a very good understudy of his benefactor, the former president!
The arrogance with which Ohakim misgoverned Imo once again proved the superiority of popular choice to imposition and the manipulation of the democratic process to which Obasanjo once again pleaded his guilt in his acerbic letter to Jonathan. Yes, Obasanjo confessed that he probably had a hand in deciding the democratic outcomes in the 1979, 2007 and 2011 presidential elections.
Back to Ohakim’s Imo state: because Ohakim knew those who made him governor, his allegiance was never to the Imo people. If anything, he held the people in contempt as he was everything a governor ought not to be. But little did he know that people power will come to play in the 2011 election. For the people of Imo, Ohakim’s cup was full to the brim and it was time to show him the exit door.
The popular sentiment was that any person other than Ohakim would do. To tell how the people detested the idea of the return of Ohakim as governor, they were willing to put on hold the principle of zoning, which has helped in peaceful political succession in the state if that is all it would take to sack the governor. That was how Okorocha was elected as Imo State governor.
Those who think the ambivalent politician who has been a member of five different political parties since 1999 is popular must think twice. This is particularly important as we approach the politics of 2015. Indeed in electing Rochas Okorocha, the people of Imo were willing to accommodate the Orlu Zone for another four years after former Governor Achike Udenwa who hails from Orlu had done two terms totalling eight years. That was part of the huge sacrifice to get Ohakim out of the way.
But with the benefit of hindsight, it is dawning on our people that they have probably sacrificed more than was needed to get Ohakim out. As it is turning out, Governor Okorocha is becoming a bigger liability than Ohakim. Yes, the former governor could be accused for his arrogance, intemperate language and even lack of dissimulation in his dealings with the people. Yet the incumbent governor, Okorocha has become an incubus, a terrible nightmare to those who expected much from him.
Smart and gifted with the gift of the garb, Okorocha stole his way to the heart of the ordinary people, especially those incapable of any sophisticated analysis. And with his sugar-coated tongue, governance has been reduced to a road-show, and if you like, a huge joke in the Eastern Heartland. These days, when Okorocha pays salaries of teachers, which he is supposed to do anyway, he calls a world press conference and creates a drama out of it; when retired civil servants are paid their pension, the governor makes it television live coverage event. Such has been the melodrama, which governance has been reduced to. But governance, which according to classical philosophers like Plato, is a serious business that must be based on exact knowledge, has been turned on its head by Okorocha.
If all that Imo people have had to contain with is Okorocha’s road-show it would have been excusable. But unfortunately so, their governor is building a great reputation for arbitrariness. There are many allegations that good and reputable contractors have left Owerri in droves because of the manner the administration in the state is awarding jobs without due process and proper documentation. Where on earth except perhaps in Imo that Government contracts for roads and other infrastructures are awarded to people by mere verbal proclamations? There are hush-hush talks in Imo State capital about contractors who allege of being swindled by the state government through this verbal award of contracts by officials of the state.
Moreover, Okorocha appears not to have any agenda for the development of the state that expects so much from him. You can quarrel with his predecessors, Udenwa and Ohakim for not delivering much but they at least had plans. Not so for Okorocha who is simply muddling through issues and problems. That is why today the governor is chasing misplaced priorities that will certainly not improve the life chances of the people. For example, how can the building of a five-star hotel in Okigwe, a town that has no access to potable water and where poverty is walking on its rural streets help the poor masses of our people? How does the issuance of certificates of recognition and staff of office to some nondescripts living outside Igbo land as traditional rulers in their places of residence against the letters of the law be a governor’s priority? Thankfully, the South-east Council of traditional rulers have spoken up against Okorocha on this matter.
Those who know Okorocha intimately indeed warned when our people were embracing him just to get Ohakim out of the way. The governor did not even settle down before he vindicated those early warnings. First, he framed his deputy governor, Agbaso, whose elder brother paved the way for him in APGA, with bribery allegation and got him impeached. The only offence Agbaso committed was that his presence constantly reminds the governor of the one-term agreement he entered into before he was given the APGA ticket. Although EFCC has cleared the innocent man, Okorocha and his gang are questioning EFCC’s verdict on Agbaso.
Second, Okorocha did not only jump out of APGA, to join APC but strived to trade away a party that was magnanimous to offer him the opportunity to be governor, in his treacherous dealings with Tinubu and Co. Now Okorocha is running his mouth against the PDP in his misadventure to be considered for the vice presidency in APC. Okorocha is free to pursue his selfish ambition in APC but he must be told in clear terms to count our people out in his perilous journey to political perdition. Our people are clear on their position to support President Jonathan in 2015 should he decide to run. And if by any chance Jonathan is not running, Okorocha most certainly cannot be the Igbo candidate.
Looking back now, it was not always bad for Imo State. This is the same state that produced Sam Mbakwe, RBK Okafor, Justice Oputa, Mike Ahamba and other men of integrity. Why has our politics fallen into the hands of tricksters, charlatans and roughnecks? Why is Imo very much unlucky?
- Ezendiaru, a civil servant, wrote from Mgbidi, Imo State.