Liberating the liberator

Four years ago, Rochas Okoro­cha, the Governor of Imo state, came across as a libera­tor. He had cashed in on the real and imagined weak points of the government of the day to emerge as governor.

A day after he was declared elected by the Independent National Elec­toral Commission ( INEC), Okorocha worshipped at the Maria Assumpta Cathedral, Headquarters of the Catho­lic Archdiocese of Owerri. That was on May 7, 2011, the day the reverred Archbishop of the Catholic Archdio­cese of Owerri, His Grace, Archbishop AJV Obinna, described as “ people’s liberation Sunday.”

Okorocha emerged as governor following the supplementary election that was arranged by INEC to deter­mine who, between him and the then governor, Ikedi Ohakim, should be declared elected after two gruelling contests. Archbishop Obinna, appar­ently elated by the manner Okorocha emerged as governor-elect, made the development the subject of his homily on that day. The Archbishop, in a way, celebrated the fall of Ohakim whose defeat he said a prominent leader of the state, whose name he did not mention, attributed to arrogance, ingratitude and superciliousness.

That was Okorocha’s day of glory before the catholic faithful at the ca­thedral. It was a culmination of his triumph about a month earlier when the governorship candidates of the various political parties for the April 2011 gubernatorial polls assembled at the Assumpta Villa for a debate. Ohakim was embarrassed on that day by an unruly crowd apparently hired by Rochas. Ohakim’s loss on that day was Okorocha’s gain.

I do not know how long Okorocha’s romance with the church lasted. But it is obvious today that he has fallen out of Favour with the church on whose back he rode to power. Four years after emerging as the darling of the church at the debate, the same Okorocha has fallen into the disrepute of disrupting the debate organised by the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the church. On the occasion of this year’s edition of the debate, Okoro­cha’s supporters, sensing a ground­swell of resentment for their master, carried out a preemptive strike. They did not want what happened to Ohakim four years ago to happen to Rochas. To stave off the impending embarrass­ment that the crowd would have meted out to Okorocha, they caused a stir. Chairs and tables were freely thrown around. People had to scamper away for their dear lives. The house of God came under attack. It was desecrated.

This desecration of the temple of worship has no precedent in the Chris­tian south in Nigeria. The catholic community in the state is still in a state of stupor. It is an incredible develop­ment which the Okorocha government ought to explain. But what we have seen instead an audacious attempt to deny the incident and join issues with the church. Somebody should tell Okorocha that any battle with the divine is a lost battle. He needs to retrace his steps so that he can be at peace with the creator.

But the church itself appears to know more than meets the eye. The Reverend Father in charge of JDPC activities in the Archdiocese said the other day that the church is worried by Okorocha’s Islamic tendencies. I do not know what some of them know in this regard, but it is a continuation of the received impres­sion that the governor is a Muslim in Christian cassock. The joke is certainly on Okorocha, not the people of the state.

The way things stand, the man who came four years ago brandishing a philosophy of rescue and liberation appears to be in dire need of liberation. He seems to need urgent rescue from the contraptions that are threatening to ensnare him.

Four years down the line, the people of Imo State have taken stock. They are grappling with a load of misgivings about the Okorocha administration. They are asking questions about the uni­versity which the governor was building in his hometown of Ogboko in the name of the state government. The project was, midway, turned into a private uni­versity to be owned by Okorocha and his Rochas Foundation. The governor said the state fund he expended on the project would be converted to a loan. In other words, Imo State government is deemed to have loaned money to Rochas Foun­dation for the establishment of a private university. The people of the state are saying that they do not understand this transaction. They are at a loss as to how the state government became a financial institution that can lend money to an individual or institution. Even if it is the case that the money expended on the pri­vate university has been converted to a loan, how much is this money? What are the terms and conditions governing the loan? Who negotiated the loan and what are the repayment terms? It is questions upon questions. The people want their governor to clarify the issues.

A great deal of concern is also be­ing expressed by the people over the Governor’s private estate in Owerri. The rapacious land acquisition that gave way to the massive estate is the real talk of the town. Those who are interested in accountability are asking questions. They want to know where all the money for the development of the expansive estate came from. Those who have a sense of proportion are saying that the estate project is brazenness of the first order.

That is not all. There are whimpers everywhere in the state about con­tractors who abandoned various road projects because they were never paid for jobs done. The result is that Imo is now a junkyard of abandoned road projects.

Yet, there are those who complain about the PRIVATISATION of the state by the Okorocha administra­tion. The allegation is that a number of the state patrimony has been sold to Okorocha’s companies or their proxies. Mr Governor, what is the true position here? The governor may do well to explain these thorny issues to the people of Imo State.

Unfortunately for Okorocha, as he glosses over these issues, a formidable challenge awaits him in the candi­dature of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and governorship candidate of the PDP in the forthcom­ing governorship election in the state.

Ihedioha, a tested parliamentar­ian and grassroots politician, looks determined to give Okorocha a tough battle. As someone who has won many elections in the past, Ihedioha appears to have a winning formula which is capable of destabilizing Okorocha and his camp.

The governor’s impending woe is not helped by the fact that his party, the APC did not have a good show­ing in the presidential and National Assembly elections in the state. The results of the elections show clearly that Imo is very much a PDP state, regardless of its titular headship by an APC government.

Only last week, Ihedioha unveiled his blueprint for the people of Imo State. Those who were privileged to be at the event hold that the agenda Ihedioha has paraded is worth giving a try. The choice between Imo people is therefore between a government that has a plan of action and that with­out any method or formula.

Okorocha has a responsibility to mend his ways. But I think that it is too late in the day. He may be losing the battle to an Ihedioha who obviously looks more prepared for governance. Certainly, the apostle of liberation is in need of liberation.

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