The Igbo have a saying that when a man does not know how to dance in the public, his kinsmen would be ashamed. To buttress this point, the Igbo also say that it is the relation of the mad man that is ashamed and not the mad man himself.
Nevertheless, before I go into my discourse, let me first of all warn you that my subject, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, has been referred to lately by some people as a metaphor for unserious and meaningless talks. Having given this warning let me tell you a brief story of a classmate of mine in Lagos that had speech and hearing impairment. Balogun (not his real name) was born with those challenges but he managed to go to the conventional school and not the school for the disabled, because he never believed he was disabled. But his condition made it very difficult for him to have friends.
The reason was very simple. People found it extremely difficult discussing or talking to him. Because he had difficulty hearing, he would continue talking and not listen to you. This discouraged his friends, and he often lost them. This is the situation we have found ourselves in Imo State. We are holding conversations with a governor who has been talking and not listening. What I mean is that our conversation with the governor for the past 6 years has been one-way discussion, where only him has been talking and he is listening to only his own voices. This has been very unhealthy for the state and the government, as the governor has dished out lies, coating them with China-imported sugar, so much that many have taken his many lies to be the truth. How this kind of attitude can be sustained in a place like Imo is doubtful.
For example, in a recent chat with the government house correspondents Governor Okorocha repeated his many lies to the people of the state and Nigerians at large, claiming to be the best governor the state has ever seen. He described himself as “a good governor who has impacted positively on the lives of the people” of the state. I seek your indulgence to reproduce the Governor’s false claims so that you can join in the conversation for the liberation of our dear Imo State.
“The only problem I have is that anybody that comes after me and does not perform, will be stoned. Because you cannot come to Imo State now and say you want to abolish free education from Primary to University, they will not accept. I have spoilt Imo people, believe me”. “You cannot come to Imo State and say you want to give them a single lane road, when they are now used to eight lane road in the city, they won’t accept it. You cannot come here and tell the children to go to schools where the floors are not tiled, they will not accept, because all the schools have been rebuilt. I have rebuilt 450 schools.
“You can no longer take them to those ramshackle hospitals, those shanties they called hospitals, because I have built 27 to 200 bed general hospitals. You can no longer tell them those stories. All the infrastructures are there”. “You cannot tell them that there are criminal activities anymore and that your hands are tied, they will not accept it, because we know where we brought Imo from, from unsafe place to a safe place right now. And you can no longer tell our workers to dress shabbily, they will not, they will want to dress in their suits and tie and white shirts. So Imo has changed, believe me.”
The only reason the governor could go this long way to dish out white lies is that he has not been listening. He has been talking. That is why he has being presenting just one side of the growing discourse. However, that is what you get when a student marks his own scripts. Would he fail himself? No. It is for this reason that Imo people, nay, Nigerians must insist that we hear the other side of the story. If we cannot hear the other side of the story, then the conversation becomes what William Shakespeare described as a boring “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and furry, signifying nothing”.
For the purpose of a meaningful discourse and the for the sake of posterity, let me tell the other side of the story. I will take the governor on certain sectors as a proof of whether he has performed well or not; whether he will be missed or not; whether Imo people will not roll out the drums and jubilate like Nigerians did when the maximum ruler died in Aso Rock years ago.
Despite the governor’s claim on education, this is what ThisDay newspaper had to say on May 29, 2017: “Education has been given priority under the Okorocha – AVERAGE”. On Agriculture, ThisDay said: “Impact of Back-to-farm order to workers not yet felt – BELOW AVERAGE”. On Healthcare, the newspaper said: “There is no clarity on healthcare delivery in Imo (under Rochas) – POOR”. On Infrastructure, including the much sang about 8 lane road, the newspaper said: “Governor [Okorocha is] accused of delivering substandard projects – POOR”.
Let me add that the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) had earlier raised alarm “over the integrity of an intersection bridge otherwise called flyover being constructed by the administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha at Amawire, Akwakuma in Owerri, the Imo State capital”.
According to media reports, the President and Chairman of the Council, Mr. Kashim Ali, said: “We got a disturbing report from Imo State on a bridge on Amawire, Okigwe Road and Akwakuma flyover. Our Engineering regulatory monitoring team noticed defects; they requested from the government the details of the consultants and contractors involved especially the engineers so we can know what went wrong.” “The state government has not given us that information; we have written to the governor for them to give us the details urgently; to know the engineers involved to prevent what will cost lives. If they don’t do that, we have no option but to report the matter under our Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) conditions to ICPC and they would find whoever it is and get information they need.”
On Ease of Doing Business, ThisDay newspaper said: “No clarity on investment in Imo [after six years] – POOR” However, in the face of this lack of clarity in the investment drive of the “best” governor after six years of failed rescue, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Imo State described the governor as “the unjust oppressor against its own people”. The NBA said: “Many months ago, all the Directors were suspended without pay for no reason followed by the Deputy Directors in the Ministry of Justice. We understand that some of them are being punished for losing government cases. Why would they not lose a case where the government is the unjust oppressor against its own people?”
Back to Healthcare, in March 2017, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) in Owerri was forced to issue a press release as reported by Vanguard newspaper on March 14, 2017, condemning the self-adulating and vain-glory-seeking governor roundly, saying that Imo people have difficulty assessing quality healthcare in the state.
According to the press release signed by the state chairman of the NMA in Imo State, Dr. Darlington Akukwu, the health sector in Imo State is in danger. They were forced to “declare a state of emergency on the state health sector and issued a 21 day ultimatum to the State government to address following issues…the under-funding of the Imo State University Teaching Hospital, IMSUTH, Orlu, …the hospital lacks adequate personnel.”
They noted that “there is no specialist that would want to work in a place with poor remuneration and inadequate staff motivation…There is therefore need to increase the funding to the hospital to ensure sustained qualitative service delivery… it will result to untold hardship to students and parents who have laboured to keep them in school…It will also mean that it will be difficult for our children who may desire to study medicine to gain admission into Imo state University. “And those already in the system can no longer graduate having spent upwards of ten years already in the school…There is need to halt the process of concessioning of government hospitals to private hands. This will not be beneficial to the common-man who is the primary target for the setting up these hospitals. “There is need to set up special intervention measures to carter for people living with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, mental fever and Ebola disease.”
Moreover, when the governor sings about his achievements and claims to be the best governor, he labours to forget certain things. For example, the governor has never mentioned that the billions of Naira he has collected in the name of Paris Club Refund was actually paid by another administration. That administration was a PDP government under Chief Achike Udenwa. If those monies were siphoned he wouldn’t have got any money in the name of Paris Club Refund. Yet the man and party that “saved” those monies is regarded by the governor who inherited the monies as haven done nothing. Sad indeed!
Interestingly, the PDP whom the governor finds pleasure in discrediting has noted that “It has become irresponsibly fashionable for Governor Rochas and his media handlers to only think that the successive PDP administrations in Imo State achieved nothing. Nothing sounds cheap, spurious, bizarre and ludicrous as this irritating piece of falsehood and cheap political propaganda”.
According to Hon Ray Emeana who spoke on behalf of the party, “the State Secretariat Complex as a signature project in Imo… the Ahiajoku Convention Centre, another signature project and the Executive Governor’s Office remains superior to and outstanding in quality and standard to all the block projects of the Okorocha administration…The Musa Yar’Adua Road in Owerri represents the quality and standard of projects built by the successive PDP administration in Imo. On services, no single action of the PDP administration was in collision with the orders and judgments of courts”.
The governor was reminded that during the PDP eras “salaries and other entitlements of workers and pensioners were paid, including periodic review, unlike the one man family show of bizarre and primitive accumulation of wealth and landed property in the new Imo”, and that during “the Chief Ikedi Ohakim administration the longest road constructed in Imo, in the post Sam Mbakwe era, was the Dikenafai-Umuobom-Osina road with three bridges, measuring over 20 kilometres with drainage system, was constructed by the PDP.”
Others included “the construction of the Umuchima road, including internal and ring road, off Dikenafai-Nkwerre, measuring over 15 kilometres with drainage system and the construction of the Central School-Afor Ogboko-Rochas country home road with drainage system. These roads by Ohakim are the only visible and durable road projects in the Ideato South local government area, where Okorocha hails from, till date”.
This intervention cannot allow the listing of all the projects of the PDP eras in the state, but if Imo people must enjoy a robust discourse we must halt this unhealthy discussion with the deaf. We must engage in normal discussion where all parties must be heard, especially a discussion where the governor listens and not do all the talking. It is understandable that the governor has begun the 2019 politics and this is the reason for the false claims. The governor believes that doing so would make Imo people give him the license to produce his successor and make his son-in-law the governor in 2019. That is why he is preparing the “continuity” script. But Imo people are wiser. They know the truth of the matter. They know they have never being to any state owned hospital for the treatment of malaria for six years. They know that the 27 general hospitals are yet completed and functional. They know that all the hospitals in the state have been sold off and nothing left for them.
They knew these things before 2015. That was why they refused to believe the governor. Yes, if the recent disclosures by those who helped the governor in 2015 is anything to go by, then it is clear to all that Imo people had since rejected the governor. Only him and his gang know how they won re-election, and they have told us that the governor’s re-election was not the people’s making. They said the governor had to give away plots of public land and cash and cars to politicians who perhaps helped him “rig” himself back to government house.
I had in a separate article told the story of an old man that climbed a tree and wanted to defecate on the head of some children from atop the tree. But while he was up the children saw his anus and ran away, booing him. Therefore, since the people never returned the governor to the government house in 2015 he has no moral pedestal to choose his successor. If he was “rejected” we will do much more so his anointed son-in law.