Okorocha and the Owerri spirit

on   /   in Viewpoint 11:05 am   /   Comments

THERE is the Owerri spirit in the socio-political life of ImoState. It moves sparingly, in fact, only when provoked, but as a virile and potent force when it moves it teaches the target hard lessons. It is a force that has cut short the career of many a vibrant politician in the State.

When it moved against the former governor of the State about two and a half years ago, he became part of the rich history of the State.

In an instance in the very recent past, the Owerri spirit aggregated society renegades and in one swell swoop exposed them and consigned them to their expected ignominious end. The remnants of that evil group and new recruits can bet that soon, very soon, they will awaken the spirit and smell its wrath.

The Owerri spirit is the spirit of justice, fair play and integrity. It is conscientious and defends human dignity with passion. It exults in the gentility and civil culture and tradition of the Owerri man which many, a la of the Machiavelli institute, deride as business poison.

It has enormous capacity to mobilise all classes of people to fight its cause. Yes, the Owerri spirit can be enduring and long suffering but it can also move spontaneously and in such a case with great venom.

As Owelle Rochas Okorocha works hard to complete his first tenure as governor of the State and seek re-election willy-nilly as some of us foresaw in 2011 when he joined the governorship race as against the wishful thinking of some people in the State who naively accepted the dummy that he would use the position to prepare himself to take a shot at the presidency in 2015, it is interesting to note that the Owerri spirit will not move at least given its mood today.

Though a year and six months is, in fact, too long a period for the radar of a smooth sailing ship to derail, the axiom of ceteris paribus as espoused by our economist friends can suffice for now.

If the Owerri spirit does not move, it will be difficult to unseat Okorocha and that is the dilemma of the Owerri man, that is, Owerri Senatorial Zone, and some other politicians in the State today. The psycho, economic and socio-political essence of rotation of key political offices at all tiers of government has long been espoused and accepted in the country. The consciousness is there among the citizenry and serious political parties, the vehicle of delivery of the public trust mandate place it in view at all times.

It is therefore trite to say that it is the turn of Owerri zone to produce the governor of Imo state. But Okorocha was installed by the Owerri spirit and it will take the same Owerri spirit to unseat him before he completes the legally sanctioned eight years. However,  the Owerri spirit will not move because Okorocha has not provoked it. I will consider only two aspects of the Okorocha administration, albeit briefly.

First, the value Okorocha places on human capital. Imo is a human resource power base of the nation, perhaps rivaled only by one or two states in the country. In fact, human capital, both professional and semi-skilled, is a major aspect of the State’s contribution to national development and Gross Domestic Product. Take the teacher population.

Whereas successive administrations in the State had made it look as if the teachers of our children were a burden to the State, Okorocha has not just returned teaching to a noble profession, he has restored sanity in the school system. Have you seen an Imo teacher of late in their navy blue suits – men and women? Today, teachers in Imo receive their salaries before the end of the month and before other categories of public sector workers.   Whoever believed that education could be free and yet qualitative in any state in the South East?

Second, Imo as a whole is today one huge construction site, and this has given a sense of belonging to people from all parts of the State.

Does it mean that Okorocha has not favoured some people? Why not if not? In May 2011 I advised Okorocha in a piece like this to be wary in dealing with clannish groups.  He appears to have done well in handling many of them. Being mindful of the sensibilities of people is important. Okorocha goes to dance with school children at assembly grounds and attends town hall   meetings.

A few months ago men of his convoy clashed with those of Senator Chris Anyanwu on the road. Governor with senator, but not with an ordinary man in Imo or a priest; well the people can understand. Permit me to use a Bible coinage to say that the rest of the acts of Okorocha and all he has done so far are they not written in the book of the annals of the Governors of the State.

When the Owerri spirit in 2011 moved against Chief Ikedi Ohakim, the immediate past governor, arrogance and pride were at the heart of it, so also were injustice and ineptitude. Try as he could, he was a goner. When his government denied Okorocha the Dan Anyiam Stadium for campaign, the Owerri spirit provided an alternative in the TownshipSchool field opposite the stadium and also gave him human shield for protection.

It did not matter that Orlu zone where Okorocha hails from should not by any means have contested for the governor of the State at the time, the owerri spirit preferred him to Ohakim. The election showed that the soul of a project matters more than the façade of an Olympic size environment. By the way Township School has in the past two years been rebuilt and is now a model primary school in all respect.

In 1996, just like what we are experiencing today, some men bestrode the streets of Owerri as genuine business men with legitimate means of income. They made investments in buildings and businesses and drove latest models of automobiles, but alas they were ritual killers.

Their activities became a source of worry to people of the State but they could not be fingered. But one day, an 11-year-old fatherless boy, Ikechukwu Anthony Okonkwo, got missing and was traced to a hotel in the town where he was beheaded for ritual. Like a spark of fire in the Australian dry forest, Owerri erupted.

In less than 48 hours, as if there was a compilation of their names kept somewhere for easy reference, the ritual killers were isolated and attacked and all their choice properties burnt to ashes in the famous Otokoto saga. The charred remains of some of the properties still dot major streets in the town till today. That is why I am persuaded that all those who delight in the evil of kidnapping, ritual murder, robbery and the like in the State today shall soon receive their expected end. That is the potency of the Owerri spirit.

Does it therefore mean that Okorocha will easily win the elections in 2015? By no means! It will be a fight. In Imo, it can never be over until the votes are cast, counted and the result declared.   There are three prominent political parties in the State today – People’s Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and All People’s Congress (APC).

The erstwhile leaders of APGA including those who were on the verge of forming the government handed over the party to Okorocha on a platter. He took over the party and when he left a few months ago he left with the party’s soul to APC. APGA can only begin a rebuilding process. Perhaps the party that should give Okorocha political tug of war is the PDP. But as long as the party remains under the control of Ohakim and his group it will not make any reasonable impact, having been rejected by Imo people in 2011.

Chief Achike Udenwa’s exit from the party is a major blow for as a former governor, humane, and who also appointed commissioners, personal assistance, and patronized contractors he would have been the right person to wrestle the party from Ohakim and his men. In all, it depends on who each of the parties field.

There will indeed be more political landmines as we enter 2014. Okorocha has been accused of starting many road projects without completing them. Some contractors have taken him up on the way he treats them. The politicians have to tread carefully as they work and play party politics. For instance, when one campaigns against President Goodluck Jonathan in Imo and does not present a credible alternative candidate, that could be hara-kiri.

Another area requiring circumspection and sagacity is political alignment. For instance when on an election day Nasir El Rufai leaves his home state or even Abuja where he held sway a few years ago and comes to lodge in the state capital and insists on going around town, perhaps as voter, INEC official, security personnel, staff on essential service or better still as an accredited observer and the news spreads around town, the candidate he is supporting will hear from the voters. Is anyone surprised at the turn of events in AnambraState? Please, please that place is too hot now.

Mr COLLINS OBIBI, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos.

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