By Chinonso Alozie
Owerri — Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, revealed weekend, that his wife, Nkechi, was in control of at least four ministries in the state.
His declaration drew the ire of some stakeholders, including Igbo National Council, INC, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, who described the statement as reckless.
The governor, who made the statement, through the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Mr. George Etche, who represented him as the correspondents chapel in the state honoured his wife, listed the ministries controlled by his wife to include Women Affairs, Works, Health and office of the SSG.
The correspondents chapel had honoured the governor’s wife with the Most Outstanding Governor’s Wife Award in Owerri at the weekend.
The SSG also confirmed the statement made by the lawmaker representing Onuimo state constituency, Chinedu Offor, who said the governor’s wife deserved to be honoured with the award of “Nobel peace prize.”
He said: “We should thank God Almighty for giving us Owelle Rochas Okorocha who has offered us free education at all levels. We should also thank God for giving us his wife, Nkechi Okorocha, for putting smiles on the faces of the less privileged in the state.
“It is difficult to see first ladies do this kind of thing. You see that over 200 widows have got houses in Imo state.”
In her remarks, Nkechi Okorocha, while speaking on her pet project, She Needs a Roof Project,, SNARP, said it was a project for building houses for widows and the disadvantaged in the state, adding that she was doing it because of humanity.
“I am pregnant with something. I have a dream that one day, we will move around communities and we will not find people living in bad conditions or in a house without roof.”
She could not hold back tears, when she explained that one of the beneficiaries died a few hours after a bungalow was handed over to her at Aro in Okigwe Local Government Area.
“Hours before we left, she was pointing at the SNARP project, meaning that she should be taken into the house and that night she was taken into the house, on our way that night, we were told that mama had joined her ancestors.”
While expressing joy over the award, she said: “I am happy that this award is coming from a group that has keyed into my vision. The only way Imo can be better is to have a media that can understand they have a part to play in the development of the state. I discovered that with Imo journalists, there is hope for Imo State.”
It’s a reckless statement —Igbo National Council
Reacting to the statement credited to the SSG, the President of Igbo National Council, Comrade Chilos Godsent, said it amounted to ridicule of public office.
“It is a reckless statement and it is very unethical to make such a statement in a public function. It ridicules the sensibility of the public. It indicates that it is a one man’s business.”
He also said that the SSG ought to apologize to the people of the state for making such a statement and warned that public officials should be aware of implications of what they say in public.
Also, the Executive Director of Human Rights for Citizens Development, Comrade Ikechukwu, said the statement was reckless.
“When I heard it, I was surprised and felt that some public officials don’t understand why they are in office. So, we must let them know they should be careful of whatever they say in office.
“What type of government do we have in this state? We want our public officials to know that they have a duty to provide us the necessary social amenities and not to just provide for themselves.”
Imo Govt reacts
Explaining the statement made by the Imo SSG, the Commissioner for Information, Engr. Obinna Nshirim, said: “It is not that the governor’s wife, Mrs Nkechi Okorocha, is occupying any office as a member of the State Executive Council.” Nshirim further explained that government simply streamlined its functions in such a manner that nothing should suffer in the line of government business.
“Ministries like Women Affairs can readily report to the governor’s wife to avoid unnecessary delays. This does not mean that she now heads the ministry,” Nshirim said.
Governance in Imo, Okorocha’s sole business—Imo PDP
Expressing dismay over the statement, the Chairman of PDP in the state, Chief Charles Ezekwem, said the administration was the private business of the governor.
“The governor can decide to run the affairs of government the way he likes, but if it is true that his wife controls any ministry, I don’t think it is proper,” Ezekwem said.
Continuing, the Imo PDP boss said although he was not present when the said statement was made, “I only think that there is nothing we say now that can change anything.”
Also reacting to the development, former speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha, described it as an aberration.
Ihedioha, in a statement signed by his media aide, Mr. Chibike Onyeukwu, said: “It is an aberration; it runs contrary to the ethics of governance and standard process of democratic engineering and good governance.
“It has yet further confirmed our fears that Okorocha has personalized governance in Imo State. A situation where he has totally abdicated his duties as governor is totally unacceptable.”