By Abel Chukwuma
For the past six, going to seven years, Imo State has been in the news for the wrong reasons, no thanks to the controversial actions of Governor Rochas Okorocha who has been variously described as a rabble-rouser and a misfit in the Government House, Owerri. The latest of the bad news coming out of Imo under Okorocha is the alleged attack on Catholic Archbishop Anthony JV Obinna by members of a political structure, said to be campaigning for the 2019 governorship ambition of the governor’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, during a church service.
The bishop’s offence was that he dared to criticise the Okorocha administration for poor performance and saying the people had the opportunity to vote out, in the next elections, a government that had, through its actions, made Imo a laughing stock in the world. Reports said Obinna did not stop there. He challenged Okorocha for attempting to impose his son-in-law on the state as his successor. The loyalists of Okorocha would have none of that.
They allegedly caused a stir in the church as the bewildered congregation watched. The loyalists probably did not know that the archbishop’s statement signposted the fate to befall the governor’s scheme to have his son-in-law to succeed him as history is replete with men of God who spoke on the side of the people at times of crisis like the one we have in Imo and their pronouncements came to pass. And just like the archbishop said, the state has been a laughing stock for most of the time that Okorocha has been in power for which the people cannot wait to get rid of him and anything that has to do with him from the Owerri Government House.
The other time, the issue for which the governor became a butt of joke not only in Imo but also across the world was his directive to civil servants in Imo to spend three days of the week working while spending the rest two days in the farm. It couldn’t have been an ingenious way of ensuring massive production of food because not every civil servant is cut out for farming. The policy was bound to fail. Workers’ unions kicked. Okorocha ate his words and reversed the policy.
There were at least three other missteps. One, he travelled to the US during the Obama era, returned and made a show of the picture he took with the then American President by putting it on billboards placed in strategic areas of the state. Two, the governor rode right into the middle of a storm when he made a statute for Jacob Zuma in Owerri and invited the then South African President for the commissioning at a time he was facing corruption allegations. Three, the uproar generated by the ill-advised demolition of some markets in Owerri and during which some traders were killed is yet to abate. Now, the debate as to how to fix Imo ahead of the departure of Okorocha in 2019 has assumed
a life of its own against the backdrop of the fact that so much damage has been done to Imo under his administration. The fact of the association of Okorocha’s son-in-law to the state administration, which has been a liability to the Imo people, only suggests that the electorate should look beyond Uche Nwosu and the APC, which has not only failed the people of the state but also Nigerians at the federal level. So in which direction should the Imo people look for succour?
The scene is obviously crowded with all sorts of characters trying to sell their candidacy to the people and on different platforms to succeed Okorocha. Meanwhile, only one person will become the governor
after May 29, 2019. That person should be the sort that can move the state forward and make Imolites proud. His antecedents must be solid in terms of his understanding of the dynamics of economics which is what the state needs in the post-2019 era to move it out of the doldrums that the APC administration has plunged it since 2011.
Analysts have spoken of the Anambra model which has been working for the state in terms of developmental strides under two successive administrations – Peter Obi and Willy Obiano’s. Remember Anambra did not move from deficit into surplus until Peter Obi, a renowned private sector person from the banking industry, came in the saddle. Four years after the man left office, the story of how the former governor managed the resources of the state for the benefit of the masses has continued to reverberate. The Anambra Integrated Development Scheme (ANIDS) lifted the educational sector, reversed the infrastructural decay in the system, restored the glory of agriculture, empowered the people for commerce and put the state on the path of sustainable growth. And, significantly, the succeeding Obiano administration, also piloted by a private sector person with banking background, is following in the footsteps of its predecessor. To fix Imo after Okorocha, the state obviously needs the likes of Peter Obi and Willy Obiano to succeed the incumbent governor. And to complement this, in my honest view, is a credible platform for the incoming governor to emerge and not from the discredited platforms like the APC and PDP.
Although the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) controls only one state at the moment, the Anambra success story of the last eight years has made it the platform one can conveniently recommend to produce the next governor of Imo. That platform, just as it has not failed Anambra people, is sure not to disappoint Imo people. Ahead of the 2019 polls, I believe, a word is enough for the wise.