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Lord Rochas Okorocha and his son-in-law project

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By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

Rochas Okorocha is his own enemy. He preaches power  rotation and Igbo presidency in Abuja.  But at home, he wants to keep the Imo governorship in his family’s piggy bank.  He has built more roads than any other governor  in Imo state’s history.  But he is known  outside the state only for puerility and building  of statues. Okorocha  has energy and drive. But he lacks circumspection and sense of  optics.


He let’s his ego and fantasies intrude and tarnish  his industry and  purposefulness. It is true his opponents  have exploited the rich vein of  animosity against Hausa Fulani hegemony.  He wouldn’t be the butt of all these jokes if he were hauling missiles of bigotry at Buhari from  APGA or the PDP. But no other man with his political vulnerability would  arm his opponents like Okorocha.

Okorocha is ambitious.  And that’s not a bad thing. But self confidence that rears its head without self restraint could be more destructive than arrogance.  In small things and in big things, Rochas Okorocha  pays no respect to his audience and its sensibilities. Okorocha wanted to stem the rising tide of narcotics consumption in the state. He chose to compare that evil with armed robbery, needlessly. He got lost in translation. He  ended,  leaving his audience with a moral confusion. The video clips of a governor suggesting that armed robbery was a lesser crime than drug abuse went viral and  accentuated the image of a bumbling clown the virulent  opposition  had created for him. But Okorocha isn’t a clown.

He thinks Imo state is  too small a stage for him. He believes he has  outstanding  abilities. He craves a national or global role.  That’s heart warming. No one wants a shiftless surfeited leader who seeks no promotion and is unmindful of history. But in cobbling a  track record,  Rochas  has deployed a brand of imagination that doesn’t yield to circumspection and doesn’t acknowledge raised eyebrows. A streak of precarious single-mindedness. An abject deprivation of  collegiate thoughtful decision making process.  Rochas is a loose canon.

He builds roads and  lavishes money on pillars that would  be used for Christmas  decorations.  His sister oversees the decorations. He pays more attention to the quantity rather than the quality of roads.  It catches his fancy,  he  mounts a hundred meter high huge hand sculpture somewhere, just somewhere.  Some hospitals have been completed for years but he hasn’t thought of equipping them. So they are locked away.  You can’t fault him for industry.  He is restless.

He thinks of Imo airline. It sounds nice. He gets a plane and hands it to Dana Airline. And Imo is written on it.  He commissions it. That’s all. He thinks the people need to farm. He thinks state civil servants who are owed salaries are idle. He doesn’t retrench. He asks state civil servants to work three days in the office and stay in their farms on Thursdays and Fridays. He ignores raised eyebrows. He is committed to innovation. He is not afraid of trying new things. But many of them quite frankly have been absurd. He gets fed up with the farming experiment, he cancels it overnight.

He thinks the state owes so much in pensions. He thinks he can’t pay it all. He asks owed pensioners to sign away a huge percentage of owed pensions.  He rebuffs questions about the morality of such coercion. His name and  the weird idea spreads around the country. No one hears about the hospitals he has built in all the local government areas in Imo state. No one hears of his free education programmes.  They hear of a certain Rochas who approximates Charlie  Spencer Chaplin.

He looks at  his people, his people.  He sees suffering. He announces a commissioner  for happiness.  Not such a bad idea. But it is his sister again.  His opponents go to town with mockery. Rochas sneers at them  in superciliousness. No one hears that he has tarred the road that runs in front of my ancestral home in Orodo. That road had been promised by every regime since Ochefu and  Atom Kpera.  They all failed. He did it.

Rochas has  done more roads than other governors. But no governor has exhibited more  unbridled self aggrandizement  than Rochas Okorocha. He says he is gifted with the brain of a genius. So he embraces informality and disdains processes.  He is easy going, self effacing. But all people see is greed. No governor  has appointed more relatives into top government positions than Rochas Okorocha.  His son-in-law is Chief of staff. His sister is his deputy chief of staff and commissioner.  The ministerial position allocated to the state came, he gave it to his daughter’s father-in-law.

Rumours that Rochas wanted to perpetuate himself in office sprouted. They sounded so outlandish. Rochas  wants to be the senate president. He would like to be  president of the country and perhaps AU chairman, sometime in the future.  Rochas wants to be an icon like Mandela.  Imo is too small for him. But the rumours now have a foundation. He says his son-in-law must be governor.  He says his in-law is the most qualified for the job.

He can support whomsoever he chooses. And a son-in-law isn’t necessarily disqualified by virtue of whom he married.  He could actually be the most  qualified.  Rochas has worked hard to make his endorsement count. But he is set to be remembered as a power hungry man who is motivated only by self interest. Yes, same Rochas who was once synonymous with generosity and philanthropy.  In a country where democracy and political morality  include power rotations  and quota system, Rochas Okorocha should  let another family try.

He says God ordained it .His family must be filled with the sort of geniuses that aren’t found in other places.  It may actually  not be out of the reach of  his fantasy to create a Kennedy type dynasty. And attribute it to God. Rochas is innovative, ambitious and irrepressible. He needs tact.

If all politicians in Africa thought like Rochas,  then countries  could  all become family corporations. Because without institutions, and without transparency and accountability, any African president  could, with a little  dose of tyranny,  perpetuate his family and generations over his country. If Awolowo and Zik and Sarduana had the sort of imagination that Rochas has,  people like Rochas Okorocha who came from the lowest rungs of the society would never be governors.

I like Rochas Okorocha. I only wish he could once in a while  step out of himself. Perhaps, he  would gain a little self-restraint.


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