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.