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Biafra, Rochas Okorocha and crisis of leadership

I believe that the frenzied quest by disaffected Igbo youth for Biafra represents, above all, an indictment of the kind of leaders who for close to twenty years have run the affairs of the southeastern states. Those agitating for Biafra often make a case that the Igbo are marginalised in the affairs of Nigeria. That may well be true, especially when the criterion is the presence and quality of federal projects in the five southeast states. For me, however, a more critical factor has to do with the lack of imagination by the zone’s political and entrepreneurial elite.

Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has emerged as a particularly interesting political figure, embodying and epitomising the crisis of leadership in Igboland. Part of the governor’s mystique lies in what appears to be his insatiable desire to be in the limelight, whether for good or negative cause.

Let’s get a quick sample of the governor’s attention-grabbing moves.

Shortly after his first term inauguration, Mr. Okorocha announced that he would cut his security vote from N6.5 billion to N2.5 billion. The difference, he said, would be used to grant scholarships to state students. The populist move earned him (well deserved) applause. 

In August 2015, Governor Okorocha announced that his Foundation would build a model secondary school in Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, for the education of students displaced by incessant attacks by the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram. “I will request Governor Jibrilla Bindo of Adamawa to provide land within two weeks for Rochas Foundation to build a secondary school for you,” said the Imo State governor. His gesture, though noble, was far from universally popular. Some pointed to the decrepit state of some of the state-run secondary schools in Imo State. 

Last August, Mr. Okorocha – who was behind in paying state employees and pensioners – directed that public workers would work Monday to Wednesday, reserving Thursday and Friday for farmwork. He said, “Everybody must go back to agriculture. Every political appointee must own a farm. The youths would also be encouraged to take to agriculture. Schools including universities, polytechnics and secondary schools in the state must own farms. The Community Government Council (CGC) must be strengthened for the sake of this agricultural program.” The novelty of the policy guaranteed wide publicity for Governor Okorocha. But if the governor expected praise for foresight, he was mistaken. State workers defied the policy. And critics, including lawyers and labor union leaders, questioned the legality of the policy.

In December, Mr. Okorocha – speaking through Deputy Speaker of the Imo State Assembly, Ugonna Ozurigbo – said Igbo leaders were to blame for failing to attract “democratic dividends” to the South-east zone. According to a news report, the governor’s assertion was a response to “complaints by stakeholders in Ebonyi that they were being schemed out of [the] Federal Government’s employment and empowerment programmes.” Governor Okorocha said the responsibility for their exclusion lay with Igbo appointees in President Buhari’s administration. Without question, some of those appointees must have wondered why the governor would turn accuser, at once portraying them as laggards and (implicitly, at least) absolving himself of any blame.

Ever unpredictable, the Imo governor seemed to sing a different tune on February 14, 2017 when Acting President Yemi Osinbajo paid a courtesy visit to his state. The caption of a report in the Daily Post was instructive: “Marginalisation: Nothing to show Igboland is part of Nigeria – Okorocha tells Osinbajo”. The reporter, Seun Opejobi, wrote: “The Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, on Tuesday raised alarm over the alleged marginalisation of the South-east, saying there is nothing to show that the region is part of the Nigerian project.

“Speaking during the visit of the Acting President, Yemi Osibanjo, the governor stressed that the region had been short-changed, especially in the areas of appointments and allocation of federal projects.

“According to the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors Forum, ‘No other group in Nigeria that had invested as much into our nationhood can sing the song of marginalisation as much as Ndigbo has been made to sing it.

‘We have nothing to show that we are part of the Nigerian project; neither do we have any sense of belonging in the present government at the national level.

‘We have been marginalised both in terms of projects and appointments. In Imo State, for instance, all we have is a Minister of State to show for all the efforts and extreme sacrifices we made to ensure that the All Progressives Congress (APC) had a good outing in the last general elections.

‘I know you are the acting president and [have] the ears of the president. So, there is no better person to tell our painful story than you. You need to take a second look at what is happening in the South-east. No serious political appointment, no visible federal infrastructure so far, to show the presence of Federal Government in the South-east in general.

‘I beg that as the government gives subsequent appointments, let the qualified sons and daughters of the state and region be considered. Those in business should be considered for federal patronage.’ Governor Okorocha went as far as describing himself as ‘a sacrificial lamb in the South-east during the [2015] elections.’ He remarked that there was ‘no Federal Government presence in the oil-producing areas, and none of our youths benefited from the Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme.’ Then he urged Mr. Osinbajo to facilitate the ‘quick refund of the money spent by the state on Imo International Cargo Airport and on some federal roads in the state.’”

The acting president’s retort was a classic of subtle rebuke. “If there is any governor in this country that has the ear of Mr. President, I will say that it is Governor Okorocha. As such, it cannot be said that the state is marginalised by the APC-led Federal Government,” Mr. Osinbajo reportedly told Governor Okorocha.

In effect, the visitor was giving to the governor a dose of the bitter pill the governor had dished to his fellow Igbo players in the current political dispensation. The South-east of Nigeria is indeed a laboratory of willful neglect by the Nigerian state. But the zone’s deeper crisis, I suggest, is the wretched leadership acumen exhibited by most of its leaders, with the loquacious Okorocha exemplifying that malaise.

At about the same time Governor Okorocha was hosting Mr. Osinbajo, the governors of the South-western zone met in Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State, to design a plan for regional economic integration. The six Southwest governors do not belong to the same political camp, but they recognise something vital about their shared fate. Governor Okorocha and other South-east governors would do well to borrow the example of their South-west counterparts. They ought to pool their resources and invest in developing critical transport, power and agricultural sectors. That way, they would ameliorate the forlorn condition that fuels our youth’s mistaken faith in Biafra as the answer to the disaster of Nigeria.

Please follow me on twitter @okeyndibe

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5 Comments

  1. Frank Ikemba 21st February 2017 at 4:40 am

    Well said sir. We hope Rochas will henceforth change his approach to governance, which hitherto has remained a colossal disaster. Charity begins at home. I am happy that the VP gave it back to him, rather than allow him get away with such self deceit. Rochas should re-examine his performance in Imo state before criticizing the federal government run by his party. Thank God also that he has apparently come to his senses, and is now singing the song many of us have been singing for years now on end, that the South east has been seriously short changed in the scheme of things in Nigeria. If his intention is to seek for cheap popularity, he has missed it. Rochas is strongly advised to search for the missing black goat when it is still day light. He should endeavour to turn a new leaf and ensure he puts his house in order.

  2. Ezekiel Okeke 21st February 2017 at 5:55 am

    The word “marginalised” is an insult to Igbos, eastern region of Republic Of Biafra. Is origin of Republic Of Biafra marginalisation? Was eastern region marginalised in 1967? Can someone you are bigger than marginalise you? Is people of west and north better of than easterners presently even after this 50 years? What is going on since 1967 till date is War, not Marginalisation. The cause of the war is the fact that we have higher capabilities than west and north. As a result, west and north are waging war against us- an attemp to suppress us, but couldn’t because of our higher capabilities. The only solution now is Republic Of Biafra now in existence which Ojukwu saw in 1967 and went for it, which we will Defend Now. Because we can never exist under one political entity with such people of west and north we have higher capability than in peace, but the War misunderstood as marginalisation.

  3. Dr. Uche Kalu 21st February 2017 at 10:17 am

    Mazi Rochas Okorocha the Governor of Imo State,is simply an enigma.
    Okorocha is a curse and indeed, a digrace to us,Ndigbo.That bloody fucking quisling, used our APGA Party as a platform to be elected Governor of Imo State,only to defect later to APC,an Axis of Evil Party of conmen, liars and Igbophobes.
    All Governors of our South East,with the exception of Governor
    Willi Obiano of Anambra,are political jobers.
    They are there for the lucre and to feather their individual nests.
    The lots are self-centered and they don’t ever give a damn about the spirations of Ndigbo.
    Those Igbo Khaki and Igbo-Wawa Governors; Okorocha of Imo,
    Ugwuany and Umahi of Enugu and Ebonyi respectively, are
    indeed, an anathema to the wellbeing of Ndigbo as a people.
    The trio are agents of the Caliphate of Sokoto in Igboland.
    They unilterally leashed Ala-Igbo to the MACBAN,thereby exposing innocent Ndigbo to the mercy of the ramapaging Fulani
    Jihadist herdsmen.
    “Mazi Okorocha na ndibe ya, ( Ugwuanyi na Umahi), merulu Ala-Igbo.Amadioha ga emi ha ife.Chukwu ga-gba ha oku.Ofo!!

  4. kabiyeze 22nd February 2017 at 5:29 am

    Is Okorocha really an Igboman? His behaviour and attitude tends to suggest otherwise. I do not think he can be Hausa Fulani and Igbo at the same time. Sorry he is a disaster. He does not even know how to approach the Federal Government, whether led by Buhari or Osinbajo. Both see him and treat him as a non serious person. He is just satisfied with being seen beside important personalities, and taking pictures with them for name-dropping. He needs time be tutored by Peter Obi Willy Obiano from Anambra State.

  5. Ezekiel Okeke 22nd February 2017 at 5:50 am

    That is the reason I said the present Ohanaeze is a failure as far as eastern region of Republic Of Biafra is concerned. They do not speak for Igbos, not a representing entity of Igbos. They speak and represent Abuja and its ruined entity called Nigeria. They speak with coward attitude, speak like beggars, appeasers, people that cant Defend themselves on their native land etc. That is not Igbos who are Warriors, who are the only tribe that fought and defended themselves outside Igboland- in the north and west. The present Ohanaeze is a disgrace just like the ruined entity called Nigeria they speak for and represent, and that is where they have a place, wont have a place in Republic Of Biafra they do not stand for, do not fight for. Comparing MASSOB, IPOB with Boko Haram shows their level of ignorance, not knowing what is going on there in the north is Fulani – Kanuri civil war, because Kanuri etc. no longer want the caliphate rule over them. To show their level of ignorance, telling Biafran enemy- the bandits that call itself federal government to give MASSOB, IPOB attention, instead of Ohanaeze to stand and fight Biafran enemy out of Biafraland- they are cowards that wont have a place in Republic Of Biafra they do not stand for, do not fight for. They are followers of Zik who their place is in Abuja and its ruined entity call Nigeria. We the followers of Ojukwu with all conviction after this 50 years, will Defend Republic Of Biafra: Country of True Federalism with Resource Control, Best Economic Management Capabilities etc.

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