Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha is a man besieged. He is fighting on all fronts. He is quarrelling with the Imo State branch of his own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He is also fighting the National Working Committee of the APC, the highest decision-making organ of the party. This is where Okorocha has made a fundamental error of judgement. He has shot himself in the foot. You do not fight the national leaders of your party and expect to win, except, perhaps, you have finalised plans to abandon the party.
Fed up with Okorocha’s frequent outbursts directed against the APC leadership, the national publicity secretary of the party, Bolaji Abdullahi, came out last week swinging his baton against Okorocha. He said the Imo State governor was spreading false allegations against the party. He warned that the party’s leadership would no longer watch Okorocha throw his brickbats against leaders of the party.
A statement released by Abdullahi last week said: “In recent weeks, the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, has made libellous attacks on our party and its leaders a daily occurrence. Hardly a day passes by without Governor Okorocha verbally assaulting our National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and other party leaders over the recently concluded congresses in Imo State.”
I have always said a good fighter is one who knows the limits of his or her powers. Okorocha obviously does not know when he has exceeded the bounds of his powers. He is fighting just about anyone in his party who does not agree with his style or policies or his weird projects such as the construction of statues of people who contributed absolutely nothing to the development of the state. Does that say something about the man’s sense of political maturity, his ability to lead, and the way he perceives himself as the APC role model in Imo State?
Even as the national leadership of the party was cautioning Okorocha to respect the party’s constitution and the guidelines for resolving grievances, the Imo State governor was picking a quarrel with his immediate predecessor, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim. In the exchange last week, Okorocha described Ohakim’s administration as the most reviled of all the previous governments in the state since it was created in 1976.
Okorocha’s temperament seems to have taken a dive to the bottom of the ravine following his inability to overturn the results of the vexatious state congresses conducted amid rancour and ill feelings.
Okorocha seems to live on the misleading assumption that he is close to President Muhammadu Buhari. That proximity, true or false, is what has encouraged him but it has also constrained him from distinguishing between fiction and reality, between right and wrong behaviour, between light and darkness, and between good actions and bad, very bad, decisions. Okorocha has misjudged and indeed exaggerated his relevance in Imo State.
Rightly or wrongly, Okorocha believes no one in his party can challenge his authority or discipline him. A king cannot be sanctioned, his supporters say. He perceives himself as that king to whom all mortals must genuflect. In Nigerian politics, kingmakers can make and violate the law. They can fix anything because they are above the law. Indeed, they are beyond censure.
It is this disingenuous belief, this philosophical misunderstanding, that some politicians have used to propagate the view that some people are born to rule while others must follow and serve the rulers. It is this twisted way of thinking that informs the public misbehaviour of our officials in the public domain. Governors, ministers, commissioners, and other senior public servants go about with that arrogant misconception that ordinary citizens must worship them. These rulers believe they have that celestial authority to govern as they wish. They don’t believe they are accountable or beholden to citizens who elected them.
Over the period he has served as governor, Okorocha’s enemies have grown in number. And they come from diverse backgrounds. Some of his political enemies have drawn up a long list of allegations with which they hope to prosecute Okorocha once he steps down as governor. They hope to produce evidence to show how Okorocha has breached the Constitution, abused his office, abused the human rights of ordinary citizens, and intimidated his political adversaries.
In my part of the world, there is a saying that those whom the gods want to destroy they first turn deaf and blind. Is it too late for Okorocha to change his ways, to reconcile with his adversaries within the Imo State branch of the APC, to operate as a genuine servant of the people, and to apologise to all those whom he crushed or abused in his eagerness to rule? Only Okorocha can answer these questions. What he does not have is the luxury of time. Time is no respecter of high office or low office. Time does not respect economic status or institutional title, whether the person is a state governor or a commoner.
Some people have said Okorocha is a dogged and experienced fighter who does not give up easily. Perhaps they are right. But that proclamation would be tested by how quickly Okorocha resolves his current stoush with the leadership of the APC. Common sense suggests Buhari would be on the side of the APC national leadership rather than on the side of one man whose term is fast coming to an end. This means that even Buhari cannot save the beleaguered Imo State governor.
Okorocha’s odd projects and controversial appointments, his bizarre public pronouncements, and the way he carries himself around like an invincible wrestler, are not winning him any new friends. How would history record his term in Imo State after he has left office?