After a whole 10 months without commissioners, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State announced on Monday, December 4, an unwieldy cabinet of 28 commissioners. Among the new appointees was his younger sister, Mrs. Ogechi Ololo, as the Commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment, a very strange and ridiculous portfolio. With this appointment, Okorocha has not only taken nepotism to new heights, but also taken official comedy too far. Mrs. Ololo had previously served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to the Governor. Rochas’ in-law, Uche Nwosu, who is married to the governor’s first daughter, is the powerful Chief of Staff Commissioner, having served as Commissioner for Lands, Survey, Housing and Urban Planning. There are widespread reports he is being groomed to succeed Okorocha.
It is regrettable that the only state administration in the South East geopolitical zone controlled by the All Progressive Congress (APC), the government party at the national level, has become the butt of all manner of jokes across the nation. The Okorocha administration in Imo State is, unfortunately, deserving of all the jokes. Okorocha has, in the last few months, engaged in a number of bizarre actions. For instance, he invited President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to Imo State in October and treated him like a hero, complete with a chieftaincy title. He even erected a statute for him, which the media reported cost tax payers some N500 million, even though both retirees and workers in the state are owed a huge backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities. Zuma is facing some 700 allegations of bribery and corruption in his country. And Nigerians, including indigenes of Imo State, are massacred in South Africa in a relatively new phenomenon in the country called xenophobia, that is, irrational fear of and hatred for foreigners.
Rather than bow to public opinion and stop such practices, Okorocha chose to double down, as the Americans call such behaviour. He invited, the next month, the outgoing Liberian leader, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, to Owerri and gave her royal treatment. Okorocha built a statute for her, too. The statue cost probably another N500 million. People of Imo State now routinely joke with one another and even with non-Imo indigenes: “Has Rochas built a statute for you in Owerri?”
But Okorocha has not always been like this. He showed signs of seriousness and purposefulness for the first two years. He was building roads and paying salaries and gratuities and pensions regularly. That was an important development in a state, which some people refer to as a civil service state, in contrast to neighbouring states like Abia, which has the commercial city of Aba, and Anambra, which has such commercial cities as Onitsha and Nnewi. When Okorocha was working for the people, he was in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) on whose ticket he contested the gubernatorial election and won. But the moment he joined the APC, everything changed dramatically. Things changed for the worse for the people of Imo State.
It is doubtful that Okorocha could have closed down and demolished the oldest and foremost market in Owerri, Ekeukwu Market, in August, if he had remained in APGA. Rochas shut down the market without following due process and then used soldiers to enforce his will. When the people tried to protest peacefully, which is their right in any democratic environment, they were met with force. One of the casualties was 10-year Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, who came to assist his father clear his wares when the market was being demolished.
The magic of Rochas’ maladministration is that the APC, to which he belongs, has never deemed it necessary to call him to order. The institution, which should serve as a check on the excesses of the administration, the Imo State House of Assembly, has, unfortunately, long lost its soul; it sees itself as the governor’s chief cheerleader and an extension of the governor’s kitchen cabinet. It would seem that, judging from the current embarrassing drama in Imo State, Baron Montesquieu, the preeminent French philosopher who developed the theory of separation of powers among the three branches of government, made a mistake. While the practice of democracy worldwide rests on the principle of separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, it is not the same in Okorocha’s Imo State. Hence, the governor gets away daily with blue murder and other forms of sacrilege.
Given the fact that the APC has woefully failed as a party to call Okorocha to order and the fact that Governor Okorocha was doing well when he was the APGA governor of Imo State, the time has really come for Imo people to press to have an APGA administration once again in the state. There is no way the APGA leadership would have turned its face the other way while Okorocha deepens a culture of maladministration if he had remained in the party. The APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may not have any kind of ideology, but APGA is purpose-driven. This fact manifested glaringly during the electioneering leading to the November 18 gubernatorial election in Anambra State and also during the election proper.
APC members behaved like crass opportunists and mercenaries. They were interested in the huge amounts of money flowing freely from moneybags. Many APC members and supporters collected humungous sums meant for the election but pocketed most. APGA members, on the other hand, behaved like true believers. Whatever little money each of them received as allowance to work for the party was used exactly for the purpose. There are, therefore, no stories of betrayal. In contrast, stories of outright stealing, embezzlement and diversion of funds by APC members are very common. Read, for example, on the Internet the account of what transpired in Obosi and the entire Idemmili North Local Government Area.
In other words, it is no coincidence that Peter Obi did well as the APGA governor of Anambra State from 2006 to 2014. It is also no coincidence that when Obi left APGA and joined the PDP, he started to behave strangely, thus the people of Anambra State rejected him and his PDP right from his native Anaocha Local Government Area, which APGA swept like the other 20 local government areas in the state. It is also not a coincidence that Governor Willie Obiano, as the APGA candidate in the November 18 poll, set a record that would be difficult for any Nigerian governor to beat. Obiano has a record of solid achievements. He has made APGA synonymous with democracy dividends.
Imolites, who, regrettably, have had no administration, which can, in any sector, rival any of the APGA governments in neighbouring Anambra State, will have a golden opportunity during the next gubernatorial election to end the vicious circle of misrule in their beloved state. APGA is the way to go.
• Nzeribe, ex-manager with Keystone Bank, is a public affairs analyst.