Okorocha’s Tawdry Development Ideas

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There are more pressing development challenges in Imo State than Governor Rochas Okorocha’s recent love for erecting statues, writes Olawale Olaleye

One of Nigeria’s major development challenges isn’t just the issue of poor and inane leadership; more important is the challenge of non-existent recruitment process for leadership at all levels. Nigeria is one system that throws up impossible characters as leaders overnight, often without clear cut ideas on how to advance the cause of development, either at the macro or micro level. The tragedy of this growing tendency is that it is fast becoming a culture of her nascent democracy.

The evidence of this unfortunate but systemic inadequacy is that it has spread across the length and breadth of the country. The other day in a North-western state of the country, a governor assembled his people, who are known to majorly trade in ready-to-drink tea, spent a whopping N280 million on the purchase of tea bags, loaves of bread, eggs, sugar, etc., and distributed those items as part of his empowerment initiatives.

He would further argue that the gesture was an investment initiative, designed to further boost the economy of the state. That’s the thought of a governor – a man, who has been entrusted with the responsibility of life-changing policies. Will selling tea in cups enhance the economy of his state? The state in question is Kano and its governor, Alhaji Abdulahi Ganduje, is a man who has spent almost 20 years in both elective and appointive public service since the return to civil rule.

In another state not too far away from Kano, Katsina to be precise, Governor Aminu Bello Masari, also recently launched an empowerment initiative by sharing goats to female secondary school students, a critical demographic indicator, he would say. He wanted them to become self-reliant early in life.

About a year ago, he did something similar to women in the state. This is without as much contemplating the fact that Katsina is largely agrarian. The one for women was in the form of a loan, which entitled each woman to two female goats and a male one.
To also think that not too long ago, the same Katsina State government had reportedly distributed about three thousand coffins to nearly all the mosques in the state for God-knows-what and in spite of the hue and cry that trailed this erratic gesture, government has yet to come out to offer a tangible explanation why that was done.

Then, you are welcome to the world of Rochas Okorocha, the Imo State Governor, who has suddenly developed an uncommon penchant for erecting statues, either of leaders of other countries or those of Nigeria, for which he is yet to unveil any. It is not impossible that scientists would soon find a name for this apparent social disorder in the form of a syndrome.
And despite having come under stringent attacks from all corners for leaning towards such inanity and his apparent weak capacity to juggle better ideas in the face of staring hunger, Okorocha seemed to have developed not just a thick skin to public criticisms, but also a love for statues.

First it was a statue in honour of Mr. Jacob Zuma, the South African President, after playing host to him. Zuma has constantly been under serious attacks back home over allegations of corruption, affirmed recently by the country’s Supreme Court, which held that the president must stand for corruption trial. Therefore, the idea behind Okorocha’s decision to honour Zuma with a statue has remained incomprehensible, let alone logical.

This, of course, followed intense criticisms from across the country, especially from his state and region, South-east. But rather than carry out a bit of self-appraisal, Okorocha stepped all out to fight back and justify his action, saying he has no apologies, because the reason for erecting the statue is to encourage business relationship between the state and South Africa.
However, if you thought that the Zuma debate ended there, then, you better sit back and watch some more because it is a long series. Okorocha has raised another dust with the unveiling of another statue, this time, of the outgoing President of Liberia, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The Imo State government had announced that the Liberian President would visit the state, be conferred with a chieftaincy title and a road named after her, following the same pattern as Zuma. True to the official announcement as done by Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, Johnson-Sirleaf visited and the rites of statue unveiling, amongst other things, were performed.

You may note that this is the second of the about eight statues said to be awaiting their unveiling ceremony in order of the governor’s preference. What this means is that Imo Sate in the next few months would continue to play host to dignitaries from around the world as the rest of the statues are unveiled in phases.

Although it is not clear yet what other personalities the other statues represent, since they are products of development initiatives designed to open up the state as the governor has said, it is expected also that they would be statues of personalities ‘with economic relevance to the future of the state’.

Without having to delve into the debate of what is being contended as the cost of the statues to the state, Okorocha’s defence in all of this is tawdry, inane and exposes the sheer emptiness of his administration in terms of the capacity to think and throw up cutting edge policies and initiatives that can drive visions many years ahead of their time.
But with abandoned projects littering every nook and cranny of the state, depicting urgent development needs and challenges, whatever thought-process that spurred the idea of statue has been defeated ab initio.