Imo State and Related Matters

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Guest Columnist: Okey Ikechukwu

The profile, pedigree and track record of many sons and daughters of Imo State is such that the state should not have gone through, or borne, the sustained leadership misfortune it went through in the last eight years. The story is the same for many other states of the federation, where the people stagnated, or retrogressed, under political leadership of doubtful competence, questionable goodwill and reprehensible inclinations. Imo State is peculiar in this regard for me, because its immediate past governor kept it in the news for unedifying reasons, melodrama and celebration of the absurd. That is why, two months after a new government took the Oath of Office to serve the best interests of the people of the state, the people are calling for the head of their immediate past governor. Their verdict is that the man who took an oath to serve their common interests eight years ago and four years ago, respectively, did not do so. They therefore want the new governor to roll out the tanks against his predecessor, apprehend him if possible and ensure that he vomits all he had eaten (or is believed to have eaten) and possibly end up behind bars. Beautiful! This is citizen consciousness in action! Enough is enough!

But when, why and how did the people suddenly wake up to their new-found insight and activism? When did they discover that the immediate past governor was a bad guy? Is it possible that many of these new-found crusaders for restitution watched, or even possibly applauded from the sidelines, while the ills they are now complaining about lasted? Is it possible that some of them were actively involved in the malfeasance by acts of omission or commission? Should anyone who wishes Imo State well not start by first admitting that the people of the state did not seem, at least to external observers, desperate to fight for the soul of their state, until the last elections? It is perhaps because the outcomes of that election is said to be the verdict of Ndi Imo on Rochas Okorocha and all that he represented that the people are now saying the new government that walked into a minefield of problems should deal with the man.

But the new governor cannot afford to respond rashly to the issues. He must first get the facts, determine the process to be followed (preferably a judicial panel of enquiry) and respond to what is on the table in such a way that he maintains decorum and respect for the rule of law. He simply must not lose sight of the fact that he is under obligation to set a good example for the people on how a responsible leader should conduct himself and how he should handle matters of state. “I heard that Rochas carried our money and ran away,” as the people are saying now, does not translate into anything other than gossip and hearsay. That hearsay can only become a tool for lawful action when it is corroborated by evidence. They new governor must therefore first establish a basis for taking up issues in a lawful manner. A precipitate and ill thought out engagement will backfire and possibly divert attention from the real issues and give room for his predecessor’s demagoguery to rise with new flags. The new governor has no personal quarrels with his predecessor, has not lost any personal monies of property to the man. He has only been elected to oversee the affairs of the state for the next four years as custodian and manager of their commonwealth.

The immediate past governor claims to have solved all the problems of the state and left no job for his successor to do. The new governor is however confirmed to have met huge debts, looted government facilitates and an angry and slightly disoriented populace. But the people must pull back from unguided enthusiasm. The same people, women, wives, daughters and were dancing uncontrollably at Rochas’ behest only a few months ago; and at every conceivable and inconceivable opportunity. They accepted, and lived with, all manner of aberrations. They were content to work for only three days a week, because the governor said so. They even wore uniforms, adult and all, to work in the name of compliance with gubernatorial directives. They saw statues of persons of questionable character and values sprout all over the state. Yet every Imo citizen had, and still has, the locus standi to take the former governor to court. So let no one stampede their newly elected governor into some badly digested populist moves, especially also because the former governor is not sleeping.

As I said on this page about then Governor Rochas Okorocah some 15 months ago, under the title of ‘Imo State and Its Governor,’ “He is a man of great energy, with self-preserving populist gestures and (sometimes reprehensible) creativity. Whether you like him or not is, therefore, a matter of complete indifference to him. But it is time he looked around him a little more closely ….. just in case.” But he was too caught up with his self-certified infallible schemes to pay attention to anything, besides himself. I also said, then: “The governor must know that there is little consensus on the wisdom of many decisions and actions of governor Okorocha. There is even less consensus on his real intentions. One thing is clear, however: He is very active and what he seems to lack in credibility he tries to make up for by irrepressible eloquence and repeated avowals of good intentions.”

It was more in deference to my friend, Dan Onwuke, that I visited Imo State in 2016. As I reported in the aforementioned article, “After listening patiently to his personal review of Imo State under his watch at the time, and also from some evidence on the ground, one came away with the clear impression that Rochas had many good ideas, had made some commendable inroads in infrastructure development and needed to have his positive brain waves consolidated and better coordinated via wider consultations. But I still had this sense of unease about what really moved the man. He kept presenting his whims as state policy and every conjecture, no matter how absurd, as divine revelation.”

A year after my aforementioned verdict on Rochas, I visited Imo State again and came away with this conclusion, as reported in the said article: “…Controversies have raged around Okorocha, his government and the quality of infrastructure he put in place. I therefore did not miss another opportunity, earlier in 2017, for a review of the earlier impressions. First, he was at his grandest best in self-inflation. There were just too many bad and uncompleted roads in the state capital. The bad roads included some of the newly built ones. He blamed that on the rains and the stubbornness of drivers of heavy-duty vehicles. There were also too many grandiose side attractions, too much self-deification and a reckless leaning towards impunity and megalomania. He did not seem like one who could be easy to advised any more. But why?”

It would therefore seem that all the birds, wild and all, have now come home to roost after the man’s eight years in office. The damage done to Imo State within the period under reference is at the following three leaves: (1) values degradation and cultural disorientation; (2) phenomenal drop in the quality of state infrastructure constructed by shadow contractors and at frightfully high costs and (3) violation of a people’s sense of the sacred in culture, religion, tradition and governance paradigms.

In response to the fact that Governor Okorocha created a parliament for traditional rulers, with the newly created (elected) Eze Imo as head, I said, then, that the “parliament” was “…closer to the people and may bring up and deliberate on issues which would then be forwarded to the State Assembly for legislation…” and that no well-meaning person could fault the thought about such a culturally sensitive peoples platform. I note that “the costs, the politics and other things connected with it, may yet breed something unmanageable in future,” pointing out that “with statues, Happiness Ministry and much more dominating the Imo landscape today, one cannot say that one has come any closer to understanding governor Rochas Okorocha. While he is still governor he should be helped to manage his energy and influence better; for the greater good of all. The self-adulation, reinterpretation of known scripture and sundry prancing ill becomes Imo State.”

The new governor must act, but he must act lawfully and act now. He has the options of either a peoples’ probe panel, a judicial panel of inquiry or outright court action. He should set up a judicial panel of inquiry for several reasons. First it will create a moral high ground and remove any insinuations of a witch-hunt. Second, it will give room for all to come out with whatever evidence or claims they wish to make and speak before a credible legal platform that enjoys the untrammeled confidence of all. Third, it is the best way of ensuring that a mere performance audit is not treated as if governor Emeka Ihedioha was elected into office in order to “deal with” Rochas Okorocha. That would be demeaning and totally at variance with what Imo needs today.

Imo State is a metaphor for many others states in Nigeria today.
I will conclude by quoting the conclusion of my article of fifteen months ago: “It was the late Sir Warrior, the Imo born great musician, who told his people, via a song: “Agamevu ari nma na aju”. Agamevu is a thorny plant with great capacity for discomfiting anyone who so much as brushed against it by mistake. Thus the statement “Agamevu ari nma na aju” is a truism. …. Anyone who really loves Rochas Okorocha …should help him to see that many now regard him as Agamevu that is trying to pass itself off as aju.”