|Governor Rochas Okorocha|
By Barr. Emperor N. Iwuala
On the 6th of July 2014, the Anglican Diocese of Ohaji-Egbema held its 2014 synod thanksgiving service at St. Paul (Ang.) Church Mgbirichi in Ohaji/Egbema L.G.A. of Imo State. As a knight of that diocese, I was present at the service. I was not only present but I played the organ for that service.
On thing I have noticed about His Excellency Rochas Okorocha the Executive Governor of Imo State is that right from the time of his campaigns for the 2011 Governorship Election till the time of this write-up, he has this habit of coming into church services when services are reaching the stage when announcements are usually made. This I think usually gives him the ample opportunity to campaign in the service. He usually leaves such church services immediately after his speech.
Accordingly, this was the case on the above stated synod service. The governor came in during prayers after the sermon had been delivered.
It is instructive to note at this juncture that since 2011 Governor Okorocha became the Governor of Imo State, the Ohaji/Egbema Anglican Diocese had held three synods before the 6th July 2014 synod. But the governor never attended them. It is being said that why the Governor came to the synod under review was because that would be the last synod before the 2015 elections and the Governor needed to campaign at the occasion.
As is always the case, Governor Okorocha must have memorized his usual recited statements which is normally heralded with the slogan ‘my people, my people…’. But when the governor finally spoke at the event, he did not get the expected response. The Governor appeared put off on that fateful day and I think it was so because before allowing him to talk at the event, the bishop of the diocese, the Rt. Rev. Chidi Collins Oparaojiaku first lambasted the governor and other political office holders from Ohaji/Egbema L.G.A. The cleric among other things, had boldly told the governor that his government had not done any road or built any pre-cast primary school building as the Governor claims he has been doing in other areas. The Obazu-Mbieri born bishop also remarked that the Okorocha administration had not provided the area with electricity which he said was one of the reasons why the Federal Government provided fund periodically to the Imo State Oil Producing Area Commission (ISOPADEC).
The bishop’s remarks must have dealt a heavy blow on the psyche of the Governor who needed to respond to the bishop’s speech at the same time deliver his own pre-planned speech to the audience. The Governor reeled out many of his achievements in other areas of the state but none of such won the desired applauds for him from the audience.
Consequently, it was in a bid to provide excuses for the failure to provide social amenities in the area that the governor among other things, said that the youths of the area were restive as a result of their taking too much of Indian hemp and local gin called ‘kai kai’. The Governor claimed that it was as a result of the restiveness that contractors did not like working in the area.
Also recently, during the distribution of branded campaign vehicles to Imo State officials of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Governor Okorocha while addressing the people at the Banquet Hall of Government House Owerri, boasted that he was able to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 general elections when he had no money claiming that now as a governor, he had gotten enough money to give the PDP a deadlier defeat come 2015 general elections.
Let me first of all deal with the Governor’s statement at the synod.
Recently, a group under the aegis of Ohaji/Egbema Pragmatic Youths Forum in many newspaper advertorials have condemned Governor Okorocha’s said statement on Ohaji/Egbema youths at the synod and have demanded its retraction and apologies thereof.
Respectfully, I wish to note that Ohaji/Egbema was very instrumental to bringing Okorocha into power as the area was among the places where the historic May 6th 2011 Supplementary Election was held and won by him in Imo State.
However, I do not want to bother myself much with the condition of Ohaji/Egbema people under the so called ‘Rescue Mission Government’ of Governor Okorocha. This is because the people of my area Mbaise, are also facing the same neglect from the same government. Mbaise case is better because the people did not vote Rochas but are being rescued by some of their sons and daughters who are in the country’s National Assembly.
Be that as it may, it is still a fact that the Okorocha Government has not constructed a kilometre of road in Ohaji/Egbema L.G.A as rightly remarked by Bishop Oparaojiaku at the synod. This the Imo State Government has also not denied. Also, it is a fact that part of the money from ISOPADEC is for the payment of PHCN bills for the area. But since Governor Okorocha took the mantle of Imo leadership, there has not been constant PHCN electricity in the area. Unfortunately, it is being alleged that the governor misappropriates the ISOPADEC fund which among other things, may have led to the non payment of PHCN bills for the area. What of the money the federal government gave the Okorocha Administration for victims of the last flood disaster in the area? I do not want to advocate for Ohaji/Egbema. Also, I do not want to loose sight of the topic of this write-up. But I am only concerned with the statements of the man Okorocha as the Governor of Imo State which in my humble opinion he should not have made.
Respectfully, I think Governor Okorocha’s sarcastic comments on the said youths at the synod service under review was uncomplimentary, insulting, abusive and unexpected of a man occupying the esteemed governorship position. But instead of taking responsibility for inflicting hardship on the people of the area, it was wrong for the governor to have turned around to use abusive language on the said youths. Therefore, I think the governor owes the people apology as requested.
Now to the other issue; prior to the 2011 general elections, there was confusion on the financial status of Governor Okorocha. Rumours had it that the Governor was highly indebted to banks as a result of loans he allegedly collected. Others also said that many of his property used to secure loans were at the verge of being auctioned. I am also aware that many people also contributed a lot of money to actualize the governor’s gubernatorial ambition.
Shortly after becoming a governor, rumour also had it that Governor Rochas Okorocha had used the fund left by his predecessor in office to pay up his indebtedness. Then many people were still wallowing in the euphoria of Okorocha’s election victory and found it difficult to believe.
As the Okorocha’s Government continued to see more days come certain revelations that need explanations. The governor has collected all the allocations for the 27 local government councils in the state without any thing to show in the local government areas to justify the fund so far collected. The governor keeps on claiming that billions have been spent on state government projects, projects which many have said are sub-standard. Pensioners, especially the retired ones from Imo Broadcasting Corporation and public primary school teachers keep on recording many months of arrears of unpaid pensions and gratuities. Many contractors also have joined in the cry for non payment of jobs done. The governor has continued to tell the public of how many contractors he brought collected billions of naira from him and ran away. The governor has also told us how he has spent billions of naira for the ‘Princess Hotel’, Prince Hotel ‘Akachi’, Multi-Lane Park at Ama JK. Owerri, 24 Storey Building Hotel etc. and yet, nothing on ground to show for the funds claimed to have been spent. Adalpalm, Imo Transport Company, all the general hospitals in the state, legislative Quarters etc. were conceded to private companies and concession fees that run into billions of naira paid to the Imo State Government, yet, the said funds cannot be accounted for. After playing a hid-and-seek game, the Okorocha Government has also admitted borrowing huge amount of money from banks. Furthermore, Ohakim’s Government claims that it left the following funds in the coffers of the state before its exit: =N=13.3 Billion Bond Proceeds out of the N18.5, =N=3 Billion SUBEB project fund, =N=2.5 Billion Local Government Joint Project Account, =N=488 Million in VAT account, =N=670 Million Imo children fund, etc.
The question now is, is it true that Rochas was really bankrupt before the 2011 governorship elections? Was it money that made the people to vote for Rochas in 2011? Will the 2015 election in Imo State be for the highest bidder? When and where did the governor suddenly get the said fund he is now boasting he has for the 2015 elections? Is it now the case of the proverbial ‘nwanza’ bird that challenged his god to a fight after feeding fat? Why raising the issue of money now? Posers begging for answers.
However, my humble advice to the Governor is to be cautious of his statements in the public because it is being alleged that part of what angered some Imo people to work against the previous regime was careless statements made or alleged to have been made then.
Every word that comes out of a Governor is policy statement and is always taken seriously.
(Iwuala can be reached on 08037247295)