It has, indeed, been confirmed that the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, built and unveiled in Owerri, the State capital, a N520 million statue in honour of the South African President, Jacob Zuma, of all people. If the statue were in honour of Nelson Mandela, maybe, just maybe, it would have been a bit tolerable. Zuma was himself there in Owerri to receive the honour as part of activities marking his two day working visit also paid for by the state government. In addition to the statue, Zuma got a street named after him and a traditional ruler was commissioned to bestow on him the title of “Ochiagha di oha mma of Igbo land –” meaning the beloved war commander of the Igbo not only Imo State.
Before we continue with this latest in the excesses of Okorocha, it is germane to draw attention to the rot in the State that has been plagued with incompetent leadership since after the revered first democratically elected Governor of the State, Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe. Okorocha is literally at war with everyone in the state because he sees himself as the emperor who must be worshipped. Against the ruling of a competent court, he ordered the demolition of Ekeukwu market and the ancestral landmark of the Owerri people just to prove that no one stands any chance before his authority. Not even the courts. To prove a point, a 10 year old boy, Somtochukwu, paid the supreme price.
Imo State is literally the private estate of Okorocha and his family. Commissioners report to his wife, a piece of furniture as far as governance is concerned. His son-in-law is his chief of staff, the same person he handed over to when he contested the presidential ticket with then aspirant Muhammadu Buhari. Actually, he has vowed to install him as the next governor in 2019. The commissioners may be his appointees but the office is a constitutional creation with roles and functions clearly defined. Okorocha has not only side lined them in the scheme of things but has also made sure that majority of them are mere figure heads there to fill the space. They read or hear about projects approved and executed in their own ministries through the media. Top civil servants like permanent secretaries and directors are by-passed in the bureaucratic processes and procedures needed in the affairs of the state.
Not too long ago, he spent state resources for over a period of more than two weeks celebrating his 55th birthday on live television. In a state where pensioners are dying because their entitlements are not paid and civil servants’ salaries are months in arrears? Recently, at the peak of the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) issue, some Northern Governors, on a peace-finding mission, visited Imo State. They were genuinely appalled by the decay they were confronted with. It dawned on them that the much fabled Okorocha magic is all propaganda. Nothing is working in the state.
Most of the roads in the state are not passable, uncompleted projects are littered everywhere. Most of them are on the verge of being concessioned to his cronies and fronts. It is in this sorry scenario that he thought it fit to insult the sensibilities of the Imo people by embarking on this vain-glory that the Zuma project is. As the President of South Africa, Zuma has presided over the worst form of xenophobia that has claimed the lives of many Nigerians most of them of Igbo descent. The week he was revelling in Owerri as a hero without achievements, a Nigerian was despatched to the great beyond by that country’s police. South Africans themselves are wondering what is going on and Nigerians are asking, is this also part of democracy?
It will be pertinent, in our opinion, to know who approved the budget for this Zuma project. Did it go through the required legislative process? What is going on in Imo State under Okorocha, in our view, is a strong argument against the devolution of power to the states. And to imagine that this same man is nursing a presidential ambition. As the only All Progressives Congress (APC) governor in the South East, he was expected to be a poster boy of the change mantra in the zone, running the state efficiently and doing things that will attract followers to the party and its machinery. Instead, he has succeeded in making the party lose credibility in the zone.
But is he really above the party? Is it to be understood that the party has no check on politicians flying its flag to ensure that its integrity is not impugned upon by the inanities of state functionaries like Okorocha?