SIMON REEF MUSA
Former governor of Imo State and now Senator representing Imo West in the Senate chamber, Chief Rochas Okorocha, was recently caught in the eye of the storm as he forced himself into the Royal Palm Estate that was sealed by the Imo State Government. While the drama brings to reminiscence that nothing lasts, and that every power delegated to mortal beings must come to an end, the former governor is too in love with the past to realise the ephemeral nature of power.
Few years ago, Okorocha as governor was the lord of the manor as he decided who got what in Imo State. He bestowed favours to cronies and never brooked any attempt to challenge his orders. Okorocha’s words were final and wherever he stepped out, all eyes were fixed to his regal presence. Everyone in the state knew who was in charge and the former governor wasted no time in proving that he called the shots in the affairs of a state he had skillfully deployed his political command to get the slice of what matters.
By the time he left power after eight years in Douglas House, he had acquired expansive estates and other sprawling properties in not only Owerri, the state capital but also other parts of the country, too. Not only did Okorocha walk his way to the upper chamber of the National Assembly that is now gradually becoming a retiring home for former governors, he also left a formidable financial umpire that reminded Nigerians on how political power could serve in building economic dominance.
Now that the grandeur of influence has fizzled away, the day of reckoning seems to be here. Apart from struggling to remain atop the stormy water of politics that has cast an ambiguous spectre on his political future, the declamatory politician is being brought to book over his alleged transgressions he committed while in power. Accusations of enrichment and heist are now trailing him, with those who were the nobodies of yesterday now in the vanguard of challenging him over his past.
Unlike in the past when he was the final bus stop in Imo state, Okorocha now finds it difficult to accept the fact that the Special Adviser to Governor Uzodinma on Special, Duties, Mr. Chinasa Nwaneri, can muster the effrontery to force him out of an estate belonging to his wife. What an insolence he thought as he was escorted to the police vehicle for breaking into the sealed estate. Not even his screams and ranting could change the tide. As the British actor Mark Homer would say, “Being loud doesn’t increase the value or validity of their opinion. In fact, often by the very nature of being the loudest, those opinions are typically the furthest from reality.”
Unlike the confidence of yesteryears, Okorocha is reduced to a ‘shaking of the head’ as he was forced into a police van to be taken to the station for interrogation. The former governor looked helpless and so ordinary like any other citizen outside of the corridor of power. Not even his position as a senator could save the day to regain the splendor of his past.
As a member of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Imo State has never been in want of funds as the monthly revenue accruing from the Federation Account, including 13 percent derivation, proved a huge financial relief to the state. However, despite these whopping sums of money accrued to the state from the monthly Federation Account, not many indigenes of the state are happy with the way such funds were deployed to develop the state, especially during the administration of Governor Okorocha.
Long before the Supreme Court’s verdict that made Senator Hope Uzodinma governor on January 14, 2020, the extent of sleaze unleashed on the state treasury had created disquieting moments for the sacked administration of Hon Emeka Ihedioha. In a bid to unearth the alleged putrefactions allegedly perpetrated during the Okorocha-led administration, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives set up a judicial commission of enquiry to expose questionable projects and expenses with a view to recovering them.
From the white paper of the commission’s report that culminated to the sealing of the Royal Palm Estate in Owerri, Okorocha’s tenure as governor is a study in open violation of due process in financial transactions, land grabbing from both public and private owners and turning the machinery of state to enthrone personal fiefdom. The panel discovered that billions of Naira were taken out of the local government system during the eight years of Okorocha. The commission whose report the Uzodinma-led administration is committed to implementing also raised questions on the sources of funds deployed to construct the Eastern Palm University belonging to the Okorochas.
From the report of the commission of enquiry, no less than N96 billion from.the IGR of the state in eight years was unaccounted for. Projects said to have cost billions of Naira were simply on paper as there was nothing on ground. Building of statues became the pastimes of the Okorocha government as he embarked on building monuments costing billions of Naira that had no direct bearing to the lives of the people of the state.
Not only were public companies left in ruins as clearly shown in the case of Adapalm leased out to investors, the state was also fleeced of billions of Naira as cronies had a field day pillaging the state in the most appalling manner without regard to due process. According to the panel of enquiry set up by the sacked government of Hon Ihedioha, the ownership of a hospitality and wellness center, an FM station and multi-billion Naira Farmers’ Market constructed illegally on public land are all linked to the Okorochas. The commission also found out that possession of some property, supermarkets, plazas, among other businesses, have the signatures of some immediate members and cronies of the former governor.
As a former governor, Okorocha knows how the power game works. Bringing thugs to unleash terror on the security personnel keeping watch over the sealed estate amounts to challenging government’s power. If the former governor could be so bold to break into the sealed property with his thugs; it was then expected he was prepared to face the state that has the legal monopoly of violence.
One would have thought that Okorocha would have resorted to the courts, having enjoyed eight years in the corridor of power. Sadly, he chose to deploy brigandage and thuggery to confront an action based on a white paper on a report of a commission of enquiry set up by former Governor Ihedioha. I am sure that if Okorocha were Uzodinma, he would not have treated the matter with levity.
Those who live the lie should better take lessons from Michael Jackson who says “Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.” There can be no way political office holders who had cut corners while in power would continue to hope that immunity from prosecution would continue to be their prerogative.
Governor Uzodinma has demonstrated that because he does not fear the truth, he has nothing to fear from the lies peddled by his enemies. By not jettisoning the white paper on the commission’s report, the governor has earned the honor of bringing to book those who convert public property into private estates. Cleansing the Augean stable brought to Douglas House is not a tea party. Not heeding to the chicaneries of political opponents remains the best strategy in tackling the sterling heists left by former administrations.