With Uche Nnadozie
The best image the Nigerian public, including yours sincerely has of Governor Rochas Okorocha is that of a very flamboyant, wealthy, and to some degree a polyglot with oratory skills. Earlier in this republic Okorocha was the darling of the soapbox. He spoke so hard and so wide of his ambition. He wanted to be president of Nigeria. He wanted to speak his way into the presidency. His campaigns were laced with charisma of his person and the power of his words. He also preached about elevating the poor.
He had something of a profile. A guy who spent his money to build first grade schools where kids from hopeless backgrounds found succour was and still is a big deal. Schools sponsored by his Rochas Foundation which encouraged poor kids to dream dreams and see those dreams come out true. An all-expenses paid school located in different parts of the country. In him, everyday people in Nigeria found a spokesperson. Oh boy,he can speak! It was difficult to therefore dismiss his ambition. People began to see him as a messiah of a kind.
Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, he was appointed to head the board of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN. That sojourn didn’t end quite well. In fact, it did not go far. He was accused of some contract underhand. He was dismissed by the president. But he put up a spirited defence using the mass media. In the end, it appeared the allegations were futile. The president recalled him, but appointed him a special adviser. He took the job to heart and tried to impress in that role. It was refreshing watching him take on a role that was not quite defined. He came out with some good points.
Later, he was to resign and jumped on the presidential campaign. He contested, but when he saw that he may not win, he defected to another party. Okorocha ran a fairly decent campaign. He had something to say to different parts of the country. After all, he could speak different Nigerian languages.and he had his Rochas Foundation schools in different parts of the country. His earlier appointments, his oratory and his philanthropic gestures gave him a real boost. He had instant national recognition. Since then, Nigerians followed his presidential campaign. Until reality dawned on him to try from the base.
The governor of Imo state, after a hard fought election, defeated an incumbent. thus was elected governor. With his experience, a lot was expected of him. In fact many pundits saw his election as a state governor as a fitting training ground for him to one day become the president. Much was expected from him. Initially he went about his job as a populist. He declared free education up till the university. He promised to construct 27 new General hospitals across the state. He made several other earth shaking promises, including developing never seen before infrastructure. In fact, Okorocha declared that his security vote will be withdrawn or reduced drastically. He said the right things and took what seemed like the right steps at the beginning.
Years down the line, things began to change. Complains here and there. They said the lover of the poor was implementing anti-poor programmes. He was accused of all manner of misdemeanors. His family members crept into the public space, in fact his family members took over the government. Okorocha, the visioner got sucked into his vision. We began to see billboards of handshakes with President Barack Obama. Next we heard and saw the “statue avenue”. Controversies upon controversies began to dug his path. If he was not pulling down markets, he was selling off lands and home of people only to sell same to himself and friends and family.
His obsession with statutes earned him regional backlash. Of all people to recognise, it was the very unpopular president of South Africa? This stems from the treatment meted to Nigerians in South Africa, which was still raging at the time, especially so as the S.A president himself was undergoing corruption probes. Then came the one of last week. The controversy about his creation of a ministry of Happiness and (couple) Purpose Fulfillment gained international indignation. It was not just comical, it was also bizarre. A state owing salary and pension arrears should not be caught with such frivolities. Basically, it is like Okorocha is created to hug controversies. In the process, he forgets what led him to Imo government house in the first place. It is as though, the once admired Okorocha has become the butt of jokes all over the country. He and the state are constantly dragged all over the place, especially on the social media. The creation of that ministry and the appointment of his sister to head it have combined to kill whatever was the worth of his reputation, it is like he does not care about public opinion. But if even he doesn’t care, he cannot continue to use the platform of Imo governorship to practice his idiocy. What does he mean by Ministry of Happiness? Such a ministry will now have all the staff from permanent secretary to directors and other cadres? Where will they draw their salaries from? More questions, nobody to answer in particular.
In the 21st century, Okorocha is not the kind of politician that should guide our lives. He is confused. And to think that tomorrow, he will come out again to contest the presidency, thankfully the Imo governorship has pretty much unraveled him. He is a typical showman, a showboat expert who is obsessed with himself and his family members. His vainglory is out of this world. He has lost it and I am happy he took that decision to step down his presidential ambition to go for governorship. Who would have known that Rochas is such an empty shell.