He was once touted to be the torchbearer of the Igbo nation, the liberator of a people on the fringes and the finest of his kind out of the Ndigbo breed. But, as they say, if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. The Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. One could spare him if his action was a one-off and could be excused as a gaffe made by a man of excesses. Yet, his case is one of pattern. He continues to relish in the ridiculous and has never failed to sink into new depths of scorn.
First, he began a crusade of erecting statues of African leaders (Jacob Zuma and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of South Africa and Liberia respectively). When quizzed on this, the governor reply was ‘I erect statue to immortalise people so that children yet unborn can know about them. History is dying in Africa, we must keep it alive. In the next 100 years, most of us would not be alive but this will stand for children to see. If leaders are not immortalised, there will be no history for children.’ While this sounds like a plausible rationale on the surface, you only need to scratch the surface to flaw his argument. First off, the jury is still out to see whether the statues will even survive for 10 years, talk more of a century. However, the chief criticism of this gesture has been the choices of those to immortalize. Charity bloody begins at home. There is a litany of Nigerian men and women (dead and alive) who have been stalwarts of our history. If at all tax payers money should be used in erecting statues, it shouldn’t be that of a Jacob Zuma who has been bedeviled with incessant corruption cases. It is true that there is a dearth of historical knowledge among today’s youth but there is a better way to correct the malady. Start by reviving the study of history in Imo state, and make the subject compulsory for all at various levels. In addition, he should be the trailblazer in allocating more to historical research and equipping public libraries in his state (that is assuming there is any). History should be primarily be immortalized in our minds and not in things.
Okorocha’s madness did not stop here. Only recently, he appointed his biological sister as “Commissioner for Happiness and Couples’ Fulfillment”. This was in addition to 28 new commissioners and 27 Transition Committee Chairmen for the 27 local government councils in the state. The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Sam Onwuemeodo, said the typographic error led to the naming of the Ministry as the Ministry of Happiness and Couples Fulfilment. It is now called Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment. The statement went on to justify the essence of the new ministry and its purpose in the state. “The real essence of life is to be happy and to fulfil one’s purpose in life; Government officials are elected to address this.” It is a shame I share the same first name with this Press Secretary. The joke is squarely on him in his failed attempt to turn logic on its head. Yes, even the Good Book acknowledges that the people rejoice when the righteous are in power, but it is not by playing with our minds with the creation of such useless office. The people will be happy if the government of the day does its job. This is a state where pensioners are continually being owed, civil servants salaries are never prompt, the state university is in shatters, youth unemployment is as bad as it gets and many of the state roads are death traps. Yet, the governor believe happiness will come from a magic wand his sister will wield.
Beyond the loud soundbites that the governor’s actions have received on social media, it aches the heart how this man leads a state. Okorocha is a sad reminder of why we have so many failed states in Nigeria. No doubt, the Buhari government will continue to get a lot of sticks for not doing enough, but large stones should also be hurled at many governors. A glance at the Oil rich South-South and South-East states tells the whole story. We have leaders in these states who should have no business leading a street, talk more of a state. Rochas Okorocha is the only governor from the South East in the ruling APC government. He is supposed to be the voice of Ndigbo when matters that affects her are being discussed in quarters other PDP governors will not be privy to. Your guess is as good as mine on how this representation has been going. Our leaders should have moments of introspection and we the people must make our pressure on leaders count beyond the rhetorics of internet memes and hashtags.