- By Nnaemeka Onyeka Obiaraeri•
The out going governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha rose to power in a ground swell/overwhelming masses support. He had such mass appeal and goodwill that were/are only accorded to anticipated deliverers.
According to his close ally and bosom friend of over 25 years, Prince Eze Madumere, (the current Deputy Governor of Imo State), Rochas did not have up to N5m of his own when he became governor of Imo State on May 29, 2011. He was heavily indebted to banks and had to even pawn his main house then in Abuja to support his election bid of 2011. Such was his state and condition when Imolites rallied round to make him governor over the incumbent.
Imolites from all works of life and different social status rallied round to raise funds for him and elevated him to Douglas House Owerri.
He started well in his first term and had a good sprinkle of responsible, professional, skilful and independent minded Imolites with some modicum of dignity in his first term cabinet.
All of a sudden, he decided on his own, like Nebuchadnezzar to elevate himself to the status of a god. He confided in some of his close aides that he wanted to become the Jagaban of the South East and be as rich as the Lion of Bourdillon.
In his quest to accomplish this ego driven, whimsical and non-altruistic agenda, outside the mantra and purpose that brought him to power, he laid off most of his cabinet members that had much values to add to him, and like Ahab, surrounded himself with marabouts, all manner of miscreants and Otimkpus, who only massaged his egos and played the scripts he preferred.
Some of the highly educated and few responsible ones amongst his kitchen cabinet in order not to be left out, jettisoned their professionalism, suspended their brains/intellect and joined the gravy train of hailing him as their emperor Hirohito and the only man better than Dee Sam Mbakwe (Chai).
From then on, governance was suspended. Policies and programs disappeared. Due process and planning got suspended. The Imo State House of Assembly became incorporated and emasculated as part of the Owelle Spibat estate. Thus, Imo state became a state governed based wholly on the whims and caprices of one man. Whatever that drops in his mind every morning after a night of enjoyment becomes the law that everyone must follow. Imo state automatically became the family estate of Rochas Anayo Okorocha.
Adults and even elected assembly members queued up every morning to please Nneoma Okorocha, Ogechi Ololo, Uche Nwosu or any of Rochas household members just to have a sniff of the Imo commonwealth that was being looted with reckless abandon. It became government of the Okorochas, by the Okorochas and in-law and for the services of the genuflecting minions, whose brains and dignity were totally suspended throughout those periods.
The greatest casualties were the poor masses of Imo state. Ndi Imo suffered terribly under the yoke of the dictator and his impunity. They mourned and endured under the yoke of such malicious lies and propaganda never seen before in the history of Imo state.
However, Rochas Okorocha forgot that to become like Bola Ahmed Tinubu and transmutate to the JAGABAN of the South East he must possess, BAT’s inclusiveness, eyes for excellence, exposure, and overall capacity to know when to retreat or move forward.
For starters, Bola Tinubu had a very rich private sector and structured environment background as a former Group Treasurer in Exxon Mobil before venturing into politics. Rochas lacked this.
Bola Tinubu never touched or looted a kobo of Lagos state FAAC or JAAC revenues throughout his tenure as governor of Lagos state (that was why Obasanjo’s EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu could not fix him. That was one of the reasons why governance in Lagos state never suffered even after Obasanjo withheld FAAC and JAAC revenues due to the state from the federation account for months).
Bola Tinubu became governor of Lagos state in May 29, 1999 when the Lagos state monthly IGR hovered between N697m to N900. However, by the time he left power in 2007, the state monthly IGR grew to almost N20billion. He developed a 25-year infrastructure development master plan that is still in operation today. Lagos was not governed based on his drunken state of mind or whatever comes into his head every morning.
Bola Tinubu built up both his intellectual wing of professionals to help him govern well/manage the formal economy. He also successfully created another Agbero/Thug wing that helped him to control the informal economy and enforce some of his hard nose agenda.
The Intellectual wing had great minds like Wale Edun, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who was his one-time Chief of staff and later governor for 8 years, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (his attorney General then and now Vice President of Nigeria); Pastor Ben Akabueze, Babajide Sanwo-Olu etc. Bola Tinubu never made his son in-law without experience Chief of staff. Remi Tinubu never controlled four ministries and commissioners that reported to her.
His Agbero/Thug Wing was/is marshalled by the likes of MC Oluomo and Co. It is even estimated that the Thug Wing generates about N280billion annually that the Jagaban deploys to keep everyone of the stakeholders in his chain of command under control (though this is very unacceptable for a people who desire to make much progress in this 21st century)
Bola Tinubu was also careful never to mix up the Agbero informal wing with the Professionals, who run/ran the formal governance of Lagos state. He knew their core competences and never toyed with the idea of making an MC Oluomo his Chief of Staff, or Commissioner of Finance or Land or Local Government Chairman. For his key MDAs, BAT and his successors always looked for the cerebral and best professionals to run their governments
Bola Tinubu had a good governance template that separated his immediate family members from becoming a nuisance to his government. Most Lagosians do not even know the names of Bola Tinubu’s Brothers, sisters, Son In law, Wife’s sisters and brothers, and even the names of his Children. They kept away from the formal system.
Above all, Bola Tinubu knew how to create wealth, attract investors and get things done,(though there are much more Lagos can do with the vast resources at her disposal and if they could integrate the slush informal sector funds of over N280billion into the formal economy)
For ROCHAS ANAYO OKOROCHA, his concept of being like Bola Tinubu and the Jagaban of the South East was a caricature version/ terrible imitation of what the Jagaban Borgu did in Lagos state.
Firstly, he saw the FAAC and JAAC allocations to Imo state and the 27 LGAs as his pocket monies that he could fiddle with, as he liked. Emboldened by a very weak, docile, pliant and subservient House of Assembly, he spent and looted Imo treasury with his family members without any forms of appropriation or checks. He turned Imo state into his family estate with no clear idea or short to long-term plan of good governance. He pushed away the professionals and those that had much value to add and converted his thugs and Agberos as key political office holders in the MDAs to run his government.
Just take a cursory look and review of the list of thugs, illiterates and non-creative urchins that he appointed to run our 27 LGAs and you will understand why Imo state is in such a sorry state today.
The few very educated and enlightened ones amongst his cabinet saw no evil, heard no evil and outdid themselves in the praise and lullaby of the emperor. They fed his over bloated ego and megalomaniac mind-set with so much effusive worship, that the man openly boasted that he will retire everyone in his estate Imo and appoint only his subservient cronies to worship at his altar of greed.
BEYOND THE FAAC AND JAAC THAT HE POCKED, NO OTHER FACTUAL OR EMPRICAL FIGURE CLEARLY DEPICTS THE LARCENY AND WANTON LOOTING OF IMO ECONOMY UNDER OKOROCHA AND HIS FAMILY MEMBERS THAN THE STATE OF THE IMO INTERNAL GENERATED REVENUE.
In 2011, when Governor Okorocha became Governor, Imo state Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) was N5.8billion. Over 6 years after in 2017, it was N5.9billion. In 2011, Jigawa had IGR of N1.5billion and grew it to N5.1bn in 2017. Enugu State in 2011 had IGR figure of N7.3billion and grew it to N24billion in 2017.
Just look at the massive IGR growth rate in a purely civil service state like Enugu state. Also take a look at the massive IGR growth rate of over 300% in Jigawa state with literacy rate of below 30%
Imo state IGR or what came into the Imo state coffers did not grow because Okorocha converted and handed over the entire key Imo IGR centres to his family and in-laws. Revenues that would ordinary had come into the state treasury entered into private pockets. They competed amongst themselves on who will loot the highest.
The Okorocha misadventure and his final demise/unravelling is a clear warning to Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha not to toe such perfidious path. The incoming government must put together an inclusive/entrepreneurial minded administration with great capacities to generate wealth, especially for a state like Imo with incredible natural resources, great demography/geographical situation and boasts of the highest literacy rate in Nigeria (96%).
Imo state has no reason to be listed amongst the bankrupt states in Nigeria alongside states like Borno and Yobe, if we had a serious minded person in power over the last 94 months.
Imo State can easily be rebuilt, yes we can.
God Bless Imo state!!
- Dr. Onyeka Obiaraeri writes from Owerri