OKOROCHA’S SWAN SONG. By RAY EKPU

In the last few days, Mr. Rochas Okorocha, the Governor of Imo State, seems to be a sober man. In the last eight years that he has been the keeper of the shop at Imo, he has carried on the business of managing that shop with an unusual swagger, wielding power with a tremendous sense of the ultimate, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent controller of the people’s destiny. He could do, and did, almost anything he wanted, appointed anybody from his family to any position he wanted. It is a surprise, indeed inexplicable that Imolites, who constitute a huge chunk of the Igbo educated elite, could tolerate his avant garde, idiosyncratic effusions and actions for so long. Perhaps they thought it was better to let him tie the rope round his neck and hang himself by himself. In his huge hunger for power, the man had strutted on to the political podium some years ago, saying that he wanted to be the President of Nigeria. He cut a miserable figure in the contest and retreated. Then the Imo people believed him when he said that what he had done in education as a private person he would multiply it many fold if he had the opportunity to be the dispenser of the State’s resources.

The day I heard him pronounce that he was establishing three State owned Universities in Imo State I shouted, Chineke. It was clear to me that he thought a University was a Primary School, glorified or not, some kind of political stomach infrastructure not an institution of Universal relevance. I haven’t been able to confirm if indeed Imo State has three Senatorial Districts based contraptions called universities today.

Then the man who is himself a master of sartorial inelegance, sought to prescribe, and indeed prescribed, a mode of dressing, call it uniform, for Imo civil servants.

When they appeared at public functions in those uniforms you had to sympathise with them because they looked like delinquent pupils made to sit in a heap by their high handed headmaster. They didn’t look like public servants whose duty was to contribute their expertise to the building of a modern state in the 21st century. For him, what his public servants thought was irrelevant. It was only his view that counted and when he addressed them as “my people, my people” your mind raced back to the humble slaves at the Badagry slave camp of yester-years being addressed by their haughty buyers.

For Okorocha, there was no difference between his government and his family. His family was the government and the government was his family. In the heat of his altercation with Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, the APC Chairman released a long list of Okorocha’s relations appointed by him into several juicy positions in the Imo State Government. He, Okorocha, also fired back with a list of members of the Oshiomhole clan that had been appointed into Oshiomhole’s government when he was the Governor of Edo State. Both lists were long and I have not yet developed sufficient interest in conducting a verification exercise. But it was obvious if Mr. Oshiomhole’s list was correct that Mr. Okorocha did quite well in ensuring that charity began in the family. And family here is all-embracing, nuclear family, extended family and marital family. That is how a man who was little known as a politician came into sudden prominence and threatened to upset the apple cart in Imo. A young man called Mr. Uche Nwosu had fallen in love with Okorocha’s daughter and that love tango earned him the prominent and lucrative office of Chief of Staff to the Governor. Mr. Okorocha gave his daughter to him in marriage. That amorous relationship transmutated into a political relationship. From then onwards, Okorocha started plotting how he would build a political dynasty that would outlast him. The plot was Lady Macbethian in stature. Every obstacle on the way had to be brought down. Sir Jude Agbaso, who was his first Deputy was framed and booted out. The second Deputy Governor, Mr. Eze Madumere, was impeached by an obliging, sycophantic House of Assembly. The Court reversed the impeachment but the man was still kept in limbo. This was the path-clearing strategy for the ascension of Mr. Nwosu as the Governor of Imo State in 2019. This man, Okorocha, simply ran the State as his personal fiefdom and Imolites promptly called his government “familiocracy”; that is a government of the Okorocha family, by the Okorocha family and for the Okorocha family.

Did it bother him? No. The more they cried the more he subverted the process in the hope that he could run Imo State for another four or eight years by proxy if he could install his son-in-law as his successor. He apparently did not reckon that at some point the Imo people would wake up from their slumber. They did and together with the faith-based organizations that he had oppressed they took the clothes off the emperor. Let us interrogate greed, that consuming passion of Nigerian politicians. The APC, I am told, had asked Mr. Okorocha to choose either a Senatorial seat for himself or the Governorship seat for his son-in-law. But he wanted both; the APC said No. Now it does appear that he is on the verge of losing both. In the contest for the Imo West Senatorial District Okorocha contesting on the APC platform polled 97,762 votes as against that of Mr. Jones Onyereri of the PDP (63,117) and Senator Osita Izunaso of APGA (30,923). Now the story has k-leg. The Returning Officer, Professor Innocent Ibeawuchi, says he was “compelled to announce the result which was inconclusive. I was held hostage by agents working for the Governor. I was manhandled and I thank God that I came back alive”.

He also said that the election was inconclusive because of irregularities and malpractices. INEC has condemned the action of holding its staff hostage and forcing them to declare winners under duress. Mr. Okorocha has not been given a Certificate of Return apparently because INEC believes the story of its Returning Officer.

INEC may decide to do the inconclusive part of the election or Mr. Okorocha may decide to go to Court to fight for his right. But for now he is in no man’s hand, the land of limbo. He is showing an unusual spirit of soberness. “I am not a violent person and those who know me know that. This is why we have peace in Imo State. The Returning Officer could not have done that under duress, under the watchful eyes of the Police, DSS and party agents. I am not unmindful of the fact that those who are fighting me from Abuja are anxious to see me removed as a Senator”.

While his senatorial ambition is not yet determined completely, his ambition to have his son-in-law succeed him has crashed. Mr. Nwosu was actually the least known of the contestants for the Governorship position. Look at the intimidating figures in the race: Emeka Ihedioha, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hope Uzodinma, a ranking Senator, Ifeanyi Ararume, a former Senator, Ikedi Ohakim, a former Governor of the State. Mr. Nwosu’s party, Action Alliance, which he joined at the last minute was also one of the least known of the parties eventhough 65 candidates vied for the office. Mr. Okorocha thought he could woo the voters to vote for him on the APC platform and his son-in-law on the Action Alliance platform. That arrangement is the epitome of political gerry mandering and chameleonism. It failed woefully.

As soon as the Governorship election result in Imo State was announced Imolites went into the streets honking their horns, pulling down Okorocha’s billboards and those of his son-in-law. This was apparently the people’s view of the result as their liberation from familiocracy and the crash of the Okorocha dynasty. Even if Imolites see the result purely as the failure of Okorocha instead of the success of Emeka Ihedioha, I think Ihedioha deserves some credit for his success. Imo State had the biggest collection of heavyweights in the gubernatorial contest so anybody who won deserves a pat on the back, and a lap of honour. Ihedioha was in the race in 2015 and lost so his victory this time marks him out as a dogged fighter. He deserves his share of bragging right and the respect of a victor particularly since many people thought that the emperor was invincible.

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