Monday, June 18, 2012

Okorocha: The Delusion Before Decline

By Abdullahi Garba/Daily Trust
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State is no longer rookie governor, whose head is still in the clouds, revelling from the marvellous transition from subject to the very object of power.

Even before he became governor, Rochas Okorocha had displayed all the mannerisms of someone wanting to rule, at first the whole of Nigeria, failing which he has now settled for his native Imo.

No wonder his initial stance in the early days of his governorship portrayed a "panoramic" view of his area of authority, reflected in some of his pan-Igbo policies. What is still not known is the extent to which Governor Okorocha is prepared to remain true to his professed dedication to carrying all and sundry along as the potential heir apparent to the stool of Ndigbo 1 of Nigeria.

While all true sons and daughters of Igboland are entitled to another "powerful" Oracle as leader in the tradition of the Ikemba of blessed memory, it is becoming clear that it is a lot easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk of aspiration to Igbo leadership in Nigeria.

We only need to review some of the recent developments in the domain of the claimant to the throne in Imo State to realize that there are certain disabling factors standing in the way of lofty aspirations. Governor Rochas Okorocha is being seen in credible quarters as a leader swimming against the tide of his own self-professed ambition for Igbo leadership by drifting swiftly towards not just Imo but Rochas orbit instead.

Currently, Governor Okorocha's reported plan to sack nearly all of the over 50 special assistants that he appointed with fanfare just about a year ago as a major thrust of his "all-inclusive" and pan-Igbo agenda has triggered disenchantment and disbelief across the state.

The underlying motives associated with this imminent decision have rendered the governor's excuse of declining productivity of the SAs rather laughable considering the fact that the SAs have barely settled down to be "productive" in less than 12 months of appointment due largely to lethargy in empowering the SAs by the governor himself.

It is in fact reminiscent of an episode in Okorocha's political past when an exasperated President Obasanjo summarily relieved him of his appointment in a government agency only to realize that Okorocha was actually managing the situation he was consigned to by government inaction. And OBJ apologized to Okorocha.

There may be no need for Governor Okorocha to apologize to any of his SAs for unfair mistreatment if he can recall the passion and bravado with which he defended his decision, citing moving sentiments of youth empowerment, gender sensitivity and the all-important pan-Igboism that ruled the waves then.

He will also do well to tarry awhile in dispensing with the SAs in order to honour his own pledge to empower them to be positive change ambassadors in their areas of appointment, a pledge that was betrayed by frustrating funding sequence and even zero-allocation in some cases.

To now dump them on the altar of non-productivity after barely one year of paralyzed appointments smacks of callous rashness or is just an excuse to further the governor's new agenda of pandering to narrower primordial and nepotistic pressures, evident in excluding only the SAs serving him and Madam or blood relations from the mass sack. Two years at least should be a better time span to assess productivity!

Governor Okorocha's new agenda is actually turning into an Achilles' heel unless he can be humble enough to own up to human infallibility and make necessary amends to restore the bubbling enthusiasm and excited optimism that greeted his much anticipated election a year ago.

He may wish to refer to the recent unsavoury events such as the rising profile of members of Rochas Foundation in all appointments, not to mention the dramatic promotion to Commissioner for Lands of his deputy chief of staff as a wedding gift after hooking his daughter Uloma recently.

We even have an "anointed" family whose members alone hold five top strategic appointments and now have a Nigerian envoy to consolidate their grasp.

All these new agenda developments are coming after Governor Okorocha unleashed a series of sweeping moves that included abruptly sacking democratically-elected LG chairmen, masterminding removal of House Speaker and Chairman of the Traditional Rulers' Council and hand-picking its successor, mass sacking of over 10,000 Imo indigenes from service and reinstating less than a thousand after a kangaroo-review of "close casualties" abandoned 9,000 to roam the streets.

For more personal perks, Governor Okorocha expended development funds on a luxurious private jet while First Lady seems obsessed with junketing across the world for sight-seeing!

The litany of self-serving indulgences mounting on the one-year assessment of Governor Rochas Okorocha's "rescue mission" casts a long dark shadow on the genuineness of his initial pontificating and indeed the prospects of leaving Imo State better than he met it.

Most major communities and political stakeholders in Imo State have since turned despondent and resentful in the wake of a systematic decimation of their representatives in government just to create vacancies for those with notable antecedents in Rochas Okorocha's personal empire-building history.

There is particular concern and alarm over what is described as Okorocha's sacking propensity and how it is bound to impact implosively on the already explosive security situation of Nigeria's kidnappers' haven in Imo State.

Mass sackings only beef up the army of unemployed who in turn feed the underworld of kidnappers, political thugs, hired assassins and assorted assailants already warming up for decisive demystification of the Okorocha Phenomenon. Political suicide should not be the outcome of charismatic leadership!

It is therefore hardly surprising that in the larger world of Ndigbo outside Imo State the honeymoon is over and a terrible hang-over of dashed hopes beclouds discussions of the Imo Governor's prospects as a potential leader of all.

This is more so as the significant symbolic gestures which promoted his chances and pan Igbo profile are today viewed as endangered investments in Igbo leadership which could very well render the governor's renewed presidential interest as misplaced and disastrous as the previous bids.

Our best hopes are that the sheer crudeness of it all will combine with the mounting opposition to the privatization and personalization of the political economy of Imo State and indeed Ndigbo by emergent empowered political landlords, to jolt a corrective self-appraisal that may yet save Governor Rochas Okorocha from the delusion and decline looming on his horizon.

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