By Kizito Duru
Christians’ Holy Book, the Bible, captured a moment when Jesus Christ came to his apostles and threw the question: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” to them. They replied: ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets’. ‘But what about you?, Christ asked. “Who am I?” to which Peter Simon answered: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'”.
Jesus Christ, of course, knew whom He was. He didn’t need the disciples to tell Him. Being divine, He also already knew what the disciples thought. But he wanted to hear them speak to his face whom and what they thought of him. Christ was satisfied that his apostles knew whom he really was and proceeded to make Peter the rock of the Church.
It is, therefore, not out of place for a leader to ask his followers similar question as Christ did. However it is understandable that not every leader is gifted with courageous followers that would boldly and in a very plain language tell him whom he is.
Any follower who does not massage the ego of his principal when faced with the “Who am I?” question risks being evicted from the political family, and even victimised.
I have this strong feeling that Okorocha would have made a better leader if he had more courageous and sincere followers who often told him what Imo people thought and still think of him, and then what they, in all sincerity, think of him. They sold to Okorocha lies and deceit.
They probably told him that he was Owelle the people’s governor and the grand commander of (nonexistent) free education and a soon-to-be president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They defended all this thoughts and actions and made resounding applause at Okorocha’s abuse of power, non compliance to court orders and non adherence to the rule of law and due process in the governorship of the State.
Consequently, Okorocha saw himself as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Vissarionovich Salvin of Imo State. His decisions went unchallenged. Governance collapsed in the State. He saw Imo State as his empire, and an emperor he became! It dawned on everyone in Nigeria and the world that Imo was set on regression the day this great emperor was pronounced governor in 2011.
But the State did not only regressed but went completely moribund for the eight years Okorocha ruled. But Okorocha, still operating with what his close allies say he is, sees himself as the best thing that happened to Imo State.
I did not therefore find it strange to hear Okorocha accost the Special Assistant to Gov Hope Uzodimma on Special Duties, Chinaza Nwaneri, with the question: Who are you? He expected Nwaneri to fidget and tremble at the sight of him, even in his current status as a former governor of the State.
But Nwaneri, representing majority of Imo citizens who view Okorocha’s reign as calamitous, fired back by asking the loquacious governor: Who are you?
The incident at Royal Spring Palm Estate wasn’t the first time Okorocha had confronted someone with the “Do you know who I am/Who are you?” question. Sometime in March 2016 at Chetham House in London, Okorocha had traveled with a score of his appointees for a fruitless conference and there he was confronted by a man who by all indication was a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
He queried Okorocha on his role over the massacre of IPOB members which he claimed personally affected him as he claimed to have lost dear ones in the massacre. But all Okorocha would utter was: “ị maka kwa onye m mbụ?” Translated in English, it means: “Do you know who I am?”
One is therefore pushed to ask, who is really Okorocha if not the emperor that ordered the brazen demolition of Eke Ukwu Owerri Market, even when a court of competent jurisdiction had given an order restraining him from destroying the ancestral market? That illegal act did not only impoverish many Imolites who lost their shops and goods, it also led to the murder of a lad named Somtochukwu Ibeanusi.
The level of fiscal irresponsibility of the so called Rescue Mission Government of Okorocha is outrageously mindboggling, atrocious and criminally offensive. Funds belonging to the State were mindlessly spent on irrelevant and poorly executed projects, at unbearably inflated costs.
Projects that add no economic value to the State were promoted and pursued with strange commitment. To many people, what happened during the Okorocha administration was a case of a Governor appropriating state funds at will and executing personal projects that were not captured in the State’s budget.
Okorocha had severally been accused of recklessly misappropriating monies that accrued to the State by embarking on elephant projects, including the so-called 27 general hospitals. The Governor Uzodimma had revealed that the 27 uncompleted buildings across the State cost a mind-blowing 30 billion Naira. That is an average of one billion Naira each. Most of the buildings, if not all, are now abode for reptiles, who found overgrown grasses adorning the environments, a safe haven. Pointedly, there is no medical activities going on in any of the hospitals that cost as much as one billion Naira to erect.
A document that captured the astronomical cost of some of Okorocha’s needless projects executed by Zigrate Construction Company with headquarters at No 5 Ugbelle Street, Ideato South, exposed the criminal intents of the Rescue Mission Government of Okorocha.
The document revealed that the Akachi monument that was destroyed by Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha’s Government took from the coffers of the state a whooping seven hundred million Naira (N700, 000,000) – that is 300 million Naira shy of a billion Naira.
There is nothing to condemn if the money was used to erect a sculpture that would attract tourists and affect positively the State’s internal generated revenue, but everything is wrong for a monument that serves no useful purpose and lacking in value, economically, to cost the State that staggering sum.
This is not conceding that the Akachi tower is worth seven hundred million Naira, anyway. At most, a hundred million Naira would suffice for the elephant project. If Okorocha had used half of the money to offset pensions, many of our aged parents would have better off.
That was not enough insult on Imolites, the document further revealed that Okorocha’s administration appropriated another six hundred million Naira creating the Ministry of Happiness. It is to be noted that it was only in Imo that such useless Ministry existed and was reportedly superintended by Okorocha’s sister. Let it also sink that no new building was erected in the Ministry, rather some old buildings were renovated. If a staggering Six Hundred Million Naira was used for a mere renovation, how much would it had cost to erect new buildings for the ministry of happiness?
Other approvals were: over six hundred and five million Naira for the construction of blocks at the Ministry of Sports; Close to Three Billion Naira for the construction of IMSU campus at Onuimo; Another Six Hundred Million for the construction of Niger Delta office block; close to Four Billion Naira for the construction of Imo State University of Agriculture in Ngor Okpala; Another Six Hundred Million Naira for the construction of Ministry of Agriculture office block; Two Hundred Million Naira for Government House Clinic. To mention but some.
In all these, it is the thought of a poorly constructed police headquarters amounting to almost Ten Billion Naira that is most bizarre, crazy and criminal. Not even the police headquarter in Abuja could cost this astronomical figure. Sadly, the police force in Imo State have refused to operate from the new site, years after it was commissioned, as the building has been divorced of its roof by the wind. One suspects that it might collapse anytime soon.
It was in this State that Okorocha slashed salaries of civil servants to 70%, with the excuse that the Government was going bankrupt. Protests by pensioners became a norm in Okorocha’s administration, as some of our aged parents were owed for five years.
One who was not politically enlightened could buy into Okorocha’s narrative of the State being broke, but considering the countless personal investments from him, his wife, his children, his sisters, in the State, it was easy to fault Okorocha’s audacious faulty claim.
Next time Okorocha shamelessly prides in who he is, anyone close by should tell him that he is seen as the worst Governor Imo has ever produced. Sam Omatseye of The Nation Newspapers succinctly captured who Okorocha is when he described him as a monumental failure.
Hear Omatseye, “Okorocha wants to be a monument, because he is not monumental; if he is monumental, it is that he is a monumental failure”