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The rift between Senator Rochas Okorocha and the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma has continued to deepen following the recent events between the duo in Imo State. The weekend saw an alteracation between the duo which has been a long time coming considering the amount of bad blood each of them have developed for each other in the past one year.
The Imo State Government had sealed off a property situated along Akachi road, Owerri which allegedly belonged to Rochas Okorocha’s wife. Enyinnaya Onuegbu, the commissioner for lands, had on Friday led a team of government officials and police officers to seal the property.
In response, Okorocha had led his entourage to unseal the property on Sunday. The former governor personally drove away a pick-up truck that was used to block the entrance of the access gate. Subsequently, he marched into the premises with his entourage in tow. Not long after forcefully gaining access into the property, masked police operatives arrived to escort him away.
This move by the Governor Hope Uzodinma-led government was received with mixed feelings with some praising the Governor’s brave actions while others lambasted the Governor and his aides who they accused of humiliating the former Governor and the serving senator in an unwarranted show of power. But admist all these, one thing is very clear; Governor Hope Uzodinma and Senator Rochas Okorocha are both birds of the same feathers when it comes to terrible leadership and embezzlement, and pilfering of public funds for personal gains although Senator Rochas Okorocha seems to hold a higher pedigree in this class of thievery and political jobbery. His eight years in office saw him embezzling Imo State’s funds in a very massive, brazen way and he did this with the help of his aides who were known for their very sticky fingers and ‘magical disappearing acts’ when it came to Internally Generated Revenues and local fund renumerations.
Orlu zone – Imo West Senatorial Zone – is a very significant part of Imo State. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the zone has held power almost exclusively, starting from Chief Achike Udenwa who became governor in 1999, serving until 2007 when he was replaced by Ikedi Ohakim from Okigwe zone. Ohakim was subsequently replaced after four years in office, by another Orlu son in Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who riding on the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), beat then incumbent Ohakim of the People’s Democratic (PDP) in 2011. Ohakim who though performed relatively well, anchoring his administration on Environmental Health Programmes, through which he maintained clean environment in the state, as well as build a number of projects such, the Ahiajoku Conference Centre, Yaradua Drive in New Owerri, Ngor-Okpala-Eche and Dikenafai-Osina roads, was undone by his perceived arrogance, notably the allegation, which ultimately proved false, that he slapped a Catholic priest, in a predominantly Catholic state. Okorocha, his successor placed much premium on a controversial Free Education Policy.
In May, 2011, Owelle Rochas Okorocha took power from Ikedi Ohakim as Governor of Imo State. There was high hope by the masses that Okorocha’s rule will bring an end to mass poverty, worsening living conditions, mass unemployment, suppression of democratic rights, massive corruption, and insecurity of lives and property. But more than eight years after his reign, the high expectations of Imolites for real positive change in their lives have been shattered. Not only has there been no substantial improvement in the lives of the Imo working masses, in some respect the situation has become worse. Thousands of Ndi-Imo still live without access to good food, housing, good roads, water, electricity and healthcare while Okorocha and his men are galivanting all over the place, throwing their ill-gotten wealth around without a single care in the world. It has been estimated that what he stole from Imo State in those eight years (from various sources like the Oil producing state renumerations, Federal Government Budget allocations, IGR, Taxes and other loans) can never be paralleled by any other Governor in Nigeria.
He embezzled in trillions of naira and hundreds of millions of dollars. There was no week in Imo State that funds were not ‘misplaced’ or re-directed into other personal unknown accounts. He created useless ministries like the very controversial ministry of happiness and other unnecessary agencies which he further used to pilfer funds which were meant for the betterment of the state. He also converted lands and personal homes belonging to Imo State indigenes to his own personal businesses which bore different fronts to avoid detection but he still made it very clear that the establishments were under the protection of the Imo State Government.
Upon completing eight years in 2019, having in 2013, pulled away from APGA to join the emergent All Progressive Congress (APC), plotted to install his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, yet another Orlu son, but lost to Honourable Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP who was declared winner of the March 2019 governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and subsequently sworn in as governor on May 29, the same year. But seven months into his tenure, the Supreme Court January 14, 2020, sacked him as governor, in a judgment that caused national outrage, and was particularly, for many, a sad day for Imo.
In Orlu, the reaction to judgment was however, mixed. While it was generally accepted that an injustice had been done to Ihedioha, the first governor of the state from Owerri zone, there was also a feeling that another Orlu son becoming governor was welcome. Although past governors from the zone had done little for it by way of infrastructural development.
Okorocha had notably constructed the largely narrow road from Anara Junction, off Okigwe junction, through Orlu town to Owerri, the state capital, which helped to win him admirers for a period. But the road was poorly built, and lasted only a few months before starting to peel off. It’s fate also coincided with that of Okorocha, who was welcomed as governor with fanfare, only to see the support quickly dissipate. He was accused of building substandard projects, and of owing workers and pensioners for many months. But what ultimately affected his popular support, was his decision to abandon APGA for the APC.
When Uzodinma was sworn in as governor on January 15, the generality of Imo people who had endured eight years of what was generally considered uninspiring leadership under Okorocha, did not know exactly what to expect from a candidate who had only managed 4th position in the election results declared by INEC.
Ihedioha who had emerged winner of the governorship polls, had started well, and the people had reasons to be hopeful. Unlike Okorocha, he awarded road and sundry contracts to notable construction companies, and much needed construction had begun in earnest in various parts of the state in desperate need of good roads. And for the seven months he occupied the Douglas House, an air of satisfaction pervaded the Eastern Heartland. That was before the Supreme Court put paid to the trajectory, and ushered the former Imo West Senator as the next governor. To Okorocha’s credit, however, he transformed the capital city of Owerri into a modern city. He expanded the roads, built roundabouts and sundry infrastructure. But ultimately lost the plot by doing substandard projects across the state.
Uzodinma’s government was welcomed, at best, with apathy, and at worst with simmering anger. Coming at a time the people had only recently revelled in their defeat of Okorocha and his party, the APC, the last thing they wanted was another APC government, much worse, one that emerge under upsetting circumstances.
The new governor was soon nicknamed Supreme Court governor. When he visited Mmahu in Ohaji Egbema Local Government Area of the state on condolence to families of some victims who lost their lives during a truck crash two months into his administration in May, his vehicle was pelted with stones by youths chanting ‘Onye Oshi Votes’ (one who steals votes).
It was obvious that he had his work cut out of him. He had to impress with his performance to be accepted. Ihedioha had laid the groundwork, adhering to popular demands from the masses. Many reasoned that the Uzodinma administration, in the spirit of continuity would continue with what was on ground.
To his credit, Uzodinma took steps in that direction, announcing that he would continue with the project of his immediate predecessor, because according to him, government is a continuum. And in what seemed like a fulfilment of that promise, contractors mobilized by Ihedioha were allowed to continue on for a period. But soon the caterpillars were gone, and with it, many say, their expectations of the new governor.
Governor Hope Uzodinma’s tenure has not been helping matters for Imolites till date. The anti-poor policies of sales of Imo public assets, commercialisation of health, housing and other social services, and sack of workers in Imo State have made more and more Imolites poorer and the rich minority richer. Corruption among the elite has not only remained, it has become more sophisticated.
Imo State today has become one of the most unequal societies in the world, with the richest 20% of Imolites getting 55.7% of the state’s total income while the poorest 20% are left to struggle for just 4.4%. Currently Imo faces gargantuan problems in all areas of socio-economic and political endeavours. The State has further nosedived under the Governor Hope Uzodinma’s government, lower than any other time since 1999. In every area you look at the only conclusion you will come to is that the Governor Hope Uzodinma’s government has failed Imo people resoundingly.
Mind you, the analysis that Governor Hope Uzodinma has failed Imo State is not an isolated opinion. Indeed this is the opinion of the mass majority of Imolites. According to independent opinion polls which have been conducted since last year, 76% of Imolites have assessed Hope Uzodinma’s performance in Imo as very bad; but only 19% assessed his performance as very well and fairly well. In January, 2021 another independent opinion poll was conducted and 80% of Imolites think the present Governor Hope Uzodinma’s government has performed very badly in improving the living standard of the poor while only 15% think he is doing very well in improving the living standard of the poor.
The most serious aspect of Imo’s problems is the poor and hopeless condition of the youths. Today unemployment has become a permanent feature of the life of Imo youth. Governor Hope Uzodinma has failed to offer Imo youths a real future. He has sacked nearly 10,000 young Imolites from the civil service from 2020 to 2021. The 10,000 sacked youths are suffering today.
Comparing Bonny Island, a wonderful oil producing town in Rivers State to Egbema, a fellow oil producing town in Imo State is like comparing USA’s New York City to Nigeria’s Benue State.
Power supply is non-existent in the 13 Egbema towns. Since Governor Hope Uzodinma came into power in 2020, the people of Egbema have not seen electricity. Yet on monthly basis 13 percent oil derivation fund is paid to Imo State for the development of the oil producing areas in Imo. Out of this 13 percent oil derivation found 40 percent is meant for ISOPADEC, the commission set up to develop Imo oil areas. Where are the monies? From May 2020 to December 2013 Imo state received an estimated ₦26,613,768,782.98 (twenty-six billion, six hundred and thirteen million seven hundred and sixty eight thousand seven hundred and eighty naira ninety eight kobo) as 13 percent oil derivation funds for development of the oil communities in Imo State.
Where are the monies? The monies have developed wings. It is so sad to note that leaders from Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta where Imo oil money comes from are not speaking about the comatose ISOPADEC. Schools, water, road and hospital rehabilitation in Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta which form part of the duties of ISOPADEC remain in their same dilapiladated state and the political class from the oil area are not speaking about the development.
Okorocha and his ‘unassuming stooge’ Governor Hope Uzodinma are both thieves and pilfering criminals. It is only sad that Governor Hope Uzodinma’s fake vendetta against his ‘role model in thievery’ is just to show his enemies that he has some power in his swing and he is ready to come down hard on anyone who acts as an opposition to his Government. Senator Rochas Okorocha on his part should understand that he assumed the role of the proverbial hunter who carried an elephant and still greedily tried to use his feet to pick up small ants on his way home. Knowing the kind of rugged and crafty politician he is, Okorocha would want to fight back at the perceived humiliation which has been meted out to him by the sitting Governor. Come what may, the war between the two elephants has already intensified and sadly, it is the Imolites who would bear the brunt of this vendetta.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK