Long before he became the governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Anayo Okorocha had attempted to climb the tree of governance from the top. He had, in 2003, when he was barely 41, attempted to contest to become the presidential candidate of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). I recall, as a reporter, how Rochas would ride into the crowded Eagle Square, Abuja, during the ANPP convention in an unusually long white Limousine with a customized registration plate: OWELLE. He loved the glitz and glamour of wealth and power. So he kept craving for power, having got good wealth as an astute business man. His quest for political power became almost like an infection. He literally became desperate and was seeking ways and means to secure it, even if it meant hobnobbing with all the political parties in the country at the time. With no clear leadership credential, not many people reckoned with him. His principal claim to leadership was his Rochas foundation where he offers scholarship to indigent students across the country.
He had to go back to almost the base of the tree, and in May 2011, he got elected as the governor of Imo State.
Aside the staple claim of many politicians, especially governors, of having constructed many roads, built hospitals and provided water etc. to the citizenry, Okorocha’s governorship days are better remembered for the governance oddities. What struck many people most was the moulding of several statues of local and foreign leaders in Owerri at huge cost to the finances of the state at a time many civil servants as well as pensioners and retirees in the state were being owed many months of unpaid salaries. It was a loud query on the question of priority.
The next front page exhibition of the Okorocha governance years was the creation of Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment. It was a ministry meant to generate and spread laughter, according to Okorocha, the whole essence of governance is to make the people happy.
What was more, he appointed his younger sister, Mrs Ogechi Ololo as the supervising Commissioner. Until the Mrs Ololo was appointed commissioner, she had served as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, in charge of Domestic Affairs and Food security, an arm of government that was rumoured to have commanded so much power and influence There is obviously no data to prove that Imo people became happier and more purposeful in life as a result of the creation of that ministry, which has long gone extinct.
If anything, the demolition of Eke-Ukwu market, the same year (2017) he created the Ministry of Happiness, in which some persons were killed by the supervising soldiers, is the memory that remains and haunts many people in the state.
Perhaps, the greatest faux pas of then Gov Okorocha, was in scheming to make his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu to succeed him. Okorocha did everything in and outside the book, to make it work, but it just refused to gel. The party, APC refused to give Uche Nwosu the governorship ticket. But Okorocha was rather desperate. Even when he remained in the party (APC), he got the son-in-law to decamp to Action Alliance (AA), so he could contest the governorship seat. It is no longer news that he (Nwosu) lost to PDP’s candidate, Emeka Ihedioha.
But in a twist of judicial manoeuvre, Hope Uzodinma, of the APC (who came fourth in the number of votes garnered), was eventually pronounced the governor of Imo State, thus sacking Ihedioha, more than one year after he assumed office.
And that began the troubles of Rochas Okorocha. Even when the duo of Okorocha and Uzodinma are from the same APC, the rivalry and raw hatred between them is worse than the one between Iran and Iraq. The spate of violence and unrest in that state may not be unconnected with this unbridled rivalry.
It is remarkable that Okorocha who had also contested to be a presidential candidate in 2015, along with now President Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso etc., eventually struggled to become a senator at the end of his governorship in 2019. His election was nearly cancelled as INEC refused to give him certificate of return, as the Returning officer, Innocent Ibeabuchi, alleged that he declared Okorocha winner of the Imo West senatorial district election, under duress. He alleged that a gun was pointed at his head with a threat to shoot him if he failed to declare Okorocha the winner.
As many things in Nigeria go, that was the end of the story. Okorocha got sworn in as a senator, and that zipped the controversy.
Perhaps in a determination to prove that he is now in charge of Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodinma has not spared any chance to rub in some pepper concentrate into the eyes of Okorocha and his ilk, justifiably or otherwise.
It is remarkable that the Imo State government under Uzodinma has been in a political duel with Okorocha, over the latter’s alleged conversion of many properties of Imo State to personal property. Several vehicles and equipment bought by the Imo State government are said to have been recovered during several raids on Okorocha’s private properties. It is not certain if it is all politics.
Several courts and panels have faulted the ownership claim of Okorocha on several properties and have consequently ordered Okorocha’s forfeiture of the properties. Some of the properties include: Eastern Palm University, Ogboko; Royal Spring Palm Hotels and Apartments; IBC Staff quarters (meant to host Rochas Foundation College); Orlu Co -operative Office (converted to private use and leased to Market Square, Kilmanjaro eatery etc.,) etc. etc.
On one of the cases, last February, Okorocha was arrested when he broke into the premises of Royal Palm estate sealed by the Imo State government. The property was linked to the wife of Rochas Okorocha.
It is remarkable that several landed properties and undeveloped land were seized from Okorocha , as contained in Government White Paper. Did Okorocha go on a property acquisition binge while serving as governor? It is remarkable that his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu was once a commissioner for Lands in the state.
The Imo State government has alleged that the Eastern Palm University was built with Imo State funds and thus cannot be a private property. Okorocha has not quite been loud in explaining these controversies.
Was it right or even expedient for a serving governor to be so deeply involved in private investments in a large scale?
The squabble between Uzodinma and Okorocha may have come to a head last Sunday, when Uche Nwosu, the son in-law of Okorocha was arrested in a gestapo manner that bespeaks of banditry. That he was arrested is not so much an issue. But why break into a church service to arrest somebody who is actually in a Thanksgiving service after the burial of his mother? If the suspect must be arrested, why did the police not wait for the service to end before effecting the arrest?
Breaking into a church was not only raw, inexpedient but also vexatious affront on divinity. Uche Nwosu should be a well-known personae in Imo State. He could have been invited by the Police if there was any urgent accusation. But deciding to violently molest him in the presence of his family and friends in a church auditorium smacks of ill intent to humiliate and maximally embarrass him.
The ultimate target is Okorocha. Uche Nwosu merely suffered a collateral damage.
It is remarkable that Nwosu was arrested and driven to Enugu Airport where a private jet was waiting to fly him to Abuja. What was all that melodrama for? Who paid for the private jet? Certainly not the Nigeria Police.
Even if the said accusation against him was true, why hand-cuff him, strip him of his clothes and photograph him? The intent cannot be noble and altruistic.
The explanation by the Imo State government that anybody can be arrested anywhere does not address the issue.
Nwosu has revealed that the paraphernalia of the vehicles used in the arrest are all from Imo State government House. The Imo State government must come clean on all these accusations. To merely deny the accusations will not suffice. Nigerians can read between the lines.
In all, Rochas Okorocha will realise that the haunt on him is most likely self-induced. Would it be right to infer that his desperation to get his son-in-law to succeed him was so that all these many ignoble acts can be covered up?