Okorocha: Learning The Hard Way By Kenneth Jude
……It was a tenure that began with a loud cheer, but quite disappointingly ended with a distressing, if not depressing jeer.
He rode to power on the wings of populism and philanthropy given his years of magnanimous gestures in education and more, even without holding any political office.
And so when he sought to be governor, many concluded he was going to have a smooth, unfettered ride to Douglas House.
He did as predicted and governed for what has rather turned out to be a bittersweet, if not tumultuous eight years as governor.
Today, he is battling for his political health. The oxygen of his political life is bleeding on all pores. Yet he remains his bubbly self. Though some say the external outlook belies the pain, humiliation within, Okorocha, the inventor of the cutting edge phrase, “Iberiberism”, is basking in the euphoria of a recent Federal High Court ruling in Abuja to the effect that he should be given his Certificate of Return by INEC.
While his twilight days as governor witnessed torments and tumults, one thing that cannot be divorced from Okorocha is that he loves the spotlight. It’s no wonder that he steals any opportunity to show himself whether for nobility or notoriety. To him, what matters is that he has bared his mind. He cares not whose ox is gored as he makes his often uncalculated remarks most times with a hint of discomfiting egotism.
Okorocha of 2011 was loved by many. This love did not spring from his antecedents of holding any office. But he earned that massive following by his philanthropic deeds that resided not just within the boundaries of Imo State, but permeated a significant part of the country, especially the northern region. It is no surprise that many called him onye Hausa (Hausa man) when he traded APGA for APC. This made the broom party a hard sell in the state, the southeast region, or so it seemed.
In his heyday as governor, Okorocha built an image that seemed larger-than-life. He saw himself as the best thing to happen to Imo State since creation. We see this when he says his achievements as governor trumps that of all past governors put together. This he says much to the consternation of many who often view this claim as not just being boastful but over estimation of himself and output as governor.
His first term was considerably less stormy but not his second coming. He may have had a rough path to reelection, the truth is that the faith and trust of a good number of Imolites in him was relatively still intact when he first assumed tenancy at Douglas House in 2011.
But Okorocha shot himself in the foot by wanting to be a potentate in the state. He sought to build an empire in Eastern Heartland. His insistence on having his son in-law succeed him was a move that has today left his political life hanging precariously on a thread.
Persuaded to shelve the ill-fated project, Okorocha said in all of Imo State, only his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, is qualified to take over from him. Not a few people viewed this comment as a slight on the collective sensibilities of Imolites.
I recall telling my brother and friend, a staunch man of Okorocha in December of 2018 that Okorocha will not have his way. I did not betray certainty. Pointedly, I maintained that no matter how eminently qualified Nwosu is, people will not toe that line as they’ll see it as not just a third term for Okorocha but the perpetuation of one family in power.
But carried away by what he said was the popularity of Okorocha and his son in-law in the state, he stood his ground. To him, Okorocha was unstoppable in the state. He budged not even when I reminded him of how Okorocha was humiliated in the Ward Congresses where he totally lost out but for the intervention of Adams Oshiomhole. Both men no longer see eye to eye.
The politics of his Certificate of Return which he may now receive, has seen him say at various fora that forces within and outside his party are fighting him. It got to a point he said that what made him leave PDP has visited him ten times over in APC.
But Okorocha should have known better. He did not read the writing on the wall. He would have outsmarted those he brands as traducers by focusing on his senatorial quest and left Imolites choose their governor. But he wanted to kill two birds with a fragile stone. He wanted to climb up with two items firmly in his palms. Of course, that, from time immemorial, has always been a recipe for failure. No prize for guessing; Uche Nwosu lost to Emeka Ihedioha, the green cap man.
One wants to believe that Rochas has learnt some vital lessons following his expected inability to install his successor and the saga that has trailed his Certificate of Return. It’ll be to his own interest to.
Okorocha has always had an eye on the nation’s top seat since 2003. That desire is still intact. And those he said are fighting him know this. They know that his time in the Red Chamber will put him in good frame for the race in 2023 hence the reason they want to clip his wings and menacle his limbs.
If and when he gets what now seems a Holy Grail, his Certificate of Return, Okorocha should be more circumspect, even reserved and be less loquacious so that he can re-worm his way into the hearts of those who hitherto loved him for free.
That his dying days as governor left much to be desired is no news. But he can still reclaim his bruised image if he so desires.
It is worth recalling that while on the top seat, his penchant for littering the state with uncompleted road projects were legendary. He won’t finish one, but start another. And together, both will be abandoned. Citizens bore the brunt with a measure of pretentious equanimity.
He had a chance to finish on a high, but fluffed it. While he’s not totally down and out, to bounce back, methinks he needs to learn how to tight his lip more and open it less.
Kenneth Jude, a Public Affairs Analyst, writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.