Owelle Rochas Has Started Well But He Needs To Run


Despite the gloomy picture of the state treasury he inherited, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the newly minted Governor of Imo State, met on ground, his victory and the subsequent mass approval it has received, will make any other governor green with envy. Not that Imo State has struck yet another tranche of oil blocks, not that the state has struck gold, not that the state has hit a jackpot. But as his victory and the mass approval that has attended it have shown, there is fulfilment in marching with the people.

There is honour and pride in being on the side of the people. There is tremendous uplifting in trudging side by side with the people. Indeed, his victory was a demonstration of the potency of the people against the tyranny of the rich and the powerful and his has shown that stripped of the people factor, power becomes an empty and vacuous burden. With the people, one can do no wrong. He was pitted against the rich and powerful of the state who massed around in different shades but with the people solidly behind him, he was able to secure a deserved triumph. That the people voluntarily fought for and secured Rochas’ victory is an apt demonstration of the suppressed strength of Nigerian democracy and serves as rehabilitative impetus against the impunity and care freeness with which those that govern relate with the people. In short, it is the people that give power its strength, its halo, its energy and its fillip.

I can safely vouch that among those elected governors last April, Rochas has received the most counsels, the most advices, the most shopping lists, the most strings of expectations as well as the most adulations because of the manner of his emergence. In fact, he may have the temptation of thinking he did it by himself or through those that now mill round him. Of course, they did their bits but if he ever knows the role such powerful platforms like saharareporters and its stringers played in his victory, he will see the need to take to advices and counsels that have been pouring in torrents since he came in and make best use of the office for the entire state.

Governor Rochas rode to power on Eagles’ wings. He was driven to Douglas House, Owerri on the backs of the people. Imo people have done their bits and it remains for him to do his. He must hit the ground running and thank God, he has started on delightful notes and one prays this sweetness endure till he rounds of what he terms Rescue Mission in four years time. I listened to his initial state broadcast and it struck deeply on what the people wanted him to do. He has picked the people he wants to help him deliver on his dreams and visions. I know some of the names he had there and don’t know most of the others but no one can quarrel with him on whomsoever he believes will help him transform Imo State. That is his prerogative and he must wield it however he feels it can best help him deliver. But I must counsel him that Imo people are impatient and given the unwieldy expectations they have built on his mandate, he must start yielding results, hard verifiable results to Ndi Imo as soon as possible else the fidelity that drives the present mass reception will wane and the battle song will soon sound. I don’t want that to be his portion so he must work and work and work.

It is heartening to hear that Rochas wants to run a compact and lean government. It is even very gratifying that he had slashed the ubiquitous security vote to fund his pet idea of free compulsory primary and secondary education. It is great to know that he plans to plug wastes and the numerous drain pipes through which government funds are siphoned. With such tight fisted resolves, I am sure that he will do wonders for the parched Imo people who have been denied the fruits of real governance since the glorious Mbakwe days.

Good he has come out to state he will run a fourth tier of governance, a thesis I prescribed long ago and which was widely published. That remains the best way to make governance work for the people and he will see the fruits of such bold concept in a short while. What he needs to do is to audit the recognized leadership of the Town Unions and if possible conduct credible elections as the base of grassroots democracy and have them identify pressing community problems for his government to work on. Good he has promised to review the state of the moribund industrial base Mbakwe established to see to its resuscitation and create jobs for the teeming unemployed population of the state. He should remain on track, follow this outline and measure his success or otherwise not with the satiated bleating of his adulators but on the satiated looks on the faces of Imo people. He must know there are hardly rooms for swindles here!

For him to succeed, he must learn to simplify governance, the needs of the people and the best possible ways to realize them. He should understudy the Peter Obi governance in Anambra and see the great impetus in simplifying governance and the methods to deliver. He should ensure that contracts are not burgeoned out of proportion and must ensure that contract sums match the works done. In short, he must not pander to the Nigerian contract culture whereby contracts are seen as means of settling party space fillers and yeo men. That means he will always be on the field to track and monitor project execution. He should not migrate to utopia and think his commissioners and advisers will do this very important task for him. He has to be firmly on ground, visiting and revisiting project sites, evaluating and re-evaluating contracts to ensure they are timely delivered and of the best quality. He should leverage on the community spirit of the Imo man and see where to partner with the people and the communities in executing critical projects in the various Imo communities. He has enough trust of the people to tap into on this important factor.

Governor Rochas must not seek to build another amorphous caste of rent seekers who go under various funny names as ‘stakeholders’, ‘apex leaders’ and other appellations. These are idle courtiers, fawners free loaders, with shifting interests, who live on handouts from the state and who misrepresent issues about the people at every turn. He must relate directly with the people for it is there the real strength lies. He must not be afraid to go to the people and render his stewardship and must always be ready to be roused to attend to their needs and problems. He should look into tapping on the abundant raw materials in the state to create economic and employment opportunities. Tapping into the palm belt can create a huge industrial base that can power the economy of the state. The state could be made self sufficient in food production if the government has the will.

In some few months’ time, eager and anxious Imolites that savoured Rochas victory will return home for Christmas and other festivities. That is when his examination will begin for they will start judging him from what they see in the state of their roads, public facilities as well as the enhanced state of the urban areas. So he must start opening up the rural areas, fix urban facilities and uplift the infrastructure base of the state now.

All said, Owelle Rochas is on the very portals of history and it will not be long for the people to know where he stands or what he makes of this historic golden opportunity. I bet every Imo man wants him to succeed because his success translates to that of the state and that of the people. He must take the current now that it serves and write his name in gold. I wish him God’s Speed!

•Claver Oparah writes in from Lagos.