Imo 2019: Okorocha’s legacies and APC’s chances

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As political forces re-align ahead of the 2019 election, Imo is one of the states where the opposition, in a bid to oust the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), have been loud and critical. But Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, reports that Governor Rochas Okorocha, who just celebrated his 55th birthday, and the APC believe the party will retain the state because of his performance and populist style.

BY 2019, when the next governorship election will hold in Imo State, Governor RochasOkorocha would have completed his second term in office and as such would not contest for the office. But given the stunning transformational projects he has executedin the South-East state within the last seven years andhis sheer dynamism as a politician, he has become one governor Ndi-Imo will never forget in a hurry.

Besides his achievements in area of infrastructural development,Okorocha would also be remembered as a governor who has never been spared by his opponents. As a result, he has contended with so many controversies and allegations that listeners, who have not visited the state in the last three years to see things themselves, may not believe it when they read of his astounding legacies.

In fact, whenever Okorocha, in his usual jocular manner, says he has done over 1000 projects in Imo State, an outsider, who has heard the many critical views of the governor’s opponents, is most likely to dismiss the claim as a blatant lie of a colourful politician, trying to deceive people with his uncommon aura and oratory.

So, deliberately or coincidentally, the Imo State governor has emerged as one of the most misunderstood and criticized governors of his time.

Perhaps to correct the impression once and for all,Okorocha opened up during his 55th birthday anniversary and made a display of some of the projects he has executed. He told The Nation that one of his faults may be his refusal so far in commissioning or celebrating his projects.

It would be recalled that amidst criticisms earlier in 2016, the governor had said he was focused and could not be distracted.  Between then and now, Okorocha, who was accused of having numerous uncompleted projects, have made unbelievable efforts to further shame his critics. Amongst the over 1000major projects he is proud to bequeath include“the construction of Ochiedike Dialysis Centre, provision of free education from primary to tertiary education, reduction of poverty rate in the state, construction of Imo International Conference Centre (IICC), construction of Heroes Square, the IkembaOjukwu Centre, a brand new Government House, completion of former Ahiajoku Convention Centre, now Imo Trade and Investment Centre and construction of many flyover bridges in Owerri, etc.” Besides these, The Nation observed that Okorocha has embarked on an ambitious and breathtaking beautification of New Owerri Metropolis.

Explaining the likely impact of his legacy projects after his tenure, he said: “you cannot come to Imo State now and say you want to abolish free education from primary to university, they will not accept. I have spoilt Imo people, believe me.

“You cannot come to Imo State and say you want to give them a single lane road when they are now used to eight lane road in the city, they won’t accept it. You cannot come here and tell the children to go to schools where the floors are not tiled, they will not accept because all the schools have been rebuilt.

“You can no longer take them to those ramshackle hospitals, those shanties they called hospitals because I have built 27 to 200 bed general hospitals. You can no longer tell them those stories. All the infrastructures are there.

“And you can no longer tell our workers to dress shabbily; they will not, they will want to dress in their suits and tie and white shirts. So, Imo has changed, believe me.”

Criticisms and allegations

The physical, human and aesthetic changes notwithstanding, Okorochahas been target of ceaseless criticisms and allegations, the latest of which include the demolition of the popular Ekeukwu market, the killing of young Somtochukwu during the demolition exercise and his open opposition of IPOB long before the other South-Eastgovernors outlawed the organisation in the zone. Okorocha, who initially kept quiet overthe allegations, chose his recent birthday anniversary to set the records straight. His explanations:

On Ekeukwu market demolition controversy

“Ekeukwu has been one of the oldest markets from when Owerri was a village. That place was a motor park belonging to the government of Imo State. The structure in question there was a structure put up by the municipal government of Imo State. So, what government has broken down there is its property. But some people have misunderstood the whole exercise.

When I came in as governor, the first thing I told the people was the need to move Ekeukwu because it constituted the biggest problem in this city. The worst crimes in Imo State took place in Ekeukwu; you couldn’t pass Ekeukwu without having any of your property stolen on an hourly basis. Not only that, Ekeukwu produces the unhealthiest atmosphere with waste within that small enclave and it was no longer good for the city. In fact, the law that no market should be four kilometres close to Government House was also in place. That also affected Ekeukwu.

So, everybody knew Ekeukwu was going to move. I have had over 20 town hall meetings with the people on Ekeukwu, but they never believed that any governor would have the political will to move Ekeukwu. In Ekeukwu, we had cases of kidnapping. Behind one of the houses, in the process of the demolition exercise, we discovered a house belonging to Professor Adiele’s uncle; there were six cells. That property is yet to be destroyed.

So, Ekeukwu constituted a major problem, the demolition was a necessity and very important, but nobody believed that any governor could move it. I have done that, and it is in the interest of the people, and I have no personal benefit from this. The place is cleaned up now. The next market I am moving is the Hausa community, and the people are happy.

We have plans for the place; we want the city to breathe.”

On the killing of young Somtochukwu in Ekeukwu

Before we moved in to clear the place, we made it clear that there should be no shoot out. I gave a clear instruction, the Commissioner of Police and Inspector General Police also gave clear instructions. What the police went there with was tear gas in case there was need to use it. Now, when the demolition commenced, we started hearing gun shots.

The cult members, engaged by some of the indigenes, thinking that was the way to fight the last battle, started shooting. But whatever it is, the fact that the boy died during that event, whatever I say here is no excuse but to mourn him and compensate the parents properly. At the heat of the event, the story was that it was government that ordered the police to shoot him.

The people started to mourn. Politicians and leaders turned it to politics and went to the graveyard, with women wearing black. I felt that was over dramatization, so we kept quiet. But now, I have made a public statement that every project around there shall be called Somtochukwu project; even the name, Douglas road will be changed to Somto road. The young man deserved it outside other things we have to do. We have to do that to honour that boy because that is the greatest sacrifice anybody can make for Ekeukwu.”

On his opposition of IPOB’s style

“On the issue of IPOB, whether we want to believe it or not, IPOB is not good for the South-East and it is not the best way for us to complain about marginalisation to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There are better ways; the IPOB way is too primitive. If IPOB must do a thing like that, it should have changed the name and fought the way Ijaw youths fought, Arewa youths fought, and they would have made more impact.

Reacting, Dr. Chukwuemeka Uzoukwu, an APC member in Okigwe, told The Nation, “the governor’s opponents have refused to see anything good in his transformational efforts just because they are interested in taking over Douglas House in 2019, but as you can see, the OwelleOkorocha-led APC government in Imo here has provided so much infrastructural development that only an ingrate will deny them re-election in 2019.”

APC’s chances in 2019

As the various political parties prepare for the next elections in 2019, the opposition parties in the state are poised for a grand battle. “The controversies surrounding Okorocha’s APC government, including the reported disagreement in the party over zoning and over Okorocha’s successor,” according to Chief Uzodinma Ihemere, an All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) member,“will work against APC in 2019.” He said “Okorocha may have embarked on some physical development we can’t deny, but good governance goes beyond that.”

But The Nation gathered that APCwill anchor its campaign for the 2019 elections on the performance of Okorocha’s government. “Our party is proud to say that Okorocha’s visible achievements are reasons enough to ask the people to elect another APC candidate to continue the good work. Every other thing critics are saying today is mere politics. Imo has never seen it this way since the days of Chief SamuelOnunakaMbakwe. Also, no mother or father, who is enjoying free education of his or her children, will risk voting for another party now. So, we are confident,” said Chief Nkemdinma Nwulu in Owerri.

Culled from here

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