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Talking of jokers, I was not in the least amused with Okorocha’s cheeky use of his handshake photo opportunity with President Barack Obama during Buhari’s visit to the White House on posters across the state. That act was low life at its lowliest ebb. My question is: what purpose does using that photo on those posters serve as far as the well-being of the people of Imo state is concerned…?

I hate ethnic politics. Worse than that is my disdain for the do-or-die politics at the state and grassroots levels in Nigeria. It is often cut-throat. The casualty rate is staggering. And the rate of attrition is high. The players remind me of author Larry Hardiman’s famous quote: “The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’, meaning ‘many’, and word ‘ticks’ meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’.”

On that dour note, let me take you on a virtual trip to one of the South-Eastern states of Nigeria, Imo, which by accident of birth happens to be the state to which I trace my ancestry. Created in 1976, it has remained under-achieving. And dominated by blood-sucking parasites. As a result, Imo State has had the singular misfortune of being governed by some of the most uncharitable elements in Nigeria’s political history, barring the four-year tenure of Samuel Mbakwe. After its pillage in the hands of various military regimes, Imo State most likely suffered some of its worst nightmares in the hands of its own indigenes who talk a good game, and have practically done nothing to better the fortunes of their people.

What you have had in Imo State these years have been a flight of some of its best brains and the unfortunate enthronement of an era of mediocrity and charlatanism. And anyone who dared raise a voice of dissent has been promptly squelched, be they clergy, media or persons of conscience. As a matter of fact, there seems to be an unwritten pact between these four strange characters – Achike Udenwa, Ikedi Ohakim, Ifeanyi Ararume and of course, the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha calculated to run out of town anyone who has the effrontery to challenge the stranglehold which these fellows have on life in Imo State for several years now.

To worsen matters, I believe that the new opposition party, the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) insulted the collective intelligence of the people of Imo State when, in its quest to wrest power from the ruling party in the last gubernatorial elections, it threw up another opportunist from the state in the person of Emeka Ihedioha to run on its platform. If he had won, Imo State would have again been set further back, as Ihedioha’s record in politics rivals those before him who have screwed the state royally, and almost to the point of death. And let me say that if this is how both parties regard Imo State, and that what Imo is now bequeathed in terms of quality of leadership is what it deserves, then the state is really in big trouble. With the type of characters who have been allowed to dominate the political space of the state thus far, I must say that the rest of the federation must have a very unfair opinion of Imo State.

Under him, Udenwa’s eight-year reign made little or no impact on the lives of the citizens of the state. All we know of Udenwa is that he exited the position of Governor a wealthy “Big man”. A very colourless politician, I believe that Udenwa used up all of his eight year in office to prove that he had no vision for Imo State. A non-performer, he actually left the state worse than he met it.

Then enter Ikedi Ohakim, the smooth-talking confidence artist whose reputation preceded him. He is alleged to have parlayed the meager resources of the state to enrich himself. Prior to life in office, he was almost a permanent fixture in the political permutations of the state. Those who know him well allege that all who have dared cross his path will tell you that this kid can be deadly in his machinations. And it had to take the virulence of the treacherous plot of the trio of Udenwa, Ararume and Okorocha to make him a one-term governor. Before then, Ohakim is said to have manipulated all the apparatus of state to corner for himself, his family and cohorts a sizable stash of assets around the world. A survivalist, Ohakim is said to have waltzed his way into the bosom of federal officials including sitting presidents as to inoculate himself against any future legal reprisal. Anyway, as providence would have it, and as times have changed, Ohakim is now under surveillance and indictment for corruption by federal authorities. To insiders, the scoop is that this kid would have bankrupted Imo state if he was allowed another four-year term.

Among these four pranksters, Ifeanyi Ararume turned out to be the most unfortunate of the lot in this blood-sucking gambit. Well-known for his ruthlessness, brutality and vaulting ambition, the road to Douglas House, the state’s seat of power, has however continuously eluded him. In and out of alliances with his fellow band of mischief makers, Ararume was willing to pay any price to become the Governor of Imo State! In the process, we are told of several unprintable stuff that were hatched to the consternation of the ordinary citizens of the state. Politically speaking, all Ararume wanted was his own piece of the action, a desire that had nothing whatsoever to do with the welfare of the people.

To complete this dishonourable roll is no other than the incumbent, Governor Rochas Okorocha. This is a man whose political antecedents are shrouded in myths, truths and half-truths. It is common knowledge that his ascendancy to the position of governor was a work of perfidy. As a pay-back, the duo of Ararume and Udenwa, who would have nothing to do with an Ohakim quest for a second term, plotted his down fall. A case of a-friend-of-an-enemy-is-an-enemy, they connived to outwit the then Governor Ohakim, hence the opportunity that threw up Okorocha as the new helmsman of this distressed Nigerian state.

As a person with his roots in Imo State, I shudder every time I remind myself that this is the same state that produced the likes of Mbonu Ojikes, the Nzimiros, the Oputas, the Echeruos, the Reuben Uzomas, the Mbadiwes, the Nwogas, among many such other eminent Nigerians, and I weep to imagine that the destiny of Imo State had been in the hands of these jokers these many years.

To date, evidence abound to show up Okorocha as having performed poorly. Given to superfluity of speech, I believe that columnist, Lyn Barber had him in mind when she wrote: “He talks and talks and says nothing.” Okorocha’s defence against charges of graft has always been that he was already a rich man long before aspiring to political office. Crap. As a person, I think Okorocha could have had a better career as a Nollywood actor than as a political leader.

Apart from the state capital, Owerri, where he and his government have put up all sorts of cosmetic projects, a few miles drive from Owerri metropolis towards the countryside cuts depressing sights. And for a man who claims to be a philanthropist, Okorocha’s record stinks as he is known to be one of the many Nigerian governors who have habitually owed salaries to hapless workers, and who has for months withheld entitlements of aging pensioners.

In what I consider a classic case of disingenuousness, Rochas in a bid to deflect growing criticisms of his government’s inability to pay what it owes had the audacity to tell the world on September 18, that he had just uncovered what he described as “mind-boggling corrupt practices being perpetrated by the state’s civil servants,” running into hundreds of millions of naira. And that he was threatening to slice through the service with a long knife. Can this guy be serious! Did he just wake up to discover that a scam of that magnitude has been going-on on his watch?

As far as his records go, Okorocha is not a man I will care to trust anytime of the day. As a matter of fact, I am of the considered opinion that people such as Rochas Okorocha are part of the problems of Nigeria. And if President Buhari is not already aware, Governor Rochas Okorocha must not be trusted. And let me remind the President that he (Rochas) does not speak for the generality of the people of Imo state. A vote for Okorocha in the last two elections was simply a vote against PDP. Period.

As a person with his roots in Imo State, I shudder every time I remind myself that this is the same state that produced the likes of Mbonu Ojikes, the Nzimiros, the Oputas, the Echeruos, the Reuben Uzomas, the Mbadiwes, the Nwogas, among many such other eminent Nigerians, and I weep to imagine that the destiny of Imo State had been in the hands of these jokers these many years.

Talking of jokers, I was not in the least amused with Okorocha’s cheeky use of his handshake photo opportunity with President Barack Obama during Buhari’s visit to the White House on posters across the state. That act was low life at its lowliest ebb. My question is: what purpose does using that photo on those posters serve as far as the well-being of the people of Imo state is concerned – some of who tonight will be going to bed hungry, and others who will be doomed to death in hospitals run by Okorocha that are without medications and other life-saving equipment, while His Excellency hauls his large frame (with its over-sized midsection) around the world in private jets?

As I pondered these issues and such others, I cannot but feel a sympatico for the good people of Imo state and the unfortunate hands that fate has dealt them these years.

This whole episode with Imo state is almost as horrifying as having a bad dream, and hoping it is not reality. However, for Imo state, this is its reality for now, until someone rises up. And does something about it.

That is my story. I stand by it.

Charles Anyiam is Editor-In-Chief, The African Times-USA.