Like in 2011, Imo, my dear state is once again, thrown into a period of suspended anxiety and heightened anticipation. Like it happened four years ago, the victory of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the loved and bonhomie governor of Imo State is put on hold again until INEC concludes a make-up poll in a smattering of polling units in 23 local councils in the state.
For Imo people, it is a replay of the tense and tacky moments four years ago when a mixture of brash political calculations and desperate maneuvering arrested the cruising victory of Okorocha and nearly set the state on fire as anxious citizens felt it was a clear case of trying to swing the state to the losing party in power in the state at that time. Like it was then, the people of Imo State are reading similar scenarios to the sudden halt of the overwhelming victory Rochas is enjoying in this year's governorship election.
Although the scenarios look similar but they are different. In 2011, Rochas was running against an incumbent that threw everything in the mill to remain in power but this year, Rochas is an incumbent with proven record of stellar performance while his main opponent is resting his political permutation on the canons of a crumbling political empire that boasts of holding power without appropriate responsibility for the past sixteen years. Unlike in 2011 when Rochas aspired as a private citizen challenging an incumbent, today he is a popular sitting governor that has worked real hard to earn the support and confidence of the masses. Unlike in 2011 when Rochas was enjoying a slight electoral advantage over the incumbent before his victory was arrested, today he is enjoying a wide advantage, with a whopping vote count and winning twenty out if the twenty seven local councils.
Even as these two scenarios are different, Imo people still don't understand why elections in the state will always be ran to a diktat thereby subjecting the people to pangs of anxiety and feeding a huge conspiracy theory complex that serves no one any good. By the time INEC declared Imo elections inconclusive, many media organisations and election monitors had already called the election for Rochas based on figures obtained from the field. Most people feel INEC was wrong to halt the victory dance of Rochas and his APC because there is a feeling writ large that the arithmetic that produced the diktat were flawed. One reason for this is the supposition that polls that were marred with irregularities deserve to be out rightly cancelled and not for a re-run. Again, there is a position that INEC calculated its figures on how many people that would vote on the make-up poll on the number of registered voters in the said polling units and not on the actual figures that collected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) as these remain the only voters that can vote in the supplementary election.
But that said, and as revealed by the results of the Imo election, Rochas and the APC only had their victory arrested and not truncated. They had their victory dance temporarily suspended. In fact, Rochas aptly captured it when he told Channels Television that the postponement of a burial does not mean that the burial will not hold. This feeling of certainty and confidence in the eventual victory of Okorocha is the reason why Imo people have not risen with the same violent revolt that marked the 2011 arrest of an Okorocha victory. Imo people know every facts of the present election and even as they have deep reservations about the kind of permutation that led to the present impasse, they are sure the end process will not truncate their well-expressed support for Rochas and the APC so they are ready to patiently wait out and see the logical conclusion of the process.
It is not difficult however, to know why Rochas recorded the kind of comprehensive victory he got in the 2015 governorship election. Imo people know that Rochas has done tremendously well while his main challengers merely based their challenge on mere appeal to narrow clannish sentiments. Rochas' impactful touch resounds on every facet of governance for the four glorious years he had been in charge of the affairs of the state. He has planted a revolutionary free education policy that is galvanizing the state to an enviable consolidation of its position as the most educationally advanced state in Nigeria. He has equally complimented this with massive rehabilitation of the decadent school structures in the state with the building of 305 modern schools in the state, provision of free books, desks, uniforms, sandals and other accoutrements to school pupils in the state. His rehabilitation of secondary schools in the state has just started with the total reconstruction of such schools as GTC Owerri, Ikenegbu Secondary School, Akwakuma Secondary School, Emmanuel College among other secondary schools in the state. What is on ground in these aforementioned schools can compete with what obtains in any state tertiary institution in Nigeria today. Rochas has laid the foundation stone and indeed kick-started the construction of Imo State University permanent campus in Uvuru Mbaise and has increased the subventions to the university as well as carried out a comprehensive rehabilitation of the present campus on the university in Owerri.
The Rochas government has turned the dreary state of infrastructures in Imo State to the better through massive construction of roads in all nooks and crannies of the state, massive construction of public buildings and erecting new institutions as never seen before in the history of the state. Rochas has turned the two cities of Orlu and Okigwe into modern cities with all necessary urban facilities and furniture intact. Owerri has been expanded beyond its limited realms with massive construction of roads, bridges and buildings that accentuate the important status of Owerri as a modern state capital. Government has been taken down the grassroots with the formation and indeed the consolidation of a fourth-tier government known as Community Governance Council governments in the over 600 autonomous communities in the state. The deft way and manner Rochas settled the many rancorous Ezeship problems in the communities has endeared him to the masses and instituted a regime of peace and harmony in many hitherto combustive communities in the state.
The Rochas government had taken a very bold move towards reviving the moribund industrial sector of the state with the reviving of the Standard Shoe Industry in Owerri, Adapalm and the Avutu Poultry. The revival of the a Resin and Paints Industry in Aboh Mbaise is well on the cards as Owelle Rochas has promised to bring that industry back to life. Modern markets and massive market stalls are being constructed all over Imo State, as never seen before. The expansive Imo Rescue Market in Obowo constructed in less than one year by the Rochas regime, is fast rising to the status of one of the biggest markets in South East and has opened a brand new urban center at the border community of Obowo.
Rochas has opened real employment vistas for the thousands of jobless IMO youths in his Youth-Must-Work programme. He has constructed twenty seven gigantic modern hospitals in the twenty seven local councils in Imo State in a bid to modernise and revolutionize the crumbling health sector in the state. The Rochas government has instituted a comprehensive security system under the Imo Security Network which targets the use of community intelligence to tackle crime in the state. This has led to the arrest of the serious security crisis that endured before the coming of Rochas in 2011. Owelle Rochas Okorocha kick-started a silent agricultural revolution with his Ikuola Nkwu ( Have You Planted Palm Seedlings?) scheme. This targets the distribution of millions of improved oil palm seedlings to Imo communities and citizens for planting. The fruits of this revolution will germinate in a few years time.
No less important is the political vision of Okorocha, which is manifesting in the pan-country victory of his APC in the present elections. History will capture Rochas as the Igboman who saw tomorrow when his kinsmen were wallowing in self-created political myopia. It is on record that Rochas tapped into the APC dream from the start and has had his voice strained appealing to his Igbo brethren to key into the emerging political calculation which is clearly manifesting today with the total dominance APC is having across the country. For these, he was called names and spatted on but he has been proved so right today that Igbos do not know what hit them as the results of the 2015 elections come in. Igbos are seeing in Rochas a formidable and far-sighted political visionary that needs support to take Ndigbo to newer political heights after the disastrous sixteen years outing with PDP.
These, among a litany of unstated achievements, were the elixirs that entrapped Imo people to go wherever Rochas goes. His connection with the ordinary people who see him as a folk hero is legendary and this was cemented by the people-oriented governance he has been running in the state. These are the reasons why the Imo people rightly voted en mass for Rochas and APC. It was so pitiable that after a desperate effort to rubbish and deny the monumental achievements of Okorocha, the PDP resorted to a wild, spurious and infantile claim that the many projects of the Okorocha government were done by the PDP federal government. These were the same projects that they had earlier denied as either not existing or were fake! It was possible, with the benefits of the election results, that the freeloading locusts in PDP succeeded in duping only themselves with those lies as Imo people rightly showed through their votes.
All said, Imo people being educated and politically aware, disregarded the antics of a PDP that laid the state prostrate for twelve years. They saw through the intrigues the PDP made the cornerstone of their campaign and on Election Day, the votes poured in for Rochas and his APC. As the counts were taken, he nicked victory in 20 local councils out of 27 and a vote advantage of 79,000 which was enough to give him his deserved victory before INEC came with its arithmetic. But Imo people are waiting patiently. Their victory guns have been loaded. Their victory parties are set. Their victory drinks have been chilled. They are waiting for INEC to lift the needless embargo it had placed on their celebration because they know that everything points to their clearly expressed choice for Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his APC.
Peter Claver Oparah
Email: [email protected]