The Danger of Expired Politicians in the Public Space: The Case Against “Rochas Okorocha” – By Charles Em
If there’s any group of politicians President Buhari should keep a profound distance from, if he wants to leave a legacy devoid of outright thievery in Nigeria, that list should squarely include Mr. Rochas Okorocha.
Various sources say Rochas got his material start via contracts with the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). Some say Rochas and his wife started a commercial school in Jos, and eventually got hold of some donations from charitable organizations, from where he eventually opened his Rochas Foundation schools, which is indeed a credit to Rochas.
From Rochas Foundation schools, Rochas became an aggressive Real Estate investor in Jos and other places, leveraging massive questionable bank loans until he landed into politics, and eventually in the Imo Government House, having convinced Imo Citizens that he was their political messiah.
Rochas as Emperor of Imo
As it is commonly said, half-education is dangerous. Half-education robs people of discipline in matters of weighty importance, such as governance and public service. Half-education gives people a false sense of knowledge, and replaces knowledge with profound mediocrity, which makes the subject to consider other more knowledgeable and educated people as threats, rather than as assets whose ideas can be tapped for progress. Rochas Okorocha is such a man.
That Rochas could mount a podium and speak decent grammar did not mean he actually underwent the discipline of a higher-institution. In all his braggadocio, there were no classmates to attest to Rochas sitting through any higher-institution in Nigeria or elsewhere.
To say that Rochas Okorocha is a greedy and questionable character, based on his antecedents in Imo State, is an understatement. As governor of Imo State, Rochas left the Government House in Owerri, and resided in a palatial private palace he built on the outskirts of the State capital, in a place called Speibart, from where he presided as Emperor of Imo State.
Rochas had zero respect for the citizens of Imo, including official state institutions like the Government House; the state Judiciary; or even Municipal Planning Codes. He considered the Governors Lodge below his pedigree, and thus he presided over Imo not from the Government House, but from the palace he built at Speibart.
Most of Rochas’s Commissioners and members of the state House of Assembly became Houseboys to Rochas; he had no respect for them either. Photos frequently circulated, of Members of the State House of Assembly kneeling down and prostrating to Emperor Rochas at Speibart, something alien to the culture of the region.
Rochas’s Speibart mansion is rivaled in the entire Africa, only by President Mobutu Sese Seko’s private palace in Mobutu’s hometown Gbadolite, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Mobutu spent a good chunk of his presidency at Gbadolite (photos of Mobutu’s Gbadolite mansion are freely available via Google). However today, the estate is now inhabited by snakes and lizards, because Mobutu’s offspring cannot even maintain the property.
Rochas and His Loot
However, Rocha’s Speibart mansion and the estate it sits on, is actually vaster than Mobutu’s scandalously expansive mansion and estate, as “president” of one of the wealthiest countries in Africa, the DRC.
Rochas mansion and estate, was expanded at a period when he refused to pay Imo workers full salaries and pensions, during the 8 years he was in power in Imo state. The Estate is complete with a ranch, a zoo filled with exotic horses and animals, and several gigantic structures worthy of a presidential retreat in a wealthy sheikdom. The rest of Imo wallowed in poverty.
In-fact, according to media reports, President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to Owerri, exclaimed: “Kai, you be thief” upon sighting Rochas’ opulent estate, which Buhari’s delegation initially thought was the Government House. Further, according to media reports, former president Olusegun Obasanjo was also on record as stating that Imo had “removed a smaller thief and elected a bigger thief” when Ohakim was defeated by Rochas in 2011. The naiveté of Imolites at the time Rochas was elected is a subject for another day.
How Rochas Mortgaged the Future of Imo Citizens yet Unborn
No sooner had Rochas settled into office, than the plunder of Imo State began in earnest. Federal Allocations to Imo, fiam, Excess crude payoff, fiam, Paris Club refund, fiam, pensions for Imo retirees, fiam, Contractors payments, fiam, revolving loans in the billions of Naira, fiam.
According to preliminary data available from the transition office in Imo State, public funds in Imo under Rochas cannot be accounted for to this day. It is being estimated that it might take Imo citizens the next 75-100 years, to pay-off debts by the Rochas administration. Meanwhile, Rochas got stupendously richer as the state got poorer.
Soon after, Rochas started a land grab in Owerri Municipal area, akin only to the European land grab in Africa, after the Berlin Conference of 1884. The Owerri land grab was so massive that the women of Imo State confronted Rochas and stripped naked for him, in a symbolic “African Woman’s curse”. Rochas was forced to back down on the massive appropriation of public and private property in Imo State after the citizen’s outcry.
We suspect that the next Imo State government, utilizing its powers of eminent domain, may be revoking and recovering some properties from Rochas, his wife, children, son’s in law, brothers and sisters, over the foreseeable future.
Rochas and the 2019 Electoral Heist
Nigerians in 2019 heard about how a returning officer was forced to announce under duress, that Rochas won the Imo West senatorial zone election, thereby causing INEC to suspend issuing Rochas a Certificate of Return. However, that was not the first time Rochas has played that game.
In the 2015 elections, it was also reported that a Returning Officer in the Ohaji-Egbema-Oguta area, was also forced under gunpoint, to declare that Rochas won in her polling area in order to win his second term as Imo Governor.
The Handover That Did Not Happen
True to type, May 29 2019 came to be, but Rochas was nowhere to be seen. There were no handover notes, there was no meeting with the incoming governor, there was no formal accounting of state assets and financial resources, nothing! The monies Rochas casually remarked that he left in Imo coffers are probably the remnant of the funds EFCC blocked from his grip during the last election.
Rochas vanished from Government House the same way he came, like an evil enigma, visited on the people of Imo. We know the people of Imo are yet to comprehend the extent of the damage Rochas has created in Imo, Nigerians should watch-out as things unfold further.
Pursuant to the above vastly abridged account, could Nigerians truly remotely fathom Rochas Okorocha being given the keys to Aso Rock, and the national treasury in 2023? As naïve as Nigerians appear to be, we think the idea of Rochas in a national role would repulse all Nigerians. As public watchdogs, we will continue to visit these weighty matters for the next few years until 2023.
Authored by New-breed Political Analysts: Charles Adeyinka, Nwankpa Nwakanma, and Usman Adamu
Email: [email protected]