When the then governor of Imo State, His Excellency Owelle Dr. Rochas Anayo Okorocha, signified his interest in the nation’s Red Chamber, I knew that the Senate, and in indeed Nigerians, were in for a surprise. For some of us who studied his style of governance, we knew that should the Ogboko born progidy found himself in the Nigerian Senate, the hallowed chamber will not be the same again.
For the starters, Owelle does not believe in the idiosyncracies of the modern democracy. Should he be among the dark googled generals, he could have excelled because autocracy runs in his blood. As governor of Imo State, Owelle not only challenged the status quo, but went ahead to introduce the fourth tier of government known as the Community Government Council, CGC, a radical departure from the norm. Trust Imolites and Nigerians, CGC attracted wide condemnation as some see it as undemocratic, but Owelle sticked to his guns.
Known to detest the bureaucratic nature of the civil service, Okorocha went ahead to give his CGC a full ministry. How he was able to fund his novel idea still baffles Imo people.
Another of Owelle’s weired innovations was the Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment which he allocated to his younger sister, Ogechi Ololo. Till today, this ministry remains the only kind in the country. While many would doubt his free education scheme, many parents and students would swear that they benefitted from the scheme.
These are some of the wonders of Rochas in Imo State. It is therefore not surprising that his recent contribution to issues concerning the expensive nature of Nigeria’s democracy has elicited diverse reactions. Recall that on Thursday, 3rd October, two days after the nation celebrated her political independence, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who is from Orlu Zone, took to the floor of the Senate to introduce what has become a national issue, the reduction of the number of Senators and the Federal House of Representatives members towards reducing the cost of governance. For a Senator who is on his first voyage to the Red Chamber, his contribution attracted both condemnation and commendation.
Excerpts from his speech: “Mr. President of the Senate, distinguished colleagues, let’s tell ourselves the truth, look at the number of House of Representatives members and Senators. ” To me, what is too important that a House Member is doing that a Senator from the same state is not doing? “It is time for us to sacrifice and I want to say that a Senator is enough to represent a state in order to cut cost. We must do sacrifice for the nation.”
Lauretta Onochie, President Muhammadu Buhari social media aide has this to say of Okorocha suggestion: “I never thought that we would hear this on the floor of our National Assembly. In Nigeria. Wow! ” I must applaud Sen. Okorocha for his bravery. I hope he spoke the mind of the majority of our Assembly men and women because he spoke the mind of most Nigerians. God bless Nigeria.” Onochie’s tweet, arguably, the views of the establishment, could further be interpreted as an endorsement of Okorocha’s suggestions.
While we may never know what pushed the former Imo State governor to utter those words, some have called for his head, likening him to a man who on climbing up a tree, decided to remove the ladder so that others could not climb.
This unfortunately is the opinion of his perceived political enemies. Others equally see Okorocha’s speech as an indirect way of courting the executive towards his alleged 2023 presidential ambition. But to others, especially in his home state, it is taking “Iberiberism” to the national level. They wondered why the Senator could not concentrate on raising bills for the good of his Orlu Zone, rather than dissipating energy on an issue that they believe will not see the light of day.
But while we may have our individual views, this is vintage Okorocha. A man who is in a hurry to change things. A man who doesn’t blink when he is out to do things his own way. Whatever we may input Okorocha’s Senate speech, it does not take anything from him that he has spoken his mind. On impulse perhaps. But on a general note, we must remove the messenger from the message. I believe the former governor is sincere about this.
Though stupendously wealthy, by all standards, Okorocha remained only a few that truly feels for the poor of the country. He may not have been liked by his colleagues, or may not have done creditably well in Imo State, still he has this heart of milk that always want the best for people. For now, we have not heard the last of such Okorocha’s controversial outbursts.
As long as he stays in the Senate of the Federal Republic, Okorocha must remain himself: Controversial. So, what we make of his speeches and probably bills, as the Senate President suggested to him, will determine the colour the 9th National Assembly will look like.