In this piece, CHIDIEBERE IWUOHA writes on the former governor of Imo state Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s penchant for the use of the word ‘iberiberism’.
The word “iberibe” in Igbo language simply means foolishness. But the erstwhile governor of Imo state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha in his characteristic manner added “rism” to it to mean the science or state of foolishness.
Throughout his tenure, he used the word to describe those he regarded as foolish people in their ways of life or those doing things that were not in tandem with what he was doing. He referred to his political enemies and those who didn’t like the choice of his son-in-law as governor as those suffering from Iberiberism Chapter 1 vs 1.
He also used the word to describe the actions of the All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshionhole, his former ally, with whom he had exchanged dirty words on several occasions since they started their political quarrels.
Okorocha had told those who cared to know that he was one of those who founded APC even before Oshiomhole joined the party and saw no reason Oshiomhole whose election he sponsored should kick against his move to install his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor. He, therefore, described every move made by Oshiomhole and the APC NWC to stop him as Iberiberism Chapter 1 vs 1.
Okorocha’s regime regarded as Iberiberism
“Iberiberism” later became a commonly used word by some Imo people to match his controversial character decided to call Okorocha iberiberism. So, gradually it became his nickname and his tenure as well.
Okorocha’s 8 year tenure of Iberiberism
Okorocha’s ‘nickname’ was made more popular by his political detractors who had many negative aspects of his administration in mind. So, anytime he said or did anything against the public, you could easily hear “iberiberism” “iberiberism man” “iberiberism government” etc. This, they maintained, until his tenure elapsed on the 29th of May, 2019.
Some of Okorocha’s iberiberism in power
Okorocha’s grip on members of the state assembly stalled the development of the state. Members led by out-gone speaker Acho Ihim danced to the tune of the governor, doing his bidding. He literally pocketed them a situation that it possible for the house to approve four years budget at ago and he signed it twice.
The former speaker, Chief Ben Uwajumogu now senator-elect started this and eventually Ihim himself who played his own ball was compensated with the position of running mate to his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu under Action Alliance (AA) in the last governorship election.
In Okorocha’s first four years, a certain Abortion bill passed into law, which gave young women and women the authority to decide their pregnancies and child births, but when Imolites reacted against it, led by Archbishop Obinna of the Catholic Church, the lawmakers were asked to go back to the drawing board and the law was eventually repealed.
Construction of 27 buildings as General hospitals
He boasted that he would construct 27 general hospitals in the 27 local government areas of the state and equip them, so that healthcare would be affordable and get to the doorsteps of everybody. But eventually, he did not complete anyone. When he was asked, he said government had no business running them which was why he decided to hand some of them over to Army, Navy, Police, Airforce etc. And those whose plots of land were taken to build them have been expressing their dissatisfaction over Okorocha’s attitude. Okorocha handed over the Ogwa general hospital to the Owerri Anglican Diocese, Ohaji general hospital to The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic, Joint Hospital Umunkwo to Isi Mbano Anglican Diocese etc
Demolition of markets
Part of Okorocha’s iberiberism expressed itself in the demolition of markets in the state. He demolished the No 1 market in the state capital, Ekeukwu Owere, an ancestral market of the people of Owerri during which a boy was killed by policemen who came to enforce the demolition order and when they got an injunction, he went ahead to construct a shopping plaza on it.
Before that time, it was rumoured that the place was sold to billionare businessman, Dangote to build his ultra-modern office or factory. Eventually, a shopping plaza was constructed. But as controversy over that raged on, he reverted to a hospital and called it Somto (the boy’s name) Hospital and Diagnostic Centre.
When the Vice President (Yemi Osibanjo) came and commissioned it a few days to the end of his tenure, it was an empty building that was commissioned, with only the outside that was painted. In the building were open stalls which meant that the original plan was shopping plaza and not hospital.
The same thing happened to the site of the demolished New Market turned to Free Mother and Child Care Hospital also on Douglas road. Also painted on the outside and not plastered inside. People wondered why the ex-governor decided to construct many hospitals without completing any of them and successfully invited a pastor, a man of God like Osibanjo to come and commission an empty building, saying that God should have mercy on his people.
Promise and fail governor
Okorocha has gone down history as a “promise and fail governor”. He likes talking and doing little. With his mouth he can pull down mountain but that mountain will never move physically. Most of the contractors he had problems with were the ones he gave contracts orally without documented papers. He would ask them “ can you do this” and when they answer in the affirmative, he would tell them to go ahead and do and they would be happy, thinking they had gotten a good contract.
What about the civil servants and pensioners.
They never knew that the governor would cut their salaries. He had claimed he was the first to pay N18,000, but merely used it as a ploy to sack some civil servants and blamed recession for the action. When Nigeria finally came out from recession, he ignored them until the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) closed down the state through demonstration. Yet the half salaries continued unabated. He also promised to give those who worked with him parting gifts but reminded few days to the end of his tenure, he blamed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for blocking state accounts.
Erection of statues
He went and erected statues of people that did not contribute anything to the development of the state. It is believed that he had business links with some of them like Jacob Zuma of South Africa who was relieved of his presidency over alleged corruption and Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia.
Those statues cost the state millions of dollars, yet civil servants and pensioners were not paid and roads are not motorable. But during the last governorship election, he brought out billions to ensure his son-in-law’s victory.
When Zuma came to Imo state he told Imo people that local goods and products would be transported from Imo state to South Africa and from South Africa back to Imo and nobody remembered to ask him from which international airport would that happen. Streets were also named after Zuma and Johnson with no contributions from them. They got chieftaincy titles, statues and roads without Imo people benefitting from them. Rather, it was Okorocha and the traditional rulers that were rumoured to have collected dollars from them and documents signed for Okorocha’s Rochas Foundation for the upkeep of his students.
All Okorocha’s projects from his Urban Renewal projects to block works are all substandard. None lasted for six months or one year. Any time it rains, the roads become mini rivers. Though he promised many times that he would complete all projects but during the last election he told Imo people to vote for his son-in-law because he was the only person capable of continuing from where he stopped.
Today, there are several abandoned projects littered all over the place.
Again, he forcefully took over many plots of land belonging to government and individuals, sold few to some people and many others to himself. With Imo money, he set up Imo University at Ogboko, his home town. When Imo people told him that there was no need for a campus at his home town since three campuses at Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu were already in existence and were the original plan by the founding fathers, he changed the name to Imo European University still in Ogboko and later Eastern Palm University.
In fact, he sought to claim over 90 percent private ownership even while other higher institutions in the state were poorly funded. His plan, according to people, was to use Imo money to build a university in his own town, whether the ones in the state were well funded or not, as evidence that he is founder/supporter of free education.