In the year 2011, when Imo State Governor Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha began his Rescue Mission campaign for the governorship position of the State, he gave the people a message of hope that Imo must be better. It became both a message and a promise. The people believed both the message and the messenger because of the impeccable track record of the messenger in service to God and humanity.
The present political dispensation under Governor Okorocha has spent six years on the saddle with less than two years to go. Considering the time spent, with little time left, it becomes imperative to cross examine and analyze if Imo must be better is a mere mantra, slogan, mandate or a promise made and fulfilled. A cross view of the output of his impact in the lives of the masses particularly the common man is also necessary.
For a fact, before Okorocha came onboard, there were rampant cases of kidnapping which observers believed was politically motivated, there was high level of intimidations, harassment and people were forced to comply to unpalatable conditions. The need to rescue the low from the oppressions of the mighty and to build a conducive and better Imo where freedom, equity, justice and fairness shall reign motivated him to seek leadership position. His manifesto was captioned `the peoples manifesto’ simply because of his quest to right the wrongs, overriding public interest has always been his motivational force.
Recall that insecurity was at its peak when he indicated interest to contest for the governorship seat of the state, there were series of kidnap cases, for instance the wife of Chief Festus Odimegwu was kidnapped, reports also revealed that the mother of Stanford Onyirimba was also kidnapped and she died few days after she was released, Eze Ohiri suffered similar fate as he was also kidnapped, a frontline politician in Mbaise Chief Alan B Onyemaechi was also kidnapped and brutalized, the reports are many, observations showed that most of the kidnap cases in the past regime was politically motivated. Disgusted by high rate of crime and other ugly scenarios tormenting his people, Governor Okorocha vowed to rescue the state from the strong hands of heartless cabals that have jeopardized lives and property.
Based on his already established reputation, the people saw trust and sincerity of purpose and believed every of his campaign promise. Immediately he came into office, he worked with determination to champion the people`s freedom. The governor did not hesitate to establish Imo State Security Network, Imo Community Watch, and Imo State Civil Guard. All these three security outfits sent a strong signal about his level of seriousness and commitment to tackle insecurity headlong. Today the story has changed, these state security outfits have recorded great strides in exposing criminal activities, for instance: Imo State Security Network was instrumental to smashing hideout of notorious kidnap gang in Ihube Okigwe LGA. Records have shown that ISN and ICW are success stories and have helped NPF, DSS and the military in security reports. The Governor has shown that he runs a responsible administration which pays paramount attention to security of lives and property. The old era of porous security and politically motivated kidnapping are now over as governor Okorocha has tactically send them out of the state. Indeed, in the security sector Governor Okorocha has made Imo better.
THE EDUCATION SECTOR: The standard of education was nothing to write home about during the last political dispensation. With poor infrastructures and inadequate man power, parents and guardians were paying heavily to train their children and wards. In the past, Imo had many dilapidated school buildings and some schools used mangoes and Gmelina trees as class rooms. Imo State University was among state government tertiary institutions with highest tuition fees. As if that was not enough, the administration of former governor Ikedi Ohakim attempted to increase the fees to N150,000 it was former commissioner for Youths and Sports Honourable Mrs Ngozi Anyikwa that vehemently opposed it with obvious reasons that was too exorbitant. If Ikedi had won his second term election, school fees would have been N150,000 in IMSU. According to reports , high rate of school fees and incessant levies gave parents sleepless nights, it also increased the poverty rate in Imo State, mothers were seen selling their wrappers and jewelries just to pay their children`s school fees, while some fathers sold their lands in order to train their children in high institutions.
From a bird eye view, in the last dispensation, parents were heavily suffering to train their children and this resulted into high rate of poverty in the state. However, when Rochas Okorocha indicated interest to run for the governorship position, the people were happy, hopeful and heaved a sigh of relief – the reason was simply because of his indisputable track records of free and qualitative education to children of the poorest of the poor through his Rochas Foundation Colleges. The masses know that his name rings bell as a man who operates a free education foundation college with visible presence in many states of the country – that alone gave him overwhelming support.
Records have proved that Governor Rochas Okorocha has intimidating score card in the education sector from 2011 to 2017 as at the time he commissioned Owerri City Primary School located at Old Fire Service Roundabout Wetheral Road, it was the 503 Model Upstairs building constructed under his regime. Reports indicated that school enrolment has sporadically increased in both primary and secondary schools from 200,000 to about 800,000, it simply means that those who could not afford to send their children to school due to financial difficulties are now rushing to do so because a reliable and trustworthy leader has provided a dependable opportunity for free and qualitative education in the state, records from JAMB has also revealed that Imo state has topped the list for six consecutive years now. All these reports and records show the improvement and fruitfulness of his free and qualitative education program in Imo state. Governor Okorocha under his free education programe provided free school sandals, free desk, free shocks, free chairs, pocket money for all children in primary schools.
ON ROAD, in the past, there were few roads in Owerri, the state capital, for instance the only major roads in the municipal were Douglas, Wetheral, Tetlow and Royce roads. Unfortunately, former governor Ikedi Ohakim did not consider the challenges of the people, he compounded their woes when he decided to close some link roads like Okigwe by Wetheral and Mbari Street by Wetheral.
To the glory of God, today the Municipal can boast of roads like Sam Mbakwe Road starting from Orlu Road junction off Aba Road by Emmanuel College roundabout, Nworie Avenue to Akanchawa roundabout, First, Second, Third and Fourth Inland Roads all linked old and new Owerri. Exemplary roads constructed by this regime were Akachi and Nekede Rescue Mission Road by Nekede Old Road both could be described as miracle roads because Akachi was abandoned with mountain of refuse dumps, it became a comfort zone for rapist, cultist and other hoodlums. Interestingly, the governor in his wisdom leveled it and constructed a road through it to Aba Road. Rescue Mission Road or Imo Miracle Road some chose to call it was a place totally destroyed by erosion but to the greatest surprise of all, the governor converted it into road. We cannot forget Aba Road in a hurry, how traffic jam usually frustrates commuters. The dualization work he carried out on that federal road permanently solved the problem.
For the past 12 years, the regimes of former governor Achike Udenwa and former Governor Ikedi Ohakim neglected the gully erosion at Nekede and that of Akachi road – may be due to lack of divine wisdom to handle it or lack of enough cash but today, the courageous effort of Rescue Mission Regime on that road is a success story, Owelle has succeeded where his predecessors failed. The Orlu, Ideato road is another success story. It could be recalled that Ideato people were almost cut off from Orlu due to gully erosion, it was devastating that FG found it difficult to tackle it but Governor Okorocha in his divine wisdom turned around the situation with a double lane.
During the first tenure of the governor, it is on record that he awarded the construction of 15 kilometers of road in each local government areas of the state, the improvements and impacts made by Rescue Mission in the road and transport sector are too numerous to mention, every keen and unbiased observer will know that the vision and mission of the governor to make the road and transport sector better has been fulfilled.
Agric Sector: It may not be wrong to say that lips service was paid to the agric sector in the last dispensation, for instance, no attempt was made to revamp Avutu Poultry farm and Adalpam. The rescue mission government revamped the Avutu poultry farm, about 1000 birds were brought into the poultry when it was revamped. Similarly, Ada Palm also received a facelift. The governor introduced palm for palm program and gave 300,000 to each community that was a novel and visionary idea. He has shown more practical and supportive role.
Job creation/ industrial sector: Job! Job!! Job! was the major campaign promise of Governor Rochas Okorocha during his election for second term, many disbelieved him but as usual he matched his words with action and proved to every doubting Thomas that he is a promise keeper. He repurchased three Imo State industries that were totally sold out, Resin Paint Mbaise is one of them, today Skyrun has taken over the premises for the production of electronic and electrical appliances, Paper Packing Industries, Owerri Ebeiri is another good example and production work will soon commence there. The Rescue Mission regime of Governor Okorocha employed over 3500 Imo Indigenes in the civil service, he employed over 25,000 youths under his youth must work program. Naze Industrial cluster became a reality and functional through the commitment of the rescue mission regime. Thousands of Imo Youths employed in Imo Security Network, Imo Community Watch and Imo Civil Guard are living testimonies that the governor has lived up to expectation in job creation.
The lives of artisans and engineers have significantly improved because of massive infrastructural development going on in the state, the artisans, builders, engineers, architects and others now have jobs to do and they are paid regularly.
Without mincing words, a reflection of Imo State before the emergence of Governor Okorocha and a cross examination of its current status, there is every empirical evidence to say that the state has rapidly and significantly improved from a glorified village to an impressive height of a modern city through massive infrastructural developments.
In every segment of the society, visionary leadership matters a lot and cannot be neglected, Imo State has produced many governors in the past aside the first civilian governor of old Imo State, Late Chief Samuel Iheonunaka Mbakwe who built Imo Concord Hotel, Imo Hotels, Avutu Poultry Farm, Nekede Zoo, Sam Mbakwe Airport, Imo Rubber Estates and other achievements too numerous to mention, Governor Okorocha could be described as a man who came, saw and conquered. Governor Okorocha has made significant impact which both the deaf, dumb and blind can testify. He is standing tall in the order of Sam Mbakwe.
The uniqueness of this visionary, dedicated, diligent, selfless and transparent leader with divine wisdom is what makes him outstanding, when we talk about experience, exposure, productivity and impactful leadership, he is second to none because of the eloquent testimonies of his unbeatable track records of achievement. The pitiable condition he met Imo State from 2011 has gradually, strategically and dynamically accelerated into an enviable height of a modern model city. Indeed, his rescue mission agenda to make Imo better is a vision and a mission fulfilled
Chuks Nwokeji ICT Unit IMGH