– By Chuks Nwokeji

The current economic realities in Nigeria and the high price of food items, particularly; the cost price of red oil has shown  that Imo State Governor Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha who began the call for diversification of the economic many years back is a visionary leader. Visionary leadership is creating a solution before the arrival of the problem, the foresight of visionary leaders is what makes a difference between them and others in leadership position. From all indications Governor Okorocha belongs to the class of Twenty First Century  visionary and transformative leaders who proffer solution to a situation ahead of time in order to a prevent the problem.

Most times visionary leaders are misunderstood or ridiculed whenever they introduce a new policy or programme, but when their prediction becomes a reality, people will change their topic and their critics will shamelessly close their mouth. A typical example is the palm plantation programme introduced by Imo State Governor, popularly known as `Ikuola Nkwu’ for all the Autonomous Communities in the state. it was well planed and packed, palm seedlings were made available to all the communities and the sum of N300, 000 (Three Hundred Thousand Naira only )was given to all the autonomous communities in the state through the Ministry of Community Government Council (CGC)and Traditional Affairs and  with the help of Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  The traditional rulers as Chairmen of the CGC and other CGC members were  sensitized and  motivated to fully participate in the general interest of the people and the state at large. Imo State governor instructed over 600 Autonomous Communities in the state to bring out a portion of their land for Palm Plantation, he went extra-mile to financially motivate each of them. As a leader with foresight all these were encouraging steps he took ahead of time. He was determined to make Imo the centre of palm oil production and exportation in Nigeria, but many did not understood his vision and mission.

Initially many indigenes of the state were not serous with the programme , but  he strategically proceeded with his enlightenment and publicity package so that the masses can clearly understand and embrace the programme. The radio jingle on Ikuola Nkwu, kuonu NKwu, Kuzuonu Nkwu is always played on the state Television and Radio Station(Orient FM and TV) so as to always remind Imo people the need to fully embrace the palm plantation programme. The visionary governor of Imo State who sounded prophetic also predicted that soon crude oil production will fail and if it happens, the state needs to have a strong alternative means of Internally Generated Revenue to enable it cope with the situation. He knows that the state dependency on monthly Federal Allocation for survival is not the best and he was proactive enough to create a preventive measure in case of any eventuality.  He did his best to sensitize the people about  the significance  of the programme and the impending economic danger due to fall of oil price and increase in dollar exchange rate, many thought  it was a child`s play, they abused and misused the process, today time and season have proved his critics wrong.

The agenda of the Governor was to build an agric- driven economy  for the state through palm plantation , but many did not understood that his vision and direction for palm plantation was both a preventive and sustainability strategy . For those who did not take him serious current realities have proved the governor right. What Rochas saw yesterday is happening today.  When he was shouting like the voice in the wilderness `plant a palm today for a secured tomorrow ‘ involve in agriculture today  for food security’ some went too far to ridiculed him, then a bottle of red oil was around N180.00 to N200,00 but today same bottle of red oil sells for 700 with I beg from the buyers. Based on current realities one may say that Owelle Okorocha was visionary and prophetic in his palm plantation programme,  He was blowing a certain trumpet but many did not listen to him.  unfortunately many treated it with a child`s glove, particularly some monarch in opposition party craftily frustrated the programme and the money he governor sent was not well utilized.

However; some communities with traditional rulers who believe in the vision of the governor and were willing to fully support his programmes and policies, adhered strictly to it, today they are benefiting from it.The Palm plantation programme (Ikuola Nkwu) was introduced by the governor because of its numerous economic advantages for instance; The oil extracted from these palms is included in several common products used all over the world such as margarine, baked goods and sweets, detergents and cosmetics.  An estimated 74 per cent of global palm oil usage is for food products and 24 per cent is for industrial purposes Since the 1990s, the area occupied by oil palm cultivation has expanded worldwide by around 43 per cent, driven mainly by demand from India, China and the European Union  Top ten palm oil producers, importers and consumers at a global scale.

The ikuola Nkwu policy has the potential to cause agricultural ,economic and industrial revolution in Imo State because of the numerous advantages of palm production. Now that every body has seen the reality of Governor Okorocha`s prediction on “Ikuola Nkwu” those who failed to comply with the policy have a chance to adjust today in order advance tomorrow because current realities have shown that the people need the palm plantation due its numerous economic advantages for sustainability and survival.