Okorocha as tragic-comic, no, comic-tragic ‘hero’
Master of Iberiberism on the road to political nowhere
You do not judge a book by its cover is an aphorism often quoted to counter deceptive surface appearances where there are layers and layers of onion peels before unearthing the core of a person’s being. Going by the unraveling of outgoing governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who would believe that he once aspired to be Nigeria’s president. In fact, he still does, and could be said to coming ever closer to it than ever before since he now has a national image to lean on, even if a comic one at that.
With the Rochas Okorocha Foundation that offers free scholarships to indigent students and his seemingly nationalistic fervour, he sold himself to Nigerians and particularly to Imo people as the political messiah who would cleanse the mess Ihedioha Ohakim made of the state. He has a certain bombastic hallow about himself that creates a looming image of the hero of the poor and helpless. But upon assuming office and a few years into governance, the hollowness of the man began to emerge.
In fact, he was to expound what his personal philosophy amounts to when he made his famous neologism Iberiberism, a term he coined to lash out at his detractors on warped political thinking. Although he directed it at his opponents, it became a term that quintessentially describes the man himself. It bears out the saying that no one else can know a man better than himself. The sum total of Okorocha persona rests solidly on Iberiberism, a certain misnorma in public conduct that portrays one as a clown in the discharge of serious governance business.
Okorocha did not only gift the world a new lexicon, he typifies the totality of that coinage in character and trait.
Perhaps, people’s expectations far exceeded what Okorocha could give. From one misstep to another, Okorocha’s unraveling became total. And so from the hero championing the people’s causes, the man simply began his descent to an all time low in the people’s estimation. If he hid his megalomania in his first term and limited it to manifest incompetence and poor governance vision, he threw all caution to the wind in his second term. He knew he could not be touched till he finished his term.
First, he began the erection of his monument tributes to add a weird aesthetics to the public spaces of Imo State. If he had chosen a visionary figure as fitting subjects of his aesthetic maniac no one would have bothered. He chose South Africa’s disgraced Jacob Zuma instead as his preferred subject for monument erection. This was at the height of the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in that African enclave and it was clear Zuma had no idea how to stop his nationals from killing others. A Nelson Mandela statue, for instance, would have elicited acclaim, certainly not Zuma’s, who was forced out of office on allegations of corruption.
But that is Okorocha. Former Liberia and Africa’s first female president Serleaf Johnson was Okorocha’s next statue. But the Zuma’s statue had already blighted the monument waters. Whatever praise it would have elicited became lost in the Zuma fiasco.
While the Zuma statue was yet to die down, Okorocha embarked on yet another vanity project. He created a Ministry of Happiness and Conjugal Affairs. The ‘Conjugal Affairs’ was later dropped, but the ministry has stayed till date. A ministry of happiness? Seriously? The rationale was that Imo people needed to have more fulfillment in their marital lives. At a closer look, it does seem to have a nice and seductive ring to it, really.
If the new creation was odd, what really became weird about it was that he appointed his own blood sister to ‘woman’ the ministry. Of course, there was outrage. But Okorocha’s iberiberism spirit does not heed advice; the people count for next to nothing anyway. In fact, Okorocha has since perfected the nepotistic art in governance. His own son-in-law Uche Nwosu has held sway for eight years as his Chief-of-Staff in Douglas House. If you think that is strange, then you do not understand the iberiberism philosophy. He caused his deputy governor, Eze Madumere, to be impeached and spent huge sums of money to accomplish that enterprise. Okorocha then set about his earnest quest to make Nwosu his successor in Douglas House, as the next governor of Imo State while he retires to Abuja’s Red Chamber as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
But Okorocha met his ‘Imoloo’ in that rabid quest to impose his son-in-law on Imo people, who chorused a vehement ‘no’ to his discordant song.
So, what makes a rational man act the way Okorocha does? It was all a grand design to fool the people into false expectation of a messiah that Okorocha appropriated. From the activities of his foundation, he set himself up as the benevolent man whose heart flows with milk and honey. And since Nigeria has become so traumatized by the deception of those who lead them, anyone with a dint of humane feeling easily gets their approval. With Okorocha and his foundation’s track record, it was easy for the people to see in him the messiah they yearned for. But not since Jesus the Christ has another one emerged or will ever emerge. Okorocha emerged a giant, albeit one with clay feet. His fall continues to reverberate.
Indeed, he has become a tragic character whose grand entry onto Imo’s political stage ends in comical, whimsical whimper. What makes the comic relief of his actions even compelling is that he does not know that the ovation for his comical action has since ended. He continues to act in absolute oblivion. He insists his son-in-law must be governor even when the people have spoken loudly. His senate quest is in abeyance, as his certificate of return is withheld.
The question is, what manner of Senator will Okorocha make in the Senate? Will he represent Owerri West Senatorial District or just himself in the same way that he has done as governor in eight years? Will he be a senator of proposing ideas that will enrich the country and his district or one erecting illusory statues in Abuja?
Certainly, Nigerians still have quite some time to finish dealing with an Okorocha character, tragic or comical. Whichever way he plays his politics at the national stage, Okorocha will continue to be a fixation on the country’s political stage. But what cannot be forgotten is that his brand of politics is a toxic type any right thinking politician will do well to avoid if he or she wishes to write their names somewhere near gold. For Okorocha whatever imprint he made in Imo State has begun to erase two months to leaving office as governor. It is the reward of a comic hero trying desperately to overreach himself.
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