He is a familiar face in the political terrain of Nigeria since 1994 when he served as a member National Constitutional Conference. Also, he was a formidable factor in the 1999 gubernatorial race in lmo State under the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and 2003 and 2007 presidential contest. But in 2011, he invaded the campaign turf like Tsunami and crushed all opponents flat to the ground.
Even after the massive electoral votes garnered for him by his people, held spell bound by his charisma and electric disposition, his traducers sought to truncate the people’s mandate. Three times at the Election Tribunal, Appeal Court and Supreme Court, he trounced them, once again. They couldn’t halt a moving rain. That is the big Rochas Machine.
His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha appeared on the gubernatorial campaign trail in April, 2011 at a time the people of Imo were held hostage in their own state and homes. They were caught in a web of intrigues and deceits. They had a government that said it was working but they did not see it. They saw it on billboards, internet and heard about it on radio. But they did not see it on ground. They did not see it in their pockets and on their dining tables. Not on the streets and definitely not in their lives and standards of living. They were fleeced by a government that turned them into spectators in a magical comedy. The more they heard and looked, the less they saw and believed.
Until Owelle arrived, Imo State and its people were rotting by the day. Ordinary citizens were swooning in abject poverty, want and deprivation. There was hunger and anger in the land. Public savants who were working did not fair better. They were owed months of salary arrears. Their office complexes were dilapidating and unkept. Their morale was at its lowest ebb. Pensioners and old men and women were starving and dying for an unpaid several years of pensions. They had no hope to live tomorrow. Their past had become nightmare. Public infrastructures were collapsing. Many homes that had pipes connected to water reservoirs did not see that water flow to them. They were as dry as Oasis in the desert. The road networks, built during Sam Mbakwe administration, more than 33 years ago became death traps. Potholes, gullies and dishes competed for space on highways. Flood over-ran several areas that lacked proper drainage system. The gutters were full with debris and over flowing. Especially at the School Road, Tetlow Road and Royce Road axis in the capital city, the gutters became water tanks, stale and for mosquitoes that have turned human beings into milk-cows.
The people and citizens of lmo State were confused and very disturbed. They spleen and vented for a redeemer to come forth to save them from hell on earth in their own land. Gov. Okorocha’s decision to contest the 2011 governorship election even when his zone, Orlu not favoured going by the zoning system was providence. It was prophesy fulfilled as the cry of the people of Imo State reached Heaven. Their supplications received a nod and divine intervention was imminent. A messiah was forth-coming.
At various fora, Gov. Okorocha has made it known that his ambition has always been to lead Nigeria as its president. But having considered the suffering of the people of Imo State, in the mist of plenty, he felt challenged and compassionate to do something worthwhile for his people. He resolved to stop over and give the governorship race another chance. To achieve that purpose, he needed an efficient platform. As a former PDP member, he saw the shenanigans going on in the party at the national and state levels. As a true anointed leader, he felt that such vehicle will be inappropriate for his vision. He tossed the crystal ball and saw like a prophet, that PDP will not be ideal to accomplish his mission. Then he found All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA; a mass movement, no longer a Political Party and the waiting arms of its numerous and enthusiastic members, who were delighted to welcome this great man of the people into its fold. He finally settled for APGA. Having secured a platform, to achieve his objectives, he now ruminated on the proper message and slogan to drive home his points.
During his campaign to become the President of the United State of America, Senator Obama needed a catchy phrase to deliver his message. He chose the slogan. ‘Yes We Can”. That did the magic and broke the formidable racial barrier in America. He was elected the first black man in the history of America, to become President. Gov. Rochas Okorocha believed and knew that he can deliver his people from the bondage of penury and underdevelopment. But that was not enough. He needed to do more, before he began the process of the development of the state. First of all, he had to rescue his people from the stranglehold of usurpers, poverty and deprivation. So he chose with wisdom, the campaign slogan “The Rescue Mission Agenda”. That was all he needed.
Since he was inaugurated as the executive Governor of lmo State on May 29, 2011, precisely one year ago, Gov. Okorocha has remained on Rescue Mission. He has done that with speed and passion that he has become the miracle worker of Africa and indeed the world, considering his achievements, within one year. Where some state governors come to office to plunder the state treasury and add to their private till, Rochas donated his salary as state governor to the Rescue Mission Agenda. A rare political philanthropy, you will call that. He also slashed his security vote, where other governors make a kill, from N6.5 billion to N4 billion. Political opponents said that free education is impossible in Imo State but Gov. Okorocha insisted that it is possible.
Today, every Imo State child of school age goes to school from Primary to University absolutely free! Political contractors and merchants said that N18,000 minimum wage for Imo public and civil servants is impossible. Indeed, they claimed that lmo State will go bankrupt if it pays that minimum wage. Gov. Okorocha has also decoded that puzzle and lie.
Today, courtesy of the visionary and patriotic governor of lmo State, public servants, not only earn minimum wage, but they earn N20,000 which is N2,000 above the national minimum wage. He has set the pace for other state governments to follow. Pensioners, who have been starving and waiting for non-payment of their pensions, now smile as they are regularly paid after clearing a back-log of about 2.5 billion naira.
In Imo state, a plethora of networks of roads, gutters, sidewalks and culverts springing all over the three zones of the state are being constructed simultaneously. Several moribund industries are being reactivated and brought to life. Workers are getting their salaries as at when due. Today, Imo people wonder where Gov. Okorocha gets the funds to embark on these economic and socio-political development projects in a state that people said was poor without borrowing from any bank. The answer is very simple. As a successful man in the private sector, Gov. Okorocha carved a niche for himself as prudent manager of resources.
As a Disciplined Prudent manager, the governor simply brought his wealth of experience in the management of human and material resources to bear in handling the affairs of the state. That translated to the blockage of revenue leakages and total abolishment of frivolous recurrent expenditures to cut down the cost of governance in the state. The reversal of the budgetary pattern in the state to 73% capital Expenditure and 27% Recurrent completes the rest of the story.
A summary of Gov. Okorocha’ Rescue Mission:
1. Road Construction
As at today, over 600km of roads are under construction across the urban and rural areas in the three zones of the state. In Owerri capital city, the entire roads and streets in Prefab, Aladinma, World Bank, Trans-Egbu and Works-Layout are under construction with drainages. Okigwe and Orlu cities are transformed to modern cities with massive road and infrastructural ongoing projects. At least, 25 kilometer of roads are being constructed in each of the 27 Local Government Areas in the state. In fact, it is massive road construction project in Imo which is too numerous to be captured in this piece.
In addition to these massive road construction projects going on simultaneously across the nooks and crannies of the state, the following public buildings and facilities have either been completed or are nearing completion:
I. New Executive Council (EXCO) Chambers
2. Expanded Exco chambers
3. A new Banquet Hall
4. First ever Government House Chapel
5. An Ultra-Modern office building for the First Lady
6. An Ultra modern office building for Deputy Governor
7. Odenigbo Government Guest Houses
8. Mbari Amphi Theatre
9. A new Musical Arcade christened “Bongo Square”
10. Remodeling of abandoned Imo Hotel
11.Construction of the Freedom Square/People’s Embassy
12. The Heros Square with 5,000 seats
13. Construction of the Heros Gate
14. Heros Guest House
15. Renovation of the Concorde Hotel
16. Renovation of the Oguta Motel
17. Construction Oguta Lake Conference Centre
18. The Ikemba Ojukwu Centre
19.Reconstruction of abandoned Imo Parliamentary Ouarters now known as Concorde Hotel Extension
20. Renovation of the customary Court of Appeal headquarters
21.Renovation of the commissioners quarters, deputy governor’s and Speakers’ Lodges.
22.Renovation of the State Secretariat complex along Port Harcourt Road.
23. Completion of the Abandoned Imo House at Abuja
24. Construction of Imo International Conference center
The government also plans within its tenure to construct a five-star hotel in Orlu to be known as The prince, another five-star in Okigwe that will be also known as The Queen.
In Owerri, the capital city, monumental projects including a 23-floor hotel that will be christened Crystal Hotel, 110-metre tall Tower known as Akachi and Ecumenical center also known as Amarachi will be constructed and completed before the life of the administration.
i. Free Education
It is no longer news that lmo Sate has become the first in Nigeria where children of school age go to school from Primary to University free. Pupils/students will be provided with writing materials (biro, pencils, notebooks, textbooks etc). They will also get free school uniforms, bags and sandal.
Government has approved the payment of N60,000 for National Diploma (ND) and N80,000 for higher National Diploma (HND) students of Imo State origin studying in lmo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo . Also, students of Imo State origin studying in Imo State University shall be entitled to scholarship of N100,000.
Meanwhile, the state government has ordered the release of the sum of N450 million promised by the previous administration as grant to mission schools returned to their owners. The government has also increased the monthly subvention to Imo State University (IMSU) from N57 million to about N250 million.
In accordance with its electioneering campaign promise, of free education at all levels, the government has embarked on the upgrading of infrastructure in all government owned schools. One of them is the ongoing construction of 305 model schools to replace the dilapidated structures in each electoral ward in the state. The sum of N135 million has been released to Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo Ohaji-Egbema for projects development.
The lmo College of Advanced Professional Studies (ICAPS) and Young Scientist College have been established to give graduates and young people the opportunities to acquire skills that will make them employable in the various sectors of the economy.
Health Over the years
The health sector has suffered a drastic neglect in potency and facilities. To check this drift, the Rescue Mission Government has initiated several measures. These include the following;
i. Construction of new General Hospitals in the 27 LGAs in the state
ii. Upgrading of Umuguma General Hospital to a Specialist hospital and reconstruction of Aboh Mbaise and Awo-Omamma General Hospitals
iii. Completion of projects abandoned at the Imo State University Teaching Hospital Orlu and the upgrade of Diagnostic facilities at the hospital, including the installing of MRI equipment
iv. Increase of monthly subvention of lmo State University Teaching Hospital Orlu from N66 million to N95.4 million.
v. Signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Apollo Hospital Group in India to equip and manage some of the new hospitals upon completion vi. Introduction of Heath Insurance Scheme to provide Health care coverage for Imo State citizens
vi. Provision of 24/7 emergency Medicare to the citizen through the Health — At — Your — Door- Step programme
REHABILITATION OF ABANDONED INDUSTRIES
To create jobs and wealth and boost the economic potentials and revenue generation capacity of the state, the government has embarked on several measures to rehabilitate and reactivate some ailing and abandoned industries. These are:
A. Rehabilitation of the Standard Shoe Company in Owerri
The Standard Shoe Factory will receive Italian Technical Partners as majority share-holders under the public/private partnership arrangement. In a bid to boost the operations of the company, the state government has awarded a contract of the sum of N440 million to the Standard Shoe Factory to produce and supply school shoes to pupils in the school system. It is expected that the contract will be a lifeline for the company to return to full commercial operations.
B: Construction of a modern Tile Factory at Nsu Ehime Mbano LGA
The Nsu Tiles (Now Imo Tiles) will be lucky as well. It will receive an Italian company Fratelli Lerose as its technical partner. The project will attract foreign direct investment of 130 million Euros and create over 2000 jobs and other ancillary businesses.
As the fulcrum of the Rescue Mission Agenda and mainstay of the economy, the agricultural sector, shall receive adequate attention for economic prosperity and to create jobs for the teeming population of Imo State citizens. To achieve this objective, the government has embarked on the following proactive measures:
I. N400 Million has been approved for disbursement to local farmers to enable them enhance the productivity of their farms in pursuit of the goal of self sufficiency.
2. The Imo Palm Plantation (ADAPALM) has been taken over by new investors and it will generate at least 4,000 jobs upon full rehabilitation. The deal earned the state government the sum of N3.2 billion naira.
3. The Imo Modern Poultry Farm, Avutu Obowo, is undergoing rehabilitation. During the year, poultry farms will be set up in partnership with the private sector.
4. The Ministry of Agriculture will partner with private investors to establish rice farms at Arondizuogu, Ohaji Egbema, Obowo and Ngor Okpala LGAs. Oil Palm Plantation will be established at Ohaji-Egbema and Oru West LGAs. These projects will create I5,000 jobs in the next eighteen (18) months.
Government is aware of the importance of security of life and property of its citizens. To achieve this objective, the government has launched Community Policing programme in the state with 100 new security vans equipped with modern communication gadgets. To curb kidnapping in the state, the state government has announced a ransom of N1 million naira to whoever that volunteers useful information that will lead to arrest of suspected kidnappers and N100, 000 for an armed robber. This has contributed immensely in reducing the spate of kidnapping as many suspected kidnappers in the state.
IMO MULTI – CITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
In order to tackle the town planning and development challenges facing the state, the government has embarked on developing Umuaka (Njaba LGA), Nworieubi (Mbaitolu LGA), Anara (lsiala Mbano LGA), Okpala (Ngor Okpala LGA), Mgbidi (Oru West LGA) and Akokwa (Ideato North LGA) In the first phase of the projects, a minimum of I00 hectres of land shall be provided and each location shall have facilities such as General Hospital, Housing Estate and Guest Houses. Road networks will be constructed to connect these cities. In the long term, Imo State will be transformed into a modern one-city state.
DEVELOPMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS
Over the years, Local Government Areas in Imo State have been neglected as a result of misappropriation of funds and squandering of resources at this level of government by government officials and godfathers. Government intends to achieve a turn-around of the fortunes of LGAs. To accomplish this objective, government has released over N1.BilIion naira to each of the 27 LGAs for capital projects. This is even as government plans to spend at least N4 Billion for projects in each LGA during the tenure of this administration. Some of the target projects are; Construction of at least l5kms of road in each LGA, establishment of a modern poultry farm in each LGA, construction of a mini sports centre/stadium, modern abattoir, modern market or rehabilitation of an existing one,Guest House official residence for Divisional Police Officer (DPO), Magistrate, Local Government INEC Officer and Head of SSS.
IMO STATE CIVIL SERVICE & COMMERCIALISATION PROGRAMME
For the purpose of re-positioning the civil service to make it proactive and resulted oriented, a number of measures have been initiated to reform the activities of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs, to become commercially viable and to cater for themselves with minimum government subventions. They should be able to generate enough revenues in the near future through commercialization programmes to enable the state pay salaries and overheads of the civil servants. This will enable the state government access enough funds for capital projects. To achieve this purpose, the government has embarked on comprehensive capacity building (retraining) programme for civil servants as well as computer literacy/appreciation courses that are meant to enhance their skills.
COMMUNITY GOVERNMENT COUNCIL
To achieve the objective of carrying the citizens along, give them a sense of belonging and bring the government nearer to the people at the grassroots, the Rescue Mission Government has decided to introduce developmental councils anchored on communities within the Local government system. Each Community Government shall be run by a Governing Council made up of the following persons: