#EndSARS: Why IMO Remains hotbed of discontent and what Uzodinma should have learnt from Okorocha
The last few weeks have seen Imo witness one of its most devastating carnages, arsons and savagery in the hands of an unidentifiable mob and some uniformed personnel. Yet to be verified statistics put the human fatalities at well over 30, including police and Army personnel. However, innocent civilians, including women, children and the aged, were the worst affected.
For a protest which immediate cause was another act of brutality by a now disbanded SARS, in Delta State, Imo, arguably, bore the worst brunt of the crisis.
While, some people may choose to delude themselves into believing that the protests in Imo, both the peaceful episodes and the violent turn, was just about #ENDSARSNOW, those who want to be more realistic would easily appreciate that Imolites may have rather seized that platform to ventilate their dissatisfaction and frustration with political developments in the State, especially, since the very unpopular and contentious decision of the Supreme Court to award the governorship of the State to an individual, who apart from been the candidate with the most discredited ticket, also placed a distant fourth position in INEC’s final result for that election.
We cannot pretend for too long about this reality, and I believe that while the protesters may have retreated for now, it would be foolhardy to think that Imolites have been conquered and rendered powerless as some court jesters would want us to believe.
The palpable level of discontent becomes more worrisome when we recall that Imo was at a time in recent history rated as one of the most peaceful States in Nigeria. Rarely, was the State disturbed by some of the riots and serious security issues that bogged the country, especially, in the period between 2011 to 2019. Either by coincidence or by careful planning and better management of plurality of choices and opinions, Owelle Rochas Okorocha was able to keep Imo free of crisis, for most part of his stay in office as governor.
Having come to power in the wings of popular support from the people, Okorocha’s success in keeping trouble makers at bay, while carefully navigating through issues that had the propensity to plunge the State into chaos, wasn’t a surprise to watchers of political activities in the State and beyond.
With his power of oratory, his magnetic aura and longstanding connection with the ordinary people, it was easy for Okorocha to nip issues that could have degenerated to mass protests and violent crisis, in the bud, notwithstanding what could be happening in other parts of the country.
For instance, when the activities of the Niger-Delta threatened the economic, social and political wellbeing of the nation, Okorocha was successful in bringing the situation under control in Imo State, by introducing an Amnesty Program for the militants that saw to the successful voluntary disarmament of some of the most dreaded militants from Imo’s oil producing areas.
The impact of this successful amnesty program benefited, not just Imo State, but some neighboring States like Rivers and Abia. Also, the #OccupyNigeria protests which brought a number of cities in Nigeria to its knees, only saw a handful of replication in the entire Imo State during the subsidy removal debacle of 2012.
It must be acknowledged that like every leader, Okorocha didn’t always get it right, but his tactfulness in handling a fallout of whatever policy the people either didn’t understand or rejected stood him out as a model to be studied by anyone who desires success in harmoniously piloting the affairs of a State.
The relocation of Eke-Ukwu market remains one of the most audacious, yet contentious actions of the Okorocha adminstration. People were waiting with bated breadth for a complete descent into total chaos, especially, with the very tragic and sad death of the young boy. But, Okorocha navigated through the stormy situation and everything was brought under control. He didn’t run away from the State, but stayed on to handle whatever situation that arose.
The pusillanimous handling of the #Endsars protest by Chief Hope Uzodimma is no doubt responsible for the amount of carnage and destruction recorded in the State. The governor responded like a boy who stole a meat from the mother’s pot, to whom every sound, even the chirp of a bird, would sound like his mother coming to flog him for defiling her pot of soup.
The governor responded like a haunted king, who takes the most extreme measures for the smallest of issues. The rush in imposing a 24 hour curfew on the State was a jittery response and it could be a major reason why the otherwise peaceful protest descended into total chaos across most parts of the State.
There were insinuations in some quarters and even from those close to the governor that the governor had toyed with the idea of importing hoodlums from outside the State to torch some investments and private properties of his supposed opponents. For a governor who hardly owns any property anywhere in the State, it wouldn’t be completely out of place to assume that there could be some truth in that suspicion, considering that; 1. The tone of his broadcasts, which indicated that he was unsure of himself and was fast in blankety blame of “the opposition” for trying to hijack the protests.
By going further to retain the services of faceless groups and individuals to shift the blame for the massive discontent dramatized through the #EndSars protests in the State, is further evidence that the governor is not only conscious that his mandate is tainted, but also jittery about any shadows that look like the people trying to ask questions about how he came about.
Insinuating that Okorocha sponsored the protesters is also like confessing that he is not in charge of the State. The governor should stand up and govern and stop looking for whom to blame for the massive discontent trailing his reign of confusion.
Imo Must Win!