Commisioner For Igbadun

Posted on 23/09/2011



Ever since he resumed his post in Abuja as the Presidential spokesperson, I have been carefully watching the public performances and body language of my erudite friend, Dr. Reuben Abati, not because I have any doubt that he would under-perform in his duty, rather the propensity was a fear of performance beyond the call of duty. Knowing Dr. Reuben from a hindsight, having followed his numerous articles over the many years that he opted to major in the pen profession than remain in the dreary Augean stables of academia, Reuben has been known to be a champion of the underdog. Since he switched allegiance and decided to front for the ‘opposition,’ some of us have remained flustered and worried for what will become of our dear friend and colleague. I must however leave that on the balance scale of posterity, as Dr Reuben is not really the issue of my thoughts. Nah! I ruminate here of other more astonishing appointments that seem to have become a new trend on the Nigerian political stratosphere.


Have you ever met a man called Rochas Okorocha? Now, here’s another fellow whose career trajectory I have also been following over the years, since he burst onto the Nigerian political space with a bang. Rochas doesn’t know how to do anything quietly. The man practically, literally must announce, and celebrate his coming. Need I delve into history? Okorocha has been President, Nigeria Red Cross Society, President/Founder, Rochas Foundation Inc, President, Rochas Group of Companies Limited, Pro Chancellor, African Business School and Former Chairman, Board of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency. He was a Commissioner on the Federal Character Commission and a Member of the National Constitutional Conference. When democracy was restored in 1999, Okorocha competed in the primaries to be People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for governor of Imo State, but lost that election. He moved to the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), and was an unsuccessful candidate for President on the ANPP platform in 2003. He returned to the PDP, and then President, Obasanjo appointed him Special Adviser on Inter-Party affairs. Okorocha decamped from the PDP to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), to run as APGA candidate for Imo State Governor in the April 2011 national elections. He eventually won those elections after dramatic reruns in four local government areas and one ward.


Away from politicking, Owelle Rochas’ bigger claim to fame must be his philanthropic zeal. The Rochas Foundation was first conceived as a community initiative in 1994 under the name of the Reach Out and Touch Programme, providing financial and medical assistance to the community, comforting members of society in need of extra care or at risk of social exclusion, like widows, people affected by HIV/AIDS, and homeless and orphaned children. The foundation was also deeply involved in educational projects for many less privileged. It is presently believed that approximately 5,000 children have been educated or are currently being educated by The Rochas Foundation!


I watched Governor Okorocha’s Inaugural address on television, and was left bewildered by his impressive oratory. As I listened to his emotion-laden words to the mammoth crowd of Imo people who had gathered at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, which was the venue of his swearing-in ceremony, I was completely captivated! I had never heard the man speak in public before. His speech was punctuated with elaborate Bible quotations delivered off heart; the repetitive applause was deafening! It seemed to me that a new beacon had landed in Imo State, a new, shining pathway was opening up. Never since the days of old political warhorse, Sam Mbakwe had Imolites ever had it so good, it seemed.




It was widely reported that the Owelle had appointed over seventy Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Special Assistants to the Imo State Cabinet, and one of those appointments was that of Chief Comedian of Imo State! Perhaps one could argue that Rochas is not really the initiator of such seemingly ridiculous appointments, after all the great Ali Baba, was verily regarded as some sort of ‘Chief Comedian” during the days of Baba Iyabo at the Aso Circus! But is he stretching this ‘philanthropic’ spirit a bit too far? Looking down Rochas’ long list, I also sight the position of Special Assistant, Production and Studio Documentary?


Digging deep into history, the court jester has a long tradition. Contrary to modern perception, the jester is more than a clown or an entertainer. Although usually associated with medieval Europe, the jester goes back to the earliest period of civilization. Rome, China, India, even Africa and pre-Columbus America had varying roles for a jester, but it was in Europe that jesters had some of their greatest influence. Often called a fool, joker, clown or even less honorable names, the jester’s position was actually one of entertainment and political advice. The jester often walked a fine line between the acceptable and the profane. This, however, was because the jester could speak of things no one else in a king’s court dare. But, the fine line between entertainer and advisor did not give the jester immunity. Advice that was too critical could lead to the same fate as any other who opposed the king. Many jesters lost their jobs and lives by overstepping their verbal license.


Perhaps that is enough warning; I do support this new prominence of entertainers in the eyes of our governmental high-and-mighties – we all celebrated when our brother Okey Bakassi MacAnthony was made Special Assistant on Special Matters in the previous Imo government, or when Richard Mofe Damijo became a Commissioner in Delta, and also when, years before, the former NTA news reporter, Magnus Ibe became a commissioner in Rivers State. Many other media personnel have risen to high office in governmental positions all over Nigeria, even up to Federal capacity, but these were no jesters. We should be able to separate the progressive, meaningful appointment from the utterly mundane. Next thing, some governor will be appointing a Commissioner for Igbadun! Or have they, already?


Nigeria, we hail thee!


Posted in: Politics