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OPINION: Between Rochas Okorocha's “Rescue Mission Government” & Emeka Ihedioha's “Rebuild Imo Project” By Ebere Uzoukwa (Part 1).

Emeka Ihedioha & Rochas Okorocha.

This is one of the challenging episode undertaken to write as a journalist. Profiled as one of the first batch of Ex-Governor Rochas Okorocha's Rescue Mission appointees, an opinion moulder and public relations manager; it seems I am somewhat boxed to a corner. But the essence of this piece neutralizes all odds hence it will be laced with objectivity.

As a young reporter in 2003, I had my goals well set out. My destination was compassed and clearly defined. To grow in the media industry, build capacity and contacts within and outside the media enclave.

From virtually and relatively unknown tabloid in 2003, I was able to garner sufficient experience catapulting my promotion and engagement as Imo State Correspondent of the Abuja-based Leadership newspapers in 2006.

In 2010, luck beckoned. I was appointed member of Rochas Media Think-Thank Team alongside other colleagues from the Correspondents' Chapel of NUJ. Thanks to my elder brother and senior colleague, Mr. Ikechukwu Ufomba of NTA who made it possible. I can't explain vividly the criteria midwifing my membership. All I know is that Mr. Ufomba was very close to Owelle Rochas Okorocha and enjoyed the privilege of handling his media and publicity projects before the Ogboko, Ideato South born philanthropist decided to re-contest the Governorship of Imo State under the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2011, found me worthy for that interim assignment. 

Before the end of 2010, Mr. Ufomba was consumed by the ensuing power-play between the then sitting governor, His Excellency, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, who sought and eventually lost re-election under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the very popular Owelle Rochas Okorocha of APGA. Mr. Ufomba, a soft-spoken media strategist and respected journalist in Imo State, was bundled to Uyo on a transfer believed to have been influenced by Dr. Ohakim-led government. The state government activated the punitive button against Mr. Ufomba apparently to cripple and possibly silenced Owelle Rochas Okorocha's firing media team. 

After a few days, my phone rang as early as 5am. Behold, it was Owelle Rochas Okorocha calling. "Ebere how are you doing?" "I am good, Your Excellency, Good morning", I replied. He continued immediately, "Does it mean that we can't make progress without Ufomba? You people should not worry about Mr. Ufomba. He is still with us. His transfer shouldn't affect us in any way" He said. "What do you want me to do, sir? I asked without hesitation. "Come to my house now", he replied.

I quickly took my bath, jumped into my rickety 'Ford Sierra' car and moved straight to his residence located somewhere in a street that cuts off from Old Nekede Road. Immediately I stepped in, Owelle roared from one corner of his hollowed sitting room "Come, come, come, Ebere, I believe you can step into Ufomba's shoes. No need to waste time. Call our people for a meeting now, do you hear me? "Yes sir" I replied as he commandeered. 

The rest is history as Owelle Rochas Okorocha was finally declared winner in the keenly contested 2011 Imo gubernatorial poll. My joy was that as a journalist, I had worked into having a friend as a governor. The option of appointment was never fetched nor contemplated. After all, I am from Abia not Imo. No locus standi, no godfather. 

But my thought was nullified by the thinking of the governor and my friend and ally, Prince Eze Madumere, who became the first Chief of Staff to the governor and later Deputy Governor. In my capacity as the Chairman/Coordinator of Rochas Media Think-Thank Team in 2010/2011, I worked closely and successfully with Prince Eze Madumere and Late Mrs. Chioma Ogoke, who was the State Publicity Secretary of APGA in Imo State. 

Mr. Uche Nwosu, who later became powerful in the system after marrying Uloma Rochas, the governor's first daughter, was merely a protocol servant/officer, always busy touring Owelle Rochas Okorocha's inner rooms on errands to ensure that every assignment and engagement are delivered within the domestic enclave and during campaigns. Mr. Nwosu was calm, humble and hardworking. He was focus, smart and noiseless. 

On July 2011, my name was announced as the Special Assistant on Media (Print) to the Governor while in my village. I remember being inundated with calls from colleagues and friends. Also appointed to co-manage the governor's media affairs in government was another young man, Mr. Chinedu Offor, an Onuimo-born US-based journalist. Though Mr. Offor, who was appointed Senior Special Assistant on Media was never sighted while the struggle lasted, his engagement by the governor was facilitated and made possible by Chief Martin Agbaso and Prince Eze Madumere. Information that flittered in suggested that Mr. Offor closely associated with the duo who no doubt were influential in the early days of Okorocha's Rescue Mission administration. 

The Rescue Mission took off as a populist government. It anchored on goodwill and unquenchable support by the masses especially the poor. Imolites cherished and elevated Owelle Rochas Okorocha as their rescuer. To them, the philanthropist governor understood poverty and its excruciating troubles. 

Owelle Rochas Okorocha was the man with solutions to the sufferings of the common man, the man exhibiting uncommon love for the less privileged and the destitute, the man that came to deliver free education to the children of the poor, the man sacrificing his personal wealth educating the children of the poor before assuming powers as a governor, the man on a mission to fix Imo and return power to the people. To say the least, Owelle Rochas Okorocha was adored and loved by the people.

The love for Owelle Rochas Okorocha skyrocketed immediately he declared free and compulsory education at all levels in Imo. The periodical payment of stipends to pupils and students of primary and secondary schools with crisp Naira notes added glamour to the free education program. The commencement of rural roads projects spontaneously in the 27 LGAs alongside massive infrastructural projects embarked upon by the state government attracted attention from all corners to Imo and Okorocha's Rescue Mission. 

It was relatively a success story in the first two years of the Rescue Mission of Owelle Rochas Okorocha as governor of Imo State. The government was understandably run by one united, faithful and team with greater interest to service delivery and development of the state. The government was stable running until July 2013 when the cabinet was entirely dissolved by the governor and some early apostles of the Rescue Mission dismembered from the team. 

(To Be Continued)

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