There are times you ignore the messenger but take in the message. Rochas Okorocha, in spite of himself, has a knack for saying it as it is. He can be forthright sometimes. Other times, he humours you in a manner that verges on asininity. On another day, you find him a mix of forthrightness and clownishness. Simply put, he morphs into the serio-comic – serious in a comical sense.
One of such serio-comic moments was that verbal blip during his interview with Channels TV correspondent. He was responding to critics of his administration. He said criticizing him, a performing governor, is an act of ‘Iberiberism’, a coinage from the Igbo word ‘Iberibe’. It is a verbal tag for someone considered foolish, stupid and worthless.
Ever since that moment of hysteria, typical of Rochas, both the word and the video clip had gone viral. And the noun word ‘Iberiberism’ has become another lexical contribution of the political class to our growing vocabulary basket. Rochas may have intended the word as a dart to the very soul of his critics but there is a sense in which ‘Iberiberism’, the state of being foolish, stupid and worthless’ defines both Rochas and his tribe of politicians across the nation.
Since that glorious moment on October 1, 1960 when the British Union Jack was lowered and a green-white-green flag was hoisted high to herald a nation off the shackles of colonialism, the nation’s public space had been upstaged by a colony of ‘Iberibes’. And you just wonder; whatever happened to the sacrifices of the great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and other departed statesmen who laboured night and day to birth an Independent Nigeria.
The nation has been stuck on the wheel of Iberiberism. And there are symbols and ensigns to prove this. Governance at all levels caught the virus of Iberiberism right from the inglorious military years. The crude and rude intrusion of the military into the cockpit of political leadership is in itself an act of Iberiberism besides being an aberration. It is the genesis of the pall of hate and division that now define a nation that was once solidly united in its quest to wrest power from the British overlords. The coups and counter-coups, the ethno-religion influenced killings were foolish and stupid acts propelled by myopic mindsets of some military goons.
The danger of Iberiberism is that the Iberibe does not think himself silly and stupid. Somewhere in his twisted mind, he perceives himself as normal, his acts as noble and his ways as straight. So, he does not see danger where and when it lurks; he is oblivious of the stare of shock and disbelief from onlookers. He is lost in his own world. Deluded by his self-contrived illusions. To him, wrong is right. Hardly can he tell the difference between malady and madness. The fine lines disappear. The walls collapse in a heap. No more division between good and bad; between moral and immoral. Everything seems the same: good, acceptable and ethical. The perfect state of Iberiberism.
This is the dilemma of the Iberibe. And it’s the dilemma of Rochas Okorocha, the imperial majesty who governs a highly intellectual state called Imo. This state is the pride of Ndigbo; the heartland of the Oriental region. Imo has class. Endowed with the very best in academics, science and technology, art and social science; gifted with entrepreneurial outliers, men and women versed in the skill of growing enterprise from a one-room office to a conglomerate. But the same Imo is infested by the spirit of leadership Iberiberism. Not just Imo State, the nation in general.
Go round the country, the same sordid story pops up everywhere. Governors lavish public wealth on themselves, their small group of cronies and their immediate families. It’s called crony capitalism. A situation where the rich further enrich their wealthy friends while effectively erecting barricades to fob off intrusion from the famished clan of the proletariat.
Crony capitalism or any such leadership that promotes cronyism is an act of Iberiberism. Unfortunately, this is the trademark of Rochas, the smooth-talking, quick-thinking governor who mistakes public revulsion for public endorsement. He runs a government of filial patronage and reward. For him, government house is a monarchy. So, he must reward every member of his family, his in-laws and the retinue of endless hangers-on who stoke the fire of nepotism in the king’s palatial court. To him, succession in government house is by inheritance, at his own whim and on his own myopic caprice and not by popular will of the people. But Imo is not a vassal state. And any attempt to turn it to a vassalage is an attempt to enthrone Iberiberism over a people fabled for their individual and collective accomplishments. It cannot work. It cannot stand. It collapses as it has collapsed. That’s the fate of Iberiberism. It always fails.
But Rochas is not alone. He is in good company. Somewhere in the South West, Ekiti State precisely, a certain Ayodele Fayose, the garrulous governor of a state that boasts professors almost in every household, is owing workers salary arrears of nine months but he has not spared words to dismiss the Buhari government as a failed government. He sees mote in others but fails to unburden himself of the overload of ineptitude weighing him down. That’s Iberiberism.
Again, Rochas does not walk alone in this ignoble hallway of Iberiberism. He has good company in the men and women of the National Assembly who took seven months to pass the 2018 budget that was transmitted to them by the Executive on November 7, last year. But the same lawmakers promised to pass the budget in record time to make up for the deficits of the past. The same lawmakers cut budget meant for critical national infrastructure but increased their own budget from N125 billion to N139.5 billion. The same National Assembly spent a good chunk of precious time filibustering. That is Iberiberism.
Sadly, Iberiberism knows no bounds. As it is in the legislature, so it festers in the Executive. When a nation, an OPEC member, and one of the top producers of fine grades of crude oil spends N9 trillion in a decade on fuel subsidy, that is Iberiberism. It is Iberiberism when you sell your crude oil for cheap and buy refined fuel from your crude buyers at exorbitant price.
Currently, the Buhari government records a monthly average of N15.859 billion as under-recovery on importation of petrol alone into the country. Yet, this is the same government that claimed it had exited the era of subsidy payment on imported petrol. Recent data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) showed an under-recovery of N190.314 billion between January 2017 and January 2018. In clear language, it means the government is still paying the same subsidy it accused the previous government of using to swindle the nation. So, what is holding us from refining our own fuel when the raw material, crude oil, is just a scoop beneath? It’s Iberiberism; when a government is stupid but still thinks it’s smart. Thanks Governor Rochas for holding this mirror to our faces.