Imo State governor Rochas Okorocha plumbed to new depths when, with typical senseless arrogance and insensitivity, he claimed in an interview yesterday on the issue of flying around in a private jet: “that should not affect my private life. I hate poverty, I hate injustice. So seeing me in a private jet shouldn’t be a big deal.”
He went on to claim that anyone criticising private jet owners was “poor”.
I do not begrudge Bill Gates his private jet. It is clear where he made his money. I don’t begrudge P Diddy his private jet. The record company, clothing line and so on account for his money.
I have a problem with public servants flying around in private jets acquired during or after their time in public office. And the people of Imo State, whether “poor” or rich, should be concerned about Okorocha’s jet too.
The jet was bought when he was governor. Okorocha was allegedly bankrupt before came into office. The banks he owed were said to be threatening to seize possession of his Lamonde Hotels in Abuja and Owerri. The hotels were in serious disrepair and lacking in maintenance. Okorocha was neck-deep in debt at the time.
It has been alleged that one of Okorocha’s first acts as governor was to misappropriate 7bn naira (about $35.2m) of Imo State funds for private use. His hotels were then given a new lease of life and modernised.
As Okorocha’s personal wealth was increasing courtesy of the brazen looting of state funds, including illegally acquiring the multi-billion naira Spibat Estate spanning from Amakohia-Uratta in Owerri North to Mbieri-Mbaitolu and covering over 10 hectares of land, the misery of ordinary Imo people was getting worse. The governor was recently at the forefront of the state governors requesting a bailout from the federal government to be able to pay salaries of their workers.
Imo State University workers went on strike last month for being owed arrears of salaries for three months, while primary school teachers and pensioners claim they have not been paid for 13 months. Last week Okorocha asked state employees to “be patient” while the government tried to find a solution to the non-payment of salaries, as he was swanning around in a private jet purchased with their money.
The hypocrisy of Okorocha, while claiming to “hate poverty” as he spreads it by robbing the poor to feed his greed, is nauseating and mind-boggling but hardly surprising. He now claims that a private jet is no “big deal”. It is such a “no big deal” that he couldn’t afford one until he gained access to the Imo State treasury. He has surely taken flight from reality.