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Friday 31 July 2015

Mallam Rochas Okorocha’s action amounts to self-importance –says Prof Chidi Odinkalu

The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission in Nigeria, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, has described Gov. Rochas Okorocha’s decision to erect billboards to celebrate a photograph he took with President Barack Obama as narcissist.

The billboards which carried an inscription – new faces of change – were erected in strategic locations in Imo State.

Showcasing a photograph of Okorocha with Obama and President Muhammadu Buhari in a handshake, the billboards made it to the Internet earlier this week. This caused a spark on social media. Some users of different online communities criticised the governor, describing the action as petty.
When most people thought the online spark had stopped, Odinkalu on Thursday went after the governor on Twitter. He said his action amounted to narcissism or a complex.

According to him, the billboards do not, in anyway, represent the change Nigerians are opting for.

“Let us say it clearly to Gov. Rochas and all: This is not a change. At best, it is narcissism, or worse, a complex,” he tweeted.

Okorocha, through his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, had distanced himself from the billboards. The denial, interestingly, had come before Odinkalu took him up on the issue.

“To say the least, the Imo State governor or the state government he superintends did not place the photographs on a screen or billboards, and was not aware or informed of such development. He could not have authorised anybody or any group to do that since it was totally unnecessary.

“At the level God had placed the governor even before he became a governor in 2011, he would not have authorised anybody to advertise or display his photographs with the American President,” Onwuemeodo said.

The governor’s spokesperson said investigations had revealed that some politicians in the state erected the billboards with good intentions, unknown to them that their action would have negative impacts.

“They had thought that by doing the adverts they were going to impress the governor. And we can understand that. The government has, however, told them to put a stop to that. We are aware of the fact that Imo people love their governor and do certain things to appreciate him,” he explained.

The billboards were, perhaps, the biggest social media controversy in the week. With Odinkalu’s remark, many people had started revisiting the issue on Thursday.

On Facebook, one Angela Agoawike said Okorocha’s handshake with the American President added no value to the life of an average Imo citizen, unless if it, indeed, attracted investments to the state.

“No one said Okorocha should not enjoy his moment. A handshake with the US President could, indeed, be a big deal for some people. But, I doubt if it is of any importance to the people of Imo unless it will bring with it investment opportunities.

“Then, we will begin to understand the relevance of erecting huge billboards with such photos. This is simply an ego venture for the governor. The photo should have remained in his living room and not on the streets of Owerri,” said Agoawike, a self-professed anti-child violence campaigner.

But it is not only Okorocha that is fussing over a social backlash of an ‘hand shake’ with Obama. Chairman of Heir Holdings, Tony Elumelu, is also entertaining questions on the importance of showcasing a photograph with Obama.

On his Twitter page where he uploaded a photograph taken with the leader in Nairobi, Kenya, one Seun Okonma asked, “What is in this for Nigeria?”

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