We have seen her on TV crying at the sight of poverty, which our leaders have collectively created. We have seen her hugging the poor, consoling the bereaved and sharing food to the hungry, who throng her, during her visits to our impoverished rural communities. Finally, we have seen our First Lady commissioning homes she built and furnished for the indigent, products of our selfish Governments, politicians and ruling class – all of them – excluding none!
There’s no denying that Nkechi Okorocha really cares. Undoubtedly, our First Lady has touched the lives of several poor people, and more will benefit from her largesse this new year. But where sweeping poverty reigns, her efforts are a drop in a bucket.
Yet, we commend her for good work, giving experiences with some of her predecessors. To date, the Governor’s wife has built about 100 homes in the various LGAs under her She needs a Roof Project (SNARP). She has completed phases one and two and is rolling up her sleeves to begin phase three.
Notwithstanding, she’s not Mother Theresa as is being portrayed on Orient Television. As First Lady, she’s operating from an exalted position and our moneyed men and women are willing to partner with her. We commend her courage and generosity but say, ‘you can do more’.
Face2Face recently paid her a visit and put some personal and moral questions to her, which she took patiently, despite her tight schedule and the dozens of uniformed women waiting to put their own issues before her.
Press secretary Nkechi Ezirim and her press team ushered us into her presence at 9:15 a.m. So we came face-to-face with the Governor’s wife, in an air-conditioned, well-furnished office, the size of three bedrooms. Giant photographs of her in different outfits and a portrait of Dame Patience Jonathan, the country’s First Lady, provide a colourful backdrop.
Today, the First Lady chose a white, neatly embroidered “booboo” accessorized with round, silver jewellery to match. She wore no head tie, and the weave was properly in place. She chose her words carefully, and as she spoke and gestured, she revealed delicate-looking and flawless fingers, well-manicured nails, half coated with glittering orange and black nail polish. This is the First Lady and not Mother Theresa!
But like Mother Theresa the late Roman Catholic Nun, who served India’s poor with her soul, Imo’s First Lady has also brought relief to scores of poor and homeless people.
Our Number One female comes across as a genuine and down-to earth person. Face2Face wanted to meet the woman behind the sirens, dispatch riders, TV screen, jeeps, high walls and strong security.
We asked her about her beginnings, education, growing up and how she met her husband now Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha. We also asked the mother of six what her average day looks like and how her life has changed since becoming First Lady.
“I wake up in the morning, seek God’s face, commit all to him, take my shower, have my breakfast and I’m off to work. I get to the office early, depending on my schedule and face whatever I have to do squarely,” she said, angling her head.
“As for my life, it has changed 100 per cent because I don’t have a time of my own any more. Having the kind of Governor we have, who of course is my husband, I am always on my toes to see whatever I need to do to complement his effort, making sure things are done the way he wants them to be done, coupled with my own responsibilities as the wife of the Governor – so it has not been easy. In summary, I don’t have a life. The only thing that consoles me is that it is God who put me in this.”
Mrs Nkechi Okorocha, formerly Nwosu, Isiukwu-Ato born and Jos-educated, was raised by an older sister. The St John’s College former student, football player, dancer and leader of an Igbo Cultural Group spoke briefly about how she met her husband and what attracted her.
“He wasn’t romantic,” she informed us, with a girlish giggle, “he came to my sister’s shop with my cousin. I saw him as someone who knows what he wants, well-focused and serious–minded.”
The Okorochas worked together to build a home and raise a family, with Nkechi selling grains- rice- to support a struggling and on-the move Rochas. There was no money!
“When I married my husband, he didn’t have anything. Sometimes, there was no food to eat. Our favourite food was cocoyam and palm oil, not because we loved it but because that was what we could afford. Things started to change when I had my second daughter. He bought a 505 and usually if we’re going home for Christmas, we will park and carry passengers to offset the fuel cost,” she reminisced.
But the “kabu Kabu” soon stopped, while the cocoyam and palm oil gave way to ‘isi ewu’ and chicken. The Okorochas build the nationwide Rochas Foundation and soon politics became inviting.
“I remember when he contested for presidency of this country and at that time he didn’t get the ticket. I have always looked at it that in the fullness of time whatever God wanted to do with his life will manifest. I’ve always been there to encourage him,” she said.
Her husband became Governor May 29th 2011, with a landslide victory. To my mind, even the dead voted for him so they could oust a disrespectful and unpopular Governor. But since then, what type of husband has His Excellency been and what sort of relationship does he have with his spouse?
“I’ve always been a friend and sister to him. We talk a lot. If there’s anything we have that is going for us, it’s good communication. There’s nothing we don’t talk about,” she explained.
Does he listen? What role does she play in his Government?
“When it comes to the major work of the Governor, I don’t get involved. Mine is prayer, supporting his effort but the day to day running of the activities of the governor’s office, I am not involved,” she said, stressing however that, as his wife, she shares in his successes and failures.
“You can blame me for his errors because we’re one. We talk and there’s nothing he doesn’t tell me. I will always give my own opinion, and it’s left for him to take it or leave it. But whatever he does, good or bad, I should share in it. Two of us are one,” she insisted.
Face2Face also wanted to know how the First Lady funds her projects, and as a devout Christian how she avoids the corruption, rubbishing Nigeria.
“I completed the first phase of SNARP with my own personal money. Left to me, I’d not have asked people to be a part of it or bring money but God used some people to talk about my passion. Interested people pledged their support and whatever we raise in a community as we commission projects, we plough back to build more homes in that community. Each homes costs me N3 million,” she explained.
“I am building a skills acquisition centre and God knows there is not one naira of the Government in it. There is some amount of money that should be given to the office of the first Lady for her projects. Since inception, I’ve not seen any – the records are there for everybody to see. I’d have folded my hands because no money is coming from Government but I said, ‘no,’ there’s already a platform and that platform is enough for me to touch as many lives as possible,” she added.
The First lady and founder of Women of Divine Destiny initiative (WODDI) sees herself as a “very realistic person” who knows how to stay focused. She denies having any personal political ambition.
But how will she like to be remembered when she’s no longer First Lady?
“I want to be remembered as someone who was able to put a smile on the faces of a lot of people who have forgotten to smile – that I was able to give people hope and make them understand that somebody, somewhere really cares. That’s what I want to achieve,” she emphasised boldly, rising to welcome her next guests.