Liberia’s President, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, visited Imo state this week on the invitation of the state governor, Rochas Okorocha.
Below are takeaways from the visit:
1. The daughter that is cherished by all: The Liberian president was honoured with a chieftaincy title of “Ada Di Oha Nma” (the Daughter that is Cherished by All) of Imo State by the Chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers, HRM, Eze Samuel Ohiri at the Eze Imo Palace Owerri.
2. The Ellen Sirleaf road: A Road was also commissioned in her honour and named after her in Owerri, Imo state. The same honour was bestowed on her South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma a few weeks ago.
3. The Grand Counselor: Sirleaf was honored with the Imo Merit Award as the Grand Counselor of the State of Imo (GCSI).
4. And then the unveiling: A massive statue of the Liberian President was unveiled in Imo. The statues have been a source of great controversy but Gov. Okorocha is determined to keep erecting and commissioning same.
5. Here for the students: Sirleaf visited the Rochas Okorocha Foundation where she interacted with the students, five of whom are from Liberia. She thanked the foundation for bringing together and impacting the lives of young African children from different nationalities.
“I’ve never experienced anything like the Rochas Foundation. I could do no less than reflect to 25 years ago, in my country when children like them couldn’t go to school because there were no schools.
“Children like them were conscripted into the army, where they held guns that were bigger than them.
“These ones can now have an opportunity to learn, to excel and to be what they want to be. It is an opportunity that not so many children around Africa and the world have, to come together as children of the global family, to share experiences, diverse but unified, there’s nothing more than that.”
6. Mixing personal with public business: In all the visits of these African leaders from Mahama of Ghana to Zuma of South Africa to Sirleaf of Liberia, the Imo governor invites them for his private foundation business, and mixes it with state government business. They sign MOUs with his foundation, visit his private school, are endorsed by traditional institutions in the state, get statues built with state funds, get roads commissioned in their honour and the foundation get publicity on the back of state resources. There’s surely some ethical line that the governor continues to cross with these visits.
7. A cool story: Gov. Okorocha shared the story of the origin and inspiration behind the foundation. It was quite an interesting one.
“When I started this foundation 20 years ago, it was a miracle. This foundation started in Jos, at a mosque where we went every Friday to help feed indigent children.
“We kept on giving alms, but the population kept increasing and later we decided that rather than giving just food and cash, we could empower them by building schools.
“Today we are proud to have 10 Rochas Foundation Colleges across this nation with over 15,000 children. 75% of them are orphans and that is the qualification with which you can come to this school.
“It was spiritual and contractual, and it was an oath I took – Remembering that I wouldn’t have gone to school, if it wasn’t for the mercy of God upon my soul.
“I know what it means to suffer, so what I do today is not a dramatization of affluence. Today, we have decided to take five children every year from each of the African countries.”
8. About that sixth point above: Gov. Okorocha used the visit of the president to lobby her on joining the board of his private foundation.
“We are calling all Africans to support this vision, we are lucky, and we are happy that President Olusegun Obasanjo is the Chairman of the board of this great institution and President Obasanjo personally was the one who nominated you, Madame President, as a member of this board, for which today I would want your acceptance or otherwise,” he said.
While the idea of the foundation may be lofty, this using of public resources to push a private business is obscene.
9. A dinner for Madame President: The president was hosted to a state banquet in the end.