AGAINST the backdrop of the recent euphoria and backlash in the media against the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, for hosting the South African President, Jacob Zuma, attention shifted from a very important part of activities marking the 55th birthday of the seeming controversial politician.
Notably, focus was lost on the teeming children rescued by the Governor through the Rochas Foundation. The children, drawn from several African countries, were specially honoured by the celebrant and the expectation was that the milk of kindness and heart of compassion essential in defining the essential Rochas, more so because this aspect of the man’s worldview and commitment to philanthropy had not been exposed.
Granted that the Rochas Foundation had been known to engage in charity even before Owelle became Governor, with schools in parts of Nigeria, many had thought that the activities of the group was restricted or confined to Nigeria ?alone.
Thus, the 55th birthday celebrations provided a rare opportunity to unveil the politician’s heart of gold and it’s broad extension to several African countries as well as the chilly stories of abandonment, neglect, excruciating hunger? and deprivation that was the lot of the children until they were rescued by the Rochas Foundation.
Of course, the visit of Jacob Zuma and the unveiling of a statue and road named after him blighted other important aspects of the ceremonies as well as benefits to Imo State. And the Governor was portrayed as insensitive, obtuse and outright stubborn -a clear deviation from the objective that informed the visit in the first place.
Notwithstanding the controversy trailing the visit of the South African leader, special focus or attention must be given to the philanthropy that has unquestionably made a Rochas an outstanding personality in the black continent. It will be a great disservice to humanity to do otherwise.
Unknown to many of his critics, the Governor had meant to reserve a special place for the African child as part of activities to mark his 55th birthday. Though considered rather ambitious by close? aides and those who make up his kitchen cabinet, Owelle was determined to see the project to a hasty start, a fact that even the worst traducers cannot wish away.
The plan, according to insiders, was for the setting up of ?Rochas Foundation College of Africa in Owerri, capital of Imo State, with five orphaned children each from 55 African countries. Meaning that the school is to have 275 children for its take off. A bold and audacious project no doubt.
Of course, the dream became a reality and the children resumed at the beginning of the first term of academic calender for the 2017/2018 school year.? Sadly, not many knew of this historic and unprecedented feat and the benefit of these children to the state and the significance of this rare act of charity was banished to ignominy.
Perhaps, it may be necessary at this stage to highlight the story of the children from Liberia on whom fate has smiled on and are today part of the the Rochas Foundation College of Africa in Owerri. Their chilly stories undoubtedly epitomises and mirrors what has become the circumstance and life of other children in the school.
First is Hada Sue who lost her mother during childbirth. She has never seen her father since she was born but believes he may still be alive. She had been surviving in a local orphanage until Rochas Foundation found her.? Today, she’s among those who have found hope and by reason of being given the opportunity of a good education, even the sky cannot hinder her goals or stop her from fulfilling destiny.
The story of Hawa Karsieh is no less interesting. ?She lost her mother in 2011 and her father in 2012. Life as an orphan had been very difficult for her. She was in an orphanage boarding school, unsure of what the future holds or would offer until Rochas foundation found her.? Again, she has a song of renewed hope on her lips. And feelings of despair that was her lot in the past has totally disappeared.
For Abdulah Farsahwuo, Rochas Foundation was God sent. The dreaded Ebola had abruptly altered his destiny and dealt him a deadly blow never to be forgotten. Everyone simply pointed at him as? the orphan who survived Ebola. The Ebola pandemic almost wiped out his entire family including his father and mother. The young Abdulah was living with his aunt as a house help without going to school until Rochas foundation found him.? The opportunity of being in school has imbued feelings of nostalgia and euphoria alike. On one hand, he is extremely happy that Rochas has filled the void he lost while wishing that children back home in Liberia could find someone with similar heart of gold to rescue them. But, he’s almost sure that tomorrow will bring good tidings courtesy of Rochas Foundation.
?In the case of Kokuloi Mulbah, he found out early that fate can sometimes be cruel and wicked. Talk of a child who grew up deprived! Kokuloi lost his mother at a very young age. He has never met his father since he was born. Neither does he know if the man is alive. He used to live in a local community in a remote part of Liberia with no access road. He has not recovered from the circumstance of how he was discovered by Rochas Foundation. Eternal gratitude to the Governor and his family remains a song on the lips of Kokuloi.
Musu Masaaki, the fifth Liberian child equally had a tale of woe before he was rescued by the Rochas Foundation. She is among the 275 children in the school in Owerri. She is also one of the kids who survived the killer disease known as Ebola.? She was banished to a home, forlorn and sad, until hope came through the Imo State Chief Executive.
By and large, it is definitely impossible to seek to tell the story of 275 orphans quartered and learning in the Rochas Foundation College of Africa in Owerri. It is also possible that the stories of these children and circumstances of how they were picked may never be? told. It is even doubtful if the man behind this noble project would really tolerate real focus of these children to whom he has come to be known and regarded as a father.
But it would be uncharitable, albeit unAfrican?, not to appreciate this unprecedented display of philanthropy. And posterity would definitely be kind to him each time attempt is made to review what Rochas has done. Yes, he may have some flaws as any human being. Some mistakes could also be traced to him since he is fallible. No one, it must be stated, could wish away or forget Owelle who opened his heart and showed love to children of Africa. About time this reality or fact sinks!
Bekee Igwe writes from Ikeduru LGA of Imo State.