Posted by McLord Obioha | 4 December 2016 | 4,177 times
Fast forward to the governor. The most disquieting aspect of Gov. Okorocha’s behaviour is starting something that he can hardly finish. He coins up an idea and oratorically paints it with the sweetest, flowery and cosmetic language that is bound to sweep you off your feet into imagining how wonderful the project will be when finished. But no sooner he starts that project than he abandons it halfway, leaving everyone, critics and even his admirers, wondering what was amiss. As a result, Imo state is today littered with phantom and elephantine projects that have been abandoned, done half way, forgotten or both, prompting many to wonder if the governor will be able to complete all these projects before his term ends. For clarity and details, let’s X-ray some of these failed promises under the state’s three senatorial zones.
Few weeks after the governor came into office, he assured Orlu and Okigwe people, that with his election, the ridicule that these zones suffered in the past was over. He recalled the pejorative, deprecatory Igbo song, Obodo nile emehe chala, ofor ndi Okigwe na Orlu, meaning many communities have developed except Okigwe and Orlu, and assured Orlu people that their traducers will never sing that song again. As appetizer, he unveiled a prototype photo of what Orlu will be when he is done rebuilding it. Many Orlu citizens who saw that photo which was conspicuously displayed in front of Orlu Local Government Authority for months, jumped up with joy. They felt that after all these years of neglect by previous administrations, a Messiah, their son, has finally come to change the face of Orlu. But some skeptics remained. They remembered how their other son, Chief Achike Udenwa, a former state governor dashed their hopes and failed to deliver on his campaign promises. That fear became plausible when few days later, that photo mysteriously disappeared. What Orlu is today, is nowhere close to what that deceitful photo depicted.
The only thing that Orlu can boast of today is the ill-conceived, ill maintained International Market, and the ill-equipped Imo State University Medical School which the Udenwa’s administration built. If Udenwa did a good feasibility study, he would have found out that Onitsha, where most traders, including Orlu traders buy from, will kill this market. Today, three quarters of stores at this market remain vacant. As for Imo State University Medical School, it has been abandoned. Okorocha government owes workers there months of unpaid salaries while medical students stay over twelve years without graduating because the school continues to fails accreditation by the Nigerian Medical Council due to poor, substandard teaching facilities.
The governor once painted a flowery picture of how would make Oguta Lake a heaven on earth. He theorised that it would be a tourist haven, featuring a 18-hole Golf course, with Beaches, Conference Center, Flying boats, and a Yatch. Many golfers, who salivated when he made this promise have since packed up their golf baggies and moved on to Le Meridian in Uyo, where government takes tourism serious.
Orlu is in dire need of good roads. It has no single good road without potholes. There is no construction of new roads or maintenance of existing ones. The roads that the governor started during his first term are all in a mess because they were constructed with no stone base and no good drainage system. Except for Ogboko, his small village, which he is busy transforming into a mini state capital should Orlu become a state in future, no development is going on in Orlu today. The demolition of buildings and structures which he stopped at Umuna is still where his bulldozers left off. The promise that he would expand the road beyond Umuna remains only a promise. The road is still of the same size today as it were when he made that promise.
During his first term, the governor started the division not dualisation of old Orlu-Owerri road as an alternative to traffic holdups at the only entry road into the town. Many heralded this move. Today, the road is filled with potholes and the governor hardly remembers that it even exists.
In Omuma and Mgbidi, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC is busy reconstructing big erosion called the Valley of death which has been posing a death trap to many drivers who maneuver it at their own risk. Several pleas by many for the government to fix this erosion fell on deaf ear.
Here is a brief list of some of the abandoned projects in Orlu: The old stadium at the back of the Orlu Local Government Headquarters, abandoned and overgrown with weed. The new international stadium at Owerri Ebiri, abandoned and overgrown with weed. Skills Acquisition Center? Completed but abandoned and overgrown with weed. Cultural Center? Abandoned and overgrown with weed. Orlu People’s Assembly? Completed but abandoned and overgrown with weed, Orlu Parking Plaza? Abandoned. Many buildings at the Imo State University Medical School, IMSU? Abandoned. Orlu Botanical Garden, dead. Imo Hotels? Dead. Kings Hotel Orlu? Abandoned and overgrown with weed. The number is endless etc.
There is no single state owned industry in Orlu today. A visitor to Orlu, would never believe that this zone has produced two governors since the creation of Imo state. Orlu has been conned again by yet another of its son.
Okigwe is a town with breathtaking scenery. With its undulating landscape, beautiful, hilly terrains, cascading slopes, mountains and valleys, the geographical setting of this town could easily be mistaken for Hollywood, USA. Unfortunately, former governor, Ikedi Ohakim who hails from this zone did not see the need to cash in on this nature’s gift. Like Orlu, many also ridiculed Okigwe as a “backward” and underdeveloped town. Governor Okorocha governor promised to change all that on assumption of office. During his first term, he demolished many houses, structures and started work on its major road, Owerri road. Even though, he did not pay any compensation to owners whose houses were demolished, nevertheless, Okigwe home owners cheered him on. Street lights were erected and few roads were divided, not actually dualized. But that was the end of the story. It did not take long before the governor followed the footsteps of his predecessors, Governor Ohakim and abandoned the town. Today, Okigwe town remains worse than how the governor found it. Old, rustic, native, inaccessible, unmotorable, dirty and smelly with garbage everywhere. It’s back to its former self!
The governor promised that he would build Princess and Crystal Hotel in Okigwe. During his first term, construction of this hotel which is located close to the old Cho Genesis Hotels started in earnest. But since a part of that building collapsed due to faulty structural plan, the project has been abandoned and overtaken by weed. Except at social functions where comedians lampoon Okigwe as being better off with a Buka or Mamaput, than an international hotel on paper, no one in the administration talks about this hotel anymore.
How can anybody forget the fish farm in Okigwe which was established by former Governor Sam Mbakwe? Governor Ohakim renamed it Agro Nova Fish Farm and once boasted how he will bring in a South African Firm to refurbish it. It remains abandoned today and overtaken by weed. The present administration does not even know that it exists. Governor Mbakwe will surely stir in his grave today on learning that this food basket which could have solved the protein needs of Imo citizens remains forgotten and overtaken by wanton weed.
Imo state government has erected billboards at strategic places in the state capital, praising the governor for reopening the Avutu Poultry that was also built by the then Mbakwe administration. The only problem with this advertisement is that no one can find where the Avutu Poultry’s eggs and chickens are sold.
At a point, the news about town was that the state government will reopen the Tile Factory in Nsu. His former Commissioner of Industries, a lady who is now late, disclosed that when fully operational, it would produce 25, 000 tiles per day. Till date, the factory remains shuttered and overtaken by weed.
The governor promised that he would build two new universities in Okigwe. Imo is still waiting for at least one.
What happened to the Okigwe Stadium? Started but abandoned and overtaken by weed. What of the Plaza? Abandoned and overtaken by weed. Okigwe People’s Assembly? Abandoned and overtaken by weed. Imo Hotels? Dead. The number of abandoned or deserted projects in Okigwe today is innumerable.
The NDDC has recently started rebuilding Amaraka and Akabo roads which is the major road link to other South Eastern states. The road has been impassable during the rainy season due to big pot holes which easily converts into a big river when it rains.
Despite being the state capital, Owerri has not fared well. The governor constructed a beautiful edifice for the Council of Ndi Eze, with modern facilities complete with a large conference hall. As many Ezes waited for it to be opened, the governor made about turn and dashed their hopes. He renamed it The Youth Center. Even with its new baptismal name, the place remained abandoned and overtaken by weed and inhabited by lizards and rats. He has recently moved Ndi Ezes to a compound which they share with the State Environmental agency, ENTRACO along Aba road.
One of the things that the governor did on assumption of office was to build the so called city gates at many intersections of the city. He said that these gates which cost taxpayers N3 Million each will provide security. The shiny, chrome-plated electric poles cost an additional N3.5 Million Naira each. As typical of the governor’s contract which hardly goes through due process, the governor did not pay many contractors who executed that job. Some of them are living dead today while most are dead and gone. Today, these gates remain uncompleted, abandoned. They stand at street intersections like gates to abandoned stockades—a relic of bad policy gone wrong. An eyesore, no one, not even the governor knows what to do with them anymore.
Owerri has many hotels. 250 at the last count. These are just recognized ones. There are many unknown ones. Regrettably, none of these hotels is of international standard compared to that of Concorde Hotel which was built by the then government of Samuel Mbakwe. Okorocha has refurbished old Concorde Hotel and rechristened it the New Concorde Hotel. But since this touch up, guests of state government are redirected to Lamonde Hotel which is owned by the governor while the New Concorde Hotel bleeds and looks like a ghost town on any given weekend. Meanwhile, business in booming at Lamonde and its staff receive their salary regularly.
It would be recalled that at the inception of his administration, Okorocha promised to build another International hotel on Owerri to serve the need of a state capital as big as Owerri. Actuality and reality may look alike but they are not the same. Okorocha is in his second term and Imo is still waiting for its second hotel? Similarly, what happened to the governor’s promise to build the tallest international hotel around World Bank area? Where is the money that was allocated to these projects?
One morning, Owerri residents woke up to the disturbing sound of Caterpillars, Pay loaders and Bulldozers demolishing buildings and structures to make way for a Multi-level Parking Plaza at the intersection of Douglas road and Bank road. Many critics opined that the Parking Plaza would exacerbate the traffic headache that Eke Ukwu and Ama Huasa markets were already causing at the same Douglass road. Few years later, this proposed Plaza is still a mirage. It is overgrown with weeds, and parked by rabbits and grasscutters which could make for good protein meal in this hard time. The big question is, where is the money that was allocated to this project?
Only recently, the governor was overheard ridiculing the progress the foreign owners of the Resins and Paint Industries at Mbaise was making. Some of his comments bordered on how his government will use one policy or the other to appropriate that industry in future. It’s sad development.
What happened to Owerri People’s Assembly? Completed but abandoned and overtaken by weed. What of our Standard Shoe Industry, Owerri? This industry which would have provided shoes to primary school pupils under the governor’s free education program remains shuttered, overtaken by weed, many years after the governor assumed office. Comedian, Uche Ogbuagu, now the owner of the recently launched My Radio, 100.9 FM and erstwhile governor’s Special Assistant on Entertainment, before he fell out with the governor, once told a story of how he escaped being ravaged by some ravenous snakes when he went there to buy a shoe.
Sometimes, it is even better when the governor does nothing at all. Nworie and Otamiri river are good examples of what happens when a governor’s contractor does a bad job. They have succeeded in blocking the water flow of these once pristine streams that added beauty to the capital town. An ecological and environmental disaster, these stagnant river are now covered by green algae and sea weeds.
During the days of Samuel Mbakwe, Owerri garnered accolades as the cleanest state capital in Nigeria. Today, the city is a smelly, putrid of its former self. Repulsive and repugnant odor of heaps of garbage dumps deliberately ignored and abandoned by the state government for months continue to assault the sensibilities of passersby. All it takes for Owerri to turn into rivulets in seconds is a slight rain. Uncollected refuse and garbage are dragged into uncovered gutters which clogs all water outlets.
After wriggling out of the mess created by the rain, all manner of governmental agencies, sanitation, environmental, building, road construction, etc appear, cup in hand, to collect legal and illegal fees. There is environmental fee of N6,000, garbage basket fee of N3,000, advert or billboard, signboard or shingle fee ranging from N6,000, minimum to over N150,000, depending on the size of the sign, pollution fee, fumigation fee, , garbage collection fee, tourism fee, developmental fees, road reconstruction fee, sidewalk fee and many more!
Meanwhile, no effort is made to clear the garbage which the rain gorged out on the streets. Woe betides any landlord or businessman who fails to pay any of these fees. His property will be confiscated with no one giving account of how, when and where they will be disposed.
There is so much lies and propaganda going on in Imo today. Imagine this from a Deputy Governor of Imo state office. “Regular supply of pipe-borne water in Owerri which had for a long time now been non-existent, has finally become a reality.
Did he really say, a reality?
The first impression one gets is that Imo citizens have good potable water. But if you live in the state, precisely, Owerri, you would easily know that this is bared-faced, blatant lies a deceitful statement at best. Truth is, Owerri has no pipe borne water. Unlike Ohakim’s government, Okorocha has not sunk any single borehole anywhere in the state. Few months ago, some faceless staff of Imo State Government Water Scheme, accosted many landlords to cough out N6,000 each as connection fees for a non-existent pipe borne water. Most landlords complied but to this day, these taps remain dry. If not for boreholes, many Imo citizens would have been drinking pond water today. Ironically, the same government attempted to tax Borehole owners and failed because they revolted.
Currently, massive road expansion is going on in Owerri. The governor said that he wants to expand these roads into multi lanes. The size of these roads is huge. He has pulled down many structures which he said violated the original plan of the capital city. He has assured the citizens that when he is finished with the reconstruction, they will give him thumbs up. Naturally, there have been public outcries following these demolitions with many wondering if this is déjà vu.
The people fear that this may be a replay of what happened in Orlu and Okigwe. It would be recalled that when Rochas assumed office, many people whose properties were destroyed did not receive any compensation. More regrettable was that over the years, since he finished his first term, no road expansion was extended to these damaged buildings. The pimply faces of these destroyed buildings are still there as urban blight and relics of when an idea ran amuck. Most owners of these buildings are now dead while some diehards are still waiting for compensation that may never come. Those who could not wait have leaked their wounds and rebuilt their houses. They took what happened to them as a sacrifice they made for the state to grow.
Many of Rochas critics have revealed that the reason he is carrying out this road expansion is to have something, expenses to retire to the Federal Government before the bailout program peters out. Otherwise, why, some engineers argue, are the roads being built during heavy rainy season? The mess created by building Owerri roads during this rainy season is unimaginable. Apart from the big gorges and gullies, the integrity of some of houses which are standing is in question. They face imminent collapse due to erosion.
Despite many years of pleas by many for the state government to rebuild Umuguma and World Bank area which was cut off from the rest of Owerri, it is only now that the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC is giving it a facelift. If only NDDC can extend this help to the road leading to Imo Polytechnics and Federal University of Technology, Owerri which is now a death trap despite several protests and demonstrations by students of these institutions.
•Being Part 2 of the insightful piece ‘Untold story of how Gov. Okorocha is killing Imo State’, which started running yesterday in News Express. Watch out for the concluding part tomorrow. McLord Obioha, a veteran journalist, is the publisher of Igbolive.com. Photo shows Governor Okorocha.
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