Posted by Collins Ughalaa | 24 March 2017 | 1,750 times
On several occasions, Governor Rochas Okorocha had attempted to rivet the mentality of the people of Imo with his self-acclaimed stellar performance since he became governor of the state in 2011. But on the occasion of the 2016/2017 Legal Year celebrated by lawyers in the state on 27 February, 2017, Okorocha refused to bow to aggregate opinion of the public expressed by the learned men. On the contrary, he chose to go his normal route again, boasting that no other governor before him did 20 per cent of what he has done as the state's helmsman. But we know this claim is as incorrect as any other claim the governor had made.
When the governor speaks, the first thing you would see is that there are no indices. We need to, therefore, look elsewhere to have a proper overview of the Okorocha government, outside his claims. We need to look deeper and deeper to uncover the hidden truths buried by the shenanigans and cover-ups going on in government circles. For example, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) is a critical stakeholder in the Imo project. What does the NBA think about the Okorocha government? Here it is: “I know the normal excuse there is a recession. We are aware of it, but what is the essence of preaching recession as excuse and at the same time spending huge sums of money on Christmas decorations? Such decorations can only be for the living and not the dead,” the NBA State Chairman, L U N Nwakaeti, said on behalf of the association, during the New Year celebration by the judiciary.
The NBA statement follows the inability of the Okorocha-led government in the state to comply with the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, affirming the financial autonomy of the Judiciary, saying: “Allocation of funds to the Judicial Arm shall be made from the resultant funds after the total recurrent personnel costs expenditure are deducted from the Consolidated Revenue funds of the state, made up of funds from the federal allocation and internally generated revenue; … all allocations due to the Judiciary shall be made monthly directly to the heads of the courts, etc.”
The grouse of the NBA was that the state government under Governor Okorocha has not complied with the judgment, citing recession as reason.
Recession has become the singsong for this government when it comes to attending to the needs of the people, such as payment of salaries to the state workers and pension to our senior citizens. Okorocha, singing recession as excuse, chose to cut down the salaries of workers in the state, cutting down the spending powers of the families in the state and thereby spreading unprecedented hardship. Not done, the state government on its whims and caprices cut down years arrears of pensions in the state to mere 40 per cent and mandated the pensioners to forfeit the remaining 60 per cent. In doing this, the alibi was that the state did not have money, due to recession.
“The purported slash on the accumulated pension of pensioners in Imo State by 60 per cent is another burning issue. This action of the government is a huge embarrassment and a gross affront on the rule of law and constitutional democracy… No one can alter the accrued pension of a pensioner to his disadvantage,” the NBA noted. The group added that they had challenged the action in court, “hoping that justice will come to these senior members of our society who have put in the better part of their lives in the service of the state.”
But does the governor care about the thinking of the NBA? I think, no. He believes he has done the right thing, better than all other past governors of the state put together. And in saying this, the Okorocha does not think that we are all not dead, and we were not all born today. Therefore, the NBA does not agree with the governor on his self-acclaimed stellar performance, rather the NBA believes that “the government is the unjust aggressor against its own people.”
The point the NBA was making about the Christmas decorations was that the state government had been accused of spending funds running into N600 million for Christmas decorations in different years, while the state workers would go home hungry. And for a year, the workers have been forced to receive a miserly 60 per cent of their salaries. This is hinged on recession. But the same government would go on awarding contracts that run into billions of naira. People think that the award of contracts is the easier way government officials at top level enrich themselves illegally and, thus, would prefer to do so than paying salaries, which affords them little or no window for illegal self-enrichment.
Not only that, the state government has gone on the worst road constructions ever in the history of the state, and not only has the state government constructed the poorest quality of roads nicknamed ‘China Roads’, the governor appears to be fixated on road expansion work, not minding whether the people of the state are dead or alive. What he cares for is that the demolitions must go on to conclusion, even if it means killing and starving the whole of the people of the state – even if it means pulling down and dislocating all the businesses in the state. And one would want to repeat the position of the NBA: these roads should be meant for the living Imo people and not dead Imo people, because the dead do not walk on the roads, no matter how magnificent. There was a report sometime ago, that a young Imo son, looking at the starvation and hardship that had engulfed the state, jumped from one of the pedestrian bridges the governor built and died, after cursing the government. This is unprecedented. And, perhaps, this is one of the achievements the government brags about. This is symptomatic of the plight of the people. If after about six years Ikedi Ohakim left Government House, the clamour for his return is now reaching a crescendo, it is either the new government has failed or the Ohakim government was better, or both.
If the Okoroch government realises one bit that government is all about the living and not the dead, he would pause and have a rethink. There is absolutely no need for the shameless and heartless demolitions going on in the whole of Owerri, in the name of road expansion or urban renewal. Apart from the buildings that have gone down in the process without any atom of compensation or negotiation with the property owners, the Okorocha-led government has destroyed all the vegetation in the state capital, considering them inconsequential and of no effect whatsoever. If in the era of global warming and deforestation, the Governor of Imo State does not care about the protection of the environment, it will only be an act of miracle if the state is not swallowed up in flooding and other environmental disasters in no distant time. This is more worrisome considering that the twin-rivers of Nworie and Otamirihave been destroyed. Not thanks to the Okorocha government.
Perhaps, it needs repeating here that, apparently, the governor wants to destroy all the legacies of the past governors of the state, dating far back to the Mbakwe era. But alas! What is written is written. The governor, no matter how he tries, cannot turn back the hands of time or successfully rewrite history. If, perchance, he rewrites the records in the government house or changes the narration to favour his administration, what happens to records in the minds of the people? Yes, whatever happens, the people know their history. It is in tenaciously keeping to the programme to destroy all legacies of past governments in the state that has led to the ongoing destruction of critical infrastructures in the state, such as water pipes, laid years back to the Mbakwe era, without blinking an eyelid.
When you see water gushing helplessly from burst water pipes in the state capital and wasting away, you would only ask yourself, why? For six years, water did not run in the home of any Imo person, except water from private boreholes. All the water schemes built and renovated by the Ikedi Ohakim government has been abandoned to decay. All the power generating sets have disappeared, with the government not asking questions or giving answers. This makes it very attractive to look into the Okorocha government in search the generating sets. Same happens to the search for all the IROMA machines that disappeared as soon as Ohakim left office and Okorocha came in.
Having failed with the story that Ohakim did not achieve anything, the government has resorted to destroying anything done by its predecessors, so as to keep in focus those things it has done, no matter have destructive they are to the survival of the people. It is in keeping faith with the oath to carry out a total destruction of the legacies of the previous governments that the Okorocha government destroyed the local government development centres once it came on stream. Former governor, Achike Udenwa, created the Local Government Development Centres in the state, the same time his counterpart and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, created same institutions (LCDAs) in Lagos State. While former Governor Ohakim continued with and expanded the development centres, Fashola was doing same in Lagos. Today, Ambode has continued with that legacy. But, ironically, in Imo State, the development centres have been dead since 2011, about six years ago. And whereas the Lagos State Government has been conducting elections into her own development areas, the development centres are long dead and forgotten in Imo State. I hope this amounts to stellar performance by Okorocha? What an error!
While the governments of Fashola and Ambode continued with the LASTMA and LAWMA and other beautiful legacies of the Tinubu administration, Okorocha sees anything done by his predecessors as evil, only good to be destroyed. More so, he thinks that in destroying them he gains the applause of the people. But this has worked anti-clock wise. While the state government is terrified by the performance of the previous administrations, especially the Ohakim regime, there is a greater reawaking in the minds of the people. This reawakening has led to thunderous call for Ohakim to come back and complete his term. The reason for this reawakening is the obvious failure and suffocating policies of the Okorocha government. The people no longer believe the claims against Ohakim. Imo people now believe that Ikiri ka onye oshi mma. Whatever they mean!
The Okorocha government is a circus of what good governance is in any clime. The NBA said that much. “Let it be on record, that the Bar does not recognise the present JSC (Judicial Service Commission) as illegally constituted, until the executive respects the rule of law and reverts to status quo. The executive has gone ahead to hand over monies meant for judiciary to the JSC, comprising the governor’s handpicked men. The Bar condemns this and demands that all monies standing to the credit of the Judiciary should be handed over to the heads of the court.”
The NBA further warned: “The Judiciary is the last hope of the common man … (and) the custodian of the liberty of the masses of the people of any egalitarian society. Therefore, any action of the executive or any arm of government aimed at truncating this independence (of the Judiciary) is a direct attack on the liberty of the people as guaranteed by law. Societies in history have risen against this tendency in the several forms. No leader has ever won a battle against his own people.”
And to illustrate the truism in the aphorism that ‘No leader has ever won a battle against his own people’, the Imo State Newspapers Publishers Association (INPA), seen in some quarters as allies of the state government, has risen from their six years’ deep sleep, and took the governor to task, asking him to account for trillions of monies collected over the years on behalf of the people of the state. Among other things, INPA called on the governor to account to the people of the state, as their steward, the over N2 trillion belonging to the 27 local government areas in the state.
Recall that Okorocha sacked all the elected local government chairmen and councillors in the state in June 2011, via a media broadcast. And while other states in the country have conducted local government elections in their respective states, Imo State’s LGAs are dead zones, ran like fiefdoms by Okorocha’s handpicked men and women. While the governor’s cheer-leaders have gone on to shamelessly applaud his every move and remittance of pittance to the illegal occupants of the 27 local governments, the council areas have seen nothing called development in the last six years. I hope we can continue to clap for the governor for this wonderful performance.
For six long years, social amenities have been declared dead by the governor: No water. No electricity. No nothing! Today, the governor is forcing food out of the mouth of the people of the state by his constant demolition of their properties, in what he has termed urban renewal. No thanks. But some of his appointees told me in a private chat that dead people do not work on the roads, but living people. Yes, what else shows that the Okorocha government would witness more dead Imo people than any other government put together in the history of the state other than the fact the by the demolition of people’s properties, the government is spreading hunger, poverty, hypertension, anguish, etc?
When you see how shop owners run about to beat the four days’ notice given to them by the state agency, OCDA, you would only weep. You would weep the more upon realisation that most of these people don’t have anywhere to run to, but their villages. These people are running to the villages not find a living, but to die, gradually in their misfortune. To this number add the sickening statistics of pensioners and civil servants that die in the misfortune brought upon them by the state government. What of the contractors who had claimed they were owed by state government, who had ran into troubled waters with the commercial banks from which they borrowed money to execute government contracts they claimed they never got paid for?
These people will continue to remind us that only the living are ruled. But, as the lawyers noted: “The reverse will breed the kind of situation we find in Imo State.” That is what we have now in Imo state. Government for the dead, and not the living!
•Collins Ughalaa writes from Owerri, Imo State.
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