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Okorocha’s bleeding local governments, By Collins Ughalaa

By News Express on 08/04/2017

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•Governor Okorocha.
•Governor Okorocha.

Sometimes I feel ashamed of the kind of administration we have in Imo State:  Rescue Mission Government. Sometimes I feel embarrassed at the gibberish that are cooked and dished out from Government House, a place that should have been an exalted sacred altar, from where a deity, the Governor, speaks in clear honesty, devoid of ambiguities and half-truths. Such should be the core duty of the government, to speak truth with the people at all times.

But what we see every day is a government that has left the basic duties it owes the people and has gone on self-aggrandisement, pulling the carpet off the feet of the people, and leaving them looking up to nowhere. Regrets now fill their heads. In that situation, the people can do nothing but gnash their teeth and pray that God should send someone to come over to Macedonia and help, or make a Daniel come to judgment.

Well, it is obvious to Imo people that they need to cast their net on the other side of the sea, where a big catch awaits them. But I am ashamed that those who have the duty to explain government’s activities to the people are themselves ignorant. If these people are not ignorant, they must be very deceptive. As a result, they should be kept at arm’s length.

How do you explain the fact the government and its officials seem to have a fixed mindset of what they think is good governance and rule of law to the extent that they do not want any contribution to the discourse? How do you explain a government and its officials that have shown gross ignorance on what the people really needs?

By the way, is Nigeria a fiefdom or such a lawless society, where the mighty becomes law to himself and others? If Nigeria is a free society run by law and order, then we need to look at what the law says, and not what the government says, especially on the vexed issue of local government system, because the government can be in breach of the law.

We do not need a rocket scientist to convince us that the state government has been in breach of the laws setting up the local government system in Nigeria. The breach centres on the running and autonomy of the local government in the state.

Everyone who knows as much as an alphabet about Imo State can recall that for six years now the governor has been the sole manager of the 27 local governments in the state, through the appointment of caretaker committee chairmen. From the legal point of view, the appointment of ‘Caretaker Committee Chairmen’ is a serious breach of the laws creating the local governments. The law provides for periodic elections into the local government system, so that elected local government chairmen and councilors would manage the affairs, including finances, personnel, projects, etc, of local governments.

The essence of the local government system is to have a third-tier government that is very close to the people, so that the people will not only participate in the political system, but also have quicker and unhindered access to those that lead them. Again, every local government has its peculiar situation and challenges. Therefore, it is wrong, for example, to have the 27 local governments in Imo State take up same projects at the same time, as dictated by the governor.

Let us pause for a while and consider the current policy where the governor has instructed the TC Chairmen in the state and, perhaps, released millions of naira to them, for the building of chapels in the council headquarters. Let us also pause and ask: why would the governor force or instruct the chairmen to build what it called general hospitals each in 26 of the 27 local governments? This might not have been so had we had in place elected local government officials, because they would have their own priorities and peculiarities.

Despite the fact that Governor Rochas Okorocha derailed on his promise to conduct local government election three months into his government in 2011, what we have seen is a government of trial and error, as far as the local government system is concerned. We have also seen a government run by patronages in the local governments. For more than three occasions, the Okorocha government had announced its preparedness to conduct local government elections in the state, but failed in all. In one of those instances many of the aspirants sold personal belongings, while some went borrowing, just to be part of the election. In the end, what we got was shattered dreams. Since then there has been no local government election. This is notwithstanding the fact the governor inherited a functional local government system with elected officials in place, bequeathed to it by the Ikedi Ohakim administration. Ohakim also left a vibrant work-force for the local governments. But most of the workers have been sacked in the form of hunting for ghost workers.

But instead of continuing with the functional local governments in the state, the governor has preferred the shenanigans going on in the local governments. Why would the TC chairmen build chapels in the councils? Who among the TC chairmen live in the councils? Who among them go to work on a daily basis? What really is the essence of the chapel? Well, someone recently hinted that it is better to have those structures contracted out, because it affords the leaders the opportunity to steal public funds in the name of the projects. This might be why government projects are never disclosed, but handled in top secrecy. How many churches do we have in the local government areas? What would be the use of the chapels, and how has building chapels become a priority to my local government, Oguta LGA, for instance, where we have high rate of unemployment and restiveness due to government’s long years of abandonment and neglect? Are the buildings chapels or mosques? Is the government building initiation centres, or what? I want to know, and I believe many Imo people want to know too? When will the government recognise that we, the people, have, and should have, a say in how we are governed?   

It is this abominations going on in the local governments that have attracted the ire of many commentators and political leaders in the state. The commentaries are exacerbated by the fact the Governor of Abia State who has spent less than two years in office has succeeded in conducting local government election in his state. What it means is that for six years running nothing has happened in the local governments in Imo State. In the six years of the Okorocha government, there have been no job openings in the local governments and no one has been employed. What a government!

Ironically, the officials of the state government do not see that nothing is going wrong in the local governments in the state. It does not matter to them that the local government service is dead. It does not even matter to them that the local governments are on life-support, and that any slightest act can cause the greatest deafening quake in the system.   

These breaches were mentioned by former deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, in a recent interview where he made concerned remarks about the dead condition of the local government system in Imo State.

He said: “I am sure that most people have forgotten that there used to be local government in the state, whereas the Constitution provides for three-tiers of government. But this government has deliberately killed the local governments.”

Ihedioha concluded, and I agree with him: “Already, I am getting sick of the negative actions of the governor all the time, and I believe that it is now the wish of Imo people for the life of this government to come to an end as quickly as possible so that the people can see a new tomorrow and to know how government can be run the way it should be run. Government today in Imo is in ruins, because we have a state of anomie and I am sure that the people know that.”

If you did not know, one way Okorocha killed the local government system is by his illegal creation of the fourth tier government. He claimed that the fourth-tier government would bring government closer to the people. But since then, both the local governments and the fourth-tier government are all dead. The only thing going on now in the local government is the patronage system, called TC chairmen. It is interesting to note, however, that the creation of the fourth-tier government has led to the existence of two PGs in some communities: one operating for the government’s CGC and the other operating for the community as town union. The CGC has on its own killed the inward looking approach of the Igbo in resolving their problems, and now looks outward to the government for help, which is not forthcoming.

But, in the face of these obvious breaches, what does the government say? The government prefers we shut up and accept whatever crumbs that fall from the master’s table. But it does not work like that. We are a people that are interested in our future and government. We want our government to be responsible and accountable.

But as far as Onwuemeodo, Okorocha’s CPS, is concerned, Okorocha has done nothing wrong and Ihedioha should shut up and “concentrate on the management of his hotel in Owerri, since it appears he does not have any other serious thing at the moment to do, and since 2019 is still far from now, and to stop disturbing the peace of the State.”

Not done with shutting Ihedioha up, Onwuemeodo follows a familiar route of diverting attention from the major issue.

He said: “The records are available for every fair-minded person to see that until Governor Okorocha came, the local governments in the state were totally abandoned by the PDP governments in the state, because the local governments’ allocations were shared by the party’s stakeholders on arrival.

“But under Okorocha, the local governments have seen more than 800 kilometres of tarred rural roads, 305 upstairs school buildings, 27 general hospitals, more than 600 kilometres of graded-roads, building of ICT centres and chapels, payment of salaries as at when due, renovation and re-modelling of the council headquarters allowed to dilapidate by the PDP governments. All these are just to mention but a few. And we challenge Chief Ihedioha to publish any project, even at the foundation level or at the kindergarten stage, executed in the local governments for the 12 years PDP held forte.

“Imo people know those who messed up the state and her resources, and had shown disdain by rejecting them at the poll in 2011 and 2015, and will also reject them in 2019, if Christ does not come before then.”

What Onwuemeodo does not understand is that we are not talking about his fancied 800 kilometres of roads and others. Onwuemeodo should know that we prefer to have functional local governments with elected local government officials in place, than have the current arrangement and the ‘wonderful’ achievements the governor records. It was even self-defeating for Onwuemeodo to make the claims he made, because he was practically agreeing with Ihedioha and others like me, who believe that the local governments in the state are on life-support.

If the local governments have got 800 kilometres of roads, who awarded the contracts? The governor, or the elected chairmen of the local governments? If the LGAs have ICT centres, chapels, school buildings and all that, who conceived the projects? Who awarded the contracts? The governor, or the elected LGA chairmen? These are more important to us than the claimed lofty achievements of the governor in the local governments. If Onwuemeodo does not understand it let him learn through this medium, that Okorocha cannot be the Governor of Imo State and at the same be the Chairman of the 27 local governments in the state, or run them by proxy.

Onwuemeodo should know that in Britain, the people voted to exit the almighty European Union. That was the people’s wish, not minding whether it was popular or not with other nations. The leaders of the country, especially the British Prime Minister, have a duty to respect that wish, no matter the pains that come with it. In the same way, the people of the state prefer a corrupt local government system with elected LGA chairmen, than having dead LGAs, where Okorocha is both Governor and Chairman.

If we have elected a functional local government system, there are laws to checkmate them. Therefore, the governor should not hide under the illusion that the local government system was corrupt. If he was concerned about the LGA funds, how much of it has he saved since 2011? Can Onwuemeodo publish a detailed statement showing the finances of the local governments in the state? Can he tell us who appropriated the funds, and for what?

•Collins Ughalaa writes from Owerri, Imo State.

Source News Express

Posted 08/04/2017 1:41:54 PM





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