Posted by J.K. Ikwueke | 21 June 2017 | 2,577 times
Two different but related things happened on May 29, Nigeria’s Democracy Day. Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State dissolved not just his cabinet but also all the local government caretaker committees in utter dissatisfaction with their performance. The same day THISDAY newspaper published a mid-term report on performance of state governors (re)elected in 2015 and gave Gov. Okorocha between average and below average marks, which were generally a failing grade. Within one week, the state government published a long rebuttal, which unfortunately turned out to be what William Shakespeare would describe as full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Rather than provide what former World Bank Vice President, Oby Ezekwesili, famously described as evidence-based report, Okorocha’s government engaged in sheer rigmarole. No figures were provided to support claims of accomplishments. If nothing else, the fact that he furiously sacked all his commissioners and LG transition committee chairmen is enough evidence that he admits that his administration’s performance is substandard.
I am not from Imo State, but from Ihiala Local Government Area in Anambra State, which shares boundary with Imo State. This fact places me in a vantage position to know more than most Nigerians the rot in Imo State. In fact, it is border LGAs like Ihiala, Nnewi South and Aguata, all in Anambra State, which sustain a large percentage of Imo indigenes. Before the end of every month, workers and pensioners as well as traders in Imo State come over to nearby Anambra towns and villages to borrow money from their counterparts, who have already received bank alerts of salary payment. Anambra State workers have consequently nicknamed Chief Willie Obiano “the alert governor”. Nigerians were not surprised when the state council of the Nigeria Labour Congress led other trade unions and professional associations to endorse Obiano for a second term on May 1, 2017, observing that he is the only governor in over four years to increase workers’ salaries.
Like pensioners, Imo State workers receive their salaries in what my former professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Lagos in the early 1980s, Rev. Fr. Joseph Schuyler, a Jesuit priest from New York, would call staccato manner. Governor Okorocha would pay, say, the February salary in June and pay the June salary in August without paying for the months of March, April and May. According to his former commissioners, pensioners are treated more shabbily. He recently managed to pay them for a few months, but on the ground they sign an agreement to forego the unpaid months. The starving old men and women signed in spite of themselves.
Imo is known as a civil service state because it does not have commercial cities like neighbouring Anambra State, which has such commercial places, as Onitsha and Nnewi. So, the failure to pay workers has cataclysmic consequences. Since money has not been circulating in the state because of the non-payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions, traders make poor sales. Anambra’s markets and the state’s economy would have collapsed if Obiano had not been discharging his duties diligently.
Rochas built houses in all LGAs in Imo State and declared them hospitals over two years ago. But, at my last check, none of them has been opened because there is not one single piece of equipment in most of them. Imo State indigenes and other people, who live in the state always troop to hospitals in Ihiala, Nnewi South and Aguata LGAs. Therefore, it is no surprise that about one third of small and petty businesses in places like Ihiala are now owned by Imo people. The only industry thriving in Imo State today is hotel business in Owerri.
It is, at best, curious and, at worst, vexatious that instead of being grateful to the people of Anambra State for subsidising their Imo State brothers and sisters, Governor Okorocha has over the years been mounting a spirited campaign to bring Anambra to his level in Imo State. During the 2014 governorship electioneering campaign in Anambra State, he spent a fortune on the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Dr. Chris Ngige, who was to take a distant third position in the election. Many suspect that the money may have come from the state treasury. During the last general election, Okorocha again, allegedly spent heavily on Dr. Ngige, who was the APC candidate for the Anambra Central Senatorial Zone. And now, Rochas is believed to have appointed a number of persons to work, as coordinators for the APC in the Anambra gubernatorial election, which will take place in November, even though the APC has yet to choose its flag bearer. Rochas’ lineup in Anambra, as it is popularly called, even appear to be different from the party’s lineup in the state.
There is no APC state in the Southeast, apart from Imo. But there is none in which Rochas has shown interest in annexing except Anambra. He has openly been boasting how he would not rest until the APC conquers Anambra State. It is doubtful that he has good intentions for the state. His role model appears to be Emeka Offor, the controversial government contractor from Oraifite in Anambra State, who is rumoured to have fallen on hard times since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office. Offor is right now being investigated by the Federal Government for human rights abuses, and the five-man investigative team is led by Yusuf Kolo, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, who is also commander of the Inspector of General of Police Special Squad.
THISDAY’s assessment of Governor Okorocha’s performance, published on May 29, is charitable. The awful situation in Imo State is, frankly, under-reported by the press, which the state government boasts of having in its kitty. For instance, a Superintendent of Police was kidnapped on March 28, 2017, in Ihioma in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State while going to visit his family in Ihiala. It took the personal intervention of Sir Val Ntomchukwu, the brilliant Deputy Inspector General of Police, and Taiwo Lakanu, an Assistant Inspector General of Police, who was then the Imo State Commissioner of Police, to rescue him. The press in Imo did not report this incident, maybe, for fear of embarrassing Okorocha and his so-called Imo Rescue Mission. Okorocha is fast plunging Imo into the status of a failed state. When a government cannot provide reasonable security and cannot meet its contractual obligations to public servants, then the place is only a step away from being a weak state, if not a failed state proper
It is in the interest of the Nigerian people, especially Ndi Anambra and Ndigbo, that people like Okorocha are not allowed to bring Anambra State to the level where Okorocha has taken Imo State. As I was about to conclude this article, news came that The Rt. Hon. Kelechi Nwaugwu, a former Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly and frontline APC member, is leading a mass protest against misgovernance in the state by Rochas, as exemplified by non-payment of salaries and pensions. Meanwhile, another mass protest against Rochas is taking place in his Orlu Senatorial Zone led by Comrade Jeff Nwoha and supported by mass-based organisations like traders associations and union of tricycle operators.
•This piece by Dr. J.K. Ikwueke, a former deputy director in the federal service, who wrote from Nnewi, originally appeared in today’s edition of Daily Sun.
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