Posted by News Express | 24 August 2018 | 2,261 times
The emergence of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State in 2011 was roundly greeted with joy and ecstasy. The celebration that heralded his victory unarguably rekindled hope, as many perceived the philanthropist-governor as not only a messiah but someone with the Midas touch and capacity to return Imo on the path of good governance, with guaranteed infrastructural amenities and economic prosperity.
The governor's earlier steps which suggested a burning desire to deliver quality services and solid infrastructural projects, such as roads and public buildings, were absolutely betrayed by his unrefined approach and frightening inconsistencies that hallmarked contract awards and project execution. His choice of contractors and job-men for state construction jobs irredeemably worsened the entire exercise.
Therefore, it is not a surprise that virtually all the road projects and public buildings constructed by Okorocha on assumption of office have collapsed during the lifetime of his administration. This was foretold and, indeed, expected when the governor dismantled laid down and globally acceptable procedures and practices ignored protocols and bureaucratic applications to operate a one-man proprietorship in the name of running a government.
Recall that the governor’s miscalculated moves geared towards gripping the state legislature marked the beginning of his woes. Through this fruitless effort, Okorocha consciously or unconsciously surrendered and deceitfully abdicated critical powers of the executive to (now Senator) Benjamin Uwajimogu-led 7th Assembly of Imo State. He recruited the ‘hard men’ members of the assembly – Stan Dara (Orsu State Constituency), Simeon Iwunze (Isiala Mbano State Constituency), Ikechukwu Amuka also known as Oshimiri (Ideato South State Constituency), Samuel Anyanwu (Ikeduru State Constituency) now a senator representing Owerri senatorial zone in the National Assembly, and Ikenna Eme (Isu State Constituency) - as his foot soldiers, apparently to curry their support and loyalty. Without regard to sanity and known administrative decency, Okorocha arbitrarily involved the aforementioned lawmakers in the processes of awards, implementation, evaluation and payments of roads contracts during his first tenure.
As he balkanised the system, Okorocha inadvertently railroaded Imo to the brisk of collapse. The lawmakers abandoned their core legislative duties and jumped with alacrity into contract business. The former Speaker, Uwajimogu, reportedly awarded road contracts with reckless abandon. He became the major and sole supplier of asphalts to virtually all the contractors handling road projects. In most cases, contract documentation were not made; contract papers were not given, mobilisation fees were also not paid. The contractors were rather asked to source funds through any means available or known to them. The entire system was destroyed as road projects, including the much-celebrated 15-km rural roads in each of the 27 LGAs of Imo State awarded under this unconventional circumstance failed completely, collapsed and abandoned. The state government, on the other hand, was robbed of several billion that fraudulently ended up in the pockets of some individuals, including Gov Okorocha’s family members and top government functionaries.
Instead of correcting the anomaly with the opportunity presented by his victory as a second term governor in 2015, Okorocha rather continued with his trade. The contract rascality was rather taken to another level of higher proportion. This time around, the governor chooses to personalise almost all state projects, as he deploys fronts who parade as contractors.
In Imo State today, Okorocha solely reign supreme as the contract-awarding board, a major contractor, project consultant, project evaluation team, and payment authority. The state in its entirety has been taken over by the “Rescue Mission” governor and his family. Nobody in Imo dares question Okorocha’s authority and lordship. This is, perhaps, why the governor is launching an endless political battle against Imo leaders and stakeholders opposing his succession agenda, tailored to surrender state powers to his son-in-law and Chief of Staff Uche Nwosu.
The regrettable implication of this corrupt method adopted by the governor for about eight years is what has become the deplorable condition of Owerri roads. The truth as at today is that no road in Owerri, the capital city, is passable or smoothly motorable. The rainy season has fatally exposed Okorocha’s total failure in road construction, contract management and administration. All the roads leading and linking up Owerri capital city, which the governor claims to have constructed, have collapsed before him. This is the worst economic sabotage a governor and custodian of state funds can inflict on his people.
This postulation corroborates a recent post made on the social media by an Owerri-based social commentator and lawyer that aptly gave an insight on the deplorable condition of the roads in the state capital, the road contracting misdemeanour and the poor engineering knowledge exhibited by Okorocha and his glorified contractors.
The post reads: “I am a lawyer and a layman in engineering. But I am losing my respect for all those in Imo APC and Rocha’s government who have engineering knowhow.
“Rochas’ government set out to build three underpass tunnels at Holy Ghost College hill, Concord Junction and Imo House of Assembly Junction at the same time. Please, note the emphasis ‘at the same time’, not that the project on its own is bad. These three bridges were the major links to the western and eastern parts of the New Owerri.
“No one in the Rescue Mission had the sense that construction of those three bridges simultaneously would lead to diversion of heavy traffic to small trunk roads not meant for heavy-duty vehicles. Owerri is largely an interlink town from the northern and western part of Nigeria to Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo, Calabar, etc.
All heavy duty trucks joined in seeking a diversion and alternative routes. They destroyed the Umuguma Hospital Road built by (Ex-Gov. Achike) Udenwa. World Bank Road built by Udenwa was destroyed beyond repairs, Federal High Court and Court of Appeal Road built by (Ex-Gov. Ikedi) Ohakim was destroyed. Dreamland Junction to Imo House of Assembly Road built by Udenwa was destroyed beyond repairs. The opposite Holy Ghost College Jacob Zuma Road built by Rochas was destroyed. All these happened for us to deliver three underpass bridges. One road that carried the heavy duty diversion but withstood it was the Yar’Adua Road built by Ohakim.
“But simple engineering sense demands that the bridges be done one after the other. Why the urgency to do them at the same time? After the construction, the government ought to have moved in to do rehabilitation of failed portions of the World Bank Road, Dreamland Junction to House of Assembly Road. Today, those roads are completely destroyed.
“If you drive through World Bank Road and Dreamland to Imo House of Assembly roads, you will weep at the deliberate destruction of two sweet roads, built by Udenwa, that once made Owerri a tourist and investment delight; making many Imolites in the Diaspora to visit home and invest massively in the New Owerri axis. Those roads made night-life sweet in Owerri. But, today, you may get robbed by applying break in any of the massive potholes along these roads. That is how insensitive a government can be.”
This, no doubt, is the situation in Owerri as of today.
Moving around or passing through Owerri has become a nightmare to residents and road users. Travellers, especially those originating from Aba, are painfully subjected to a long delay; they spend an average of two hours before accessing the Owerri-Onitsha expressway due to traffic gridlock occasioned by bad roads. The beauty that hitherto enveloped Owerri has substantially faded away as the foremost cleanest state capital in the country becomes a ghost of itself. No thanks to Okorocha and his contractors.
But why is the governor, who has about eight months to stay in office, averse to use of competent and reputable construction firms? What exactly did Okorocha achieve with his self-styled and direct labour system? Can he beat his chest and probably glorify himself as that governor that served Imo people alright? Can he claim any success in terms of road construction? What will he bequeath to Imo people as his lasting legacies? How best shall the upcoming generations remember Okorocha? What happens to the huge resources expended by Okorocha’s administration under the guise of road construction with visible and enduring output? Who will salvage the present ugly situation in Imo? Who is that Redeemer?
Redeeming the state and Owerri capital city from the injuries of collapsed roads is a project for all Imolites. In the next few months, that enormous and civic task will be performed. If Imo people want continuity to what Okorocha has done so far, the option shall be there for them. But if they want a departure from the present, the alternatives will be equally put in place.
•Uzoukwa, a seasoned journalist and PR practitioner, is currently pursuing his Doctorate Degree on Mass Communication in Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri.
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