Several intervening factors, including the alleged deumanization of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Eustace Okorie, added to making Chief Rochas Okorocha achieve his goal of becoming Imo State governor in 2011.
Naturally, the visibly angry Catholics, and they are over 75 percent of the Imo populace, teamed up with other Christian faithful, to give the then incumbent governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, a run for his money, during that year’s gubernatorial election.
Ohakim did everything to debunk the news weaved around him about Rev. Fr. Okorie, which had gone viral, but the rumour stuck like a blood thirsty tick. Ohakim eventually lost his second term bid and quietly vacated the Douglas House, Owerri.
The jubilation over Ohakim’s sack from the seat of government was spontaneous, palpable and deafening. People coined and sang all manner of unprintable songs, clapped and danced round the major cities and communities of the state.
Although Ohakim accepted his defeat, after exploiting the legal options open to him, he, however, left his words on marble. He told Sunday Vanguard during an interview that Imo people would not only remember him, but would one day wish that he remained in office to complete the projects he started.
Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in his characteristic manner, jabbed Imo people over Ohakim’s fall and the loss of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. A lot of people laughed it off and every other thing that followed Ohakim’s prediction and Obasanjo’s joke, is now history.
While the ovation over his electoral victory remained high, Okorocha who, no doubt, has the gift of oratory, took advantage of the claims against his predecessor and started dishing out directives in quick succession. He ordered all ministries, parastatals, agencies and departments to go all out and make money for the payment of their monthly emoluments.
This led to the formation of all manner of task forces Imo. Citizens were harassed, intimidated and fleeced. Public outcry later forced the governor to scrap the task forces.
Okorocha sacked a number of statutory establishments, in his first broadcast to Imo people. These included the State Council of Traditional Rulers, headed at the time by the traditional ruler of Obinugwu, Eze Dr. Cletus Ilomuanya. This royal father promptly took the administration to court and floored the governor.
Okorocha doesn’t obey court decisions and he never forgave lawyers in the Ministry of Justice over the numerous judgments against the state. Today, he has suspended all the Directors in the Ministry of Justice for losing cases in court!
When contacted for comments, one of the lawyers said: “We cannot perform any magic when certain decisions are taken by the governor without minding the legal implications. We are not magicians and you cannot fault the judges for taking the decisions they took. The governor should learn to seek legal advice before acting”.
Other legal entities sacked by Okorocha were the State Judicial Service Commission, the State Independent Electoral Commission, elected local government chairmen and councillors.
He equally sacked the operators and staff of the local government development areas, which were carved out through an act of parliament, during the administration of Chief Achike Udenwa.
Another group that came under the sledgehammer of governor were administration when he came on board, was the beneficiaries of Ohakim’s 10,000-job placement. A announcing the youngsters’ summary sack from the state’s civil service, Okorocha told the people that it was a political gimmick masterminded by Ohakim to actualize his gubernatorial ambition. Imo people continued chanting the governor’s refrain on the issue and the unfortunate Imo children lost out.
Currently, no fewer than 3,000 civil servants have been summarily sacked by the government. The government’s press statement to this effect, signed by the Secretary to Imo State Government, Sir Jude Ejioigu, was aired intermittently on the radio and television channels of Imo Broadcasting Corporation, IBC.
The other group of people visited with Okorocha trash bin, were Ohakim’s political appointees. They were entitled to their severance allowance on leaving office but it was not paid. Some of these appointees, including but not limited to Vanguard’s Pini Jason, have since died without getting their entitlements!
Before the Okorocha administration came on board, journalists had freedom to get into the Government House and get any information they wanted from any of it’s functionaries. It is not so today, as they have been told that the information they need can be found outside Douglas House. Journalists now visit Government House strictly on invitation.
Another sore point is the closure of Sub Treasuries during Okocha’s first tenure. By the act, all the workers in these Sub Treasuries became redundant. This fueled the use of contractors for revenue collection. Again, this has subsisted till date.
Many people have been lamenting that public taps in Owerri municipality, and other communities, have remained dry since Okorocha came on board. They have not ceased to wonder why the supply of potable water, which ordinarily should be a social responsibility of government, was transformed into a luxury by the administration.
Then the issue of concessioning of government owned health establishments was moved to the front burner. The governor did not understand why hospitals and clinics were not making enough money to take care of the salaries and allowances of workers. So, the workers had to go and they were summarily off-loaded.
There is no doubt that Okorocha was in a hurry to develop and impress Imo people. He said this much on several occasions when he addressed the journalists. In trying to do this, he did a number of things that were not in consonance with due process.
He proudly told the journalists that since he was the final approving authority, he did not see anything wrong in going ahead to give approval upfront and without passing through the bureaucratic rigmarole associated with government processes.
Construction of what the administration called “City Gates” started at every turn. The gates have remained unrealized till now. Feelers then were and still is that no contract agreement was signed with any of the people undertaking the construction and no money was advanced to them. There has also not been any effort by the administration to dismantle the abandoned pillars dotting the streets of Owerri.
As with the gates, so also with the roads. Many of the roads were started and abandoned by the contractors. In some cases, government went all out and paid the total sum without minding the extent of work done or the capabilities of the contracting firms.
Closely associated with the non-adherence to due process, is the non-advertisement of jobs to be executed and non-constitution of either the Ministerial or Executive Tenders Board.
There is also the disturbing aspect of investing in projects that has not created employment or generated revenue for the state, and they are many. What of the demolition of people’s buildings without paying compensation? Some of the victims dragged the state government to court and got judgment in their favour. The judgment debt is staggering and public money would be used in defraying this huge debt. Truth is that the state remains indebted to such people until they are either paid or a higher court declares otherwise. Government is a continuum and it does not matter if Okorocha remains the governor or not.
There are other serious pains experienced by residents but Sunday Vanguard will, at a later date, give a summary of some of the projects executed by the Okorocha administration. (Vanguard)