By Clement Udegbe
Most Nigerian leaders while in office, get afflicted by two common bugs, namely, the bug of attracting only grave and gold diggers as friends and associates, and the bug of regarding every critique as an enemy, even constructive critiques. Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo is not different, but fortunately, some of us,have resolved to continue to point the right ways to him, in his own interest and that of his people, even when he feels bad about such comments, because we are all involved.
The hatred of constructive public opinion is the beginning of regrets for the leader, because as soon as he leaves office, the gold and grave diggers will flow to join his opponents in continuation of their business, leaving him in the cold, while the constructive stake holders continue with their good works, and life continues, with hard lessons learnt, by the leader. I pray that this will not be the case with “My Governor, my Governor”, but once a man begins to feel that he knows it all, he begins to fall.
A few developments in Imo since His Excellency entered into Douglas House, in 2011, must have to be addressed if the killing of Imo by these developments will have to be arrested.
First, is the continued creation of too many autonomous communities, for political power. In order to gain grassroots control, in 2011, the government invented the Community Government, which was used to divide communities with strong bonding, water down the influence of traditional rulers and create an appetite for autonomous communities. With an estimated population of 4.8 million, Imo has 670 autonomous communities, over three times that of Anambra State, twice those of Abia, Ebonyi ,and Enugu states respectively.
The result is that today, almost every community in Imo has Ezeship issues, which is tearing the people apart. There is hatred, greed, and tussles concerning who becomes the Eze over who, with some Ezes ruling over one tiny village as his community, to the extent that in Obibi Ochasi, there is an Eze, who has taken people from other non-contiguous villages to become members of his communities!
Ancient kingdoms are messed up, abused, and completely confused. Igbo-Ukwu Ancient Kingdom in Anambra State, for example is more than thrice the size of Obibi-Ochasi, with three communities.
The easiest way to kill the joy and peace of a people is to subject them to constant quarrels over power tussle, and that has happened in our beloved Imo! Crime rate is on the rise, and the poor traditional rulers cannot cope or help, and our Governor is smiling all over the place! Something must be done to reverse this ugly trend that is killing the joy of Imo.
Second, is the bankruptcy of our state, which is among the 18 states in Nigeria that owe workers’ salaries. It was Governor Ohakim of the PDP, who began the trend of owing workers’ salaries and tried to justify it.
It was one of the key reasons for rejecting him in 2011, and Governor Okorocha is in the same boat today. He thinks that he has time before 2019, to right the wrongs, but time runs, and the people cannot continue to wait under this heavy burden of lack of salaries for good workers.
The internally generated revenue of the state is not enough to meet her obligations so she owes workers over six months of unpaid salaries, the people are dying in tens daily, leaving us to wonder what is wrong with our leaders, who still ride in very long convoys, engage in wasteful purposeless contracts like the cheap and poorly executed demarcation of roads along Owerri –Orlu Road, and phony ill conceived, and poorly timed projects dotted all over the place. Non-payment of Imo workers should be regarded by the people as a crime against their collective will.
Caught in its own web of extravagance, showmanship, and deception, government resorts to borrowing which is my third concern here. Borrowing just to pay salaries is one sure way to mortgage the future of the people. It is another way of killing Imo softly, under a government that lack the vision and focus to create jobs.
Imo state is estimated to be owing almost N100 Billion, inclusive of the latest N26 billion salary bail out money from President Muhammadu Buhari. Most APC States in the country are recipients of the Bail out money from FGN, an issue for another day, but while it is constitutional to borrow, Imo should have no business in such nonsense if our Leader focused on Job creation ab-initio, than in the razzmatazz projects that have consumed his capital funds.
His roads fail within six months, the free education which was the opium he fed the common man, is fraught with deception. Imo is plunged into such a huge debt profile that may take successive administrations over 20 years to overcome. What better way is there to kill the economic development of our state, than to make her less attractive to investors, and lenders?
Fourth, is the reported sale of the eleven specialist and general hospitals in the State to private interests, an action that will put medical services beyond the reach of the poor in the state, there by condemning thousands to imminent death, in addition to the mass sack and unemployment that will emanate from the health sector, with ominous implications for rise in crime rate in the state. This sale appears like a project of wealth transfer to cronies, business associates and family members, while Imo is being killed softly!
Fifth, is a report in one the local publications, that there is a government plan to offer employment to thousands of Imo youths, but each must first produce a Laboratory test report from one particular Laboratory, where the cost of the test is N8000. Is this not another wicked scheme, or racket to extort money from poor job seekers? Imolites should only produce a medical report at a subsidised cost, after they are offered the employment, by their government, not before. If Okorocha must make his ambition of becoming President someday, he MUST first, stop killing Imo.
- Mr Clement Udegbe, a legal practitioner, wrote this piece originally for Vanguard