By ONWUASOANYA FCC Jones
Imo people are not deceived by the tag of this enlarged meeting of members of the People’s Democratic Party in the State, supporters and sponsors of the Party in the State. It is therefore necessary to put it on record that my governor’s speech earlier today is a buffet of lies served to Imo people with the intention to deceive them and make excuses for the failure of the unplanned and ‘trial and error’ Rebuild Imo administration. The lie started from the heading of the speech to the last paragraph. It is however important to point out that there is at least one truth in what the governor said, and I choose to point out that truth before I proceed. The governor’s concluding word in Igbo language thus; “Imo wu nke anyi n’ile!” is a truism, hence, it is important for all Imolites, no matter their political and sectional interests to unite behind an agenda of truth and progress for our dear State.
It is for this truth, that I am putting aside a critical assignment on my table, in order to deconstruct the many lies told Imolites by their governor and as well, warn us about the deadly debt trap which the Ihedioha administration may have decided to plunge us into.
It is instructive to note that our governor, maybe, having realized that his, will be an interim administration, chose to gather his Party members and apologists to feed them with what he called an interim finding of his administration about the past administration. It is dangerous for a society to be left with a lying leader. Any sensible person who attended this event and listened to our governor would know that he was been economical with the truth and that the event was purely planned to carry out a campaign of calumny against the immediate past governor. Fortunately, our governor is not as smart as I thought. If he had at least acknowledged the previous administration for doing well in at least one sector, he would have had some logical minds pay heed to his buffet of lies. No reasonable person would believe a man who outrightly dismissed an eight years administration as a total failure. What Ihedioha has done for His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his political family is what the best PR personnel would not have been able to do for the former governor, no matter how hard they tried. The governor has gathered his Party members to tell them, and indeed the world that he has nothing to do for the State, except maligning his predecessor.
It is amusing that the same governor the same person who accused Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha of having awarded contracts verbally and without any documented trail had earlier told the world through the Tweeter handle of one of his key financial advisers that Owelle Rochas Okorocha awarded most contracts to a single company which acted as a front for him. It is either the governor wakes up any day to say whatever he likes about his predecessor without investigation or he has chosen a path of lies. As laughable as Professor Chidi Odinkalu’s claim is, Ihedioha should have continued in that line of lie, to at least achieve uniformity of falsehood.
Governor Ihedioha’s claim that his young administration has received garnishee orders of more than 30 billion Naira also contravenes the 20 billion Naira which his Attorney-general and Commissioner for Justice claimed in a well documented statement few days ago. Accusing the immediate past governor of been responsible for the debt profile of the State leaves so much to be desired about the governor’s sense of history and basic understanding of the economy. One expected the governor, given that he has already hired forensic experts for that purpose, to tell us how much debt, Imo owed as at 2011 when his predecessor took over and how much debt the State owes now. That would give us a clear picture of how much debt the Okorocha administration incurred for the State.
The governor also announced three strategies through which his administration plans to relax the alleged fiscal pressure, he claims to have inherited. Unfortunately, every of these three steps are meant to plunge the Stats into heavier debts. In simple terms, the governor plans to borrow funds from both local and international financial institutions. This plan has either started off or about to. Imolites of good conscience must be vigilant to ensure that the governor is stopped from enslaving Imolites with humongous debts that would not be easily repayable. Let me remind us that it is on record that as at May 29th 2019, Imo’s debt profile was at less than 120 billion Naira, placing among Imo the least indebted States in the country. We will be on alert to know how much this debt would increase or decrease as this administration goes on.
While the governor’s aides, supporters and favor seekers would be fast to tell me that it is too early in the day to criticize the governor, I wonder why they find it difficult to tell the governor that it is too early to praise himself, especially, when by his own admission he has done nothing. It is embarrassing that my governor could proudly announce that his biggest achievements since taking over power are; the swearing in of the President of the Customary Court of Appeal and hosting an orientation for the newly elected House of Assembly members. This to him, is an evidence that he is committed to upholding the principle of Separation of Powers. Whoever wrote this speech for the governor should be sent on a refresher course, so that he or she will not continue to embarrass this governor.
The governor also praised himself as a governor who would ensure transparency in the area of procurement and award of contracts. Yet, billions of Naira have been expended since May 29th without the people knowing how it was spent or those it was spent on. Till this moment, Imolites do not know the companies involved in the evacuation of waste, de-silting of drainages, procurement of official vehicles and other secret contracts going on across the State.
Does the governor know that any money spent outside the appropriation act is misappropriation of funds and it’s criminal? The governor, who as at this moment, has not received any endorsement from the legislature for any budget claims that the previous administration did not operate with a budget. What budget has he been spending from since May 29th. I commend the governor’s promise to uphold an open budgetary system that would ensure that expenditures align with public interest and I think, that is how Governor Okorocha ran his administration. Also, the proposal to sign up to the Open Government Partnership is laudable and will be supported, if implemented.
The excuses made for the dismantling of legitimately instituted governance structures is weak and unacceptable to any reasonable mind. These institutions were manned by human beings and human beings are amenable to institutional reforms as long as the head shows the willpower to effect these reforms. The governor should have been bold enough to tell us that he dismantled legitimately instituted governance structures in order to accommodate his Party members and loyalists, instead of insulting our sensibilities with not very intelligent excuses.
The major bane of African nations is the unsteadiness of policies. Every new man in power is always in a haste to assert his authority without bothering to review the policies of previous administrations, towards looking for ways to continue them make improvements where necessary. The governor has continuously launched rabid attacks on State institutions, either out of ignorance or carelessness. A good administrator must understand that governance is beyond personal interests but people’s interest for now and the future. Our governor must relocate his priorities from playing to the gallery for political advantage to working for long-term benefits of Imo people. The committees which he proudly lays out as achievements have not shown themselves to be working for the State, rather, have left no one in doubt that they are merely vendetta committees set up to settle political scores.
The allegation that appointees of the immediate past administration carted away movable and immovable properties of government has become boring and incredible. The governor should tell us how many properties were carted away, their descriptions and evidences that these things actually belonged to the State government. It is common knowledge that anyone who claims that his or her property is missing needs to provide evidence that such property originally belonged to them before he or she can be believed. We expect the governor to tell us how many vehicles were carted away from the government house, their descriptions and details like Chassis numbers and models. A governor should grow above making careless sweeping statements, especially on sensitive issues.
It is frightening that our governor was careful in categorically stating whether the free education policy introduced by the immediate past administration will continue or not. Instead, the governor only ordered parents to ensure that their children are sent to school. Parents will want to know if this compulsory primary and secondary education will remain free or there will be fees attached. This will enable parents like us begin to make plans in line with this, especially, as September is few weeks away.
It is embarrassing that my governor could publicly proclaim that one of his first actions in government was to suspend the take off of new tertiary institutions established by the past administration. Contrary to what the governor told the public, these tertiary institutions did not just exist on paper, but were very much in existence. The National Universities Commission could not have given operational licenses, without appraising the structures on ground. It should be on record that all facilities required for the take off of these universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education were already in place before Chief Ihedioha took over. Imolites should hold him responsible should these facilities for away or even get looted.
It is gratifying to note that the governor acknowledged the human capital strides of Owelle Rochas Okorocha by admitting that our State has a reservoir of wealth in human capital. This was to a great extent made possible by the human centered vision of His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Governor Ihedioha forgot to acknowledge too, that the enormous human capital gains recorded in Imo State in the last eight years is unprecedented in the history of the State. This includes the record making three SANs in one year, coming from Imo State. It is my wish that this governor betters this record instead of battering it.
Our governor only RIDICULES himself when he tries to discredit Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s achievements in education. These achievements are known to the world and there are hundreds of thousands of Imo and non Imo children to testify to this. Governor Okorocha did not only introduce free education from primary to tertiary level of education. He sustained it and made the education a lot more qualitative. Imo brought home international and national awards in education, with law students of Imo State University home best student laurels from Nigerian Law School, twice in the eight years of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Governor Okorocha also opened up access to all fundings in our tertiary institutions that saw hundreds of teaching and non-teaching staff in our university and polytechnic access funding for further education and research. Best performing graduates were rewarded with cash, cars and other incentives.
The monthly subvention to Imo State University as at 2011 was fifty five million Naira, but Owelle Rochas Okorocha increased this subvention to about 250 million Naira monthly. The Okorocha administration employed not less than 5000 teaching and non-teaching staff at both Imo State University and Imo State Polytechnic. In our primary and secondary schools, thousands of new teachers were employed, while over 700 new classroom blocks were built and many more hundreds renovated. Governor Okorocha was the second governor in the country to implement the Teachers Salary Scale, positioning Imo teachers among the best paid in the country.
I do not know what my governor understands by qualitative education, but as a patriot, it is my wish that he does better than his predecessor in educational development, without unnecessarily overburdening our parents with fees. He should bear in mind that Governor Okorocha achieved all he did in the educational sector while education remained free and accessible to the poorest of the poor in our society.
The RAMP project which my governor claims he has activated was actually negotiated and flagged off by Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Governor Ihedioha does not know a zilch about how these RAMP projects came about and we will continue to tell Imo people the truth about these projects. Contracts for these RAMP projects have long been awarded and funds for it made available by the previous administration. Imo people will not forget whom to give credit for this, when they eventually commence.
The rehabilitation of Dan Anyiam Stadium is commendable and I congratulate the governor for embarking on such laudable project. However, the governor must take care not to abandon the newly built Okigwe and Orlu Stadia, as they will go a long way in enhancing sports development in the State. Also, Imo people deserve to have the details of this rehabilitation contract for record purposes.
The governor has shown more than a discomforting interest in land issues, and this has more or less slowed down or completely frozen activities in the real estate sector. The governor should not in a bid to get back at his predecessor, unsettle the most thriving sector in the State. The real estate sector creates more than 15,000 direct and indirect jobs for Imo people daily, and should the governor succeed in unsettling that sector, the explosion will be unimaginable.
Security of lives and properties is a primary responsibility of government. However, it is curious that my governor doesn’t seem to understand this, considering the placement of this factor in his address. Let me inform my governor in case he has forgotten, that the security situation in the State is debilitating by the day, and there may be need for an emergency to be declared on security in the State. The rate of kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes has shot up in the last few weeks, and this is not good for the State.
Investors are also leaving the State in droves as a result of the governor’s ill-advised witch-hunt against investors and the increasing insecurity. This, like I have always warned, is a time bomb waiting to explode.
This event is one of those events we expected the governor to come clear on his plans for the Imo workforce, but he ended up glossing over the issue in less than two sentences. IMO workers would want to know, what is their due, that they will be paid. On a day, when the Federal Government has already directed that all junior level staff should be paid the 30,000 Naira Minimum Wage, one expected the governor to have made at least a remark on that.
This administration has failed pensioners. While these pensioners were understandably angry with the immediate past administration for owing them arrears of pension, they cannot understand why this new government has failed to address the issue of pensions. Instead, they have been subjected to another series of anxiety and pains. The governor has failed to tell Imolites if the over Five billion Naira, the previous administration announced that it has set out for the payment of pensions is really there or not. If it is there, why not pay these pensioners, even if it is for two months, before continuing with the verification exercise, recently.
At the end of the governor’s long speech, it is regrettable to touch on key issues which Imolites are raring to hear him talk about. For instance, the governor failed to tell Imolites, if the 48 billion Naira, Governor Okorocha claimed to have handed over to him, was really handed over him. If he met such amount of money, what did he do with it? My phone battery is drained, so we may have to continue this discussion later.
IMO MUST MOVE FORWARD!