INSIDEPOLITICS How Oko­rocha gov­erns Imo

Weekly Trust - - Analysis - Johnkennedy Ow­erri Uzoma, Free ed­u­ca­tion at all lev­els Three-day week work­ing Cre­ation, abo­li­tion of com­mu­nity coun­cils Imo Air Award of con­tracts

Imo State Gov­er­nor, Owelle Rochas Oko­rocha, for­merly of the All Pro­gres­sives Grand Al­liance (APGA), and now of the All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress (APC), be­came gov­er­nor of Imo State in 2011 af­ter de­feat­ing the in­cum­bent, Ikedi Ohakim of the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (PDP).

Af­ter com­plet­ing his first ten­ure, he re-con­tested for an­other four years and de­feated other gov­er­nor­ship can­di­dates in 2015 to con­tinue in office. But Oko­rocha’s style of gov­er­nance has pitched peo­ple of the state in dif­fer­ent camps. While some com­mend him pro­fusely, oth­ers out rightly crit­i­cize his style of gov­er­nance. What has he done in office so far? Our cor­re­spon­dent takes a look.

A no­table feat achieved by OKo­rocha is the in­tro­duc­tion of free pri­mary, sec­ondary to ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion. This pol­icy has been de­scribed as laud­able by the peo­ple as it has re­duced the fi­nan­cial bur­den of ed­u­ca­tion on par­ents.

Sim­i­larly, the gov­er­nor has em­barked on the build­ing of gi­gan­tic of­fi­cial ed­i­fices to ad­dress the chal­lenge of lack of office and busi­ness ac­com­mo­da­tion in the state. Ini­tially, some of those struc­tures in­clud­ing the Imo In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre, Ikemba Ojukwu Cen­tre, He­roes’ Square, the Twin House were not uti­lized but the gov­er­nor has al­lo­cated of­fices spa­ces in them to some of his ap­pointees.

But the state’s civil ser­vants are by no means im­pressed with the peren­nial in­con­sis­tency in pay­ment of their salaries. This is one is­sue that has con­tin­ued to pitch the work­ers against the state gov­ern­ment. In early 2016, the gov­ern­ment de­cided to sack some work­ers in the state’s paras­tatals who were con­sid­ered re­dun­dant. This led to sus­tained protests by the lead­er­ship of labour unions in Ow­erri, the state cap­i­tal, against the gov­ern­ment. Just as the mat­ter was about to be set­tled, the gov­ern­ment came up with the de­ci­sion to pay only 70% of the work­ers’ salaries, say­ing the bal­ance 30% was for run­ning the state.

Civil ser­vants in Imo State now work for only three days -Mon­day to Wed­nes­day. Ac­cord­ing to Oko­rocha, this would en­able them use the re­main­ing days in the week to en­gage in agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, with­out any de­fined sup­port to the civil ser­vants to es­tab­lish their own farms as not ev­ery­one has a farm. This pol­icy was se­verely op­posed by pol­icy an­a­lysts, work­ers and many peo­ple in the state.

Oko­rocha’s pen­chant for nam­ing pub­lic struc­tures af­ter sup­posed fam­ily mem­bers has not gone down well with many Imo peo­ple. In 2015, a new office block built for the Nige­rian Se­cu­rity and Civil De­fence Corps (NSCDC) was named af­ter Oko­rocha’s first daugh­ter, Uloma Nwosu (nee Oko­rocha), while a di­ag­nos­tic and dial­y­sis cen­tre built by the state gov­ern­ment in Ow­erri was named Ochiedike Di­ag­nos­tic and Dial­y­sis Cen­tre, ap­par­ently af­ter the gov­er­nor’s late fa­ther, Ochiedike Ni­cholas Oko­rocha.

The gov­er­nor has come un­der heavy crit­i­cism over the de­mo­li­tion of a li­brary to make way for a church known as Vic­tory Chapel where he, along­side his fam­ily mem­bers, friends and aides wor­ship. Ob­servers de­scribe this move as a sub­tle way of forc­ing his po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees to at­tend his church, rather than al­low­ing them to go to their pre­ferred places of wor­ship. The ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov­er­nor Oko­rocha cre­ated a fourth tier of gov­ern­ment known as Com­mu­nity Gov­ern­ment Coun­cils (CGC) in all 27 coun­cil ar­eas of the state. The essence was to reach peo­ple at the grass­roots where tra­di­tional rulers would be the eyes of gov­ern­ment. Two years into their ex­is­tence how­ever, ap­par­ently piqued by the way the coun­cils were be­ing run, the gov­er­nor abol­ished them, sacked the ad­min­is­tra­tors and cre­ated what is now called Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Coun­cils (CDC). Ob­servers say the peo­ple pre­ferred the ini­tial set-up, as it en­abled the tra­di­tional rulers who were closer to the peo­ple, to have rea­son­able say in gov­er­nance. The new set-up, it was gath­ered, are now mainly presided over by peo­ple con­sid­ered to be Oko­rocha’s favourites.

Scathing crit­i­cisms are also trail­ing the launch of the Imo Air man­aged by the indige­nous pri­vate air­line, Dana Air. The maiden flight which took place on Tues­day, Jan­uary 24, 2017 sent tongues wag­ging over Oko­rocha’s lead­er­ship style. Many say the idea of the air­line came as a big sur­prise be­cause it nei­ther passed through any de­bate at the state House of As­sem­bly nor was it dis­cussed at the ex­panded ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil meet­ing. Com­ing at a time of bit­ing eco­nomic re­ces­sion when many in­di­genes are find­ing life pretty dif­fi­cult, the

project is re­garded in sev­eral quar­ters as un­nec­es­sary, in­di­cat­ing gov­ern­ment’s in­sen­si­tiv­ity and smells “pure fraud”.

Gov­er­nor Rochas Oko­rocha is per­haps, the only gov­er­nor in the coun­try known to award gov­ern­ment con­tracts with­out due process or as re­quired by law. He says he is in a hurry to de­velop Imo State, and has there­fore re­sorted to hasty award of con­tracts with­out of­fi­cial laid down pro­ce­dures.

The state Chair­man of the Nige­ria Labour, Austin Chi­lakpu, in a chat, re-echoed the plight of work­ers and pen­sion­ers in the state, say­ing they were pass­ing through “hell”. He said work­ers at the Ada­palm Com­pany for in­stance, have not been paid salaries for 27 months.

While call­ing on the gov­er­nor to pay work­ers their salaries, he ad­vised him to al­ways con­sider or­ga­nized labour in his pro­grammes and en­sure enough re­spect for them.

Cor­rob­o­rat­ing this, a civil ser­vant, Michael Etikpa, said his ma­jor con­cern was for the gov­er­nor to en­sure that work­ers are paid salaries as at when due.

Re­act­ing how­ever, the Com­mis­sioner for In­for­ma­tion, Mr. Obinna Nshirim, said the gov­er­nor had done a lot in terms of phys­i­cal devel­op­ment, among other things. For in­stance, he said the Oko­rocha ad­min­is­tra­tion had built 15 kilo­me­ters of roads in all the 27 LGAs and em­barked on ur­ban re­newal to en­sure devel­op­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to him, Oko­rocha in­tro­duced free ed­u­ca­tion which vir­tu­ally ev­ery house­hold in the state is ben­e­fit­ing from, and there is an on­go­ing re­cruit­ment ex­er­cise to fill va­cant po­si­tions in the civil ser­vice to take care of 10 per­sons from each of the 305 po­lit­i­cal wards in the state.

But the state’s civil ser­vants are by no means im­pressed with the peren­nial in­con­sis­tency in pay­ment of their salaries. This is one is­sue that has con­tin­ued to pitch the work­ers against the state gov­ern­ment. In early 2016, the gov­ern­ment de­cided to sack some work­ers in the state’s paras­tatals who were con­sid­ered re­dun­dant

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