INSIDEPOLITICS How Okorocha governs Imo
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