Governor Okorocha and the State Contractors – By Emperor Iwuala

I wish to first commend the Rochas Okorocha-led administration in ImoState for embarking on some projects in Owerri metropolis. Special mention must be made of the road from Imo Hotels which transverses Amigbo Street and is expected to terminate at Emmanuel College. I have also seen serious grading of other roads with pilling of sands in some in the same metropolis. If these roads are judiciously done, it will help to decongest the metropolis. Ohakim had ‘thought’ of a similar thing and at a time, abandoned it may be ‘to be done in his second term’. But second term is not a right but a privilege.

The rest is now story. However, my candid advice to the Governor is that he should look at the projects the resources of the state can carry for now, concentrate on them and complete them. He should also look at the abandoned ring roads started by the last administration. They are indeed priority projects. He should not abandon them just for the reason that he did not start them. He should critically look at their usefulness and continue them because government is continuum. However, if the state resources cannot carry the lot, he should not gamble because that will amount to economic sabotage and deceit. He should not do anything under undue pressure either from the electorate, opposition group or detractors.

However, some people whose structures are to be demolished because of some of these road constructions have already started entertaining fears that government’s promise of compensating them is likely going to be like ‘nkwa ekwere nyanyi n’elu bedi’. Let it not be so because default in immediate and adequate payment of compensation to these victims is not only morally wrong, but can also be politically counter-productive.

Nevertheless, if the Governor completes all these and other projects religiously within his first tenure, it will be good but if he does not, he should also let the people know why. If he does so, I bet him, there will be ‘no other aspirant’ in Imo State in the year 2015 except him. That was the miracle that made Governor Sullivan Chime a darling to Enugu people during the last general elections. I know that having tasted the sweetness of governorship now, Owelle will definitely ‘ask for more’. That is basic for any typical Nigerian politicians. He should stop deceiving people with the idea of becoming the president of Nigeria. ‘That one has been overtaken by events’. He has gotten what he wants. As far as there is life till 2015, Owelle must say ‘Lets Do More’ and I know it will be an opportunity to show Ohakim how to effectively use power of incumbency and the usual ‘PDP’ style to win election in Imo State; Owerri Zone or no Owerri Zone. By the way, it was Owerri Zone that ‘made’ another Orlu man governor out of turn. Therefore, ‘one cannot eat his cake and still have it’. We can talk of Owerri Zone may be by 2019 if there will be anything like zoning consciousness by then. ‘Onye ube ruru, ya raa. O wughi ndi Orlu si Eze muo ha’. Na so that one be. Ndewonu.

Moving on, the concept of Rule of Law as propounded by Lois De Montesquieu is that everybody in any given society should be subject to laid down rules and procedures guiding that very society. Therefore, countries, states and societies have rules and regulations guiding their activities. As I have always said, the basis for a stable democracy is obedience to rule of law. What should be paramount for democracy to flourish is adherence to rule of law, due process and justice administration. It is these tenets that build a society whereby development is guaranteed. What good leaders do is to build a strong institution as government in line with democratic tenets so that government as an institution can reform and sustain itself. Therefore, mantras like War Against Indiscipline, Seven-Point Agenda, Tripod Vision, Vision 2020, New Face of Imo, Rescue Mission etc without rule of law are not realistic and will not help our society. They are only personal programmes with selfish goals. Usually, they vanish with their originators when these originators leave office.

Why I am saying all these is because, I hear some who work in Okorocha’s government proudly saying that the Governor Rochas Okorocha does not observe bureaucracy, due process and protocol in conducting government business. I know these people, say these things in good faith may be trying to show how simple, unofficial and fast the Governor’s administrative style is.

Some time ago , I wrote as an article in this paper titled ‘The Many Blunders of Okorocha’, where I unequivocally pointed out that Governor Okorocha had scored zero, in the area of Rule of Law, Due Process and Justice Administration.

In that article I pointed out instances of his derail to include: the Governor’s dissolution of the elected local government councils and replacing them with appointed care-taker committees, his illegal removal of chairmen and members of statutory commissions whose appointment have fixed terms and who have not served out their tenure, the sacking of the 10,000 newly employed public servants in the state without regard to the Public Service Rules, the suspension of the newly created autonomous communities, scrapping of the Local Government Development Areas without legislation and his refusal to pay his predecessors in office their statutory pensions and other benefits.

Furthermore, I condemned the uncanny way the Governor secretly removed the names of former political appointees during the payment of April and May 2011 salaries and his refusal to pay them and members of the last House of Assembly their severance allowances and other benefits. Others include the way he meddles with the funds allocated to the local government councils against legal provisions, his extra budget expenditures, creation of Fourth Tier Government to be funded by tax payers’ money without legislation and the dissolution of elected Imo State Council of Ndi-Eze contrary to the Law establishing that council.

Also, I pointed out how the Governor was alleged to be running the affairs of the State House with his relations, relations of his wife and his personal associates without the civil servants contrary to the law and awards of contracts recklessly without adherence to the Procurement and Due Process Law. Since that outing, more acts of illegality have been spotted.

Recently, the presidency submitted proposal for the privatization of some Federal Government Enterprises to the National Assembly for deliberation and possible approval. That proposal is still in the National Assembly undergoing public scrutiny.

But in the case of Imo State, the Governor changed the name, ownership and structure of a ADAPALM which was created by a state law without having recourse to either the people or the state legislature. A similar thing also happened to or is about to happen to government owned parastatals like Imo Transport Company, Concorde Hotel, Imo Broadcasting Corporation, Imo Newspaper etc. He also discriminatorily paid the lawmakers in the last State House of Assembly their severance allowance and other entitlements. This he allegedly did only to those lawmakers who ‘did his wish’. Even the beneficiaries of the said payment are saying that the Governor only paid them only half of what they were supposed to get.

Recently, a group of people who claim to be the Governor’s close friends associates and contractors in his Government recently confronted me complaining that the Governor awarded contracts to them in manners they described as ridiculous and unlawful. Some of them claim they relocated from abroad and other states to vote in the governor in April and May this year. They are saying that the Governor awarded government contracts to them without contract advertisement, bidding, tender procedure and written agreements or approval letters.

Some of them claim that the Governor would take them to a site and point at a road and ask them how much they would take to do the road without giving them the opportunity to formally quantify cost of execution of such a contract. They claim that at the end, the Governor would impose his own sum on them. According to this group of people, the Governor would orally award these contracts and go his way without provision of mobilization fund. Some, who spoke to me on conditions of anonymity said that after going far in the projects with their own fund, that it is usually difficult to reach the Governor again for further discussions and for fund to continue work. Some even say that after awarding projects to them, the Governor would also award the same project to another contractor or contractors.

They claim that the Governor is taking advantage of the fact that most of them had not been doing government contracts in the past so as to know what are involved in contracts of such nature. They are also saying that the governor is taking advantage of the radical scramble and high clamour for government contracts to exploit them. Consequently, the group is threatening to call a press conference after they must have had audience with Archbishop A. J. V. Obinna. Recently, the press, reporting the above situation also said that these contractors were threatening to down tools.

First of all, it was an embarrassment to me that these so called ‘contractors’ came to me. I am not in Okorocha’s government and I do not have access to the Governor. Furthermore, I am not a member of APGA Rescue Mission or the so called Agenda Structure. Also, because of my style of writing, I have already been labeled by the Okorocha’s administration as a detractor and an enemy of his government. Therefore, my write-ups seem not to make meaning to the government.

However, I do not care whether my write-ups make meaning or not. What is paramount to me is that the truth must be told. I mean the naked truth. Therefore, the question is, are there some elements of truth in the above claims of these so called ‘contractors’. I pray it turns to be untrue.

Nevertheless, the simple truth is that the day Governor Okorocha took his Oath of Office and Allegiance was the day he became a public servant Q.E.D. The implication is that he is now subjected to the Civil/Public Service Law and the Procurement Act otherwise known as Due Process Law in the conduct of government business.

Provision of infrastructures is the expectation of every Imolite from Governor Okorocha. But right things should be done the right way. Due process must not be sacrificed at the altar illegality. ‘Rescue Mission’ mantra should not be used to do acts considered to be against the law of the land. Owelle should get this into his head that being a Governor is only a responsibility which does not place him above the law. Therefore, no matter how many years he rules Imo, no matter how wonderfully he performs, that every of his action must be accounted for especially when he is no longer in power. I love the politics in Imo.

Imo is a place where he who will become governor is not easily predictable. Udenwa did not know he would be a governor and neither did anybody imagine that Ohakim would succeed him. If anybody had told Ohakim by this time last year that Rochas would succeed him he would have termed that person a lunatic. Therefore, Owelle will never know whether somebody like me whom he is holding his statutory April/May 2011 salary and severance allowance out of vendetta will succeed him in office.

Nevertheless, let me not digress. What I am saying is that Owelle should not be deceived into thinking that the entire Imo voted for him. Let him remember that going by the INEC figures, he did not have more than 50,000 votes to surpass Ohakim. He should also know that since then, he has created ‘enemies’ for himself with most of his so called ‘I hereby dissolve and suspend’. He should also be aware that he has a very vibrant opposition; most of who had stayed long in government and are aware of government procedures.

The greatest problem Ohakim had was because the likes of Udenwa and Alex Obi having stayed long in government, are highly experienced persons in the art of governance. They invariably, used their experience and knowledge to pull ‘Ikiri’ down. Why I am saying this is because the money used to finance government projects are public fund and not Okorocha’s fund or fund for ‘Rochas Foundation’. Therefore, the way to spend public fund is different from the way private fund is spent. His Excellency should appreciate the difference. Misappropriation is a financial crime as grievous as embezzlement.

Why the former Speaker House of Representative is being prosecuted by EFCC today is not because he embezzled public fund but because he awarded contracts for the acclaimed welfare of his colleagues without due process. I know that why Ex-Governors Ikedi Ohakim and Achike Udenwa have not been arrested and prosecuted by EFCC like some of their former colleagues may be because of their alleged penchant for due process. No amount of a Governor’s good performance or popularity can stop the prosecution of abuse of Due Process by the relevant agencies.

For Governor Okorocha, the civil servants should be able to advise him better. But how can the civil servants advise Owelle when I hear that he seems not to take them into confidence? How can they advise him when he claims to know everything and operates more with politicians and personal associates? During the recent prosecution of Dimeji Bankole, it was the Clerk of the House of Representative, a civil servant and other civil servants in the National Assembly that were called by EFCC and they gave evidence to nail Bankole.

Therefore, let the Imo Governor know that the same civil servants, whom he thinks like him and are loyal to him now, might be the same group of people that may be used against him tomorrow when he must have left office. If he is in doubt, let him ask Ex-Governors Gbenga Daniel, Alao Akala, Orji Uzor Kalu, James Ibori and other former Governors now facing EFCC prosecution for financial crimes. This dispassionate kind of advice can only come from an ‘enemy’ like me and as an Imo man, I am giving it as my own stewardship to my state. The civil servants may not tell him what I am telling him now except he seeks their advice and non of his advisers, aides, relatives or associates will tell him either. Nevertheless, it is my prayer and wish that it will not come to that and God forbid it should happen! But caution must be the watch word because ‘he who is surrounded by many enemies should always be vigilant and security conscious’.

People have already started applauding the Governor over some of the on-going projects. Therefore, it will be a disaster to his administration if these contractors abandon these projects out of frustration. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, it is my candid advice that the Governor should formalize these contracts accordingly, ‘mobilize’ these ‘friends’ of his who are already doing good work in the state so that they can take care of their families especially as Christmas is fast approaching. They could also use the token to service the loans some of them took to avoid being defaulted by their lenders and maybe, have some money to continue these projects.

Nevertheless, according to one of my readers by name Onyema Chukwuemeka, ‘I hope Rochas administration will take these salient points seriously. As usual, they will term it the handiwork of his political opponents…’.

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