What they will not tell Owelle – Emperor Iwuala

 I have been one of the concerned citizens ofImo State who have always wished for the progress of my state. I once served in government at a relatively young age. I did the service with passion. That gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about public service and politics. That is why today, it looks as if I predict correctly the effects of many policies of government.

 

One of the things that disconnected Ex-Gov Ikedi Ohakim from reality was because he was avoiding interacting with the people who would have told him the truth. Therefore, when people or even his aides got good information for him, there was no channel to reach him. Even when there were opportunities people close to him were afraid to tell him the truth so as not to be embarrassed. Even in meetings, he never created the atmosphere for a relaxed atmosphere for cross fertilization of ideas. The rest today is now story.

In one of my write-ups when my Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha took over the mantle of leadership, I advised him to embark on massive road construction. I urged him to understudy how Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu used massive road construction to endear himself to many. Few months after, Gov. Okorocha adopted that model and started massive road constructions in Imo State. In the same vein, when the Governor owed retired primary school teachers up to 11 months areas of pensions, I urged him to pity the plight of the senior citizens in question. In March this year, they were paid 5 months arrears of their pensions.

Furthermore, when the Governor unilaterally decided to relocate the Imo State University to his home town, I strongly urged him to drop that policy which he recently did. When I also advised him to lift the suspension he placed on the 106 newly created autonomous communities created at the twilight of Ohakim’s administration, he initially refused. But when he finally saw the reasons to do that, he recently lifted it. Today, he is fully using them for his Community Governing Council.

 

I am one of the people who believe in patriotism. Imo belongs to all of us. As I earlier said, I had public service experience and woe unto me if I use that experience to run down a government sanctioned by the people and ordained by God. However, I have come to like Owelle because he appears like some body that has passion for the development of Imo State. But my fear has always been my Governor’s modus operandi which I see as undemocratic, autocratic and short of procedural tendencies. Owelle is the number one public servant in Imo State. Public service needs patience. It needs training.

You can’t run away from bureaucracy. There are laid town rules on how the people are governed. Public service is not ‘as you like’. Those who fashioned out these rules have their reasons for doing so. This is to ensure uniformity, accountability, transparency, consistency, orderliness and for record purposes. Governors like Fashola of Lagos, Oshiomole of Edo, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Chime of Enugu etc. have all followed due process and rules to also give development to their people. Why must Imo be different?

Today, Governor Okorocha has created problems for himself because of his disobedience to due process and rule of law. See the near anarchy created by his disobedience to Court of Appeal decision re-instating local government chairmen and councilors. It is uncalled for. There are better ways of diplomatically handling such issues. The chairmen are all Imo sons and daughters. When the Governor was newly elected they showed him loyalty by agreeing to work with him. They even paid him a courtesy call and presented gifts to him in his country home. Even without being prompted, they all agreed to decamp to APGA because of him. That was enough good faith. Owelle promised to carry them along. Few days he betrayed that trust by sacking them thereby creating more enemies for himself. I bet you, if he had had a little patience, those sacked chairmen would have been more APGA than the Late Ikemba of Nnewi to the Governor’s political advantage.

Some time ago, I also advised my Governor to follow due process in award of contracts. He refused. However, at the rumoured presence of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), government officials are now running helter skater hurriedly preparing back-dated contract award papers to be issued to contractors in the state. There is even this rumour that many billions of naira are missing in the account of local governments in the state and that the T.C. Chairmen have been made to sign a memorandum of understanding that the said missing amount is a loan the local governments in the state lent to the state government. The state government may have used local government fund for good state projects. There is nothing much bad about it because ‘use rope tie goat or use goat tie rope na the same thing’. But these things must be well arranged because on the face of it, it is misappropriation.

One does not solve problems by creating more problems. Most of Owelle’s problems today were self inflicted. They are mostly as a result of unlawful executive actions done with impunity. The Governor seems to be in a hurry in taking actions. Many of these actions are like that of a sadist on a vendetta mission. He seems to act before thinking and when the heat is on he retreats. That shows lack of proper planning and consultation in administration. It started with the policies he militarily marshaled out in his June 6 2011 maiden broadcast. He thought he was destroying Ohakim or PDP. It got worse when he continuously declared publicly that he would not follow due process. He did not stop there. He went ahead to implement it. I cried out then but many labeled me a detractor. Today, we can know who the real detractors are.

I live in Imo. Many of my interactions with many public servants in the state show that more than 70% of them have already written off Owelle’s Administration. They claim that the Governor has stopped paying them their leave allowances, over-time and other entitlements. They say the government only pays basic salaries to them. They are also saying that the Governor uses his relations, cronies, associates etc. to do certain work the law provides should be done by public servants. Information reacting us is that food in Government House is no longer cooked by Government House Civil Service Caterers but are bought from the Governor’s sister at the cost of  =N=500 per plate (=N=1,500 per day for each person). Other policies which public servants feel bad about include the Governor’s policies on compulsory uniforms to work, heavy taxation, forceful redeployment of public workers to rural communities for the Community Governing Councils, embargo on capacity building/training, financial assistance etc.

During the Workers’ Day Celebration on May 1 this year, the Governor did not attend the celebration. He must have sensed danger. He sent his deputy who also tactically dodged attending. The Secretary to the State Government who later went was booed and disgraced as a signal that the government of the day was not treating the workers well. To make matters worse, the Governor recently sent a bill to the state legislature to have the salaries and staff strength of public servants cut down. Meanwhile, the governor has sacked many thousands of casual workers in the local government councils labeling them ‘ghost workers’.

The sacked 10,000 workers are still waiting to cut their own pound of flesh. Retired primary school teachers who form the bulk of pensioners in the state are being owed 7 months of areas of pension. As at the time Ohakim left in May last year they, were being owed only two months. It is now on record that the present administration in the state has owed the highest number of monthly areas to these pensioners since the creation of the state. The issue of their gratuities cannot even be mentioned until there is hope on payment of pensions. In the same vein, retired staff of Imo Broadcasting Corporation are being owed more than seventeen (17) months arrears of pension and more than =N=81million naira unpaid gratuities.

Interestingly, Imo State is a public/civil service state. Many of the public/civil servants form the crop of public opinion gate-keepers in the state. Therefore, nobody can underrate their potency in elections. They played major roles in electing Okorocha a governor. Therefore, if Your Excellency is comfortable with their feelings right now I am not because they can be politically very dangerous when they are maltreated. To be candid, they are not happy with you my Governor. They will not tell you because they have been trained to be loyal and non-confrontational. Right now, they prefer Ohakim to you. This is an irony. If you are in doubt conduct a research on this. People around you may not tell you this. But I must tell you.

In a similar development, Owerri people rejected Ohakim’s money during the election and made sure that Ohakim was pushed out of office. Your Excellency, Owere people are your landlords. But your forceful take-over of the Area K Land allegedly belonging to them has today made you very unpopular among them. If you doubt it attend the 2012 Oru Owere Festival at Ugwu Ekwema and you will appreciate what I am saying. The storm is gradually gathering again but nobody will tell you.

In another vein, many people have been rendered homeless because of the various demolitions you did in Owerri because of a 36 year old Owerri Master Plan when over 70% of the state capital territory is still undeveloped. If I were you, I would have relocated the affected owners to another place and given the tenants rendered homeless some grants to look for accommodation. This I think would have presented you as a humanitarian you used to be. How do we talk about the ones done in Okigwe and Orlu without compensations. What of the community speakers who have laboured for you all this while who are now to be replaced by the so called clergy.

Your present move to set up a campaign outfit for your Presidential Aspiration come the year 2015 is premature and an unnecessary distraction. It may also pitch against some ‘force in the high places’. How many stake-holders in Imo attend your functions? The political class you have destroyed are not dead yet. They are waiting for the right time to strike.

Finally, one of the things that killed Ohakim as a Governor was that he was finding it difficult to stay in Imo to understand how things were happening. When he got disconnected he did not know. You were abroad the last time civil servants went on strike. You were also overseas when there was a near anarchy in the state as a result of the recent Court of Appeal order re-instating the sacked local government chairmen to their offices etc. Therefore, cut your frequent abroad trips and sit down to understand how your policies affect your people.

Governors Chime, Fashola and Oshiomole do not travel much. Manage the resources we have. Our allocation is bigger than that of many states in Nigeria. With good administration, things will be okay. If the state is well administered, nobody will beg foreign investors to invest in the state. Which Governor begged businessmen to build the many hotels that have turned the state into a hospitality state?

Finally, I urge you to reverse most of the above named policies. They are gradually disconnecting you from the people for some are not comfortable with some of your actions because it was not what they bargained for when they gave you their votes. However, my reason for telling you all these is that I do not want you to disappoint many who trusted you and voted for you against all odds. I know the people around you may not tell you. People voted you last year because they saw you as a humane person who would not inflict pains on them.

However, many artisans, traders and keke commercial drivers are still with you because you have not made any harsh policy that has affected them directly. Therefore, hope is not lost. Humans are bound to make mistakes. You seem to be understanding this though of recent. You have started correcting some of the blunders. You can still make more corrections for there is still enough time to do so. For Imo must be better.

Barr. Emperor Iwuala

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