The Imo state Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha leaves no one in doubt that he is a master of the garbs who seizes every opportunity to deploy flowery language to achieve a purpose.
When he set out to battle for the occupation of Imo state government house, it was clear to him that expediency demanded he positions as a Pentecostal preacher with all the trappings of messianic disposition.
That was the type of messenger the Imo electorate wanted in the circumstance, someone that could, like the pastor on the pulpit, tell them that he had the key to the ignition switch of success and economic boom in Imo. For a starter, he promised free education without actually defining the content. In a society where the “kalo kalo” mentality has been embraced by many, free education swan song was the magic wand that lured the bees to the honey comb.
He seduced the artisans with doses of properly scripted comedy by ridding on “keke”, buying pure water, akara balls, roasted corn e.t.c. off petty traders on the streets of Owerri and devouring same like a common “agbero” in a motor park to the admiration and applause of “okada’ riders that quickly identified him as one of theirs. These members of the society, unfortunately in large numbers do not fall within the contemplation of John Wooden when he posited, “if I am through learning, I am through.
People who have more information have a tremendous advantage over people who don’t and that is why majority of politicians and those that chance on elective positions have strong allergy to dealing with those who have more information. One year down the road and counting, the picture is getting clearer and the reality has dawn on all that the sound of the bitter kola obviously does not approximate to the taste. The rescue proponent masturbated the Imo people with promises and often ended by telling them, do not ask me where the money would come from.
That was quite intoxicating and reassuring and the people were taken in by the assurances that a large chunk of the money to execute all these populist programs would come from savings to be made by cutting down on the cost of running government, be it in bloated cabinet, security votes, unviable economic missions, fraud, corruption e.t.c. Naturally, Nigerians love to catch the thief and enjoy celebrating the fact that a thief has been identified, it is immaterial that the one blowing the whistle may be feeding the rest of us on diet of lies.
After all the grand-standings, the first step to cutting cost was the sacking of ten thousand Imo sons and daughters who were taken away from the unemployment market by the preceding government and given an opportunity to take a breath of life. Some of them had barely earned their third and fourth month salaries as workers in the Imo State Public Service before the rampaging emperor sent them back to the unemployment market. All sorts of excuses were canvassed to justify this crass display of inhumanity and insensitivity. The fact remains that what we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence.
The only consequence is what we do. Rochas Okorocha has recorded uncountable volte face and double speak since assumption of office in Imo state Whereas he accused his predecessors of sustaining bloated cabinet, Nigerians were treated to the most comical “awada keri keri” theatrics when the apostle of rescue mission in Imo state rolled out his cabinet list which was triple those of the predecessors he accused of keeping bloated executive leading to high cost of governance.
In one of his uncountable impromptu public outings, when asked about the level of support security agencies receive from his government especially in the face of increased rate of crime in the state, he turned to the army commander and said, “ask him, I do better than what my predecessors were doing in terms of funding and logistic support”. Nay, where did this improved funding and logistic support come from if not under the security vote budget.
The rescue promoter promised to give pupils in schools in Imo state monthly pocket money as done to the “Almagirins” in the North (where he grew up anyway) as either an incentive to go to school or support. Even when many saw this alien to the culture of igbo people, the free education promoter posed for the cameras in two schools and that was the end of the pocket money.
We hear he is personally sourcing school uniform for primary and secondary school children in Imo state from Russia at a very high cost to Imo tax payers. It was not long after he boasted of harnessing enough resources by blocking avenues through which public funds were drained by his predecessors, that Imo people got the rudest shock of their life that services rendered by ministries and parastatals in Imo state would come at a high cost. This taxation by subterfuge was a euphemism for his commercialization policy.
The implementation has hit the rocks because it was a product of imagination and flight of fancy as against a well thought out economic program. Apparently worried that people were beginning to see through the unending policy summersaults and rigmarole that amounts to motion without movement, he decided to create a distraction by setting up the fourth-tier government. Reminded that a government cannot be created by force of law but constitutional engineering, the entire project ran into a Cul de sac for want of better nomenclature.
The legislature in Imo state that has lost its vibe and vibrancy under a spineless leadership seem equally confused on how to provide legal frame work for this contraption and indeed other missteps of the Governor which before long would attract attention of anti-graft agencies. Due process which drives transparency and corporate governance in public spending in modern times is simply on leave in Imo state.
All contracts being executed in the state are awarded through executive fiat without a single documentation in the ministry of works or subjected to tenders board scrutiny. The result, quality of job is compromised because the experts are alienated from evaluating performance and delivery. Whereas he shouted blue murder that his predecessor took a bond of eighteen billion naira from the capital market, seven billion of which was utilized before handover, the prudent Owelle has so far taken loan in excess of seventy billion naira from two new generation banks with the state and local government federal allocations tied as collateral and ispo’s that run into billions per month signed out.
That explains the resistance to obey the Appeal court’s judgement in favour of the sacked Local Government chairmen who are mainly of the People’s Democratic Party stock. Imo state is passing through disturbing financial haemorrhage and the impact would be noticed as soon as this government is out of office. The good thing though is that most of the contractors may not successfully make any claim against the government on unpaid contract fees because he smartly avoids any written commitment in form of agreements or contract award documentations.
Owelle has suddenly realized that talk is cheap. Whereas he accused his predecessors of engaging in wasteful travels outside the state, records available shows that he has made more foreign sorties ostensibly “in search of investors” in the last one year more than what Achike did in eight years and Ohakim in four years. Let’s hope that these endless economic missions will open the window of investments that could absorb the hordes of young men and women seeking for employment in the state most of whom were sacked by the Owelle in the name of politics.
The enthusiasm with which people embraced him on assumption of office has waned. One doubts whether the Owele can take rides on “keke” or even romance the petty traders that he made the contact point of his rescue mission campaign any longer. The most deceived in the free education mantra were the students in higher institutions who were unfazed to realize that the government has nothing for them. When they complained endlessly of being scarmed, government rolled out a package which mathematically amounts to six and half a dozen.
They are simply where they were and the whole free education stuff turned out a promise made to a prostitute by a man hooked on huge libido. Many citizens of Imo state are now asking the question, “has the rescue mission lost gas and verve so early!”. From all indications, it is clear that the state has regrettably boarded a bus branded “one chances”, but unfortunately, we are stuck except any miracle happens.
One only wonders what the men in sutan that prodded their adherents to take a ride with this “messiah” during the elections would be saying now. Maybe they have to go before the pope for confession for deploying religion to serve mammon instead of God.
Written by Bob Anyanwu and he writes in from Mbaise.