IMO: Okorocha and the unfinished business – By Henry Ekpe

For the Governor of Imo state, His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha, his hands are full. In fact, he has a lot of unfinished businesses in the project called Imo state.  And I don’t envy him at all.  But, he put himself in this quagmire.

How?  Okorocha during the campaigns in 2011 put the hope of Imo Electorate in utopian height following his promises.  Okorocha raised their expectations to high heavens, that today they are insatiable, and now waiting for Godot.

Imo people in 2011 wanted to throw out “a non performing Government whose achievements were on posters and Newspapers”.  But unfortunately, last week I walked into an elite discussion in Owerri, in fact Okorocha’s main men, somewhere aroundMbonu Ojike Street, and was told point blank that whatever reason for voting Okorocha has been defeated as he has “adopted all the methods for which we wanted Ohakim out”.

All efforts I made to defend Okorocha was poopooed.  I then remembered that sometime around May 2011, I had written a piece where I told then Governor-elect to be careful with the myriads of promises to the people, as campaigns were not the same as governance.  It is a different thing to promise heaven and earth to the people, and another to bring those promises to fruition.  There is the problem of funds, and realization of the promises through properly supervised execution.

However, Okorocha made all these to look simple when he said openly several times that Imo state was very rich and can execute any project it so deems fit.  Okorocha even asked “How much does it take to plant flowers and keep Owerri clean?

But Okorocha’s magic wand was his Free Education Policy which became opium and spurred Imo Electorate on into voting for him massively.

Unfortunately, after spending over a year and more in office Imo people are yet to know how the Free Education policy is working.  Every parent, including me want to withdraw their wards from these expensive private schools and enroll them in public schools that can be affordable.

But the confusion now is where the schools are?  The only one that can be seen is the one sited at Old Township Primary School Owerri, and the construction is still on.  By May next year Okorocha would have clocked 2 years in office.  So, how many years would our children enjoy this free education, since anything can happen in Imo Guber 2015?

The story emanating from IMSU the only state owned University is a sad one.  Now, Imo born students are allocated only 30% admission spaces.  The rest 70% is for non Igbo students, and those who can afford the prohibitive schools fees.

This development is because in the spirit of Free Education, Imo state Government wants to admit only those students it can cater for.  Please, is this policy really Free Education?  Free education is supposed to be for all qualified Imo students, not the number the state can take care of.

This exercise has destroyed the purpose why Mbakwe wanted a University for Imo children.  The main reason was to make education available to Imo children, even if it means their parents paying for them.

Free education is meaningless if it is meant for a few.  What is the meaning of the word “free” there?

Now, Imo students claim to be from Abia or Ebonyi states in order to gain admission into IMSU.  Something must be done quickly before Imo loses its position as one of the most educated states inNigeria.  Mbakwe must be turning in his grave now, because it was his dream for Imo children to have quality education, even if it means paying school fees.

If this situation continues till 2015, the said free education would have killed the enthusiasm of Imo children return home to gain admission into IMSU, and the after effect will be felt year to come through low human production and height of criminality in Imo.

While still on IMSU, it is pertinent to note that the problem created by Okorocha’s relocation of IMSU, and the setting up of a Committee to look for its “permanent site” is another sore point of the administration.  This problem may linger even after Okorocha.

In the area of infrastructure development, when Okorocha began the massive road construction and rehabilitations in the state, many heaved a sigh of relief that at last Imo landscape would be dotted with good roads.  But the exercise has ended up as an unfinished business.

All the streets of Owerri are now blocked with abandoned “Almajiri” gates for whose construction no one knows.  And I suspect that these abandoned gates may remain like they are till Okorocha leaves office.

No significant road has been constructed in Imo.  The short Nworie bridge to Aba road which many thought would have been completed all these while still remains abandoned.  Roads in Okigwe and Orlu towns for which houses were demolished have remained static since then.  We are told that work will commence now after the rains.

Yet the worst road in Imo state is found opposite Government House Owerri.  The road leading to Police-SSS entrance.  The dualization Road of Government House to Wethral road which started six months ago has remained uncompleted till date.

We have seen construction going on in some round-abouts in Owerri, including the “Molten Calf”.  But the jobs are taking ages.  The Traffic lights in Owerri are all falling down.  Street lights have all gone dead. If you visit Concorde, Yaradua, Egbu, Orji, Wethral roads etc in the night you pity Imo and its security.  These roads that were pride of Owerri dwellers about a year ago are now a shame to the city.  Like Owelle would ask; “How much does it take to power street lights in Owerri?

For over a year now, Imo state has not had of general clean up.  Even as the people are crying that Government should resume the ritual of monthly clean up, the authorities have refused. Only God knows why the people should live on top of wastes.  Enter Ekeukwu Owerri and see.  The refuse dump there is as high as a mountain, Chukwuma Nwoha road, a very busy and important road when in use, have been taken over by refuse bins.  You see refuse at every point in Owerri now, and those in charge do not care.

Street traders are everywhere.  Motor sellers now display their wares everywhere.  Touts up motor parks any where they want without any Government intervention.  Street urchins parade every dark spot in Owerri every night.  The number of Hawkers on Bank, Assumpta Cathedral and Orlu roads round about are an eye sore to a state that is practicing “free education”.  Where are these youths from and selling goods instead of being in classroom?

When these Hawkers vacate their “Markets” in the night, the amount of refuse they leave behind in Owerri from their wares are enough to block the flow ofNwaorieRiver.

Nobody is seeing, nobody is talking.  The Government prides itself of constructing Ojukwu “Bunker”,Heroes Squareand Bongo spot, of what value are these projects to the keke man who stood under rain and sun to vote Okorocha as Governor?

My fear is that Okorocha will not complete most of these projects before he leaves office.  And since Okorocha does not believe in completing another person’s project, who would complete these projects?

Are you telling me that all those roads in Ngor Okpala, Ezinihitte, Orlu, Oru East LGAs etc started by Okorocha will ever be completed in the life of the regime even in eight years?  How much does Imo state make as internally generated funds annually and how much does the state collect from the Federation account a year?  Even if the state embarks on these projects alone and forget salaries and other financial obligations, it cannot complete them.

Okorocha should try to cut Imo states coat according to its size, or else a lot of businesses would be left unfinished.

Let Government articulate its priorities by pursuing them one by one.  All these quick and fire brigade measures without adequate plans are the cause why many people are beginning to see through the wool over the promises made to the electorate by Okorocha in 2011.

Governance is different from private organization.  While you can take decisions without consulting anybody in the former, in the later you are free to call for imputs from all and sundry.  There is no shame about it, after all the Governor is only holding office in trust of the rest, since not all will be Governor at the same time.

That is why I like President Goodluck Jonathan.  When things get too tough and out of hand, he will raise alarm.  After all, he is still on his seat, and nobody can remove him until during election.

But in Imo, the story is different.  Even when things are getting bad those who are supposed to advise the Governor will pretend that all is well, and this is what destroy leaders, because their aides tell them only what they want to hear.

If you speak out, either you are attacked or you are bombarded with threat calls.

Traders, Civil Servants, Unemployed, Keke operators and many others who voted for Okorocha in 2011 are not happy with development of things in the state.

Traders were shocked when soldiers stormed their shades at Douglasroad to destroy their wares.  They were hawking at wrong places, but many of them said that they were told that they will remain there and therefore voted for Owelle.   Today soldiers visit them daily.  “Why were we shouting about Willie Amadi? One of them asked.  The answer is just like six and half a dozen, abi?

Civil Servants, as customary of them, whisper in their offices that they have been rendered useless with their allowances stripped off their basic salaries, after they were promised enhanced salary package by Okorocha in 2011.  The worse is that they have been reduced to zombie as they are ordered to attend Government functions “by force with our uniforms” or you are sacked.

 

Unemployed youths argue that after one year, they are yet to get their “rewards for supporting Owelle”.  Keke Operators were shocked recently when the saw fleet of Air conditioned Buses bought by Government for state city transport system.

“This is not good now.  He promised us that nothing will happen”.  A keke driver said.  Artisans in Orji, Nekede and other mechanic “village” lament that “business” is dull because there is no money in circulation as vehicle owners have preferred to “park their cars”.  Pastors and others said they were dumb founded that this Government could demolish churches.  And the argument continues.

Akara and corn sellers lament they have not set their eyes on the Governor again, after he patronized them a year ago.

The lamentation will continue.  Even within Okorocha’s cabinet, many of them are complaining.  But Okorocha is a human being and cannot perform any miracle because he is working with what is available, forget campaign slogans and speeches.

The reality is that Okorocha is not sitting on his hands, or drinking coffee in the Government every morning doing nothing.  He is working, and working hard to meet the demands of the people.  But the problem is that he underestimated the enormous job facing a governor, and worse still made a lot of promises to the people which may not be realizable.  That is why there will still remain unfinished business, even after Okorocha.  The people are insatiable, mainly Imo electorate.  But will you blame them? Okorocha said the funds are their.  Therefore we are waiting.  At least we still have more years left or what you think? Your answer is as good as mine.

Henry Ekpe

Ekpe served as Chief Press Secretary to the immediate past Governor, Ikedi Ohakim.

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