Open Letter To Governor Rochas Okorocha: Before The Time Is Up – By Chief Raymond Onuoha
I had written an open letter to you in January 2014. The letter was titled “Open Letter To Governor Okorocha: Before The Whirlwind Blows”. In that letter which was written few months to the 2015 general elections I enumerated some of the flaws of your government where I cautioned and advised you on some of your actions and inactions as Governor of the State.
I must admit that nothing has changed since you won that re-election. And things seem to have gone from bad to worse in Imo State after you were re- elected. It is most unfortunate that barely one year to another election, Imo remains in a state of despondency. After your victory in 2015, you have elevated governance in the state to a comic show, a village square where jesters gather; where only those who believe in your show style of governance cheer and urge you on.
The situation in Imo State since you were re- elected has demonstrated your inability to seek and accept wise counsel. And if a person or group of persons offers to do so, you term such counsel as an attack on your government. You have shown inability to understand the dynamics of modern governance which seems to be alien to you. You have also consistently displayed a consistent behavior, a strange one for that matter, which reconfirms our fears that you were not prepared for the task of governance. Your actions and utterances have made some concerned Imolites to wonder if you understand the gravity of some of your actions as a State Governor and why you do not see consultations as an essential ingredient for governance.
It is strange how Imo people have sunk so low- ravaged by reductionism, economic meltdown, and now paddle the boat of poverty and misery since you were re- elected in 2015. The economic situation in the state which has led to total dysfunction, dislocation of the social strata of the Imo society is a huge source of concern and worry. The impoverishment of the people has reached a frightening, alarming level and put a question mark on your leadership style and competence as a State governor.
Your programmes have all proved to be retrogressive and anti people; policies that widen the inequality gap among the people. Imo State bleed from your clear lack of knowledge of the core problems affecting it and it is even disturbing when you wallow in self delusion that you are performing. It is sad that your policies have emasculated their happiness. You have lately, exhibited a frenetic desperation to make yourself the alpa and omega of the state where your word is law and divergent views are not tolerated.
It is important you understand that a leader that takes delight or care less on the disturbing condition of his people is not worth to be called a leader. Jack Welch said “Great Leaders love to see people grow. The day you are afraid of them being better than you is the day you fail as a person” And John Maxwell added that “Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others”
Imo State has slumped into economic dire straits because the people are ravaged by your unfeeling policies which have made hardship to become their companion. Mortuaries have recorded huge profits because of the high rate of deaths in the state which could be traced to the depth of misery and despondency in the land. Your Urban Renewal programme may be well intended but the manner it has been executed portray your misunderstanding of what it takes to embark on such exercise. It is made worse when the right professionals who have the expertise and professional experience are deliberately shut out from such effort. The bridges and flyovers your administration has constructed in Owerri metropolis and beyond have been faulted by COREN who wonder why engineers were not involved in their construction and design. I reproduce here the frightening expressions of COREN President Kashim Ali who went to the senate to complain on the bridges in the state.
He said “For instance in Imo state, there is a tragedy about to happen. Their bridges are being built without design. We went there, we said; let’s see the design so that we can ascertain the condition of these bridges. We made a plea, they refused to give us. We asked for the engineers or anybody involved in this project so that we can at least interview and know the integrity of the bridges. So, we had to make a pronouncement to the effect that there was a problem that such could cause but because we don’t have enforcement power, we cannot stop that project.”
Such scary narratives underscore our worries on the solidity of some projects embarked on by your administration. Most of them are cosmetic in outlook and clearly sub standard. The inherent dangers of such poorly constructed infrastructure portend for the people is better imagined. It is an indication of your mindless approach to serious issues that touch on the many projects you have constructed. They are shallow and pose grievous danger to the people now and in the future. The roads as good as they appear on the surface also suffer from poor quality, poor demarcations and at the mercy of being washed away by the rains and other environmental challenges. Some projects have visibly shown that they will not stand the test of time because of its porosity as a result of no professional expertise and input. It displays your resort to mere window dressing and a leeway to amass huge funds for personal benefits and gains hiding under the guise of infrastructural rearmament.
Owerri has become a flood- bed where little rains subject the entire city to flood. The two major rivers in the city- Otamirri and Nworie are fast shrinking because of the distortion of the ecosystem. This is so because some of your projects in the state capital lack the basic professional input as a result make you look like a tailor who cuts and join clothes without taking adequate measurement. Dislocating the layers of infrastructure in the state captured in the Imo master plan is an error of which the consequences you will be held liable even when you leave office.
Your Rescue Mission government has also exhibited a notorious culture of abandoning some key projects and essential needs of the people. The 27 general hospitals in Imo State have been non operational since they were built by your government. Most of them have been taken over by weeds and become habitats for rodents, reptiles and other animals. The Dan Anyiam stadium, one of the most cherished facilities of the people where Imolites cheer their football team, Heartland FC for honours at local and continental competitions has remained in a state of disrepair and an eyesore. Pipe borne water has also remained elusive. For more than five years, the taps in Owerri have been dry and the pipes rusty.
The sorry state of the people is a source of concern. It has never been this bad in the State. The citizenry undergo endless pain because some of your ill- thought out policies has no human face and poses grave danger to future generations. With abundant huge and untapped potentials in the State, it is pitiable that Imo State rank among the least developed states in the federation and is number 34 on the poverty ranking of the country. The National Economic Development Initiative led by Prof. Maurice Iwu had said the state is indebted to the tune of 93 billion naria. This is a startling revelation. The Paris Club refunds and other accruable to the state should have jump-started the Imo economy to life if your government had evolved a socio economic intercourse that would have had an impact on the well being of the people. This is not so because your Rescue government failed to come up with a workable plan to boost human capacity development in the face of growing economic hardship in the state and in the nation.
This is compounded by how you have unconvincingly managed over 1.3 trillion naira that allegedly came into the state coffers since you were elected Governor in 2011. With such sum which is more than the entire monies that accrued to the treasury of the state during Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim administrations, it is stunning how poverty and misery has found a tap root in the state under your watch. This has exhibited your administration’s lack of understanding of basic economics and exposes your low- knowledge of simple economic dynamics in a global changing world.
Imo state despite being an oil producing state with huge benefits has continuously wallowed under the yoke of hopelessness where businesses collapse at will and investors refuse to invest. Records show that no public service driven state has ever attained sufficient economic growth and development. This is the reason in the last six years Imo State under your watch has not been investment friendly. Our sons and daughters who have attained commanding heights in various fields of human endeavour have refused to come and invest their till at home.
I had the opportunity of interacting with some of them in the United Kingdom and other parts of the globe. They unreservedly expressed total disapproval and disenchantment on your style of governance which in their view has not created any opportunity to encourage them to invest at home. Their fears are anchored on the poverty level of the people who are so poor and do not have enough cash to patronize their products.
You have failed to create an enabling environment for the private sector to grow, thrive and endure in the state. This is because there is no activation of those economic variables and indices that will make our State a safe haven for investors. The level of unemployment among the youths has increased because you made no concerted effort to engage them into meaningful engagements. Your choice of absorbing them into several “militias” in the guise of security outfits such as Imo Security Network and other similar outfits is the most unwelcome approach of empowering the youths. How do you expect a university graduate of Medicine or Law to function as a gun wielding security agent!
Your high handedness has succeeded in weakening the civil service that is now indolent and unproductive. Your deduction in the salaries of civil servants is not only unacceptable but quite callous. There is no reason for our Civil service to be in such sorry situation. A case of no promotions for the workers for several years, deductions and nonpayment of overtime has eroded and weakened the productivity of the state work force. The Civil service constitutes less than 2% of the Imo population. This is the only sector funds flow to in the guise of salaries and other benefits. When such funds flow in piecemeal, it leads to poor circulation of money which increases hardship among the populace. This has swelled the level of disapproval for your government and contributed to create a widening disconnect between your Rescue Mission government and the people. The level of frustration among Imo people may someday snowball into a revolution whose consequences may be just too hot for you to handle.
The demolition exercise under the Urban Renewal Programme is another ill feeling policy of your government moreso when your government claims to derive its mandate from the people. This has contributed to their misery. The Eke Ukwu Owere market should not have been be demolished at a time there was economic recession in the country and at a period the poor state of the economy has led to depression of the people. The advantages of keeping the market outweigh the disadvantages of its demolition. The Imo economy revolved around that market. Over N100 million naria daily turn-over was done at that market and in a state frustration has grown to an alarming level; the Eke Ukwu Owerri was a buffer or cushioner to the economic challenges and frustrations of the people. There is no justification whatsoever for a market that served as the biggest economic hub in the state to be destroyed under the guise of Urban renewal.
The destruction of other economic hubs in the state such as the New Market, Orji Mechanic village, and Stadium lane shopping plaza may be ideal to you but as hard as you and your agents try to justify your actions, it is meaningless when there are no reasonable and effectual alternatives. The demolition of other economic centre points in the state capital and beyond is over stretching the limit of human endurance of the victims and inflicting physiological and economic trauma on the people.
In the last few months, a great number of Imolites mainly peasants and the self employed who constitute a major percentage of the informal sector of the Imo economy have been dealt with by your frequent demolitions. When an informal sector of an economy is distorted and dislocated it becomes a recipe for economic frustration which will snowball to increased suffering of the people. This is further aggravated by your government’s refusal to provide sufficient palliatives for victims of any of these retrogressive policies.
Your professed commitment to make Imo State a heaven on earth should not be a hurried policy that cares no hoot about how painful such policies are. I hope you are not swayed by an anachronistic saying that says “We all sacrifice a little and enjoy forever”. That is the lullaby of a failed government which you should not inculcate or use as a guide to carry out programmes that hurt and make the people you lead to suffer. You cannot expect a people that are suffering to sacrifice what they do not have. Only a happy citizenry whose hopes and aspirations have been captured by a government they willingly elected can afford to make sacrifices that will better their lot. You do not expect a worker whose salaries are deducted for filmy reasons, a pensioner whose pensions are audited endlessly to make “sacrifices” while you and those who live in opulence with state funds are exempted.
Your lack of concern for the pains of the people you lead is a major flaw of your government that has shown a disturbing inability to understand and interconnect governance with the governed. A Government that refuses to have a non listening ear to those it governs cannot claim to be on a Rescue Mission. It is against the laws of God and man for your government to take delight in the manner pensioners are handled in the State. It has become a trend for pensioners to undergo so much stress and suffering before they get paid in Imo State. Endless audits to fish out ghost pensioners is a lame excuse which only a cunning government will always proffer for delaying the dues of these men and women of yester tears. This makes your government look inhuman. This is in contrast to your public engagements and loud functions which most times take the posture of frivolities and given underserved speed and attention.
The invitation of foreign leaders to the State and the manner statues were unveiled in their honour does not demonstrate your-self professed commitment of opening up Imo State to the globe. Unveiling of statues does not attract investments. One cannot understand why a corrupt South African Leader, Jacob Zuma could be so honoured in a state none of the numerous Imo sons and daughters have been considered appropriate to be recognized for their outstanding feats. Charity they say begins at home. The public outrage and national condemnation that trailed that singular act reflects the folly in your action. The use of statues and conferment of chieftaincy titles on visiting foreign dignitaries’ re- echoes your disregard for the traditional institution. Our revered Ezes have become your playthings and foot-soldiers of a government that has shown disregard for the traditional institution. Deductions in monthly emoluments of traditional rulers, balkanization of communities who share long historical ties and cultural affinity, politicization of the traditional institution add up to the dismemberment of those fine values that made our customs and culture to be so cherished.
The alleged indiscriminate acquisition of properties in the State through the use of proxies and your family members is to say the least disdainful. Several complain of land grabbing by your agents and close family members is not only unacceptable but a reprehensible act and exhibition of nepotistic tendencies that is a sad narrative about your Rescue government- Dispossessing the people of their ancestral land without compensation is despotic and a reminder of the days of yore dictators and brutal kings forcefully take the wives of their followers and servants. We hope we have not gotten to this sorry pass in Imo State.
This has extended to the political arena in the state where you have positioned your Chief of Staff as your successor against consistent complaints by majority of Imo people. Imo State is not your fiefdom where your sole desires and actions must be obeyed and respected. I will resist the urge to say the State has never had good governors in the past. You should also resist the urge not to bequeath the state with someone so shallow in the dynamics of governance. Imposing your son- in law and political offspring as your successor is an indication that either you have something to hide when you leave office or you intend to sacrifice the future of the state for selfish and primordial considerations. Accepted that your son in law is constitutionally qualified to seek elective office, it is against the grain of commonsense to impose him on the people.
His Previous appointments as your Personal assistant and a State Commissioner are not enough to make him sufficiently capable to govern our dear state. It is not enough credential to saddle the young man with the task of leading over 6 million people. At a time the State is bleeding profusely from your maladministration, Imo is in need of someone who is well baked with solid educational qualifications and in tune with modern governance. Experimenting the destiny of Imo people with such a fellow who has visibly shown little of no capacity to lead would be amount to taking the state backwards.
I align myself with the call for generational shift. I agree we must encourage our youths to become leaders of today. We have seen how a 31 year old was elected President in Poland. This was realized on the altar of fair competition in the political arena and not in climes democratic principles and institutions fail to work as obtained in Nigeria. Bringing the youth to the corridors of power is encouraging but it does not give room for you to manipulate the idea by using your son- in law as a test case. The overall intent and purposes of your actions would be roundly defeated if you proceed on this self serving exercise.
I encourage you to create a level playing field for all contestants in the general elections in 2019 and allow the people to make their choices on who leads them. Imo state cannot afford to go on a wild goose chase or round tripping by allowing someone who is yet to mature in handling challenges in leadership to mount the saddle of governance. It would be an invitation to resentment that may mature to a revolution if you go ahead to impose a man whose only qualification to be Governor of this state is because he is your son in law. Governance is not a tea party. It is a serious matter. If you had adopted the conventional norm in running the affairs of the state you would have clearly understood my postulations. The state is not a monarchy yet where kings are chosen on kingship ties or by kingmakers.
Naturally, the quest for a successor by you is natural. But when the quest is elevated to a point of desperation it means you do not think well of the future of the state you govern. You must learn from history where kingdoms of strong men collapsed when they wanted to impose unpopular successors on the people. Imo people may be docile in outlook but beneath that seeming docility lays a burning desire to oppose whatever they dislike.
The issue of zoning or rotating the office of the Governor among the three geo political zones in the state is a matter that you must not toy with. You have echoed your disapproval for zoning because it is not in tandem with your grand design to impose on the people your preferred choice as successor. There is nothing wrong with zoning. It suits our political situation. It may not be ideal in a modern democracy but it has given direction to our peculiar political system and behavior in Imo State. The originators of zoning in the State clearly understood the prevalent and existing political cleavages existing among the people of Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu Zones. This informed or necessitated its introduction to tackle underlying political differences and foster political harmony among the people of the three geo political zones in choosing or electing a State Governor. Perhaps with time and as our democracy mature, it could be done away with. But at the moment it remains the finest guiding method to elect our Governors and other public officers. And I advise you to respect it. Your veiled condemnation of zoning and resolve not to adhere to it will amount to a dislocation of a suitable working political framework that has quenched the hoopla and misgivings that usually follow the jostle for Imo governorship contest.
The manner you have shut out critical stakeholders in the state from making contributions and inputs on how to move our dear State forward raises some concern. Imo state is endowed with numerous men and women of intellect, champions in various field of human endeavour who have a lot to offer our dear state if you can allow them contribute their quota. It is preposterous for you to deliberately avoid or label them as detractors or godfathers when they advise you. Great leaders who left indelible marks on the sand of history were aided by sound advice and the input of men and women of intellect. You should learn from history.
At the same time I urge you to reconcile with your political adversaries particularly those who aided your ascension to power in 2011. Your so called political enemies have increased in size and proportion ostensibly because you run a non inclusive government that has zero tolerance for political accommodation. In your misguided convictions, anyone not in your Rescue Mission camp or criticize your policies is an enemy of your administration. This is not the way to go as it shows you either lack self confidence or held hostage by inferior complex unable to accept good ideas that would help our State.
Your abandonment of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA for the ruling All Progressive Congress APC in 2014 was a display of political harlotry. You are not guilty of this act alone as it is the practice of many politicians in Nigeria. Your body language has shown that you may be leaving the same APC and this explains the comatose state you have placed the party in Imo State since you were elected governor a second term on its platform in 2015.
I do not believe the APC has failed as a political party in Imo State. When the party is divorced from your strange ways of governance, it will certainly roar back to life. I am concerned on the level of despondency and anger among party members in the state. The story is worse at the local level where they do not feel the benefits as members of the ruling party. This has led to a clear disconnect between you and the party in the state which you lead their Governors at the national level. Rents of party offices in some local governments have long expired and no patronage comes to members except those you recycle into your government at will. In the last six years, you have maintained a colourless line up of aides and commissioners who lack the necessary tools to function. They have become praise singers which is the major reason why you are so comfortable recycling them at will in your government.
I have doubts for your much trumpeted support for President Buhari’s re election plans in 2019 on the basis that you have left the APC in the state in a condition that makes any sane party member to doubt if you want to make use of the party platform anymore. This has raised curiosity if you want to dump the President and become part of the “third force” propounded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in order to advance your political cause. You have consistently shown paranoia of becoming President of Nigeria. This is not out of place but note that no one can run faster than his shadow.
I m deeply worried on the inferiority complex that has taken hold of members of the Imo State House of Assembly who have succumbed to the your emperor antics that has made them onlookers rather than partakers in the affairs of the State. I now believe that most of them have been subjected to be your errand boys, unable to speak when it matters and in some cases compromise their constitutional duties of making laws for the good of the people. The recent impeachment threats that echoed in the House in December 2017 could be likened to mere reactions of a subdued child who chose to oppose his constant maltreatment by an adult. More scenarios will play out in the future if you fail to liberate the House members from your grip and give them their entitlements and dues. It is an aberration that the Assembly members have not performed as expected and it is more annoying when the Speaker openly confessed that no matter any impeachable offence you commit you will not be impeached. This shows a House that is self serving, completely bereft of its legislative obligations and unable to assert its position as a major check and balance on your Executives.
The non democratization of the local governments in the State is the height of disregard for the yearning of the people. It is stunning that after six years you have been in office, the local governments remain in a state of quandary with no elected local authorities to manage the anxieties and frustrations of the people at the grassroots.
Your decision not to hold elections in the Local Governments is a reflection of your disregard for democratic institutions and strengthens the fact that truly what you practice as governance in Imo is not just unconventional but alien to democracy. You must note that the Constitution confers authority and responsibility on the three tiers of government. Your flout for this rule reinforces your usual disregard for the rule of law which you have severally exhibited by disobeying many court orders. The sack of the 27 elected government chairmen in the state when you assumed office despite a valid Court Order that reinstated them will continue to remain a sour point in the life of your outgoing administration. You should atone for this grievous mistake by conducting a local government election before the 2019 general elections. Substituting the duties and functions of the local governments with strange and amorphous local structures such as the Community Government Council, CGC that has proved to be a colossal failure and illegal Transition Committees are evidences of your ignorance on the importance and viability of democratically elected local governments.
Imo State has never had it so rough and tortuous since you assumed office in 2011. You may beat your chest and praise your efforts but in real sense, the condition of the people has become worse and pathetic. This is a minus to whatever you brandish as your achievements. You claim to work for the people but how have the people fared since your government came on board in 2011?
The assessment of the performance index of any public office holder is not only anchored on building several roads and poor quality projects. The happiness and welfare of the people supersedes all other considerations. The time to make amends is not over except you want to have a taste of the frustrations of the people when you hand over the reins of governance on May 29, 2019.
Life after governance could be full of regrets. It can be fulfilling as well. The options are yours.
God bless you and Imo State.
*Chief Raymond Onuoha
*Elder Statesman And Senior Citizen
*Iho Dimeze, Ikeduru LGA, Imo State, Nigeria