Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 18 January 2014 | 3,953 times
Before the close of last year, I had the singular misfortune of being confronted by a longstanding friend from Gombe State who indeed wanted to validate the impressions he had about the current status of governance in Imo State whereby Chief Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha, a man born and bred in Northern Nigeria, presides over as the governor. Shehu Salisu, an accountant with a good grade from one of the southern African universities, told me that from the stories told him by some friends he met in Jos, Plateau State (where Okorocha grew up and attended schools up to post-graduate level), he has this uncanny suspicion that people running down the administrative style of the Imo State Governor are only doing that because they perceive him as a man with a wider accommodating political space for other members of the polity, especially those from the northern segment of Nigeria.
Shehu Salisu was bent on convincing me that he would rather err on the side of caution than accept hook, line and sinker those calumnious publications targeted at damaging the political pedigree of the Imo State helmsman. He, however, insisted that since we have been so close for over three decades and since I, too, was born and bred in the North, may be my response may be genuine enough except otherwise proven through an extensive visit to Imo State to verify those claims by himself.
Sincerely, I lacked what to tell him but on second thought I decided to give him what I considered as the general impression of most people I have met in the last two and half years that the current Imo State Governor won election, especially those of them with vast knowledge of the state for many years.
Speaking with over two dozen persons in Imo State, the impression I came out with is that the Okorocha has made landmark achievements in the area of urban road infrastructure, especially in Owerri and Orlu. His effort to build and indeed at the verge of completing a general hospital each in all of the 27 local government areas was also applauded as positive and indeed salutary. But Okigwe senatorial zone has yet to see some of these so-called infrastructure said to have been delivered in the two other zones and unemployment is still very high among Imo State youth.
In summary, most people staying in Imo State and who have witnessed different layers of bad governance over the last 14 years that democracy returned to Nigeria, have told me that half bread is better than none. Meaning: The little things being erected by the current governor are far better than those of all the past civilian governors put together since 1999 and who have mostly been produced by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Rochas won election under the popular pro-Igbo political platform, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but he cross carpeted to the newly registered opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in search of a national platform so he stated.
Going home during the last Yuletide celebrations, one was greeted by the funny reality that the current Imo State Governor inaugurated what could become the finest evidence of an epicurean or hedonistic political practice because he was said to have released N200,000 each to all of the autonomous communities numbering in their hundreds to throw Christmas parties for their people. Indeed, in my own autonomous community my elderly impoverished citizenry were joyful that at least for once a serving governor remembered to send them their own quota of the national cake. There was this atmosphere of if you cannot beat them then you join them. I refused to join this hedonistic party in my rural community that is still battling to come to terms with the fact that it is still largely backward in areas of modern infrastructure.
But is this ‘half-bread-is-better-than-none’ kind of approach to citizenship and followership in Imo State a good way of building a vibrant society? I think sincerely that hedonism in whatever form is despicable because to bring out public fund to be spent on non-productive social events such as the last Christmas parties in the autonomous communities is like saying ‘let us eat today for tomorrow we shall die’. This is sad and unfortunate. Again, the current Imo State Government has faced a deluge of speculations and gossips of several billions of public funds that have either been stolen by government officials or diverted by some failed contractors, some of whom are foreigners from other jurisdiction.
Worried by the seemingly undying claims and counter claims in the grapevine of missing billions of public funds belonging to Imo State under the watch of governor Rochas Okorcha, the state governor recently issued a rejoinder to disabuse the minds of Imo people.
The governor’s spokesman had written in a rejoinder to lead cover story of Verbatim news magazine which centred on some allegedly missing billions in Imo State. The rejoinder said the state government found out that the entire materials published were just a rehash of some half-baked truth and innuendos of some missing billions that it stated only existed in the figments of the imaginations of the writers.
“We had gone through the 12 pages story and discovered that the authors decided, for reasons best known to them, to repackage perforated stories that had been told since March, 2013 and treated accordingly,” Sam Onwumeodo, who signed off as the Imo State Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, had stated.
The Imo State Governor’s spokesperson continued by saying thus: “We have also made contacts with the officers of the EFCC who could be in the know, to find out if the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, is at the moment under any probe over N26 Billion Expenditure, and our finding was in the negative.
“For these reasons, we want to state as follows, at least, for the avoidance of doubt; The EFCC or any other agency is not probing the Imo State Governor over N26 Billion Expenditure from the state treasury.”
The authors of the story, Onwumeodo said, did not state the items on which the said N26 billion expenditure was made for which the EFCC is allegedly probing the governor. He also said that the writers of the story made reference to the petition written by the former leadership of ALGON in the state dated March 11, 2013, which is an indication that the Verbatim team only succeeded in creating a story, that never existed.
In Onwumeodo’s words: “The writers of the story concerning the governor of a state on such a sensitive issue never deemed it necessary to hear from any of the governor’s aides including the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media who is a long-time friend of the Editor-in-chief of the magazine, Mr. Tobs Agbaegbu. Instead, the writers preferred to talk with the vice Chancellor of Imo State University, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie who should not have been contacted on such issue in the first place. No EFCC official was also interviewed on that.”
Onwumeodo also debunked insinuations of a schism in the Government of Imo State, saying: “It is also important to state categorically that the Deputy Governor of the state, Prince Eze Madumere, is not under any threat of removal, talk more, the plot to remove him thickening as reported by the magazine.”
To the good people of Imo State who have accepted the unproductive and dramatic style of half bread is better than none syndrome, the state government urged them to keep the flag of optimism flying. Onwumeodo had written thus: “We simply want to urge men and women of goodwill to disregard the story because it has no iota of truth. Governor Okorocha is not under any probe by EFCC or by any other agency over N26 Billion Expenditure. It is also important to remind those who have the privilege of writing and publishing materials on the pages of newspapers on people to always remember posterity when handling the biro.”
But who still writes with ‘biro’ in this 21st century? From my village of Ndiuche Etiti Arondizuogu which has also benefitted from this half bread is better than none style of governance with the tarring of our rural road (an achievement that is unprecedented in the last 30 years), I still wrote from my laptop because the private telecommunication companies have installed many devices to enable the rural folks also enjoy some sense of modernity. Is half bread better than none, really?
•RIGHTSVIEW appears thrice a week on Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
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