Saturday, 22 June 2013

Opinion: Oguta Constituency Re-Run Election


By Barr. Emperor N. Iwuala

On the 29th of June 2013, there will be a re-run election for the representative of Oguta State Constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly. This is as a result of the nullification of the election of Hon. Eugene Dibiagwu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the court. The front runners in the election, the PDP and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA)/yet-to-be registered All Progressive Congress (APC) have been campaigning and mobilizing in a very big way. The battle line seems to be drawn between both parties. On the side of the PDP are Senator Hope Uzodinma, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, Senator Author Nzeribe etc. while Governor Rochas is leading the other side accordingly. Just like what happened during the re-run of Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Federal Constituency in 2012, it is being said that this battle of wits in Oguta is a true test of the political strength of both parties and a litmus test of what 2015 general elections will look like in the state.

Unfortunately, the state constituency in question has not had consistent representation in the state legislature since the beginning of the present tenure.

However, apart from the proof of political might and the fact that Oguta should have its own representative in the state legislature, I do not see the impact voting in a PDP candidate will have in the state legislature.

I know that some people may think that I am trying to have soft for APGA/APC in this discourse. My point today is far from it. For me I see the liquidation of APGA in favour of yet-to-be registered APC led by Governor Okorocha as a big political suicide. Also Okorocha’s style of politics in the state is something I suspect will boomerang. I have not seen the PDP candidate before but I have heard much about him. Any good candidate no matter his political party that commands the love of his people will always attract me. From investigation, it is like many Oguta people like Hon. Eugen Dibiagwu and I like him for that.

However, my point is that after the 2011 general elections in Imo State, PDP lost the governorship position to APGA but won the biggest number of legislative seats both at the state legislature and the National Assembly. With the above case especially in the state legislature, many thought that the majority of the PDP in the state will bring about a vibrant and sophisticated state legislature. Ironically, the present legislature in the state seems to be the worst since the creation of the state.

When the present Government in the state newly came to power, it made it open and clear that it was not going to follow the conventional method of running a state administration. It claimed that Due Process and the way governance was run by the past administrations in the state facilitated corruption, embezzlement and misuse of public fund and many people believed him.

However, from the various incessant stories that come out daily from a lot of government activities, it could be seen that corruption has gradually eaten deeper into the present administration in the state.

Ironically, sources very close to the administration say that Governor Okorocha’s lack of penchant for Due Process and obedience to rules in the conduct of government business was an intelligently and carefully designed neo-convention to facilitate another level of corruption which is not known to many. Today, corruption seems not to be found among many public offices but only among the Governor, his blood relatives and cronies and we still claim to have a legislature majority of the members are from PDP.
It is on record that the Ohakim Administration left a lot of funds in the coffers of the state. Unfortunately, Governor Okorocha denied this on assumption of office. The Governor probably did this denial because he did not want the public to know the much he inherited as he had carefully planned to embezzle the fund. However, he unconsciously admitted it when pronounced that the state was very rich.

Within two years, the Okorocha Government has received more money from the Federation Account more than what his predecessor received in 4 years. Also, the government has been receiving all the monthly allocations for the 27 LGAs in the state yet, primary school teachers who retired from 1992 down have not received any monthly pension since from August 2012 till the time of this write-up and yet the state has money in excess.

Nevertheless, the Okorocha Administration has tactically avoided telling the Imo masses how much revenue it has received since the administration came into existence.

When he assumed office newly, the Governor also told the whole world that his predecessor’s security vote was =N=6.5 billion. He also pronounced that he was going to take =N=2.5b as against the acclaimed =N=6.5b. He also slashed down the security votes of his then Deputy, the Speaker and the Secretary of the State Government. This excited some people and many believed the Governor. However, I laid my hands on the 2011 budget of the state under the passed during the immediate past Government in the state and found out that contrary to what Okorocha claims, the security vote of the previous administration was N2B and not N6.5B. The meaning of this is that rather than reduce his security vote, Okorocha reduced the security votes of other state officers and strategically increased his own to N2.5B (ie N500,000,000 on top of what the previous administration was collecting). Yet, PDP has majority in the state legislature.

The payment of stipends to wards in the state owned primary and secondary schools is allegedly handled by the Office of the Wife of the Governor. Ironically, this office is not a government institution. However, the Ministry of Education manned by the wife of Governor Okorocha’s kinsman ‘covers’ the deal. The Governor’s wife is ‘allocated’ between =N=250m to =N=300m monthly for this project. Unfortunately, the stipend is not given to the beneficiaries on monthly basis. Further, there is no statistics for the number of children that are supposed to benefit from this fund. What happens is that periodically, some political office holders are directed to give some token to children in schools that are strategically located in the state on a particular day. However, there is no arrangement to give accommodate wards are absent from school on such a day. Also, there are many students and public schools that have not gotten this so called stipend before but fund is regularly allocated on their behalf every monthly. Interestingly, allocation for this project has been made available for more than 12 months now but no student in the state can claim that he or she has received stipend for up to 12 months. The rest of the fund for the supposed stipend is not remitted to government coffers but ‘disappear’ at the end of the day and PDP is still in the majority.

Generally, the selective sharing of this stipend is just to justify the fund allocated and for political show-off and PDP is still in the majority.

Furthermore, there was no State Executive Council of Imo State meeting whereby it was discussed and agreed that the Imo State Government was procuring free school uniforms, sandals, desks et al from foreign countries for students in state owned primary and secondary schools. Ironically, there is no known contractor handling the project and an agreed number of materials to be imported. T The said importation is highly a personal and secret affair only known to the Governor and his family. More than =N=5.6b has been spent on this project and since the details of the deal is not in the public domain, whatever the Governor and his family claim on the project ‘binds’ the  state government and we still have PDP in the majority.

The contracts for the proposed 24 Storey 7 Star Chrystal Hotels the Ecumenical Center and the Monumental Tower called ‘Akachi were all awarded to one company called Cone Investment Limited (an Italian company) through the Governor’s personal nomination. The Crystal Hotels has a make-belief site along Owerri-Port-Harcourt Road close to Peace Center (Anglican Secondary School), while both the Tower and Ecumenical Center have no sites yet. The three contracts were jointly awarded to the tune of =N=18b and as at December 2011, Cone Investment Company had paid about =N=5b through Zenith Bank. This was facilitated by the state Ministry of Housing. Also, not very long ago, the Governor also publicly pronounced that the company has been given up to 50% of the contract sum which amounts to =N=9b. For the above project that has a site, nothing in the site can justify an expenditure of =N=1b while nothing done can be accessed from the two that have not yet gotten sites.

The above and other anomalies are just a little of the lot that is happening in the Okorocha’s Administration.

Now, come to think of it, when the sacked PDP representative for Oguta finally assumed his seat in the state legislature after a protracted controversy, what impact did he make with other PDP members in the state legislature to cut down all the executive impunity in the state? It did not look as if any new member was added to the PDP. Even the older PDP members are the worst. Two PDP members claim to be both the majority Leader and Minority Leader in a legislature made up of three political parties. Generally, majority of the stte lawmakers have mortgaged their integrity to the extent that they award and head state project committees of the state executive arm, which are purely executive function. Assuming they are men of honour, the story today would have been different. The number of the present legislators in the state legislature that will be re-elected come 2015 elections will vindicate me.

Therefore, if a PDP candidate wins on 29th June re-election in Oguta, nothing will change in the quality of our state legislature.

(IWUALA can be reached on: 08037247295, emperoriwuala@yahoo.com)


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