By Kenneth Uwadi
Some months ago, I made a telling revelation that the sum of 1 billion naira belonging to pensioners in the 27 LGA of Imo State was "squandered" by Sir Jude Ejiogu the current Chief of Staff to the Governor of Imo State. Ejiogu squandered this money when he was the Chairman of Imo State Local Government Service Commission. I lamented the "squandering of the significant sum of 1 billion naira and another 3 billion naira looted by the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly Mr Benjamin Uwajumogu. I cried out because most Imolites, especially the poor, continue to suffer the effect of failing public health and education system as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions. I highlighted what I see as the dawn of naked impunity in Imo State.
Uwajumogu, Ejiogu and their megaphones have called me all sorts of names. I have been threatened, i have been harassed and i have been closely monitored. They want to shut me up by all means. But as a citizen of Imo State, I am not intimidated. I will continue to speak out. One of the fundamental elements of democracy is the right to free speech without having others trample on your opinion. The capitalist thieving vampires currently in power in Imo state are looting our monies and yet they want us to shut up. They also want us to vote them again in 2015 for another round of impunity.
I am not accusing these men falsely as they are claiming. I speak the truth about their fraudulent activities with anger. You will recall that in May, 2011, Owelle Rochas Okorocha took power from Ikedi Ohakim as Governor of Imo State. There was high hope by the masses that Okorocha’s rule will bring an end to mass poverty, worsening living conditions, mass unemployment, suppression of democratic rights, massive corruption, and insecurity of lives and property. But more than 3 years after, the high expectations of Imolites for real positive change in their lives have been shattered. Not only has there been no substantial improvement in the lives of the Imo working masses, in some respect the situation has become worse. Thousands of Ndi-Imo still live without access to good food, housing, good roads, water, electricity and healthcare while Okorocha and his men are looting our monies.
The anti-poor policies of sales of Imo public assets, commercialization of health, housing and other social services, and sack of workers in Imo State have made more and more Imolites poorer and the rich minority richer. Corruption among the elite has not only remained, it has become more sophisticated.
Imo State has become one of the most unequal societies in the world, with the richest 20% of Imolites getting 55.7% of the state’s total income while the poorest 20% are left to struggle for just 4.4%. Currently Imo faces gargantuan problems in all areas of socio-economic and political endeavours. The State has further nosedived under the Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s government, lower than any other time since 1999. In every area you look at the only conclusion you will come to is that the Okorocha’s government has failed Imo people resoundingly.
Mind you, when i say Okorocha has failed Imo , it is not an isolated opinion. Indeed this is the opinion of the mass majority of Imolites. According to a FAMOUS NAIJA opinion poll conducted in August 2013 , 81% of Nigerians assessed Okorocha’s performance in Imo as very bad; but only 19% assessed his performance as very well and fairly well. In March 2014 another FAMOUS NAIJA opinion poll was conducted and 85% of Nigerians think the present Owelle Rocha’s government has performed very badly in improving the living standard of the poor while only 15% think he is doing very well in improving the living standard of the poor.
The most serious aspect of Imo's problems is the poor and hopeless condition of the youths. Today unemployment has become a permanent feature of the life of Imo youth. Governor Okorocha has failed to offer Imo youths a real future. He sacked 10,000 Imolites from the civil service in year 2011.The 10,000 sacked youths are suffering today.
I cannot keep quite and watch Okorocha and his men loot Imo dry.Last week, I was in Bonny Island in Rivers State of Nigeria . I arrived the Island in the morning by boat and was amazed to see that the Island has electricity as the eyes could see . I turned to Mrs Hart who came to welcome me and I inquired about the reliability of electricity in the Island. “It’s steady,” She said. “How often do you see power outages?” I asked. She said “we have light here 247.If they take it,it comes back in 15 minutes time. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we witness power outage here in Bonny. It is pay as you go. You recharge your card and your light is on” I could hardly mask my bewilderment and sense of humiliation!I felt humiliated because I am from an oil producing kingdom like Bonny called Egbema in Imo State. By contrast, the people of Egbema’s narrative in terms of electricity is awful .
Power supply is non-existent in the 13 Egbema towns. Since Governor Rochas Okorocha came into power in 2011, the people of Egbema have not seen electricity. Yet on monthly basis 13 percent oil derivation fund is paid to Imo State for the development of the oil producing areas in Imo. Out of this 13 percent oil derivation found 40 percent is meant for ISOPADEC, the commission set up to develop Imo oil areas. Where are the monies? From may 2011 to December 2013 Imo state received N16,613,768,782.98 (sixteen billion, six hundred and thirteen million seven hundred and sixty eight thousand seven hundred and eighty naira ninety eight kobo) as 13 percent oil derivation funds for development of the oil communities in Imo State. Find below the monthly breakdown:
May 2011 N278,919,682.00
Where are the monies? The monies have developed wings. It is so sad to note that leaders from Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta where Imo oil money comes from are not speaking about the comatose ISOPADEC. Schools, water, road and hospital rehabilitation in Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta which form part of the duties of ISOPADEC remains in their same dilapidated state and the political class from the oil area are not speaking about the development. Next week I will give you figures of LGA funds looted in Imo state.
Do we allow just one person in the capacity of Governor Rochas Okorocha to continue to make our mothers and grandparents suffer helplessly in the villages? Do we continue to allow the governor of Imo State to deprive local governments of the funds needed to build schools, roads, motor parks, markets etc.? Do we continue to herald him with the title “His Excellency” when he has made us beggars and impoverished us in a perpetual state of squalor?
Do we continue to clap for Owelle Rochas Okorocha at the commissioning of petty projects, which is far below the commensurate allocation given to him? Let’s ask questions now, otherwise we shall continue to cry aloof with no one to beckon on us. We shall bear the pains of our parents been rejected in the hospitals for our inability to pay their medical bills, our siblings shall continue to be denied admission because of free education on paper while schools are denied developmental funds. We shall be tempted to become kidnappers and arm robbers at our own peril. Let us stop placing ourselves in subservient position, thereby helping an uncaring governor to achieve his deadly political ambitions at the expense of the state. Wisdom is profitable, how long shall we continue to be fooled?
(Uwadi writes from Mmahu-Egbema , Imo State, Nigeria)