By Kenneth Uwadi
Ralph Miliband a key twentieth century political thinker once said that the hottest place in hell will be reserved for those who sit on the fence in the face of great moral crisis. No one will want to go to the hottest place in hell, at least not me. As a Nigerian citizen I am worried about what is happening in Imo State. I am sad seeing how pensioners who had put into selfless service the most active part of their adult life, at the age of retirement, are made to pass through a living hell before they are able to get their deserved benefits.Why should political officials be paid stupendous salaries and allowances while workers and pensioners are being owed back log of poor salaries and pensions that are at most times, barely able to cater for their immediate needs. If we don’t join hands now to struggle with pensioners for improved welfare, the same treatment being meted out currently to the old will befall workers of today in their retirement age. Today Imo pensioners are owed 19 months salaries while civil servants are owed 4 months and 9 months .
A civil servant while speaking with me on phone put his words this way: "It seems the government does not belief we have our family to take care of and the need for us to feed ourselves, hence they pay our salary anytime they feel like. Many leave allowances are still being owed and in fact, we are more or less beggars as to receive our salaries and entitlements".
The situation in Imo is currently very pathetic. Economically, Imo is in a rapid race to a bottomless pit. Presently, the pro-rich, anti-peoples' policies adopted and embraced by the Governor and his capitalist thieving cabal have now driven us to a brink of an unimaginable socio-political disaster. Rochas has plung¬ed us into huge debts, which will take us more than 20 years to exit. He has amassed a huge debt profile for Imo amount¬ing to N100 billion. Money he borrowed from banks for his own personal jamboree.
The working masses who benefited nothing from these fraudulent loans are now repaying them with sweat and blood. Imo can no more pay workers salaries. We cannot pay pension. The question is what has our governor been doing with the state and local government allocations which he received from FG which he was expected to pay the salaries of state workers, local government and primary school workers for these periods? Again what is responsible for the disparity in number of months of salary arrears the state workers and local government and primary school workers are owed? Chai this International thief- thief has killed us.
Sidney Barima captured what is happening in Imo with his video, Africa Money by Sidney feat Morris Babyface. In that music Barima made it clear that we pay lots of taxes but we don't see the taxes at work. They pay us for oil exploration in our land but the money is not seen. We see our governors and commissioners using public money to buy the four-wheel drives, building the nice homes and financing the trips abroad. This is our money and some people are spending it in ways that do not benefit the masses. Our money, wonna money eh , Oga dey chop am fuga fuga. E dey chop am nyaga nyaga.Oga dey chop am nyafu nyafu, waa waa waa
Let everyone who has ears hear. The essence of governance in Imo State since the coming of governor Rochas Okorocha is stealing of public funds with impunity. Unemployment has hit stratospheric heights and violent crimes are at an all-time high. Meanwhile Rochas has spent 63% of his time in government on a plane or on some foreign soil attending cocktail functions or some meaningless international conference. He recently came back from one of his 2 week ‘economic’ tours of Switzerland . He has journeyed to Turkey, Italy, Switzerland , Uk ,Netherlands etc in a needless globetrotting that belies the hunger problems confronting us. We are hungry due to nonpayment of our salaries and pension which has attracted so much criticism for him but it does not disturb him one bit. Besides the cost of these trips so far is over 800 million naira Imo tax payers money. This same Governor recently acquired houses in Germany and Turkey with public money. His other house in the US that he acquired recently alone is estimated at $1.9million. What about his 1 billion naira Spibat mansion in Imo . This same man who is complaining of lack of funds has never conducted council election since 2011 and has been pocketing council funds.Yet there is no money to pay workers.
To this governor Imo youths don’t deserve employment. To him Imo youths should forget about jobs and workers should go hungry. To him our LGA’s should remain in comatose forever. We must fight him and the zombie Imo House of Assembly to a standstill. We are not terrorists. We don't carry gun but the pen is mightier than the sword.
The worst kind of poverty is when people cannot get food and therefore they are thin and weak and may starve to death. Former Senate president, David Mark once said ‘if your wealth is from people’s pensions then that is blood money. It is blood money because you cannot take away the sweat, the entitlements of an old man or an old woman who is looking up just to that little appreciation from his country and believe that you will live in peace. You cannot because the prayers of those old men at home will fight you.’It is pathetic that the meagre sum pensioners are paid in Imo State which is what is to be used for payment of house rent, feed their family and attend to a host of basic needs has not been paid for 19 months now. I join others to call on the Okorocha’s government to immediately begin the full payment of all salaries and allowances of workers in Imo as well as pensions and gratuities of pensioners. I find the excuse of lack of funds as mere smokescreen. Pay us our salary. We worked for it .
(Uwadi writes from Mmahu-Egbema, Imo State , Nigeria)