Imo; Yet Another Gravy Ride. by Noberth Ekendu.
On the day Governor Ikedi Ohakim and his men launched their New Face political organization, I traveled to Enugu from Owerri. In the ITC bus that conveyed me to Enugu, almost all the passengers were hauling abuses and insults on the governor for levying pains and suffering on Imo people, while doing nothing to justify his mandate. It was at a time the ban on commercial motorcycle operators in Owerri was biting so hard on the people, as no alternative except the launching of 500 tricycles was provided before that thoughtless ban. What however sparked the outrage was the very sore nature of the inlets and outlets into the ITC Park, as well as roads and arteries in Owerri and of course the immodest celebration that spewed from the loudspeakers from the Dan Anyiam Stadium, venue of the launching. To almost all the passengers, Ohakim was just wasting the resources of Imo people on celebrating himself and on frivolities while the people of Imo go through unprecedented suffering. One was indifferent to the raging argument that lasted quite long into the journey.
On getting to Enugu, I understood why the commuters were expressing such rage on governance in Imo State. The massive road and infrastructure development going on in Enugu humbled me, as a citizen of Imo State and what even made it so outstanding is that Enugu receives far less monthly allocations than Imo State and again, the Governor of Enugu does not make any noise about what he is doing unlike in my Imo where the noise is made to look like the real governance while the real governance suffers. Again, Enugu State is far bigger than Imo State in landmass and Enugu City is about six times the size of Owerri. It was then that I understood why the commuters were so angry and why the average Imo man today is so pained that he has landed in another cul-de-sac.
Presently, Imo State is in the throes of another needless wait for President Umar Musa Yar'Adua. This is about the third time since May 2007 that the state is subjected to that vain anxiety. In the first case, when the present government had hardly berthed, the president was invited with much funfair to lay the foundation of some projects and commission Okigwe Regional Water scheme, which was completed before Ohakim came to power and also flag off a few roads in the Anara axis of the state. In the second such needless exercise, the president sent his deputy to commission the disappointing Imo Rural Road Maintenance Agency (IRROMA). What he is coming to do in the next visit is still unclear for while some say he is coming to commission the dulaization of two kilometers of the Owerri-Egbu Road, which had already been commissioned by Ohakim, some say he is coming to welcome the cross-over of Ohakim from the PPA to the PDP. Maybe, the purpose of what has come to become a noxious and distractive business would be disclosed as the July 27th date approaches. Pray how many times have the Enugu governor invited Yar'Adua to come and revel in Enugu? How many times has Governor Fashola, acclaimed as the best performer in this dispensation, invited Yar'Adua to commission any of his projects? What this shows is that unlike Ohakim who believes that the more he cozies up to Yar'Adua or the so-called power barons in the Sokoto caliphate, the more secure he would be, performers believe strongly in the works of their hands, not the fictions they sell out to the unsuspecting public.
However, one would have expected the president to come to commission either of the proposed new government house, the foundation of which he laid with much pomp and panoply on his first visit two years ago. One would have expected that the president would come to open the much touted Oguta wonderlake project or even commission either the Owerri, Orlu, Mbaise, Oguta or Obowu water scheme. But the fact on the ground suggests that even Ohakim will find it hard to locate the foundation of the so-called government house or where exactly the Oguta Wonderlake would be situated today. There are no massive roads to commission because none is being constructed. There are no water schemes to commission because none is being embarked on. There are no dignifying projects to commission because none is being embarked on. The commissioning of the demarcation of two kilometers of an existing road is too inane for even the idlest of presidents-and Yar'Adua ranks as one anyday-to hop into a jet and come to commission. When Ohakim had already commissioned such a project, one would believe that Yar'Adua is coming to Imo State for the third time to welcome Ohakim into the PDP. For Ohakim who had spent two years, persuading himself to join the PDP and for the PDP that craves for more of such immoral crossovers, it should be a big enough issue for Yar'Adua to come to Imo State for the third time in two years while Nigerians mourn the leaderless nation that has been cast adrift in the middle of an ocean.
All said, the reality of what Imo State is experiencing presently is that governance is held in abeyance. The hard fact Imo people are living with today is that the state is sucked into one huge business of celebrating Ohakim and nothing more. I can say, as someone living in Owerri metropolis that no new road has been built in Owerri since May 2007 and I want to be challenged on this. Yes, business premises have been pulled down, commercial motorcyclists have been outlawed in Owerri and the common people are being chased out of Owerri but the brunt of these poorly thought out policies remain the common men. It does not matter that no alternatives were provided for these rash acts and one can say today that Owerri is a ghost city where life has ceased while the endless wailing of sirens from Ohakim, his wife and cronies celebrate the complete conquering of Imo people by a governor who wants to be seen by how much injuries he inflicts on the people and how he celebrate himself at any given public fora. If nothing is going on in Owerri, pray where is anything going on? Is it in Okigwe, Orlu or the rural areas, which suffer unprecedented neglect in the last two years?
I know the governor has mobilized enough media hit men to take anybody that questions what is going on Imo State presently. They have been armed to pollute the country's media with one monotonous sing-song of 'Ohakim is doing very well' but I believe it will serve them to start documenting these unseen great works Ohakim is doing in Imo State for the past two years than think they can mob anybody that tries to present the right picture of what is going on in Imo State. I believe that it is time Ohakim and his men start documenting the number and length of roads they have either built or rehabilitated in each of the 27 local governments, the number of schools and hospitals they have built or rehabilitated, the number of water works they have initiated, completed or rehabilitated, the number of social amenities they have built or rehabilitated, the actual contribution they have made to the security of the state, the structures and institutional facilities they have erected for the past two years, the number of employment they have generated and where, what they have contributed to the growth of agriculture, science and technology, sports, what they have done to the industrial development of Imo State.
These are the measures they would be judged with and not the number of pages of newspapers they buy to celebrate their fictitious achievements or the number of giant bill boards they erect to advertise themselves. To think they can fool all Nigerians to start singing the praises of Ohakim for non-existing accomplishments is a tall dream that has earlier failed men like Obasanjo, Peter Odili, Sam Egwu and so many other politicians. Like Fashola has shown in Lagos, the best advertiser is not the pages of newspapers one buys or the number of writers one pays to sing his praises but the verifiable works one does with the office one is given. Ohakim should realize that time is far spent and he would not be judged by the number of darts he throws at his real and imagined enemies, as he had found it convenient to do in all his public outings these past two years, but the value he adds to Imo State with the massive resources he had been given since May 2007. There is no way he will escape with just laying claims to invisible achievements like his present over-celebrated Clean and Green, which is the planting of grass on few patches in Owerri and no more. Let them know that in government, there is no hiding place for a non-performer and the earlier they adjust now, the better for them.
Ikenegbu Layout Extension,
Owerri. Imo State.