Imo: Who Needs Commissioners?

Posted by on Jun 8th, 2017 and filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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A day after the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB grounded the former South Eastern Nigeria with their stay-at home demonstration, the Governor of Imo State Owelle Rochas Okorocha shocked his Aides by dissolving the Expanded State Executive Council EXCO. Leaving out only his Chief of Staff, and the Secretary to the State Government.
What is Expanded State Executive Council? It is a Council of personalities, chosen by the State Chief Executive to help him run the State, by drafting policies that will develop the State.
This Council includes Commissioners, Special Advisers SAs, Senior Special Assistants, SSAs, Executive Assistants, EAs, Personal Assistants, PAs, and what have you.
These men and women are the engine room of the Government, who make up the Executive arm of Government, and pilot the affairs of the State, through the supervision of the State Chief Executive, who has the power to hire or fire any of them, without questions asked.
This Council meets either ones every week; more or less, as approved by the State Chief Executive.
In Imo State in the previous administration led by His Excellency, Chief Achike Udenwa, the State EXCO meets ones every week, and it was usually on Wednesdays.
Then, after the Executive Council had met, the Commissioner for Information will assemble Journalists, and brief them of the outcome of the meeting.
But if the meeting lasts too late, Journalists will converge at the Ministry of Information Press Centre, Orlu Road Secretariat, now at Port Harcourt Road, Owerri the next day, for a briefing.
It is usually followed with a question and answer session, where the Commissioner explains further some knotty issues that were not properly cleared.
When Chief Ikedi Ohakim took over from Achike Udenwa as the State Chief Executive, he continued with the exercise, as Journalists laid siege on the Commissioner, who voluntarily opens up to them.
Infact, every Journalist in Imo know that Wednesdays were set for State Executive Council Meetings and the Commissioner for Information MUST brief the Press. It was a ritual and compulsory.
At the National level, the same situation was followed, as there were Federal Executive Council Meetings, where the President would direct any Minister to join that of Information to address State House Correspondents.
Infact, it is through such meetings that the States and Nation know what is actually happening in the direction of their policies, including award of contracts and other major policy statements.
Even as President Mohammadu Buhari is still in London recuperating from illness, the Vice President, Prof Osinbajo holds Federal Executive Council Meetings every Wednesday , where Ministers bring the reports of their various Ministries for scrutinization by all, to know how each Ministry is faring, and if need be, where changes need to be made.
Therefore, any State that has no functional Executive Council is sick and structurally deformed. Such State exists only on paper, because Executive Council Meetings are where Commissioners present their weekly stewardship to the State Chief Executive, who rates his/her appointees from their actions or inactions.
But unfortunately, since the incumbent Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha assumed office in 2011, there has never been any known State Executive Council Meeting that took place. If there has been any, it was shrouded in secrecy. This is because none of Okorocha’s Commissioners for Information has ever briefed any Imo Journalist on the outcome of any EXCO meeting, which ought to be the norm, than an exception.
I remember in the era of Achike Udenwa, the then Commissioner for Information, Chief Chris Okewulonu will send his Aides to call Journalists that the Exco meeting was over.
The Commissioner literally appeals to the Journalists to come and collect the deliberations of the State Executive Council meeting for publication, for the world to know how far the administration has gone in pursuing its set goals.
During the regime of Ikedi Ohakim, I was privileged by my position as Chief Press Secretary,
to peep into the State Executive Council meetings.
It was usually a battle ground. The Governor will remove his suit. This is after studying for the whole night to prepare on what to present, or defend before his Commissioners, made up of erudite scholars, and experts in various fields.
Sometimes after jaw-jawing for hours on end, the State Executive Council will go for a break for the members to eat with the Governor for the “hostilities” to resume again.
It was a no holds-barred situation, where each of the Commissioners is allowed to defend his/ her Ministry. It does not matter what you say here, as the Chief Executive demands you to put the fact as they are, so that the loose ends can be stitched.
Sometimes there are State Expanded Exco Meetings, where SAs, SSAs, EAs and PAs participate.
You are told to air your view freely, and nobody discriminates against you for whatever you say at the Expanded Exco Meeting.
Today in Imo State, the State Executive Council Meeting is dead and buried. Nothing is heard of the meeting any more, nor has any Journalist quoted any Commissioner making allusion to a decision taken at the Imo Executive Council Meeting.
The Governor himself has not been caught speaking about a decision taken at the Imo State Executive Council Meeting.
Rather than Commissioner for Information to address Imo Journalists, it is usually the Governor who speak to Pressmen, during occasions like May 29, and they were usually in his private Residence, where he lampoons his successors, praise his administration, than inform them of State policies.
So this brings us to the big question; how is Imo run as a modern State in a democratic society if there is no existing State Executive Council Meetings?
Many of Okorocha’s Commissioners are on tape to have lamented that throughout their stay in office, they never attended any EXCO meeting. Under this scenario, how does a Commissioner know that he/she is doing well or not?
If Commissioners do not attend State Executive f the State?
Council Meetings where they compare notes and rub minds with their colleagues, how then would there be a synergy within the Executive Council, which reflects in the life of the State?
If there is no Executive Council Meeting, how then does the Chief Executive assess his appointees? How and when are policies of the Government put on a scale for scrutiny and dissecting by the Executive Council?
If there is no State Executive Council Meeting, it means that Imo State is run by one man, and it is natural that no one good head can be better than when more good heads are put together.
Commissioners in Imo complain that they wake up in the mornings and see one project or the other being executed in their Ministries, without knowing how it came about, who is the contractor or what the project is meant to achieve.
Could this be the reason things are done without first of all sounding out the masses what such projects could contribute as benefits to them and to the State? Is that the reason why most projects of the Imo State Government have no immediate benefit to the citizens? Could this be the reason some projects of the administration lack imagination and without personal or general value to the masses?
Could this be the reason most of the projects in the State are not supervised, but left in the hands of Hausa Youths, who simply do whatever they like and walk way, like the bent Road Midians, gutters and abandoned roads everywhere in Owerri?
Could this be the reason the Government embarked on rehabilitation of all the roads in Owerri at the same time, without completing any till now?
Surely, if there were a State Executive Council Meeting, at least one Commissioner would have had the Balls to advise the Chief Executive that the best option would have been to take the roads one by one, stage by stage, one after the other so as not to leave the entire State capital without roads throughout the year.
Let me say that the road project is a good idea, but the aim has been defeated with the pains the citizens are passing through, because the Government chewed more than it could swallow.
If there is a State Executive Council it should have told the State Chief Executive that money being spent on erecting pillars at the centre of roads, with rods that would soon rust and pose danger to Imo citizens, would have been better channeled to completing the various roads; Uratta/MCC/Egbu/Fire Service/Amakohia/Orlu Road/Relief Market Road/Chukwuma Nwoha Road/Dick Tiger/Shoprite Road etc.
If there is a State Executive Council, there ought to have been qualified project Inspectors, who would have made sure that the roads met standards. This is because if the Government of Okorocha constructs standard roads in Imo, he will be the person to take its glory because posterity will ever remember him for a job well done.
Therefore, the dissolution of the Imo State Executive Council recently by Governor Okorocha was riddance to bad rubbish. I hail the Chief Executive for this decision. And I suggest that there is no need appointing another set of legion of Aides, who will simply collect salaries for the next two years for doing nothing, since they have no forum to make contributions to the State’s development by defending their Ministries and actions.
As the Chief Executive has been doing the job alone without help from anybody, why waste Imo State scarce resources on redundant Commissioners SAs, SSAs, EAs, and PAs etc, who do not attend State Executive Council Meetings?
But unfortunately, prospective Appointees are roaming about begging to be given one position or the other as Okorocha gears up to form yet again another Executive Council.
I beg the Chief Executive of Imo State to shun all entreaties to appoint new Aides. After all, it is only Fifteen months remaining. If he can do it alone these past Six years, what is 15 months? Let us save funds for Imo State. Who needs Commissioners?

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