By Okwudiri Echebiri
One man who, apparently for good reasons was not excited on the day of the inauguration of the present House of the Imo House of Assembly was Hon. Luke Chukwu representing Ohaji/Egbema State Constituency.
Hon. Chukwu was undisguised miffed that the sprawling edifice that is the IMHA administrative and legislative value of the inaugurations powerhouse was a total mess. First, the chambers unarguably the heartbeat of the legislature and adjoining gallery for members of the public oozed hot putrid odour that worsened the unbearable heat that held the entire chamber hostage.
Outside was even messier. Roofs and ceilings caved in here and there opening roads for the rains to fall directly into the offices and corridors of the complex. Of course, small rivulets existed in every nook and cranny of the building just as the paintwork looked badly battered and peeled. The conveniences completed the repulsive scenario. Everywhere you stood or walked you were sure to be assaulted by the rancid odour of human waste.
Indeed, the picture of the IMHA complex that fateful day of inauguration was worse than that of a war ravaged, abandoned and derelict building in one of Africa’s perennially warring nations. And Hon. Chukwu sufficiently repulsed by the mind boggling dilapidation spoke up on the first ever motion for adjournment of the 5th House of Imo State House of Assembly.
The outspoken lawmaker condemned in its entirety the criminal abandonment of the complex by the previous leadership of the House and urged the newly sworn speaker Hon. Benjamin Uwajumogu to act fast and reclaim the edifice before it crumbles. No doubt the lawmaker spoke the mind of the mammoth crowd that witnessed that historic occasion and even more, that of speaker Uwajumogu.
Ever since that June 7, 2011, clarion call the leadership of IMHA has never rested on its oars. The result of that hardwork and commitment is that IMHA is now a haven for its denizens and visitors. More hearting is the fact that the total renovation and re-claiming of the complex is still continuing
at a break neck speed even when what is on ground is enough to make one beat his chest in boastful ecstasy.
The first port of call in the renovation revolution of speaker Uwajumogu was the legislative chambers. This was in obvious realization and acknowledgement that the chamber holds the key to achieving efficient and effective performance of the legislators. The holistic exercise involved repairs of electrical, plumbing, roofing and entire floor of the chambers. The comprehensive repackaging of the chamber yielded a refreshing cozy environment that pampers the lawmakers and consequently raise their level of productivity.
Similarly, in obvious expression of displeasure over the old culture whereby the speaker’s office was also used for executive sessions, a new and befitting executive chamber has been carved out and tastefully furnished. The new executive chamber would also serve as lounge for VIP’s on visit to the IMHA.
In deciding to separate the office of the speaker and executive chamber the leadership of the House argued that it would increase productivity. Of course this is true now that deputy speaker or any principal officer for that matter can in the absence of the speaker preside over executive session.
Obviously, this liberalization policy is geared toward doing away with the decadent culture which saw the speaker as the be-all and end-all in the business of the House.
It goes without saying that this culture watered and sustained the master and servant relationship that had characterized the conduct of legislative affairs in the state legislature since the inception of this republic. Speakers experience showed us resorted to whim and caprices in the handling of issues affecting members simply because it dawned on them that without them legislative businesses are grounded. Speaker Uwajumogu a dyed in the wool democrat and totally averse to that retrogressive and imperial culture has by this singular gesture shown that inclusiveness and team work are the prerequisites of legislative success.
Unlike in the past when scant attention was given visitors those visiting the IMHA today can attest to the paradigm shift in that sector.
This shift came via the exquisite waiting room constructed on the ground floor for visitors.
Instead of milling around offices, entrances and corridors in the complex visitors of lawmakers are ushered into the comfort of the waiting room where they sit and wait to be ushered into their hosts offices. The popular opinion around is that that well thought out policy has substantially brought order and sanity into the hitherto market like atmosphere of the House
But, of all the giant strides recorded in the reclaiming of the complex that geared toward providing office accommodation to staff and lawmakers stands top. Before the advent of the present House majority of staffers had no offices. Some lawmakers especially those occupying the topmost floor were chased out of office by the combined effect of offensive stench of the toilets and rivulets from leaking roofs. The situation knew no bounds as even aides of the speaker formed standing committees each day of legislative work. Even the office occupied by the Media aide to the speaker was nothing but an embarrassing eyesore.
Happily today, this ugly scenario is being arrested. Office accommodation have been provided for over 90% of the assembly direct and indirect staff. By indirect staff is referred the commissioners and staff of the House of Assembly service commission. In no distant time those without offices especially aides of the speaker would heave a sigh of relief as work is soon to be completed on their offices.
Tremendous transformation has been recorded in the provision of electricity and lightning. Regular faces at the IMHA would readily admit that perpetual darkness was a way of living and doing business in the chambers in the Past.
Often times people walking along the corridors were compelled to grope their way out and into the building. Accidents were always a daily happenstance as groping individuals often clash in head on collisions that sometimes caused various degrees of injury to those involved.
Now, the entire length and breath of the House complex is fully lighted twenty four hours of the day. As should be expected this new mood has significantly raised the beat of activities inside legislators offices as well as outside.
Analysts have continued to heap praises on the good work of speaker Uwajumogu. Recently the editor in Chief of an Owerri based newspaper shouted in pleasant surprise when he “eyemarked” for the first time the great work of the speaker in reclaiming the sprawling complex. Completely taken in by what he saw the senior journalist wondered why his legislative reporter had not deemed it wise to report the transformation taking place there.
Well, I believe that my professional colleague know as I do the reason for that failure. In an environment like ours where only the negative genres of our existence like corruption, violent crimes and militia insurgency have become the loudest and unfortunately, the most accepted journalistic highpoints, one obviously would be asking the impossible of a reporter to highlight deeds like the onging one in the IMHA.
But that aside, it is apt and proper to commend Hon. Uwajimogu for this very visible turnaround maintenance of the House. Fundamentally, it is going to restore the glory of the edifice as envisioned by its initiator and builder Dr. Samuel Mbakwe Ph.D. Mbakwe no doubt built the complex with the intention that it would be a landmark in the state. Over the years, this noble intention had suffered bashings brought about by criminal neglect of the place by succeeding Houses especially the last house under speaker Goodluck Opia.
Beyond and above that, the renovations would go a long way in bringing a breath of fresh air into the complex. Lawmakers performance is undoubtedly going to record impressive leap. Similarly, staff and aides of House bouyed by their new improved working conditions are surely going to work harder to make the overall output of the lawmakers excellent.
Against these backdrops it becomes simply imperative to give a standing ovation to speaker Uwajimogu. At the same time, it is worth reminding him that to whom much is given mush is expected. Therefore, as he laps up this honour, he should redouble his effort in all spheres of his task.