Recovering Imo LGAs

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By Henry Ekpe

The framers of Nigerian Constitution went for a Three Tier System of Government, which was adopted and led to the creation of States and Local Government Areas under the National Government.
The Local Government Areas ought to be autonomous to carry out its own duties, and was targeted at the roots, since a majority of the populace live in the rural Areas.
But unfortunately, the dream of making the Local Government Areas the fulcrum of Nigerian development in a pyramid model of governance has failed.
This is not because the funds accruable to the LGAs are not released by the Federal Government but because the Executive Governors in the States have refused to allow the LGAs access to use and account for their funds, which are usually hijacked by the States.
At the beginning of the present Democracy in Imo State, the first Governor in 1999, Chief Achike Udenwa of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, adhered to the constitution by conducting two Local Government elections in the Eight years he was in office.
He even created Fourty Four (44) Development Centers to further push development and Governance down to the common Man.
The periodic elections and handing over leadership of the LGAs to elected Chairmen by Udenwa galvanized live in the grassroots, and also brought development to the masses.
And one good thing about the Udenwa era was that in the elections, not only PDP produced the Local Government Chairmen, even as opposition All Nigerian Peoples Party ANPP also produced Chairmen. This balanced the political equation and deepened Democracy further in the State.
Mostly in Orlu zone where Udenwa came, ANNP even had elected Chairmen: Cyril Okafor  Cypox (Orsu LGA) and Nwabueze Ogushienti (Oru East).
And today, the achievements recorded by the Udenwa era in the LGAs are there.
Indeed, most of the young men and women who emerged as Council Chairmen then have grown to be the Leaders in Imo State and Nigeria.
It really served the purpose for which LGAs are created. To be the spring board for emerging rulers, and as a give back to the rural dwellers.
Udenwa’s LGA system produced the likes of Emma Nwogu (Ngor Okpala LGA) who was a former National Commissioner, National  Population Commission, Eze Mayor (Orlu LGA) a former member of House of Representatives, Senator Sam Daddy Anyanwu (Ikeduru LGA) Hon Jeff Ojinika (Orsu LGA) former member House of Representatives, Bar Victor Munako (Owerri West) now Chairman Fiscal Commission Abuja, Chief Uche Diogu (Isu LGA) now National Commissioner, His Excellency Gerald Irona (Oguta LGA) former Deputy Governor Imo State,  Emma Ibediro (Onuimo LGA) Ex National Organizing Secretary APC and others.
Maybe, if not for the Local Government Administration, we would not have harvested these talents today.
When Dr Ikedi Ohakim became Governor, he followed Udenwa’s footsteps to conduct LGA election within four years in office, and also maintained the Development Center model.
Ohakim’s LGA system also produced some Imo Sons and daughters who hold sway in the State today.
That administration produced Bar Ennyinna Onuegbu (Ngor Okpala) who was a former Commissioner for Works, Mrs Rubi Emele (Isiala Mbano) former SA Local Government Affairs, and others.
However, the LGA system collapsed with the arrival of the Gov Rochas Okorocha’s administration.
He did not only abandon the Development Centre system, but refused to conduct any election in the LGAs for eight years he was in office.
He however, tried to foist on Imo people what he called Community Government Council CGC which he used to demolish the Local Government System in the State completely.
The system was at variance with the three tiers of Government endorsed by the constitution and therefore could not work.
CGC instead destroyed the communities as the Traditional Rulers were pitted against their President Generals.
In the eight years Okorocha “Ruled” Imo State, the Local Government Areas were intentionally made moribund  and workers owed humongous arrears, which sent many of them home, leaving the LGAs deserted and abandoned for a good eight years.
But Okorocha just few months before he left office conducted a sham election, which he personally organized to produce those who will man his campaign structures to plant his son inlaw as his successor, and necessarily not to administer the LGAs.
Question many asked was why Okorocha refused to conduct LGA elections in eight years only to organize a contraption of such months to vacate office?
Therefore, it was during the Okorocha era that Imo LGAs died finally. Because, had he followed what Udenwa and Ohakim did in the LGAs, Imo would have been better for it.
It does not even matter if such LGA elections are tailored towards producing only members of Okorocha’s party and hand-picked choice.
For eight years all the gains recorded by the two PDP Governments of Udenwa and Ohakim were decimated and eroded.
That was the sorry situation of Imo LGAs when the Government of Governor Emeka Ihedioha arrived.
The administration swiftly cleaned all the rubbles left behind by the Okorocha Government, within a period of four months.
During the Ihedioha short-lived administration, total life returned to the LGAs and communities.
Some quick and transparent measures were adopted: like the clock in, clock out system which easily identified ghost workers in the LGAs.
Ihedioha directed that all LGAs build befitting Secretariats, and must be completed within a stipulated period.
That of Ahiazu Mbaise LGA was commissioned before that administration left office.
The then Governor asked the twenty seven LGA Interim Chairmen to commence simultaneously stadia in all the LGA Headquarters.
Most of those structures had gun far before Ihedioha left office.
The good thing about letting Imo LGAs work is that apart from the fact  that LGAs take developments to the people, the LGAs create jobs for the youths, and reduce influx of people into the State capital begging for alms in Government House, and disturbing Government Appointees in their offices.
A robust Imo LGA showed that our people can be productive when shown the way and especially when they can easily reach their Local Government Headquarters and solve minor issues.
The Udenwa, Ohakim and Ihedioha era showed that Local Government System is the engine room of the State Government in complimenting each other and reducing the masses burdens.
Now, the Governor Hope Uzodinma Government has spent one and Eight months in office without any plans for the LGAs. We are virtually back to the Okorocha’s days in the LGAs.
Elections are not the major problem facing Imo LGAs.
The Ihedioha tenure exposed that whether elected Council Chairmen or not, if the funds meant for LGAs from Abuja gets to them, meaningful achievements would recorded in the LGAs.
Presently, Imo LGAs have gone back to the Okorocha days, when all that the Chairmen do is collect salaries from the State for the workers. No fund for other developmental projects.
Therefore, when it is due for payment, workers in the LGAs gather to collect their pay and head home waiting for another month end.
This is the reason there is no sign of lives in the LGAs today. It is Imo State that is suffering the consequence, which will live to hunt the system and all tomorrow.
Governor Uzodinma has promised to revitalize the moribund Development Centers, and Imo people are waiting.
He has also promised to conduct Local Government Elections. But how feasible is that within the less than two years the administration has left to conclude its outing before next election?
The PDP administrations have shown that the wheel of Imo progress cannot role in full swing without functional Local Government System.
Only God knows why some Governors are scared of conducting Local Government elections, handover their funds to those elected by the people and then monitor them.
It must be noted that every citizen of Imo State first of all comes from a Local Government Area, which is an indication that LGA system is the custodian of development, and easiest channel of wealth distribution to the masses.
No amount of money spent at the State level can trickle down to the LGAs, like when such actions are taken by the LGAs themselves.
Meanwhile, it would be advisable that all those Secretariats and stadia started by the Ihedioha administration be completed.
It has nothing to do with who, or party that nursed the idea, after all the money belongs to Imo people who will make use of the facilities when completed.
The Ihedioha administration, unfortunately, was criticized for executing those projects then. But now, what has happened since then in Imo LGAs? Has the succeeding administration done better in that aspect?
Let us recover Imo LGAs, it is the answer to the cries of the downtrodden, and the closest Government to the masses.