One of the very yardsticks for the measurement of effective governance in a democratic setting is how quick government responds to issues of public concern, whether initiated by that particular administration or otherwise.
It is a laudable trait in governance when a sitting government reverses any policy initiated by it, based on the public’s rejection or reaction towards that particular policy. Such acts by any government advance its democratic credentials. However, reversing a policy due to the negative public reaction towards the policy, only increases the democratic credentials of the government, when the policy in question went through due process before it was initiated.
Due process is the administrative and legal yardsticks for measurement of responsible governance or responsibility in government. Due process is both procedural and substantive. Therefore any governmental policy must be both substantively just and equitable, and procedurally fair.
Responsive governance without its accompanying responsibility in government only leads to waste of limited public resources.
When a government reacts positively in reversing a policy, it initiated without consultation, waste of limited public resources, results. This is why any public policy initiated by a government under separation of powers system must be backed by an enabling legislation. This means that the legislature must pass such policy into law. Legislative hearings on any bill allow the public to participate and make their contributions and views known. And if the policy is one that attracts negative reactions from the public, the executive may withdraw the bill, or mostly likely the legislature will not pass the bill into law. This, in effect, allows the government to save the cost that she would have otherwise committed into the execution of the policy. This, in essence, is democracy, and the tenants of our system under separation of powers government, and invariably, the mark of responsible governance or responsibility in government.
The rescue mission version of responsive governance, so far, can best be described as “to leap before you look”. Consequently, rescue mission government may possibly bankrupt Imo State treasury when it is all said and done, due to policy and project reversions. The rancor and acrimonious relationship between the government and the governed are traceable to these policy summersaults.
In a nutshell therefore, responsive governance, while it remains a highly valued democratic credential of any government, remains a wasteful misadventure without responsible government.
Two very important rescue mission government’s reversions further buttress this theory of governance. Upon the advent of Imo Rescue Mission government, the relocation of Imo State University main campus from Owerri zone to Ideato in Orlu zone took center stage as one of the primary policies of this administration. All the negative public reactions to the idea of relocating Imo State University main campus to Ideato South fell on deaf ears. Land was acquired, and the construction of structures was immediately commenced. Neither the Imo House of Assembly debated the issue, nor was the relocation of a state Land Grant University undertaken without an enabling legislation. Even the negative public reaction was not put into consideration before public resources were expended in the acquisition of land and the construction of the building structures of the University at Ideato South Local Government. Meanwhile hundreds of millions of naira of limited resources were expended. Upon the completion of the several constructions at the new site, the head of rescue mission government, in an interactive session with journalists and local newspaper publishers announced that the Imo State University is hereby returned back to Owerri zone due to the negative public reactions. The Imo State Governor, in the same interactive session, further stated; that the Ideato South location shall henceforth be known as the Imo-European University and the proprietors will reimburse the state treasury for every penny of the state treasury used or expended on the Ideato South University Site.
This particular controversy is one that could have been averted if the Rescue Mission Government of Imo State observed the barest minimum tenant of due process in governance, in the initial relocation of Imo State University to Ideato South Local Government. Even the new proposed executive bill for Imo-European University and the Turkish University should have been submitted to the house before any construction expenses where incurred in the Ideato South location. The reversal of the relocation of Imo State University main campus, while very much welcomed by Imo people, remains a waste of limited State resources for the followings:
The hundreds of millions of naira already spent in the Ideato South location could have been used to commence the construction of the permanent site in Owerri zone. Furthermore, the return of the Imo State University site to Owerri, without returning the University to the site approved by the previous administration simply means that all the man hours spent and paid for by the state in reaching an agreement on the permanent site during the administration of Ikedi Ohakim has become an absolute waste. Additionally, these hundreds of millions of naira wasted at the Ideato South location could have been used for the proper take-off of Rescue Mission’s tertiary education policy.
Finally, since the rescue mission government of Imo State claims to have aborted Imo State University’s relocation to Ideato South due to the public’s reactions, especially Owerri zone indigenes, a simple consultation and an executive bill to the Imo House of Assembly would have formally exposed the public’s opposition to the relocation and thereby alerting the government of such opposition. This would have in turn saved the hundreds of millions of naira spent in the relocation project.
Government’s responsiveness to the public’s negative reaction on a governmental policy or project is a value trait in democracy. But the Imo Rescue Mission government must be made to understand that prevention is better than cure.
Conversely, under the administration of Chief Ikedi Ohakim, Imo State University was renamed Evan Enwerem University. The University’s name change at the time was not done by an executive fiat, but rather through an executive bill subjected to the regours of legislative hearing before passage. With each of the 27 local government council areas of the state being represented by a member, any decision backed by legislation could be said to have been made or endorsed by the people of Imo State. There was some subjection to the university name change however the name change was passed into law by the legislature. Nevertheless upon the election of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the objection to the university name change persisted resulting in the return of the university to its original name. Therefore any wastage that could be said to have occurred as a result of this roller coaster-type name change cannot be blamed on the executive since the name change was submitted as a bill to be decided upon by the people through deliberation and possible passage by the people’s house.
Just last week, the Rescue Mission Government of Imo State took another action in uprooting and removing the fire service bull statute. For some time, since the unveiling of a bull statute at the Fire Service junction on Mbaise road by Wetheral Road, the capital city of Imo State and its environs have been enveloped by all kinds of rumours. Every imaginable thing have been said or conjured merely because of this bull statute. There are reports that some Pentecostal pastors have commenced fasting and praying until such a time that the government remove the bull statute. On Sunday evening November 3rd 2012 about two to three weeks after the unveiling of the hideous statute, the Government capitulated to negative public reactions towards the statute and removed the bull statute.
Again, this is a responsive government action by Rescue Mission of Imo State. However, while we must all commend Rescue Mission for its responsiveness to the negative public reaction in removing the statute, the question that must be asked is why was thee no consultation and sensitization by the Government before erecting such a hideous statute on the state’s public thoroughfare?
Administrations come and go, but Imo Government and the Imo people will remain. Under our constitution, the most number of years that any one person could head the administration of any state government is a total of eight (8) years. Consequently any policy or project of a long term nature must be backed by law or popular public opinion before it is embarked upon. This is the essence of democracy. When the head of any administration imposes his will through executive fiat, it is no longer a democratic administration but rather, an autocratic or imperialistic government.
The actions and conduct-in-office of the head of Rescue Mission administration is best described as a “bull in a china shop” or a kid in a candy store”. The metaphor ‘a bull in a china shop” is an apt description of some of the actions of His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
A bull has awesome destructive powers. A rampaging bull in a China shop housing breakable plates can commit untold destruction in such a shop, just like the untold destruction of the Governor’s maiden broadcast on the government and people of Imo State.
The genesis of the current paralysis of the third tier government in Imo State is traceable to the maiden broadcast of our Governor on June 6th 2011. It is pertinent here, to recall, that this broadcast on the 6th of June 2012 was before the inauguration of the Imo legislature and the constitution of the Imo State Executive Council. In a nutshell, the Governor’s partners in the governance of Imo State were not yet constituted before the governor took far reaching decisions regarding the state and its people.
It is this destructive bulldozer like attitude exhibited by the Governor that makes his actions and conduct in office similar to “bull in a China shop”. Similarly, it is this type of governmental behavior that has alienated well-meaning Imo citizens from helping the Rescue Mission government to achieving its goals of a better Imo State.
The repercussions of the governor’s maiden broadcast on June 6th 2011, will continue to hunt Imo State and her people for a long time to come. Over three hundred (300) citizen lawsuits brought against their government can be traced to this particular maiden broadcast and the actions taken in furtherance of the broadcast. At the end of the day, when all the judgements from the various lawsuits may have been entered, Imo State treasury will be so burdened with judgement debts that the state will be hard pressed to finance any capital project.
Dissolution of constitutional offices of elected councils and their replacement with illegal transition committee means that Imo State will pay two salaries for every political office in its local council areas. The July 5th Court of appeals decision has already made such a decision. It is the same with the dissolution of statutorily tenured commissions of the state by the same broadcast.
In a nutshell therefore, reversals of policies and projects due to public negative reaction to them may be responsive governance and still amount to wastage of public financial resources, but when compared with judicial reversal of government policy, it is still considerably cheaper. May be, this knowledge is what informed policy and project summersault by the administration in the aforementioned situations.
The metaphor “a kid in a candy store” conjures the unbridled indiscipline of a child borne out of immajurity, when faced with the different varieties of sweets in a candy store. Naturally such a child will stuff him or herself with the different varieties of sweets in the store until he or she becomes sick. The image conjured by such a child in a candy store is exactly the image that comes to mind about our governor with reference to the rescue mission capital projects.
The award of over hundred roads contracts; award of contract for the building of a hospital in each of the twenty seven (27) local government areas of the state; and the construction of over 320 so called security gates in the capital city of Imo State depicts, indiscipline and immajurity in government when juxtaposed with the monthly income of Imo State. When a governor of a poor state like Imo extracts from the legislature a rolling four year infrastructural budget of 224 billion naira without taking into account the volatility of the states sources of revenue (allocation from FG), then the government can only be described ads immature and indiscipline.
As the saying goes, “He, who fails to plan, inevitably plans to fail”. This may explain the reasons for the failure of most of the capital projects of Rescue Mission administration. The road projects have all been stalled for over eight months now. Currently there are discussions between the administration and the contractors for scaling down of these road projects. While these discussions are ongoing, the contractors are privately insisting that they must be paid in full before any work will continue. Some of the contractors are even insisting that all the trips of sand already washed away by the rains also need to be paid for before they return back to their various construction sites.
Most of the security gates have also been abandoned leaving an eyesore. Even, it has been reported that the Governor claims that he never approved the construction of these security gates. But the question remains, if the Governor did not approve the construction of the 320 gates in the Owerri metro area, then who did? Additionally, did the Governor raise any alarm regarding these constructions when they were commenced because obviously he must have seen the construction going on when it was originally commenced?
The 27 new hospitals in the state have all been abandoned. At this rate, Imo will be dotted with abandoned and uncompleted construction projects.
All these, in my opinion, are simply products of irresponsibility in office. Any responsible government bent on delivering its campaign promises, will first and foremost engage in the necessary consultation to sensitize the public on the projects. Furthermore, the government will then reduce the campaign promises to its brass tax, the necessary naira and kobo needed to execute the promises. It is during the consultation phase that such a government focuses on the deliverable projects based on cost constraints.
A credible campaign promise must be made only when the individual making the campaign promise has the financial figures of the state and the cost implications of implementing the campaign promise. Trying to execute campaign promises made purely out of emotions, when the resources are nor available for the execution, only advances the hardships of the general public. A responsible government bites only that which it can comfortably chew. A government that engages in biting more than it can chew increases wastage of public limited resources.
The indiscipline and immaturity of a child in a sea of edible goodies breeds gluttony. Gluttony breeds discomfort. This is exactly the current state of Imo and her government. There is rancour, and acrimony between the government and the governed. Even His Excellency, the Governor of Imo State, by his statement that Imo people are difficult to govern re-echoed the acrimony between the government and the governed. This acrimony is really a product of mistrust between the government and the governed because of lack of consultation and sensitization by the government.
Consultation and sensitization translates to due process. Due process in government is that things which is described as transparency. Without consultation and appropriate sensitization, there is no due process. Without due process, there is no transparency, consequently both the government and the governed conduct their affairs in darkness like two ships passing each other at night and in darkness.
Truly, Imo must be better, but for Imo to be better, Imo must be returned back into the hands of God; for with God everything is transparent.
DR. KELECHI C. OKPALAEKE