Unmasking the CGC Monster in Imo


As a social commentator and political analyst maintaining a regular column in a local tabloid, the Trumpeta, my responsibility is to highlight on issues affecting the locality and have a stake on contemporary matters and current developments.
There is no gain saying in the fact that in trying to undertake this mental task I stand the risk of picking on some actions, and inactions, as well as the policy of key players in the present administration at both federal and state levels. It was this process that prompted my earlier write up “Imo Assembly and the Rochanisation of Community Government”. Today, I am adding a follow-up following latest development in Imo State.
I belong to the group who gladly heralded the introduction of Community Government Council, CGC, as a fourth-tier arm of Government, in Imo State by the Owelle Rochas Okorocha administration. Without bias, I acknowledged the coming of CGC, believing that it would also be another tonic needed to accelerate development at the grassroots level if scrapping of Development centres at the birth of the Okorocha regime is considered.
I believed that the coming of CGC would reinvigorate rural development in the absence of dissolved grassroots-oriented Development Centres. Development Centres Government was a creation of law necessitated by an act of the parliament of the Imo State House of Assembly during the time of Governor Achike Udenwa. His successor, Ikedi Ohakim inherited and operated the system for the four years he held power. However, in his maiden broadcast to the people of Imo State moments after he was sworn in as Governor, one of the landmark administrative structures Okorocha destroyed without recourse to the law establishing it and permission from the state lawmakers during his inaugural address to Imo people is the Development Centre. Irrespective of the structures put on ground by previous administrations for the Development Centres to thrive, Okorocha swept it off and as only deteriorated buildings and unkempt premises of overgrown weeds remain sad memories of the existence of Development Centres.
Contrary to expectations that Okorocha’s Fourth Tier Government would accelerate development at the various autonomous communities, it has become an ominous sign of danger, anarchy and confusion in many areas. The sinister effects would have been averted but for improper implementation and rudderless approach of the state government in the introduction of the CGC.
Undoubtedly, the CGC has turned to a monster in several communities by not only heightening tension but fuelling communal crisis, and threat to cohesion and tranquility at local levels. The recent composition of people as members of the CGC in form of Secretary, Youth Leader, Women Leader, and CLO has aroused tension and controversy with many Communities within spitting distance to anarchy. In recent times, no day passes in Owerri, the state capital without groups of protesters from the various localities storming Government House, the seat of power, House of Assembly Complex and the Ministry of Community Government and autonomous Communities, to show resentment over those appointed to take charge of the CGC positions. Moreso, the various communities are boiling over the identity, profile, social status and background of many persons appointed by the state government, to take charge of the CGC functions in the various autonomous communities. True to my earlier predictions in the previous write up, “Imo Assembly and Rochanisation of Community Government” I did state that the powers granted the state Governor to appoint CGC officials after it had passed a Bill into law that there would be elections into these positions, would be the greatest albatross to the policy. My predictions stems from the fact that apart from being insincere in the CGC approach, the implementation runs foul of certain procedures and orthodox peculiarities of the various autonomous communities.
The State Governor Okorocha, kick started the confusion when he verbally announced the dissolution of all town unions without proper replacement. At the birth of CGC, even without a law backing his utterances and actions, Okorocha in one of the public functions dissolved the various Town Unions adding that elections would hold at a latter date. That pronouncement triggered off confusion in some localities as claims and counter claims took over the continued existence of town union’s in Imo State. The confusion persisted till the Imo Assembly passed a Bill into law for the creation of the CGC with particular reference that all positions shall be contested except the Community Liaison Officer (CLO) office. After the Bill was passed into law and Governor gave accent his in 2012 to make the CGC operational while Dec 15, of that year was slated as date for election into the various positions. Part of the process for the elections was the sale of forms and screening which many interested aspirants applied for and paid various amount of money to the concerned ministry for such purposes. Even as there were no logistics and enlightment campaign by concerned government organ on the conduct of the election, the CGC ministry obtained money from election-seeking candidates. By that Dec 15, 2012, a lawyer said to be from the chamber of one of the key political appointees rushed to the court few hours to the supposed election date to obtain an interim injunction restraining the state government from conducting CGC election.
Despite the fact that the CGC court case necessitated by the lawyer who obtained injunction has not been exhausted after the interim injunction, the state legislature made a volte face on their earlier position by asking the Governor to now appoint caretaker members for the positions instead of conducting elections. Okorocha in a jiffy reeled out names of his political appointees Members of the House of Assembly as well as acolytes in APGA and Agenda Group as Government Liaison Officers, (GLO) another name imported into the system that was not captured in the CGC law made by the Imo Assembly. That pronouncement again sparked a row as confusion trailed the appointment. Most Communities marched to the streets to protest the appointments of some persons who were not only granted persona non grata in their communities but also social misfits and suspected undesirable elements unqualified to represent government interest in their domains.
Moments after the GLO list was made public, I remember some concerned Imolites who rushed to Trumpeta Corporate Office to cry out over the worrisome integrity and acceptability of persons appointed as CGC GLOs. One media consultant and activist from Mbano protested the appointment of one GLO from Ehime Mbano (names withheld) claiming that the fellow is a serial rapist who has been a terror to both married and young women in the community, while some youths breezed in to allege that another GLO from Mbaise clan, who it is not worthy to mention his name and that of his community in print, is a notorious fraudster unfit to be assigned Community leadership position due to moral challenges. The complaints were endless and the media was awash with public lamentations. Only two days ago, to be precise, on Tuesday, I read one of the Trumpeta cover pages stories where a GLO, who was also appointed CLO in the new list is being hunted by the Commissioner of Police over involvement in kidnapping, armed robbery and criminal related offences in the Ohaji Community where he is expected to be the Government Liaison Officer. The case is in court and the GLO, with other collaborators, according to the news report, is still at large, while those captured by police are in prison custody awaiting further hearing on the matter pending in court.
There is confusion in all the LGAs in the state even as Government has gone ahead to inaugurate the CGCs in the troubled areas. From Ohaji/Egbema to Obowo and Ideato North, discordant tunes continue to trail the exercise. More so, majority of those who earlier paid some money to government coffers to stand election into CGC positions are crying foul of deprivation and insincerity on the part of the present administration. The media has been awash with these sorry tales of helpless Imo citizens dejected by the CGC lists.
Many of those appointed by the state government as contained in the controversial CGC lists are unacceptable to the people. A Community in Ohaji, Umuokanne, is crying of government insensitivity in the whole affair. While the men folk are alleging imbalance in concentration of CGC position, the Women Group moved en masse to Owerri on Tuesday to protest the appointment of a particular woman who has not associated with the Community’s women organization since she was married to an indigene of the town. The women who felt slighted about the appointment took to the streets of Owerri to make their feelings known to appropriate quarters.
In my autonomous community, a name published as a Youth Leader is not akin to people in my autonomous Community. With nobody coming up to lay claim to the “unknown names”, confusion has taken over with some persons laying claim to the Youth Leader position.
The story is the same everywhere. Where it pains Imolites especially those at the grassroots level is that the present administration is politicizing leadership of various organs of government at the autonomous Communities by negating certain basic principles and primordial expectances of the rural areas, whereby people of questionable characters are assigned Community Leadership positions courtesy of state government.
It is interesting to note that government considered it necessary to appoint CGC members for the 106 new autonomous Communities created during the last dispensation whereas monetary benefits in terms of allowances have not been extend to the traditional rulers since the present government came into power. Does it no amount to confusion?
For some Communities with lingering Ezeship tussle, the CGC must has reinstituted tension and disharmony. Where there is no looming danger the affected Communities are in disarray over choice of traditional rulers as the CGC become operational with a traditional ruler as chairman.
It is pertinent to note that the state government never took into consideration the divergent socio-cultural,  heterogeneous and homogenous backgrounds of the various communities before adopting a broad-based approach in selecting CGC officials. Suffice it to note that what is obtainable in Aboh Mbaise cannot be the same in Njaba and using same module to select CGC appointees could be counter-productive and therefore a self-destructive tendency employed by the state government to bastardize the much touted 4th tier government.