In continuation of the second leg of this commentary, I will give further insight why it is titled “His Excellency and “Executive Deceit”.
However, before I proceed, permit me to branch off to clarify an issue that arose after last week’s edition of this topic. Of all reactions I got from text messages and facebook posts, one facebook friend who takes joy in exposing infantile delinquency when reacting to any of my works and that of Trumpeta newspapers that is perceived to be against Governor Rochas Okorocha, did make scathing remarks about the subject. According to the youthful fellow who I simply addresses as “Onyinye” to protect his real identity since he still remains a facebook friend, the contents of my page may be an indirect insult to His Excellency, the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
In my response, I posted that I cannot insult my Governor for any reason, adding that I am entitled to my opinion in democratic dispensation and at liberty to express my views by applying the necessary principles and values enshrined in the ethics of journalism practice. I went further to express that since politics is a media event, no public office holder or administration should shy away from constructive criticism which is an integral aspect of social commentary and political analysis. I reminded Onyinye and his ilks that since comments are free and facts are sacred in journalism, therefore he has the “right to reply” as other contributors who joined the fray requested him to exhume lies and falsehood embellished in the write-up than his usual unguarded invectives at my person.
It is important to note that key players and co-travelers of the Rescue Mission government in Imo State are averse to constructive criticisms. Reasons for this disposition are not far fetched. Most are crude and unrefined traducers wallowing with partisan proclivity born out of their skewed imagination and primordial tendencies. Since the found themselves at the corridors of power by stroke of luck necessitated by the “voting revolution” that took place in Imo state in 2011 Governorship Election, naivety has been their trademark.
I expect Okorocha sympathizers to note that criticisms have always trailed any administration that took over mantle of leadership in Imo State and it shall continue even after the present regime.
The much acclaimed Imo miracle-wonder Governor, Late Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe was no exception. Despite the believed laudable programs of the famous De Sam, opposing forces never relented in highlighting negative angles of his administration. That was why the likes of Late Chief Collins Obi, and Dr. Nnanna Ukaegbu sought to take power from him in 1983 using different party platforms. Since our nascent democracy debuted in 1999, Governors who served the masses received knocks from social crusaders and socio-political commentators who lashed Udenwa and the immediate past state Chief Executive, Ikedi Ohakim for various misdemeanour committed in act of governance. Invariably, such ballistic missiles helped to reshape the focus of the previous administration and made it people-friendly. I expect the Okorocha regime to toe same pattern of accepting constructive criticism than adopting under uncivilized approach to commentators’ views.
Having swept away Onyinye’s tantrums, let me return to the main issue; “His Excellency and Executive lies”. This interesting conclusion will be incomplete if I forget Okorocha’s deceit to oil producing areas. After flying kite with the usual sermon of “your past leaders ate ISOPADEC money, His Excellency adopted several decoy to mesmerize the people of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta LGAs. Despite the presence of Prof Anthony Gozie Anwuka who performs the role of Secretary to the State Government in the “Rescue Mission” government, the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission is withing spitting distance to death. Unlike the era of those who the present Governor persistently accused of defrauding the Commission, ISOPADEC is in comatose and has nothing to offer to the people for which it was established. The recent programme where Governor Okorocha assembled the Youths of the area for the so-called N500m empowerment fund was nothing but a wishy-washy exercise organized for mere publicity stunt. To show that it was a hurriedly organized exercise made to hoodwink unsuspecting Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta youths who have been aggrieved over the unbecoming approach of the state government to ISOPADEC affairs, no feasibility studies were undertaken by empowerment technocrats and relevant youth organizations before floating the controversial N500m scheme.
Come to think of it, how would the Governor dangle N500m empowerment plan when the entire area is plunged into darkness, no thanks to the inability of the state government to properly fund ISOPADEC to pay PHCN for electricity bills. From the inception of ISOPADEC in 2007, the last administration decided to cater for electricity bills of oil producing communities of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta from 2009 in line with the interventionist policy of the agency. The exercise remained till Okorocha came into power in 2011. Afterwards, the payment to PHCN has stopped and the various communities have remained in darkness with economic and social life at lowest ebb. No cogent reason has been offered by the present government for the non payment of PHCN. Rather, oil producing communities have been mandated by PHCN to pay millions ISOPADEC would have paid if they want electricity supply,. One had expected Okorocha to tell Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta people how Chief Arthur Nzeribe and Rt Hon Goodluck Opiah, those he recently labeled as the “eaters” of ISOPADEC fund embezzled the money meant for PHCN regular bills for power supply. What is the justification for government decision to throw oil producing communities into darkness and turn around to make available N500m for youth empowerment programme? If most skills acquisition activities thrive with power supply, the absence of public power supply will rubbish the media-oriented N500m empowerment programme. In contrast to acceptable standards and popular opinion, the scholarship was not meant for the entire youths of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta. Rather those considered were politically-induced youths that are Rescue-Mission Compliant”. At the shameful public launch of the empowerment scheme, only stooges of the present government were invited and selected to speak.
Because of the deceitful manner the N500m empowerment programme was conceived, nothing has been heard about the implementation again. To express their chargrin and displeasure students of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta in tertiary institutions in the state on Monday took to the streets to protest government neglect. The rampaging youths who took control of the ISOPADEC Owerri office gate among other things lamented the stoppage of the bursary allowance paid to them by the previous administration which was halted by the Okorocha administration. Now, Nzeribe and Opiah should also be blamed for the non payment of the bursary as they may have turned to “spirits” by plugging a pipe onto ISOPADEC coffers to siphon monies meant for PHCN bills and bursary to students of Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta in higher institutions.
It is important we take an unbiased assessment of ISOPADEC activities during the last dispensation and now that the Rescue Missionaries are in charge. A cursory review of ISOPADEC activities indicate that the present administration employed deceitful tendencies in its approach to the commission’s operation by failing to consider the interest of the area where ISOPADEC is expected to play interventionist roles. Only two monumental projects, according to the State Governor would be given attention by ISOPADEC in his four-year tenure. The projects are ISOPDEC head office and the Marine University. It would be worth less repeating issues raised in past discussion about these so-called Okorocha’s monumental projects for oil producing communities, as I had earlier exposed the theatre of absurdities associated with these white elephant projects. What is the relevance of a 5-storey office block located in Owerri with not less than 100 offices to a predominant farmer and fisherman/fisherwoman in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta communities ravaged by ecological and environmentally dehydration necessitated by oil exploration and exploitation by multi national oil companies in their neighbourhood? How would the people feel the impact of the interventionist agency when the elegant edifice to house ISOPADEC is located miles away and plays no significant role to their well being? Granted ISOPADEC needs a befitting corporate headquarters, the Owerri ISOPADEC office nearing completion according to informed sources would be for related ministries like Petroleum, Energy and Environment that has been on rented apartment for some years. The construction of the multi-million naira worth ISOPADEC office lacks local content policy as a Governor’s kins man from Ideato the handled the contract that was not publicly advertised for interested bidders and lacked the blessing of the State Tenders Committee.
On the issue of Marine University sited at Osemotor, in Oguta LGA. I have repeated that it is a bogus project that may not see the light of the day. The project is another decoy to mortgage ISOPADEC fund and do nothing for the people of oil producing communities in the next ten years or more. I have said it that no African Nation runs a Marine University. What we have is Marine Institute and Maritime Academy operated by federal governments of Egypt and Nigeria respectively. Money-bags states surrounded by river and oceans have not attempted this suicidal project except for Rivers state who only made Marine Engineering a course in Rivers State University of Science and Technology. I am informed that of the N26bn expected to be injected in the commencement of the Marine University only about N1bn has been provided by the state. As at the time of this report, nothing concrete has been done, except earth work and site clearance, which is elementary stage. If N26bn is needed and only N1bn has been made available, in two years of the four- year of the present administration, what are the indices that Okorocha will complete it in the next two years before his first tenure ends? If N26bn is needed and only N1bn is provided, that means that the Marine University may be completed in the next 25 years? Any right thinking person familiar with events in the state especially in the academic sector will know that the present government is not sincere in the marine university project. When Okorocha attempted to take the Imo State University, IMSU from Owerri to Ogboko, Ideato South, his community, the outcry that greeted his action forced him to make a volte face. In one of his public address to Imo people, Okorocha said that three more universities were on the way for the state. He mentioned Jesuit Loyola University to be located at one of the proposed permanent site of IMSU at Mbaise/Ngor Okpala axis and Imo European University for Ogboko. Even the House of Assembly has passed a Bill into Law for the establishment of Imo State College of Technical Education to be sited in Speaker Uwajumogu’s Ihitte Uboma Community in Okigwe Zone. While the IMSU School of Engineering also meant for Okigwe Zone is waiting commencement. None of these lofty projects have come to reality but the present administration is toying with a highly sophisticated sector stipulated to cost N26bn. Invariably ISOPADEC will not undertake any project again in Ohaji/EGbema and Oguta LGAs if the income due to ISOPADEC from the state allocation and amount to be spent for the Marine University are anything to go by. The Marine University is not an exclusive project for oil producing areas as people of the state and Nigerians would have opportunities to obtain required certificates from the institution when completed. I have been reliably informed that all the jobs at Marine University site have also been contracted to non-indigenes without consideration to local content and indigenous rights.
Except that the present administration is enmeshed with perfidy, it would have realized that wasting public funds on meaningless and bogey funds is retrogressive. While N26bn is being sought to establish a Marine, existing state-owned higher institutions are glorified high schools. From Imo State University to the Teaching Hospital and Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo-Ohaji, the story is the same, sorry tales of underdevelopment. Worse hit is Imopoly. Six years after its existence as a Polytechnic, Imopoly is witnessing its greatest misfortune in the hands of present government where Okorocha claims to be education-friendly Governor and Commander of free education. While the masses are fed with scintillating success recorded in the education sector by Okorocha, Imopoly is in ruins. The school has lost almost all its HND accreditation leading to the systematic scrapping of HND courses except for few disciplines. While billions are being budgeted for a new higher institution, existing ones are in dire need of funding leading to loss of accreditation by NBTE. HND graduates of Imopoly are at crossroads and roasting at home as they have been denied NYSC call-up/mobilization courtesy of denial of accreditation.
One would be tempted to know from me what ISOPADEC did before Okorocha came into power to stagnate its operation. Contrary to the lies fed to the public that certain individuals connived to “chew” the commission’s funds in the past, I will outline some of the projects handled by indigenous and other contractors. Since facts are sacred in journalism, I stand to be challenged that the listed projects in the affected oil producing communities never exited Ihenacho.