The Implications of holding LG Elections In Imo Now

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When the incumbent administration in Imo State assumed office in 2011, one of the hasty decisions taken by the Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, was to sack the then democratically elected Chairmen of the twenty seven Local Government Areas in the State.
Ever since that proclamation by the Governor which sent the Chairmen packing, it has never been the same with Imo State, as the LGAs, which are the foundation of every democracy, has gone dead, comatose.
Since then, all the Council Chairmen, their Vice, elected Councilors, Supervisory Councilors, their Special Aides, and other sundry appointees who eke out a living from the Local Governments have since joined the teeming unemployed cadre roaming the streets in the state.
These men and women forced out of their jobs have increased the number of idle minds that could stray into various vices, due to no fault of theirs, other than that they found themselves in a society where the Leaders only think about their relations and friends.
Despite the legion of attempts made by these sacked politicians in courts to redress their present situations, it all ended in naught, due to an administration that does not heed to due process, but enmeshed in impunity and yet wants the ordinary citizens to obey the Laws of the land.
However, today, one individual sits in each of the twenty Seven Local Governments in Imo State as a “Sole Administrator” to distribute the collective statutory allocations and common wealth that goes to these LGAs, without checks and balances.
In all indications, the Owelle Okorocha’s administration may erroneously believe that the current trend where Imo LGAs are ghost towns, leaving its coffers for the State Government to throw cash around, without elected officers, is the best. But experience and history had shown that, in the long run it does not pay. This though depends on the mindset of the State Chief Executive.
Either he or her has development of the state at heart or sees himself or herself as a Soldier of occupation, out to loot the conquered territory.
The scenario in Imo State, as regards the sorry state of Imo LGAs may favour those with eyes on easy lucre. But comparatively, in most cases, money is not everything, because there are too many things in life that money cannot buy.
Therefore, that many people are bemused in Imo State while the LGAs lie fallow is an indication that many things have gone wrong in the state. The masses are shocked beyond words with what they are seeing, but not that they are not aware.
Ordinarily, what should have been the major thrust of Okorocha’s administration after dissolving the elected Councils would have been to organize another election in the LGAs, since nature abhors vacuum, especially in a democratic environment.
But as it stands now, it may take time before Imo people see elected Chairmen in the 27LGAs again. Apart from the fact that the present administration is happy with the situation, as it makes free fund available to be thrown about, Okorocha cannot hold any election in the LGAs when there are litigations in Court by the sacked elected Council Chairmen; who still lay claim to their mandates.
Indeed, Okorocha did not handle the matter well abinito. Has Okorocha applied some well-thought out strategy, he would have settled with the now aggrieved elected Chairmen, who would have since served out their tenure, while Okorocha holds a council election, even with some of them joining his fold.
I know that some political fortune seekers may believe that it serves Okorocha better for the status quo to remain as it is now than to conduct council elections. But that is absolutely negative. Holding a council election would have been to Okorocha’s political and personal advantages.
Had Okorocha solved the log jam with the elected Chairmen and conducted a council election since, his political acceptance and reach would have changed astronomically from what optains now, where he assumes his popularity is soaring, without carrying out proper checks and empirical studies, deep down the electorate.
Let me say that it was the organizing of elections in the LGAs that made Achike Udenwa a household name he is today. It also gave Gov Ikedi Ohakim leverage till now, since he left government.
No matter the amount of political clout Okorocha has, it cannot be compared after he must have conducted elections in the LGAs of Imo State.
That Achike Udenwa still has followers today in some remotest corners of Imo State was due to the political structure he built as a Governor through LGA elections.
In Nigerian politics, when a Governor conducts a Local Government election, the entire structures belong to him. Although he may not personally endorse who contests what, but his allies who choose such people controls same people for the Leader, who is the Governor.
For instance, when Dr Achike Udenwa became a Governor in 1999, he was made by the likes I D Nwoga, Senator Echeruo, Nze IMO Umunna and others who piloted his emergence.
But when Udenwa settled down, he needed his own foot soldiers, and therefore had to conduct a Local Government election, which produced twenty Seven Local Government Chairmen, several Councilors and Supervisory Councilors, who in the end became the Udenwa’s political family, which still has remnants today, no matter what.
Working with these elected Chairmen, whom he disbursed Imo’s funds to, they became his pillars in the LGAs, and see Udenwa as their political father, that till date some of them find it difficult to verbally say anything against Udenwa, even if they find themselves in different political leanings. Udenwa, up till now, is still reaping the benefit of his “benevolence” in conducting Local Government elections.
The same goes to Dr Ikedi Ohakim. Apart from the Local Government Chairmen who have remained a thorn in the flesh of Okorocha since he dissolved them, there is no other single block of opposition to the administration in Imo State presently. Till date, they are still in court with Okorocha.
These same ex-LGA chairmen have remained the strongest pillar Ohakim has, because individually, they owe him for rising to the position of Council Chairmen during his regime, even if he may not have known some of them from Adam.
The Councilors, who are also in Court with Okorocha over their sack, are another component of the last administration who cannot be wished away.
These Councilors till date still control their electoral Wards, which is the grassroot and foundation of every democracy, as the president of Nigeria belongs to a Ward before venturing out of his locality.
Therefore, because Okorocha’s administration sees every thing in the realm of Naira and Kobo, it has lost the chance to maximize the opportunity created by Council election, to solidify his grassroot base, but instead focuses its gaze only on LGA Allocations, which are appropriated and shared without the input of the Peoples’ representatives; Council Chairmen and Councilors.
Okorocha may have the Rescue Mission or Agenda Group. They are marely his campaign organizations, and would have expanded in winning more “souls” if the Governor had conducted election these past years. As at now, only the few enjoying from his administration can be counted on his side, unlike when he holds LGA election now.
However, having realized the important role LGAs play in elections, Okorocha’s administration devised the novel experiment of Community Government, with the appointment of GLOs and CLOs. But unfortunately, that Kite cannot fly as the Community Government was modeled to whittle down the powers of President-Generals of Communities, a regime that is as old as Lord Lugard in Igbo land.
From all indications, the Community Government seen by many in Imo State as the vexed Indirect-Rule shunned by our fore fathers, is taken with a pinch of salt by those in the rural areas, and therefore will not succeed.
What is left for Okorocha is to go back to the “status quo”, which is the Local Government election option. He should do every thing to reinvigorate the Imo LGAs before the 2015 election, or face the unforeseen consequences that will shock him.
The people in the rural areas are angry and not feeling the impact of the Okorocha administration because the only avenue through which the grass root feels the dividends of democracy; the LGAs, have collapsed.
The other day I visited Umuneke, the headquarter of Ngor Okpala LGA, my place, and nearly wept. It was a surprise how dissolute the place has become. You don’t see the enthusiasm on the faces of the people again, like before when you observe the Councilors, Supervisory Councilors, Staff and others who have one thing or the other to do with the LGA, move around the compound with vigour and pride.
Even the petty traders that always clustered under the Trees were gone. I was more than shocked when I visited the “Second Headquarter” of Ngor Okpala LGA, a joint called “Friendship”. The place was deserted.
“Friendship” owned by Austine Azubuike, is a joint in Umuneke that you cannot visit at any time without seeing politicians in their numbers analyzing events over a plate of Bush meat and drinks. Today, Umuneke is deserted. So also are other LGAs in Imo State.
You measure progress in any given society from how the inhabitants in the rural areas gauge the sitting administration. The long faces of Imo citizens dwelling in the LGAs will tell you how things are in the state.
Let the Governor resolve the litigation matter with the sacked LGA Chairmen so that Imo can move forward for all of us. Political ego and opportunism should be thrown away for the collective happiness of all Imo people.
For Okorocha to regain his groove, he should conduct elections in the LGAs now to bring life back to the people. We do not care even if it ends like that of Ebonyi State last week which ended with PDP clinching all the Councilors and Chairmen in the entire Nineteen LGAs. At least, let there be life in the LGAs.
Those job opportunities in the LGAs should be filled through elections. It is both for Okorocha and Imo peoples’ advantage. The dead Imo LGA is no good story.
If Okorocha is no more interested in Imo LGA allocations than the development of the people, let him conduct elections in Imo LGA fast.
His Predecessors toyed with the idea of ruling the State without LGA elections, but discovered it was not healthy. So, Okorocha should work according to one of his known quotations “A politician thinks of next election, while statesmen think of next generation”.
If the Governor really means what he says, he should take a deep reflection, and calculate how many Imo sons and daughters would be given automatic employments if he conducts elections today in Imo LGAs.
These Council Chairmen and Councilors, Supervisory Councilors and other workers to be “employed” in these LGAs after this election are the future generations the Governor talks about. Let action speak louder than voice.