By Nelson Ekujumi The way the National Assembly comprising the…
By Olusola Adeyoose
When President Muhammadu Buhari implored governors to pay salary arrears so that workers can have a joyous celebration at Christmas, the Chairman of so-called Progressive Governors Forum, Mr. Rochas Anayo Okorocha was the first to predicate that wish on a condition - that payment of arrears will be dependent on the President’s disbursement of the 50 per cent Paris Club loan refund. Few days later however, Okorocha who was reluctant to pay workers due to supposedly scarce resources, had no inhibition in establishing an extraneous ministry and appointing 30 new State Commissioners.
In his interview with Daily Independent Newspapers in 2016 Mr. Rochas had retorted “I don’t need more than 200 workers at the civil service of Imo State but I need more than 100,000 in the agricultural sector of the state. It’s like if this nation makes $1 trillion every day and ends up paying salaries with it, there still will be no progress. Unless we address those basic issues and get people to work in the productive sector of the economy, we cannot make any headway. If I have 70 percent of money that comes to the state for capital expenditure, Imo State would look like London in the next five years. Public service is not welfarism, unless we are having a welfare state, where people can sit down and expect money. We have what is called governance by investment and not people sitting down and collecting money because that money they collect does not aid production.”
But in what appears to be a thick web of contradictions a year later, Okorocha attempts to further increase the personnel and overhead costs of governance, by creating a new ministry and making fancy duplicates of conventional ones. The Ministry of Education was divided into the Ministry of Primary & Secondary Education, and Ministry of Tertiary Education. Even Youth and Sports were divided into separate ministries amidst other high-sounding nomenclatures like the Ministry of Special Duties, Ministry of Public utilities, Ministry of Public Safety and Ministry of Inter-Government Affairs & Donor Agencies. Yet this aberration is perpetrated without minding the average monthly recurrent expenditure of about N4.48billion while total monthly revenue averages only about N3.41billion, according to the BudgIT 2017 State of States Report.
Okorocha’s appetite for the unsavoury is not new. It just wasn’t in the limelight until recently. Six years ago, Mr. Governor announced the appointment of some 70 advisers and few weeks back he unveiled the statue of South African President, Jacob Zuma - a man who due to allegations of corruption, is ill-regarded in his own country, and under whose leadership, dozens of Nigerians have been murdered. But despite a rising debt profile, the leadership of Imo State continues to spend on irrelevant items incapable of bringing meaningful development to the people.
In all of these, Mr. Rochas has been all over the media providing dim justifications for the indefensible. We are told it is within the constitutional power of a governor to create state ministries as he deems fit, and that ensuring happiness and purpose fulfillment is the primary essence of a government. This allusion to the 1999 constitution that makes an emperor of a state governor by empowering him to create ministries as he pleases is not only repressive, it further lends urgency to the need to abandon that redundant and ineffective piece of parchment for a genuine constitution.
We nevertheless await explanation on how the creation of the Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment will translate to provision of jobs for the thousands of unemployed youths in Imo. We await explanation on how the creation of the Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment will help reduce the number of children that die from preventable diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria in Imo state. We await explanation on how the creation of the Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfillment will help convert Imo’s deposits of limestone, clay, calcium carbonate, and lead to wealth. We will equally like to know if the governor indeed believes people can be happy when they are denied their salaries and when they lack access to the basic amenities of life.
If Mr. Governor is tolerant of criticism as he claims, then the people of Imo deserve a cost-benefit analysis of his recent appointments, since he claims he acted in their best interest. The only rational assumption as it stands is that these appointments are to compensate his family members, political associates and friends, possibly in view of his political succession come 2019.
The governor’s theatrical display of comedy no doubt helps provide succour. It occasionally distracts the people of Imo from their sufferings, and on that note we are grateful. But that is palliative. True happiness will only come when the State is rid of the likes of Okorocha and his committee of jesters who continually make mockery of governance and assault the sensibilities of the people.
Adeyoose can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org