By Collins Opuruzor
The past eight years in Imo State can best be described as years consumed by the locusts. It was distressing beyond words, perplexing beyond imagination, to chronicle Imo’s woes amid her enormous potentials during those years of ruinous misrule.
First, Imo became an alien, even an alienating, idea to her own people. The umbilical cord between the people and their government was shattered, and what the government was pretending to be doing had no impact whatsoever on the people.
For instance, each passing minute had tens of Imo pensioners drop dead under very heartrending circumstances occasioned by the utterly reprehensible denial of their pensions by Chief Rochas Okorocha. Yet, the same administration went into a fallow land on Aba Road, Owerri, and buried N700 million for molding one very worthless hand named Akachi Tower. The same administration fleeced N5.3 billion using a decoy of roofing roads with overhead iron poles even when the roads themselves were worse and messier than dung pits.
Further, every state policy was in one way or another a demonstration of hostility and unconscionable cruelty against the people. There was in place both physical and structural violence against the populace. In one of its wars levied on the people which was prosecuted with all vehemence, fury and belligerence, the administration murdered a tiny boy named Somtochukwu while wiping off the livelihoods of over three thousand people at the Eke Ukwu Market, Owerri. In short, each night brought a sorrow which the succeeding night’s sorrow stole away.
In addition, there was a deleterious usurpation of the roles of the local governments, and, by and large, what existed in Imo as local governments were outlets through which Chief Okorocha created slush funds for money laundering. The total of N96 billion accruing to local governments was inexplicably diverted by Chief Okorocha at the detriment of rural development and collective wellbeing of the poor, vulnerable, voiceless and defenceless people at the grassroots.
To make matters worse, the only platform which aids community development through self-help initiatives, the Town Union, was banned by Chief Okorocha and the communities themselves balkanized through incessant creation of completely unhelpful Autonomous Communities. Before Chief Okorocha’s third term agenda was foiled at the polls by Imo people, there were about three hundred more Autonomous Communities already set to be approved.
It is therefore heartwarming that the new administration of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha is determined to deliver good governance and the dividends thereof to essentially but not exclusively the marginalized grassroots in Imo State.
Today, a functional local government system has returned to Imo State with a performance metrics and full allocations to work with. The Special Assistant to Governor Ihedioha on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ikenga Mayor Eze, has never hidden the administration’s commitment to ensuring the greatest welfare of the greatest number of Imo people through the instrumentality of local government. The inimitable Ikenga Orlu has been upfront with the local people about what the administration has done and is doing to wipe their tears.
The Town Unions have been brought back to partner with the local governments to address local challenges especially in the areas of infrastructure, amenities, agriculture and security. The result of this is that projects are not just done but they are done in line with the basic needs of the people. The Town Unions now have their development charters which outline their challenges and on the basis of which intervention by the local governments is sought.
Members of the Interim Management Committees of the local governments now are trained and retrained through workshops and symposia on the best and acceptable practices for local governance. Transparent management of resources has been established by ensuring that due process is followed in the award of contracts and procurements. Dizzying wage wills are being confronted through biometric verification of actual staff strength. Today, local governments have commenced construction, reconstruction, renovation and rehabilitation of infrastructure across the State captured in their Residual Legislative List.
What the Ihedioha Administration has proven with the innovations in the local government system is that when passion and experience meet opportunity the result is prosperity.