By Collins Opurozor
The encouragement of forgetfulness can be a political strategy. Lately, the dispossessed and fugitive apologists of the past administration in Imo State have preoccupied themselves with encouraging Imo people to forget their past and pretend that nothing happened. But something really happened. Evil befell the land. Imo was plundered. The people’s common patrimony was squandered and unborn generations mortgaged with unpayable debt stocks.
Brick and mortar contraptions with zero impact were cobbled together to fritter away resources and create slush funds which eventual destinations became foreign bank accounts and personal businesses.
George Orwell envisioned the travesty that was to become the Okorocha administration in his book, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, where Big Brother has a Memory Hole with a flaming furnace for the destruction of the atrocities of the past. But Imo cannot be reduced to that. The people should be made to know how their State was wrecked, by whom and for which purpose, so that the burden of the new administration in rebuilding Imo could be appreciated.
The most audacious affront to the people of Imo State was the conscription of democratic space by stifling the Local Government system and creating a culture of transition in perpetuity superintended by weaklings who could easily agree to the looting of Local Government funds and lend themselves to the overhang of Okorocha.
In this way, there was no single Local Government in Imo State that could grade a feeder road or even fill a pothole. This was the piteous State of the Imo bequeathed to Gov Emeka Ihedioha. Yet, if there is any area today in Imo State that has been so overwhelmingly rebuilt, sanitized, reinvigorated, and placed on the path of sustainable progress it is the Local Government system.
Governor Ihedioha believes that to engender grassroots development, expand the democratic space and spread democratic values in Imo State, a functional and vibrant Local Government system remains the most potent mechanism.
Indeed, the accomplishments recorded by the Ihedioha administration in the Local Government sector in less than one hundred days in office speak volumes about what Imo will become in the next one year.
It is instructive to note that today all Local Government Areas in Imo State have unfettered financial autonomy and get full monthly allocations unlike in the past that nothing, literally nothing, went to them.
As a corollary to this and to ensure that project funding guidelines are strictly adhered to, there is now an LGA Project Monitoring Bureau. Most Local Governments have already taken off with projects after they indicated interests and received approvals.
Today, the Local Government Areas have provided the fulcrum for the incubation and development of sports through the construction of twenty-seven recreation centers across the State. The implication of this is that local talents in sports will be harnessed, and the energies of the young people channeled away from crime, since the opportunities in sports have been opened up to them. This is a soft security initiative.
Today, there are projects like the rebuilding of primary schools and healthcare centers dotting the landscape of Imo. Provision of chairs and desks, rural electricity projects and boreholes are ongoing. In some areas, there are even agricultural programs which are designed to make improved seedlings as well as other inputs available to farmers, even as extension services are ongoing for capacity building aimed at upskilling the local farmers.
Good governance has also been established in the Local Government system. Award of contracts and procurement processes in the Local Governments are now open and very transparent, and the Directors of Administration and General Services (DAGS), Treasurers and Heads of Personnel Management (HPM) of each Local Government take charge of the procurement processes through their Finance and General Purposes Committee, which is the highest decision making organ of the Local Government.
A local security architecture has been birthed with the Operation Iron Gate through which the Chairmen, working in concert with Traditional Rulers, Town Unions, the police and other agencies ensure adequate security of lives and property. Regularly, security meetings are held to review the security situation in the locality and identify areas that require cooperative efforts to deal with.
To curb the menace of ghost workers and the attendant high wage bills, the Local Governments in Imo have engaged biometric experts to help using a clocking system, which electronically verifies the identities of the workers and consequently ascertains the actual staff strength through a clock-in platform in the morning and a clock-out mechanism in the evening.
In addition, 5% of the total allocations to the Local Governments now statutorily go to Conference of Traditional Rulers from which salaries and other improved welfare entitlements of traditional rulers are taken care of. This never happened in the past eight years in Imo State. It is today fully operational under the Ihedioha Administration.
We can go on and on. But the truth held to be self-evident in Imo is that the Local Government System has been rebuilt and made robustly functional to deliver value for the benefit of Ndimo and to the glory of God.