Okorocha and the Imo Debacle

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Clifford Nwanju

On the 7th of October, 2016, the Vanguard Newspaper carried a front page banner headline, captioned, “Why We left Douglas Road Refuse – Imo Government”. It was a news report credited to Samuel Onwuemeodo, the Press Secretary to the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha. Onwuemeodo was quoted as saying that, “Government deliberately abandoned the refuse along Douglas Road, Owerri to get back at Owerri people who have been battling the State Government over the relocation of the market.” Then the CPS went further to say that: “Owerri people cannot eat their cake and have it.”

These reckless outbursts of Okorocha’s spokesman and the pouring of invectives on Owerri indigenes over a matter as serious as refuse disposal in a strategic area in the highly populated city of Owerri, is a manifestation of how the Okorocha administration has decided to abandon its basic responsibilities to the citizenry. The CPS was speaking at an early morning phone-in programme on the day in question. The radio programme was anchored by Hot 99.5 FM Station, Owerri. Most of the respondents were outraged at the callousness of the Okorocha administration in subjecting the masses to health hazards by refusing to embark on the disposal of the huge refuse dumps in Owerri municipality, just to get at those the Government has demonized as opponents of his administration. Even at that, Owerri is a metropolis where people from diverse areas globally reside. It is also the Imo State capital, inhabited by Imo citizens from across the state.

Even the claim by the Imo State Government that they decided to abandon the refuse heaps because of a court order restraining them from tampering with the Owerri main market is not a logical argument. Rather it is a vexacious and vindictive act of wickedness aimed at punishing Owerri residents for something they know nothing about. The court order in question was obtained from aggrieved owners of market stalls in the Owerri market whose countless appeals to the Imo State Government to carry out a proper documentation of the owners/occupants of stalls at the market, fell on deaf ears. Okorocha’s foot-soldiers had completed arrangements to allocate the stalls at the new Egbeada market to his cronies, so as to render the original traders of the Douglas road market useless and throw them out of business. The traders have obtained a temporary reprieve through the court order, hoping that the government can re-engage them in proper negotiation, taking into consideration the need to sustain their livelihood. Instead of doing the proper thing, the Okorocha administration is waging a war of attrition against the indigenes of Owerri Nchi Ise- the owners of the old market as a cover up for his their administrative recklessness.

The controversy over the relocation of the market is only a minor aspect of Okorocha’s excesses and atrocity in Imo State since he was elected into office in 2011. Okorocha has imposed a siege on the once peaceful and vibrant Imo State. Nearly all the major roads in the state are in a terrible state of dilapidation and disrepair. Okorocha has no policy thrust on road maintenance and the few roads he constructed a few years ago have collapsed because of poor job delivery. The dilapidated roads in question including Douglas road, Orlu road, Okigwe road, World Bank road, Umuguma road, Amaraku road, Mbaise road and several other uncountable urban and rural roads in the state. The Governor’s non-challant attitude to the comfort and well- being of the people has acquired a sadistic dimension, because just as the masses were lamenting over the sorry state of the road net-work, he commenced the bulldozing and demolition of houses along major and strategic parts of the old city of Owerri. He deliberately left out the new Owerri capital layout and started the expansion of roads in the old city areas, just to punish the people at these hard times. All appeals made to him forget about the demolition exercises were brushed aside. Meanwhile, landlords and tenants, including businessmen who were using their properties for business in Orji/Okigwe road, Orlu road, Egbu road, Mbaise road and Egbeada road were thrown into weeping and wailing with the arrival of bull-dozers which crushed their buildings and messed up their lives. The worst aspect of the entire episode is that the Governor Okorocha does not pay compensation for damaging people’s property. The last time he carried out the exercise in Orlu, the situation was the same. And these are city layouts which were properly planned and landlord had their Certificates of Occupancy. Why did the government not go over to the new Owerri capital territory to build new roads with multiple lanes, where they have empty lands, if they were sincere and committed? The excavations going simultaneously with the demolition exercise is having a terrible side-effect on the ecology of the state capital. And to show how wicked and vicious the government agents can become, they excavated and dug up the graves of people buried in their ancestral homes, in the name of bulldozing people’s homes and compounds. A case in point is that of the Late Traditional Ruler of Ihitte-Oha, Eze Onuegwu Nwoke, a former Chairman of the State Council of Traditional Rulers, whose mother’s grave was dug up. This was a shameless case of cultural abomination committed by Okorocha’s hooligans. The villagers have since placed curses on them.

The socio- political debacle created in Imo State by Okorocha is gathering more and more momentum, to the extent that there are countless court cases against his government. His administration has been disparaged, criticized and accused by stakeholders for its financial recklessness, corruption and ecological crimes against the state. Okorocha’s government has a reputation for awarding contracts without due process. There is no single career administrator in his entire government.

There are no ministerial Tenders Boards or procurement committees for due process and transparency. That is actually the reason why over 100 contractors whose services could not be settled, nor their agreements traced have taken the Governor and his Government to court on several and diverse cases.

Okorocha and his handlers should reconsider their atomization tactics. They should stop isolating the people of Owerri Nchi Ise in their deliberate sectarian politics of deceit. The truth of the matter is that the entire state is disappointed by his failed governance and his legacies have been debased by the debacle he brought upon himself and the state.

– Clifford Nwanju writes from Owerri, Imo State