Governor Hope Uzodinma came into power as Imo State Governor through a ground shaking Supreme Court judgment that recently won the News Echo award as the most surprising event of the year 2020. The judgment took almost the entire Imo populace by surprise. They could only look in awe and bewilderment as the events unfolded and Hope Uzodimma was later sworn in as the governor of Imo State.
The general mood of Imo people then was that our democracy has been raped and the mandate of Imo people clearly given to Emeka Ihedioha, brazenly stolen in what could literally be described as daylight robbery. They reasoned that worst of all was that the Imo charter of equity that saw a glimpse of light of survival was dealt a fatal blow that may have resulted to its final extermination.
Meanwhile as the government came to stay, Imo people decided to resign themselves to fate and allow things take their natural cause. The general belief among the people was that they will not expect much, since they did not vote for him.
However, as time progressed, the views of the people started to change and cross section of Imolites started to nurse the hope that the government may after all be a blessing in disguise. They hinged their hope on the fact that Uzodimma has always been known as a generous man and voluntary giver.
They reckoned that he may not do much in the area of infrastructural development, but circulation of money will not be an issue during his administration. It is believed he will be ready to release the entitlements due to various segments of the state, especially the civil, public servants and pensioners.
This assertion was buoyed by the many sweet sounding promises made to the Imo workers by the governor. He promised to pay the minimum wage with immediate effect, provide housing scheme for the low income workers, and grant them car loans, among numerous promises, same way he made to other segments of the state.
However, nearly a year into the administration code named 3R’s government, the worst fears of the most ardent pessimists of the ability of Hope Uzodimma to smoothly steer the ship of Imo economy is being confirmed.
From what critical observers have seen and revealed, Imo economy seems to be in a pitiful situation. From the look of things, even the laypersons can see that all is not well in Imo economy. The economy of the state is seriously stifling. Money is not in circulation as earlier speculated by optimists while the governor has been foot-dragging on releasing the entitlements due to the various segments in the state.
Imo State as we currently know is a government and civil service based economy, which depends on the activities of government and civil servants to succeed. It follows that when political appointees and civil servants are regularly remunerated, the positive ripple effect is felt by the entire citizenry who benefits in many different ways.
In the case of the present government, the political appointees reportedly stayed many months without being remunerated and when their payment started, they were also reportedly paid below what such appointees were used to be paid in the past.
Also, the issue of imprest to run the various offices of government, headed by the political appointees became a tug of war. Yours sincerely can authoritatively speak on this because he had a transaction with a ministry that required the use of imprest account for the payment to be made. The payment dragged for months because the ministry kept complaining that their imprest has not been approved or released by the governor.
In fact, the political appointee in the ministry had to make the payment from his personal purse, after many months of waiting to pay with the imprest without any success. I don’t know what the situation is currently. Though it was learnt that part of the imprest were later released.
This particular issue even affected the government house where the governor superintends, making most employees who depend on allowances to suffer untold hardship. There was even an unconfirmed rumour that the office of the deputy governor of the state was starved of funds/imprest that the deputy governor had to report the matter to the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Catholic Archdiocese, His Grace Most Rev. A.J.V Obinna, who intervened before some of the entitlements of the office were released to enable him settle the staff/attaches of his office.
Civil/public servants and pensioners
The issue of hard and harsh stance of the present government to the welfare of civil/public servants in the state has become a recurrent decimal under Hope Uzodimma’s administration. Imo workers and pensioners who thought they had a rough time under Rochas Okorocha, have now lost the energy and courage to speak about what have befallen them under Uzodimma administration.
Their salaries are cut at will by huge sums; in some cases up to half and in other times more than half. Also many workers have not been paid for months, since the inception of the present administration and the government keep giving excuses with an unending so called automation process and shifting the blames on the workers for allegedly providing wrong information; either as a way of fraud or mistake.
In the past, if the workers’ salary is cut by any small amount, even as small as three hundred naira, the whole world hears about it and action is urgently taken by the labour union to demand for a redress, but under Uzodimma, the indiscriminate cutting of Imo workers’ salaries and allowances has become the order of the day.
Many observers and analysts have wondered the magic wand that Uzodimma has used to do this and for almost a year now, without heads rolling and heavens falling. As all these were happening, the labour union in the state became a toothless bulldog. Leadership of the union was seen hobnobbing with the governor and most times justifying his clearly anti workers policies.
The labour leaders suddenly woke up at the dying minute to call up workers for strike action, as the Christmas and New Year festivities were approaching. The strike was vehemently rejected by cross section of Imo workers who questioned why the labour union suddenly woke up from their slumber and hurriedly fixed the strike during Christmas period. This came at a time they were expecting their December salaries and possibly Christmas bonuses, as well as the long Christmas holidays that was the order of the day during Okorocha’s reign.
Meanwhile, the smart governor played a fast one on them, as he used the excuse of resurgent Covid-19 pandemic to declare a sit-at-home for the workers, a clear tactics to thwart the strike action directed by the labour leaders. He ordered workers to sit at home, even when the high risk segments of the state were allowed to be in operation. He followed it up with scandal and threats against the labour leaders, calling them all sorts of unprintable names, carving his own law that no retired worker should henceforth be allowed to lead the labour union in the state. He further warned the current leaders to relinquish their positions and run away from the state, threatening that he will be coming with full force in the new year 2021 to descend on them if they fail to run away.
Also, medical doctors who have gone on strike to press home the demand for their constitutionally provided welfare has also been threatened by the governor who boldly stated in a public function that doctors in the state must be ready to work by his term or consider relinquishing their positions, as he has concluded plans to recruit young vibrant doctors who will be willing to work according to his dictates.
Why won’t the governor threaten them and why won’t he be taking serious. Was it not in this state and under this same administration that protesting elder statesmen (pensioners) who were peacefully protesting and demanding for the payment of their pensions were flogged by hired thugs?
Was it not also in this state that protesting ISOPADEC workers were; tear gassed, arrested, manhandled, incriminated and ducked for weeks and were only released at the prerogative of the governor when “god” of the state had been appeased by the so called elders and stakeholders of the oil producing communities who went and begged him for forgiveness on behalf of the arrested workers or thugs/fake workers as they were tagged?
Roads and other infrastructural developments
This is another area where questions should be asked of what have befallen the Imo economy under Uzodimma administration. Under Rochas Okorocha administration, in as much as he was accused of building China roads, no one can beat him on the foresight of opening and constructing numerous economic important and strategic roads and other infrastructural projects in the state. In fact they are uncountable.
When Emeka Ihedioha took over as the governor of the state, the evidence was clear that he, not only wanted to embark on massive road construction and rehabilitation, he also awarded contracts for quality roads, cutting across the length and breadth of the state.
Mind you, he not only made salary payment regular across board during the few months he was in the saddle. He also improved on the salaries being paid during the regime of his immediate predecessor, Rochas Okorocha. There was also a clear sign of an economy that was improving from what he met on ground. Money was clearly in circulation. Appointees were getting all entitlements due to their offices and it had a trickledown effect on the masses.
Under Uzodimma administration, the whole system seems a mystery. Most of the roads awarded by Emeka Ihedioha has been abandoned, most of the contractors changed for no justifiable reasons. The only reasons that have been adduced to justify the action were that the contracts were given at high costs. This is even as Hope gave initial impression of continuing with the contracts awarded by Ihedioha and contractors handling them. And it was this promise and perceived action that won him a little public acceptance.
Award of contracts undeniably followed due process, while the rules of engagement were observed as the required initial 15 percent were paid on all the contracts and the projects were progressing smoothly. As earlier said, having abandoned some of the roads, work has been moving on a snail pace on the ones that are ongoing. This has been attributed to the non payment for the percentage of work done by the contractors. Moving on a snail speed is not even the worst problem. The worst problem is to determine the nomenclature to describe the type of roads being built for Imo people by the Uzodimma contractors.
While Okorocha was accused of building China roads in the state, many names could be given to the Uzodimma roads. If you like call it “Omuma brand, call it Igbo made or Aba made. You can also call it “Uwa wu Paw Paw” or at best still, “chere were”. What these names imply is that the Uzodimma’s roads are far worse than that of Okorocha, even when a few of them are going on at a snail speed. They get bad as soon as the contractors are leaving the spot. Sometimes patching is followed immediately, while at other times, they are left for some time.
Yours sincerely knows very well that what is being written here is not expository of any sort. It is just stating the obvious. I know most of my readers are Imolites who move across the state, especially the state capital and observe these things better than we do.
Also in the areas of other infrastructures like buildings, what is being used now are the many structures built by Rochas Okorocha and that is why Uzodimma could find office spaces to accommodate the battalion of aides he appointed. Upon this he paints the Okorocha and Ihedioha era as the darkest in the state, even when there is nothing on ground currently to show that he will achieve a quarter of what they achieved in the state given the manner he is going and the many crisis he looks set to instigate in the state. Yes with these apparent careless and intimidating statements he has been making in recent times.
With the analysis above, we could be on the same page on the fact that the critical sectors where finances of the state are supposed to be expended have been stifled, neglected, abandoned and starved of the necessary funds. The question becomes, what has happened to the finances of the state? Is there something we need to know, but which the governor is not telling us?
I think it is right time stakeholders of the state starts asking questions on what has happened to the common patrimony of the state. The federal allocations accruing to the state and the vigorously pursued internally generated revenue. Or has Uzodimma been commissioned to do whatever he likes with the common wealth and use high level of rascality and intimidation to cow all dissenting voices.