Okorocha, Ohakim trade tackles over governance
• Ex-governor says policies impoverishing citizens
• He lacks pedigree to criticise, says govt
All may not be well with Imo going by the assessment of a former governor of the state, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim. In particular, Ohakim who recently announced his exit from partisan politics is worried that there is growing poverty and suffering in the state as well as flouting of the rule of law, which he claims is adversely affecting the general conduct of the populace.
For instance, he said that a disturbing area the governor must address earnestly and urgently is the government’s penchant for disobeying court rulings and orders.“This has turned the state into a lawless enclave as the people, consciously and unconsciously, tend to take a cue from their governor. There is so much unruliness in the state with government officials showing the lead,” he stated.
In a document, which The Guardian is in possession of, Ohakim chronicled his ‘concerns and worries’ about governance in the state as well as possible ways out of the challenges, and passed it on to the governor, Owelle Roachas Okorocha of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But the administration, which described itself as a stickler to the rule of law, said that Ohakim was not in a position to advise or criticize the Okorocha’s government.
According to the commissioner for Information, Tourism and Public Utilities, Dr. Vitalis Ajumbe, Ohakim lacked the pedigree to assess Okorocha’s government or even proffer solutions to challenges before the state.
Nonetheless, the former governor maintained that there is a built-up anger over the way the people were being displaced from their business locations, along with the alleged indiscriminate revocation and reallocation of lands in Owerri for which several complaints have been made in the last five years.
While he declared that he has the twin obligation of continually making inputs on how to achieve political stability and economic prosperity in Imo, Ohakim urged Okorocha to take a second look at the state’s economy with a view to seeing how it could be revitalised. The former governor, who served on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from 2007 to 2011, flayed his successor’s demolition exercise in the state, saying: “This is the most inappropriate time to destroy the houses of people or destroy structures that house their means of livelihood without adequate alternative arrangement.
He harped on the need to review ongoing road expansion programme in Owerri Municipal, which he noted was not in conformity the state’s master plan and any known element of road design.Also, he drew attention to the fact that the administration did not take into cognizance the peculiarities of Owerri Capital City, saying: “For example, Owerri Capital City is the only state capital in Nigeria with twin design concept. It is also the only Capital City in Nigeria located in a valley.”
The ongoing damages to the public water pipelines as a result of the excavation now going on as part of the road expansion projects also caught the attention of Ohakim, which he described as “destruction of public water pipelines that took former governor, Chief Sam Mbakwe’s administration over $34 million and four years to lay.” He lamented that nearly all the buildings, including business houses, along the affected roads have been disconnected from the public electricity supply as a result of the damage of electricity wires, cables and poles.
On his observation over Okorocha’s abandonment of Owerri City Ring Roads, the former governor noted: “I am of the sincere belief that it was because you abandoned the ring roads began by previous administrations that you were caught in the current dilemma over roads in Owerri.
“There are three major ring roads in the master plan: inner, outer and outer outer. The inner ring road has a total of five fly-over bridges. I am; however, in a position to know that the funds you are currently channeling into the needless expansion of some roads within the state are enough to complete the ring roads. I can also state without any fear of contradiction that the only way to truly achieve the aesthetics you are probably very much after and as well effectively decongest traffic in Owerri, is to complete the ring roads.”
While urging the ruling APC administration in the state to reconsider its proposal to demolish the Eke-Ukwu Owerri Market, Ohakim cautioned that such a move at this point would have grave economic and social consequences on the people.Alternatively, Ohakim suggested: “Rather than relocating the market, I think you should go to Ama Hausa along the same Douglas road and take a second look at the place. The space has become too small for the population and does not make room for good sanitation and hygiene. In fact, I am of the view that Ama Hausa should be relocated to give Eke-Ukwu Owerri more space for expansion.
Right now, there are over 250 cases in court against the state government by the very citizens you are governing.” He faulted the government resort to awarding contracts without due process on the excuse that due process was a waste of time, stressing: “But at the end, problems have arisen because; there are little or no records to enforce agreements even in some cases where the contractors had put in large chunks of their money.”
Suggesting a way out of the present quagmire in Imo, the former governor said it was imperative of the APC government in the state to go for revenue yielding and employment-creating capital projects, ensuring that contractors were faithfully paid to enable them pay their workers and sub-contractors so that money can circulate, the same with the payment of salaries and pension of the civil servants.
Ohakim claimed that his ‘intervention’ was informed by the “desire to ensure that our people get the highest good from governance no matter who is in charge at any point in time. As I pointed out at the beginning, we have both had the privilege of leading our people but I believe there is a bigger obligation of ensuring that their welfare is not trampled upon even out of office.
“I wish you well and pray the good Lord to give you the wisdom and courage to embrace due process; consult stakeholders and professionals regularly and always do the proper things, to the glory of His name and to the good of mankind.”However, the state commissioner for Information, Tourism and Public Utilities dismissed the ‘intervention’, accusing Ohakim of not ascending power by popular mandate.
He insisted that Ohakim was ‘made a governor and not elected’, challenging him to list his achievements in four years that he was in the saddle before Okorocha unseated him by popular and highest number of votes cast.
He said: “Let him say one thing he achieved as governor. He was made governor and not elected governor. He cannot open his mouth to say such. He is not feat to be governor, not even to be councillor’. As governor, he only fought those who made him governor through out his tenure. He should not criticise this performing government of Chief Rochas Okorocha.“So he is not the right person to criticize this government, Ohakim is just seeking relevance. There is no absence of due process in governance in Imo state; it’s just that we choose different approaches to issues.”