It was night, 8pm to be precise, when I entered a bar in Owerri for a drink. The damned bar's sloppy wet due to the heavy down pour earlier. The rain soaked part of my sleeves the more. It’s an entertainment bar. Some men were sitting at the other table popping champagne bottles. They shouted in boyish delight and danced and carped in the bar.In hoarse macho voices,they sang up party slogans of the ruling party in Imo state,APGA….rescue mission.
The words rescue mission have gained currency in the Imo state political lexicon. Owelle Rochas Okorocha literarily rode to Douglas House Owerri in the 2011 general election on a rescue mission mantra. Newly elected state governors, Senators, members of the House of Representatives caught the bug of rescue mission during electioneering campaigns in the preachment of a new dawn of imminent transformation once given the mandate. Elections have been won. The talking period is certainly over and now that it is time to walk the talk, many of them are ‘’falling hands’’
I was still watching the men when Jenifer walked to my seat, drunk as usual. She stinks of vodka. The bar –tender sneered. Everyone in the neighborhood knows that Jenifer took up the drinking habit since she lost her job in the Imo state civil service. She was among the workers that Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state disengaged on 6th June 2011.
I am one of those whose confidence in the Okorocha’s administration is shaky and from all indications, in Imo State, we are on the “barber’s chair”, perpetually in motion but without progress – doing wrong things all over again and expecting good results. Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha has really confirmed my fears about his inability to govern. So far, the Governor has been making so many embarrassing administrative gaffes. Thumbs down for him.
June 6th 2011 is a day in Imo state that many people will not forget in a hurry. June 6th doesn’t only hurt; it was a day of woe for 10,000 workers in Imo state. On June 6th, like a military-imperator, Chief Rochas Okorocha of Imo State announced the suspension of 10,000 jobs created by the immediate past administration of Imo State. The Governor called it the so-called Ohakim's 10,000 jobs. We all know that the disengaged workers were duly employed in line with the Imo State civil service commission rules and regulations. The Imo State civil service commission is an executive body in the state that has authority to make appointments and transfers, and to exercise disciplinary control over all Imo State civil servants. No officer can be appointed into the Imo State civil service without authorization from the civil service commission.
The Governor announced to everyone who has ears that Imo state can not pay the salaries of the 10,000 legally employed graduates and had to send them into a long night walk. To Okorocha,that's what is good for them, unemployment, the angry hunger, that’s what they deserve for voting him into power. The 10,000 suspended workers are now at home peeking into windows, watching tired housewives trying to fight off their beer-maddened husbands. Some of them are now drunks like poor Jenifer, angry and lost like the whistle of a passing train.
The disengaged workers in their thousands have staged several non violent demonstration in Owerri the state capital ,demanding for their reinstatement to no avail. Okorocha has continued to turn deaf ears and went ahead to set up a joke tagged job verification committee to look into the employment. The verification committee submitted its report to the state government, claiming that only 2,035 of the 10,000 jobs said to be given to youths were genuine. Even the 2,035 persons allegedly cleared have not been asked to resume work. Who is fooling who?
I can hear the workers cry for help down the mountains. Oh, check out the cry up the blue sides. As I watch Jenifer drink away her sorrows in the night, I can feel her plight and the sadness is so great. I hear her tears; I hear the tears of her parents. It is like cigarette smoke climbing a chapel of dark vines. Unemployment remains one of the greatest challenges facing our nation. Rather than solving unemployment problems; Governor Okorocha is sending people to the unemployment market.
The same man who told us that Imo will have problems in paying salaries to the 10,000 workers is the same man that has made things even worse for the finance of Imo state with his over bloated cabinet. Is the size of his cabinet not a perpetuation of a culture of waste? Rather than pay salaries to the workers he opted to making them jobless so as to make way for his ridiculous cabinet to siphon money. Each of these commissioners and aides that he appointed will have a convoy of aides and they will also travel and be paid fat salaries and allowances. Is this not a waste of our resources?
Imo State is regarded as the 5th richest state in Nigeria and it is not difficult to pay salaries to the 10,000 workers. Okorocha must be prepared to make the necessary sacrifice. He must reduce his cabinet. He is too wasteful and he should do something about this by demonstrating in concrete terms that Imo is in desperate situation and he is willing to inculcate the spirit of fiscal discipline. We can’t continue with our reckless attitude of profligacy. When he downsizes his cabinet, every other member of his team would be compelled to sit up and tighten his belt. We cannot continue to do things haphazardly. We don’t live in the jungle. We must set the stage for modern ways of doing things .We must operate within the ambits of the law. We must reinstate the disengaged workers and save their families from the trauma they are passing through
(Uwadi writes from Mmahu-Egbema,Imo State,Nigeria)