By Kenneth Uwadi
It is all over the news that Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State is blaming the precarious financial health of Imo on alleged fraudulent activities of political appointees, senior staff of ministries and parastatals, as well as local government workers . What a very poor defence as we all know that allocation received has been diverted to the interest of ‘My Family-My Family’ and not the needs of the people. Nothing should worry truly patriotic Imolites more than an attempt to becloud their reasoning. This is especially so when such camouflaging is being done in a brazenly dim-witted manner.
Okorocha’s statement shows that civil servants in the state who are dying of hunger as a result of nonpayment of 9 months salaries may be in for another four years of agony under his leadership. The pensioners in Imo are no exception as they have not been paid for 18 months now.Many of the retired civil servants in Imo state who spoke with me wondered why a government should be so indifferent to the suffering of workers. They asked whether the excuse of paucity of fund by the government is tenable.
The background to this nonsense is that no one in Imo is capable of speaking to Okorocha anymore. The man, I am told, thinks he is the best thing that has happened to Imo, he thinks he is god-sent and the closest thing to a messiah sent to deliver Imo. I am told he bubbles in the feat that he accomplished what Awo, Zik, or Sam Mbakwe could not attain and he may even be attempting now to project himself as Nigeria's foremost statesman. Then why is he punishing civil servants and pensioners in Imo state?
His SSA on new media even posted recently a picture of the governor inside his private jet. Inukwa, Okorocha is ‘dengeposing’ inside a private jet and yet refused to pay salaries. Some days we will hear he went to Asia, Turkey, later we will hear he went to London. London has everything, steady light,clean air, clean environment, good roads and good food. Nitori olorun, Mr governor,don't we deserve such good things from you here in Imo State?
While issues bothering on festivities, retreats and other mundane things are attended to by Governor Okorocha, issues bothering on the welfare of workers and pensioners without whom social, political and economic services will grind to a halt, are being treated with levity. The non-payment of pensions in Imo State for 18 months as well as non payment of civil servants salaries are war on welfare of Imo state.
The motto of Nigerian pensioners reads 'rest is sweet after retirement'. Yes, this is a statement of fact, but for retired workers in Imo State, their harrowing experience has proved the motto to be a mere wishful thinking. Rest cannot be sweet for aging pensioners in Imo State when they spend hours, almost daily, in queues for paltry pension without success for 18 months now. Most of them are medically challenged who have taken abode in piggery-like shanties around the Pension Board office in Imo State. Some of them can slump one day and die due to hunger, fatigue and treatable illnesses.
The worst kind of poverty is when people cannot get food and therefore they are thin and weak and may starve to death. Former Senate president, David Mark once said 'if your wealth is from people's pensions then that is blood money. It is blood money because you cannot take away the sweat, the entitlements of an old man or an old woman who is looking up just to that little appreciation from his country and believe that you will live in peace. You cannot because the prayers of those old men at home will fight you.'