The name Okorocha has become a household name in Imo state, and many other South East states. This is due to his vision and mode of governorship that has for the time being brought hope to many, and won the heart of other political watchers. This post has no interest in bloated promises or wish to be counted among the ”Milo” fan club. The poster wishes to ask the reader to use his/her good office to investigate some worrying issues that might affect the intellectual development of the state, and stagnate our hard won educational advancements. Also the poser here seeks to highlight the insidious destruction of our traditional offices for political gains. Equally to be highlighted is lack of transparency on some policy issues that should outlive the incumbency of the governor.
1. THE ISSUES ON FREE EDUCATION.
There is a general impression that Imo state is giving free education to all her indigenes in tertiary institutions owned by the state. The news was welcomed by all and was celebrated by almost every indigene of Imo state. It was such a relief to hear given the economic stagnation of the state which made feeding, housing, and education extremely difficult for poor families to attain. Although this hardship was not brought on the people either by APGA or Okorocha, yet his ascendancy into power was an expression of the masses for a compassionate leader, a visionary, charismatic, and an action governor. They seem to have found all that in Okorocha’s image and promises, hence his overwhelming victory in the polls. The governor is not oblivion of the people’s devastated psychic. He showed compassion, and affinity to the people, hence he was loved and trusted. He also capitalized on this which manifested in the promises he made. The people now seemed to be celebrating more and more of these promises every day. What is not known yet is how many of these promises have been fulfilled or will be fulfilled. The ultimate question then is, are Imo state indigenes schooling at the state’s tertiary institutions enjoying the free education? Is the fulfillment of this promise verifiable? We need to know, and the earlier we know the better. According to news making round in Imo state now, the free education promise was not supposed to be free to all Imo indigenes. It was supposed to limit the number of admissions of Imo state citizens into state owned educational institution to 30%. This allegation whether false or true needs to be investigated. The tone of this allegation is prophetic and revealing. As far as this poser is concerned, Ndi Igbo have passed through the eyes of the needle to come to where they are today in education, therefore to leave or sit and watch for a governor to pull us back to the 70s when getting admission to the university was for a privileged few is criminal. It is imperative to know that the greatest asset we as a people have is education, and this posits the greatest threat to the Hausas, Yorubas, and Nigeria as a whole. The federal government has made so many decrees to discourage Igbos from going to school. Our indomitable spirit refused and we triumphed. It would be therefore the highest crime of any government, or individual under any pretext to bring home to our schools ”the federal character”, the catchment policy” or the ”quota system”. If the 30% admission policy is true, then I will be bold to conclude that the Imo state indigenes are under criminal attack. The good people of Ndi Igbo should investigate this thoroughly. After reading Kelechi Okpaleke’s post on this free education, I was startled by his conclusion which I quote, ”The irony of this whole clandestine admission scheme perfected by the Government is only that the children of Government officials, relatives of the Professors and friends of members of the government will fill the 30% slot of Imo Indigenes. It is common knowledge that slots are reserved for members of the administration in every admission. With the promise of free education each slot out of the 30% reserved for Imo indigenes will be gobbled up by members of the administration and the remaining slots will be sold in excess of N500,000 to 10000,000,000 a slot.
At the end of the day, the promised free tertiary education will become another avenue of fleecing the innocent and gullible Imo State citizens, because the people that need free tertiary education would never gain admission into the tertiary institutions, but not because of merit but simply because they are Imo indigenes.” If this conclusion did not waken you up, then you are in a deep slumber.
2. THE TRADITIONAL RULERS/LOCAL GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION
The intention to bring the dividends of his administration home to the villages is very commendable. It is an experiment peculiar to the military, and despots. Traditional institutions are the oldest non democratic surviving institutions in the world today. This makes me wonder why an elected governor would be home with working with traditional rulers instead of L.G.AS and elected men. The traditional rulers do not owe their stewardship to any government because they outlive the governments. They owe their stewardship to the ancestors, and the community where they rule, they are custodians of culture and traditions, not channels for democratic dispensation of dividends. Incorporating them into governance is to destroy that institution through politicization. Okorocha must respect our traditional stools. He is the governor, he can create a channel through which to bring his government home instead of messing our traditional institutions up.
The local government councils are there. They functioned before, and can still function under checks and balances. The argument that they are not performing as a reason to sideline them is lame and at best idiotic. They are still working in many states. Why won’t Okorocha embrace that channel? Is he afraid of the challenges of a democratic system? The advantages of reinventing the LGAs are many. Has anyone wondered about the employment local government councils create? From drivers, labourers, clerks, security, etc. what happens to those offices, and people who have sustained their lives through such employment? I think time has come to tell Okorocha some home truth. Bring the LGAs back, respect our traditional institutions and run your government democratically.
3. THE PROMISED STIPEND.
Among the most popular and celebrated promises of Okorocha, was the 1000 naira stipend for secondary school students in Imo state. I welcomed this promise and have been wondering why, and how he intends to sustain it. Imo state has more than 24 local governments. In my local government, there are about 13 secondary schools. Each hardly have enough desks for students, the roofs leak, no play grounds, classrooms are outdated, laboratories are extinct, and no libraries. I also wonder how many local governments in Imo state has libraries in a state where the governor pays students stipend and offers free education. Come on people! Would it not have been better to invest in these schools through restructuring and equipping than sharing money to the students? This promise also appears to be very utopic. Let’s say each secondary school in every local government has 800 students, and each local government has 10 secondary schools. That would be multiplied by the amount of the stipend this man promised to give each student. Now the question is what is the medium through which this policy is implemented? Is it his personal gift to these students or part of his welfare package for the state? If it is government project, what agency or commission monitors it for transparency, accountability and continuity? Is it supposed to be for how long? A month, a year, or as long as he is in the office? Where did he get the money to continue this? I am pleading the people of SE states to please send people to investigate these allegations. This man is selling to us ”adaka na onu enwe”. I am not denying the fact that Okorocha is repairing roads, fixing Owerri urban center, and reaching out to some rural areas in the state. What I also do know is that the measurement of progress by any government is not limited to roads repairs, and construction and building of new market stores. The employment opportunities count also. Are Imo state indigenes being employed to commensurate with the level of progress associated with this government? I want to know many people want to know too.
-Onyema Uche, a public analyst, writes from the United States