Views from America: Acho Orabuchi
Have you visited Imo State lately? If you’re already in Imo State, this may be all too familiar. Go to the Market Square and inner cities, especially the other side of Owerri to see the scourge of poverty arising from corruption of public officials; corruption protected by the immunity clause in the Nigerian constitution—immunity from criminal prosecution. Go to the hospitals and morgues around the state to be greeted with air of desperation and destruction exuding by corruption.
The human toll of corruption in Nigeria, particularly in Imo State is alarming and beyond description. Unfortunately, those in power are sheltered from this agony of human suffering. It is pertinent to note that corruption has been a clog that is putting a screeching halt to the economic, social, and political development of Imo State. It may be argued that Imo State is currently ranked one of the most corrupt states in the country and everyone should not only be ashamed of the ranking, but also work diligently to turn the image of the state around.
Against this backdrop, one’s political affiliation or affinity should not matter in getting the state rid of political corruption. Let the governor’s words match his actions as the patience of the masses is running out. At this juncture, I recall and emphasize the words of former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for obvious reasons. They captured the tapestry of the most significant indelible problem facing Imo State today. In addition, those words seem to reflect the agitation of the masses that seethe in abject poverty while the leaders live in ill-gotten sumptuousness. In his broadcast to the nation some years ago, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo eloquently pointed, “We must match our words with sincere, honest, transparent and serious action.
Then, the world will take us seriously.” Though he was addressing the nation then, today those words aptly pierce Imo State that is embroiled in N62 billion gambit to obscure the sad reality of life being experienced by the indigenes. Upon the sad economic devastation in the state, time and resources are being wasted on trivial matters, as well as spurious allegations instead of a fierce focus on governance. Time that would have been effectively utilized to plan and implement public policies that would enhance economic wellbeing of the masses is being sorely wasted.
The Okorocha administration should desist from fanning the amber of discord in the state by calling for malicious or frivolous prosecution of someone or a group of people for the services they rendered without reproach to the state. Sadly, it appears that no one has mustered courage to redirect the Okorocha administration to serve the people. Serving the people, I’m reminded of Dr. Chris Nwabueze stellar performance during his brief stint as the governor of Anambra State. “Posterity will be my judge…” And “I inherited an empty treasury but leaving the state buoyant.”
“God is my judge and my witness that I did my best for my people.” “I saved my people from exploitation by few men who were out to devour the state.” Those were the words of Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige, who was sworn in on May 29, 2003 , as he touted his accomplishments. This time, respecting the rule of law—the court ruling that relieved him of his duty, Dr. Chris Ngige emotionally gave the final account of his stewardship as the number one son of Anambra State. Ngige stated that he completed 12 of numerous state and federal roads that the state was building.
Among other accomplishments in his 33-month stay in office as Anambra State governor were massive housing programs, healthcare programs, regular water supply in Onitsha , and other pertinent people-oriented programs. He also flaunted leaving behind about N13 billion in the state treasury in contrast with when he took office. Dr. Ngige had a success story in his short stay in office. In the same vein, Mr. Peter Obi of APGA, who was sworn in on May 17, 2006, continued to transform his state with various human-oriented and development projects. As a pragmatic and sensible leader, Mr. Peter Obi did not terminate the ongoing projects in Anambra State when he took office.
Rather he enhanced such projects to accommodate his philosophy and address the needs of the state at the time. That was a phenomenal act of leadership. But that ingenuity is starkly absent in Imo State, a state that was on the cusp of becoming the best tourist state in the nation a few years ago where bustling development projects were evident. Those projects embarked by the previous governor were completely stopped by the current occupant of Douglas House.
The road and flyover constructions in and around Owerri were shelved. The 10,000-youth employment terminated without any recourse. In their place were warped allegations of fraud to obscure an interesting phenomena emerging as a result of lack of effective governance in Imo State. The consequence is increased poverty and short life expectancy. The Guardian Newspapers reported on January 15, 2005 that: “Minister of State for Health, Olufunke Adedoyin has said that Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
The country, she lamented, records 704 deaths per 1,000 live births and said the trend was unacceptable.” Also, “Life expectancy in Nigeria, Adedoyin said, currently stand at 52.2 years.” Well, today the Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control indicated that life expectancy in the country has since sharply dropped to 47 years old. What a sad commentary! However, this sad situation may be worse in Imo State where many are living in squalor.
Unfortunately too, as the state’s economic woes persist due to pandemic corruption in all facets of the society, a few group of people are immersed in enormous wealth acquired through depravity while the masses are engrossed in poverty. Forlornly still, preventable diseases and deaths continue to scourge the state as the loot of public treasury continues with ignominy. While some governors are working assiduously to lift up the citizens of their respective states from poverty, others often throttle in their private jets to Europe and United States of America to enjoy what ingenuity and true service have to offer. Perhaps, they wished that the levels of development in these countries were obtainable in their respective towns, states, and particularly country.
However, that would continue to be an elusive dream as long as misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds continue unabated. The question in many people’s mind is whether these individuals understand the concept and responsibilities of servant leadership. Do these so-called leaders have an iota of idea of what their roles as leaders and public servants are in providing opportunities for the masses? Better still, do they understand the multiplier effects of money as it relates to development?
Do they realize that when money is concentrated in the hands of a few individuals, its maximum effects in the society is not achieved? As a result, the economic growth in the economy is hampered. Do they understand that they should abhor corruption in order to achieve the people’s desire?