As Nigerians mark 21 years of uninterrupted democracy today, the good news from Imo State over the repeal of the Governors and Speakers Pensions and Privileges Law of 2007 by Governor Hope Uzodinma, is quite understandable. By this singular act, the governor has indeed endeared himself to the good people of the state. That is why the people of the state are clapping for him for what many people described as a political master stroke, expected to free so much money spent to service the unsustainable pensions of past political leaders, who are still doing some work or serving as lawmakers at the federal level, and readily deploy it to the development of the state.
This is indeed one of the best news emanating from Imo since the present dispensation came on board in January this year. If the governor continues in this stride, there is no doubt that he may surpass past governors of the state that has witnessed poor development since 1999 when the country returned to multi-party democracy after years of military dictatorship. There are so many reasons why the governor initiated the move to repeal the obnoxious law designed to short-change Imo people by past leaders of the state, the beneficiaries of the financial largesse.
The repealed law, according to the governor, was illegal and designed to enable a few privileged people enjoy so much the commonwealth of the people while many Imo people wallow in abject poverty and most of the rural areas in the state left without development. The governor did the right thing by promptly assenting to the bill which repealed the Pensions law recently passed by the State House of Assembly some days ago. The governor had explained too that the repealed law was against the Pensions Act which states clearly that only those who have put in a minimum of 10 years in public service were entitled to pensions, stressing that former Governors and Speakers stay in office for a maximum of eight years.
Also, the governor could not understand why the same people who receive enticing severance allowances at the end of their tenure can still wish to be paid humongous pensions as well. The governor’s reason for repealing the former law is so elaborate and worth quoting in full: “As a young state grappling with enormous challenges, it dawned on me that the Imo state Governors and Speakers Pensions and Privileges law No 5 of 2007 was a bad omen.
At the age our Governors and Speakers are leaving office it will not be out of place to assume that many of them will be alive and kicking in the next 15 years or more. This will mean that by then the state will have more than 20 governors and Speakers qualified for Pensions and Privileges. I was alarmed that the financial implications for the state will not only be scandalous but indefensible. My simple calculation told me that there could come a time when the state could be spending more than one third of its resources to maintain former Governors and Speakers.” In doing so, the governor has followed the example of other states that have repealed such pension laws in the country.
The governor’s reason for repealing the Pensions law of former Governors and Speakers is unassailable. It is a product of good thinking. If the governor can go like this in the next coming months, then things are indeed getting better in Imo. The good aspect of what the governor did is the selflessness of the action. Not minding that he will benefit from the old law, he went ahead to repeal it. Uzodinma might indeed be an Mbakwe reincarnation as he claimed. If he continues in this manner of thinking and action, he might surpass the Sam Mbakwe records.
By repealing a law that he stands to be the utmost beneficiary speaks eloquently of the new order in the state, which some people are daily maligning because the old order has been replaced through the election processes which judicial intervention is part of. This ought to be the subject of another engagement with my people, but it is worth pointing out that election does not stop with the declaration of results. Aggrieved candidates are entitled to seek for justice in the courts, comprising the Election Tribunal, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court as in the instant case.
Therefore, those still losing sleep over the January 14 Supreme Court ruling in Imo gubernatorial election should accept the fact that that is where such matters are finally decided. They should also come to terms with the meaning of the finality of Supreme Court in matters before it. If the Supreme Court decides a matter, it can hardly reverse itself. The finality of Supreme Court in any matter must be respected. Let all those aggrieved by the turn of events in Imo wait for another four years. They should not set the state on fire because of the new order.
The opposition politicians in Imo should either join the winning team and work together for the progress of the state or give constructive and not destructive criticisms. Since Imo state belongs to all of us, let the opposition politicians not set the state on fire because of their incendiary comments and negative reports about the state. Those harassing the governor with negative comments do not mean well for the state and its people.
While commending the governor for repealing the pension law, I would also like the governor to think of drastically cutting down the security vote, which many people have regarded as another opaque avenue of siphoning state resources by Nigerian state actors.
Reducing the security vote will go a long way to deepen development in the state and release more funds for development. Imo rural areas deserve good roads, potable water, functional health centres and functional primary and secondary education. It is generally believed that developing the rural areas is one of the easiest ways to ensure overall development of the state. It is a pity that what those who govern Anambra have done in the past 21 years, Imo state could not do. But all hope is not lost.
Governor Hope Uzodinma is duly prepared to clean the Augean stable and the signs are showing brightly. Since he is friendly with Peter Obi and Chris Ngige and other performers of the Anambra development miracle, he shouldn’t hesitate to consult them on the secrets of the Anambra magical years so that he can add it to his own and ensure that Imo sees development in all critical sectors. Things are surely getting better in Imo. Imo people should support him.