Stanley Uzoaro, Owerri
Elder statesman from Imo State, Bob Njemanze, who represented Imo East Senatorial District at the 2014 National Conference, has commended the style of governance of Governor Hope Uzodinma.
According to him, if Uzodinma does not derail, he would beat the record of the late Dr Sam Mbakwe in good governance of the state.
The elder statesman also criticised the style of governance of former Governor Emeka Ihedioha, pointing out that he was more occupied with acquiring things to satisfy his personal desires than thinking of the general welfare of the people.
Njemanze, in an interview in Owerri, placed Governor Uzodinma side by side with Ihedioha, as well as Rochas Okorocha, pointing out that the purchase of N187 million worth of vehicle by Ihedioha for his personal use as governor was an example of a man glued to personal acquisition of wealth and luxury life to the detriment of his people, particularly at a time the welfare of the civil servants should be given maximum attention.
He also frowned at Ihedioha rushing to the court to stop his probe of alleged misappropriation of N19. 63 billion local government funds, saying that his action amounted to trying to stop the court from determining the truth on the missing funds.
He commended Uzodinma on efforts made on civil service reform, resuscitation of Adapalm, among others. Excerpt:
What is your take on the alleged misappropriation of Imo State local government funds to the tune of N19.63 billion under former Governor Emeka Ihedioha, whose administration has continued to say they would only account for N3.7 billion?
It is unfortunate really because I have always warned that the seat of governance is a very sensitive and slippery one and there cannot be two Jesus Christ. The issue of immunity in that office differs in a lot of things that is why you found out most people after serving as governor the next thing is to face trial. Alternatively, you find them scampering to go to the Senate which has given the Senate a very bad name and image. Because they are so scared about the rot they created while in that position. Whether Ihedioha says what he can account for is N3 billion or there about and Okorocha should account for the other ones, it is unfortunate because these are people who go with the appellation of excellency. Ihedioha is not the first, but I did cautioned, in certain positions like the provibial woman and her wrapper, at no time it is pulled that you don’t get a stain. So, when the excited people who felt aggrieved about the removal by court of Ihedioha, started threatening, speaking recklessly and carelessly without recourse to the fact that a government is like a moving train, you don’t stay on its way. That is what may have necessitated the inclusion of Ihedioha’s tenure in the investigation of the misappropriation of local government funds. So far in this country except Shakarau, probably no other governor has allowed local government to operate it’s funds the way it ought to operate. Although, at a point in time, there was not as it is today, constitutional requirements that the funds of local government must be sent to local government directly just like the funds of the judiciary.
So, what do you think is the trend of things now regarding the local government funds?
Government and governors find it very easy to corner the local government funds. The audit report in the case of Imo State that was sent to the Imo State House of Assembly is something that with well meaning elders they would have held back Ihedioha’s group from threatening Okorocha’s administration because it will be very difficult for them to get out of it.
How do you mean?
I shouted when they came up with what they thought was a fantastic idea ,that is, to compel the local governments to make avalaible to them, in any guise or in whatever name they put it, funds from the local governments for building of secretariat and stadia. Think of Owerri, the municipality, we already had a stadium good enough like a national stadium and it is included in this allocation of stadium for each local government. And in order to create means of justifying the allocation of a stadium for Owerri, they decided to refurbish the sports hall in the existing state stadium. We the ordinary citizens have not been very lucky with our political class. One thing Ihedioha has accepted responsibility for is re-enacting Ikedi Ohakim’s IRROMA, that is maintenance of rural roads. But in Ohakim’s case at least we saw the equipment, we saw the things that were bought with that money, even if it was inflated and over-bloated. But Rochas Okorocha came and carted them away.
So, in the case of Ihedioha, what’s the situation like?
Ihedioha developed his own idea of re-enacting these agricultural equipment, earth moving equipment and all of that and most of the equipment were bought in Lagos, and an impression was given that they were imported. I think that in the future, we need to show interest when all these things are happening. When people in Ihedioha’s administration were acting like attack dogs, they were not being fair to the young man because the bulk stops on his desk. That necessited the need to look into his administration. Have you noticed that himself as a person has never said a word because he knows the implications. I personally went to see the vehicle for which N187 million was paid. Ihedioha has enough money to buy such a vehicle for his personal use, if he wants to indulge himself with that type of luxury or patronize himself, but not when we are looking for money to pay salaries, not when we are looking for money to pay pensions. And unfortunately for them, Uzodinma is very sharp, look Uzodinma is not controversial, but he does not runaway from controversy. A lot of things were done that are unbecoming. And all it requires is to hold back his attack dogs because it can’t take them anywhere.
What do you make of Ihedioha, running to the court to stop his probe?
Is that not unfortunate, if I were him, I would not go to court.The essence of war is peace. He’s going to court to do what? To stop the court from determining the matter? If he knows he has done wrong, then going to court may be a way to shield himself. As I am here, if I run foul of the laws of the land, I will seek for litigation and two things are involved. I acknowledged that I have done wrong and I seek for reprieve. But when I say, I did nothing wrong, I leave you to go to the full hog, to investigate me to the fullest as far as I am clean as a whistle. But when you know your conscience is not clear, and you will be further disgraced you go start telling the court not to do its job, no that is not right.
Some of those who lost at the Supreme Court in the Imo guber case said they will make Imo ungovernable, How would you react to that?
They are stupid, while will you make Imo ungovernable, there are two things you are being selfish because Imo does not belong to you, and when I talk about the political class, unfortunately, our political class are still within the middle class. You cannot come to your state just because the governor, the court saw to it that your mandate so to speak was faulty. Then you say if I don’t rule, Imo State, there won’t be any Imo State; that is stupid. You are being selfish. Imo does not belong to you. We have a very dirty political class within our political clime, if you remember at a point in time, in those days Ezekiel Izuogu was seen as a very acceptable politician. During that election news filtered that Izuogu was leading with thousand votes, which was imported from Ideato, then his opponent transported 10,000 votes and that dismissed Ezekiel Izuogu’s.
Are we still experiencing such things now in Imo?
It is the same thing that has been happening, look at Imo State, remember an election result that came in from this same Ideato was shredded and they now reached an understanding that we will give that result of Ideato, but let us wait for that one from Mbaise. The parties agreed and the one from Mbaise now came in and superseded the Ideato one. Then the issue now arose and they found out that neither the Ideato one nor the Mbaise one could give them spread. But the Mbaise one was leading, and Araraume insisted that the election was not free and fair, but the umpire said it was free and fair. The entire state, if not the country, took exception on perpetuating Rochas Okorocha in Imo State, so a run-off would have been the worst thing that would have taken place. So, everybody conceded even without meeting spread, now let us take the simple majority and work with it. If people can come together and give you such concession if for any other reason you lose that concession again by your own recklessness will you blame anyone? Uzodinma realized the game they played on him. Wherever the report or result showed he had the highest number of results they were reckless in removing it. To the point that they were careless in removing the results from 388 polling units. Don’t forget it, because Uzodinma wrestled that ticket from Rochas Okorocha and his puppet son-in-law the ovation was high on him because nobody could have done that. So, during the election, it went well for him. So, when they removed these results from 388 polling units, it brought him down to the 4th position. Uzodinma with the popularity he achieved at that particular point in time could not have been in the 4th position. All Uzodinma was saying was compute the result from 388 units. I don’t mind the results from Mbaise or ideato.
What is your take on the resuscitation of Adapalm by the present administration?
In this economic challenges, resuscitating Adapalm plantation was the best idea. Uzodinma has reconnected the state to an economy that holds promise. But misguided people seem to have ascribed any achievements of this present administration to which may have been started by Ihedioha, to Ihedioha administration against Uzodinma. Ndubuisi Kanu laid out the road map of Owerri, Sunny Adeniyi continued with it and handed over to Mbakwe and Mbakwe took the glory. If Mbakwe did not follow that pattern all these Mbakwe did this Mbakwe did that would not have been there.
Any difference between Uzodinma and Ihedioha?
With the way Uzodinma is going by the time he finishes his administration Mbakwe will be child’s play because Uzodinma is not into personal acquisition of property. If he has any fault, it is the fault of recognizing and indulging people around him. He is incapable of seeing people in difficulty. That is the difference between him and Emeka Ihedioha. Emeka is a core (IBO) I Before Others. He would ensure only him and within him even if the people around him complain. But Uzodinma has a burning personal desire to assist people out of poverty.
How would you access Uzodinma in 100 days?
It is premature to start accessing him, in 100 days we make alot of mistakes. In 1832, Jefferson, after 100 days laid out the road map of his administration. But because, we are copy cats, we now think that in 100 days a government should be accessed and you should achieve all you need to do in your first tenure in office. Just like Okorocha did and at last you see that they all collapsed. He is a very intelligent man, but he may not be brilliant.
On civil service reform, the government asked for bank account, phone numbers and BVN from Imo workers, to know exactly the number of those the govt is paying. Do you agree with that policy?
Is it not in the interest of the government to check fraud in the system? If some adjustments and readjustment are done and salaries are paid what is wrong with that? In the pension list people don’t die and the pension is increasing. We have heard that the number has been stagnated for over 30 years. No death, no retirement that is not acceptable. We really need to start all over again because we have lost the essence of integrity and morality and we are not helping the younger ones.