By Douglas Anele
Of what use is free education when the quality of teaching and learning is severely compromised by poor funding and haphazard planning? Instead of free-education-in-the-ocean-of decay, Okorocha should have invested heavily in upgrading educational infrastructure and provision of better welfare packages and on-the-job training for teachers.
Also, it is more cost-effective and rational for the state government to put in place well-structured scholarship schemes to take care of brilliant but indigent students from Imo State. Some people praise Governor Okorocha for giving school children in the state one hundred naira monthly. That is ridiculous and insulting: the “stipend” translates into three naira thirty three kobo per day.
In Nigeria right now that amount is just too paltry to make any meaningful impact in anybody’s life. As a result it would have been better to use funds budgeted for the programme to improve facilities in public schools. It must be noted that the pace of industrial development under Okorocha is not as fast as it should be, considering the human and natural resources of the state, long years of arrested development in the industrial sector since the late Chief Sam Mbakwe left office in 1983, and the urgent need for employment and wealth creation in southeastern heartland.
I do not know whether Okorocha has a well-articulated pragmatic blueprint or roadmap for developing Imo State. But one thing is clear though: at the pace he is working at the moment, he cannot attain the level of governance achieved by Chief Mbakwe. That said, I implore the Governor to reach into himself, his inner self, and come up with imaginative transformational agenda for the state.
In order to achieve concrete results, he should avoid sycophants whose stock-in-trade is deception for selfish reasons. Again, he must put the collective interests of Imo people first in all his undertakings, and avoid the temptation of diverting state funds for his private use.
The long suffering people of my state are yearning for good governance. If Rochas Okorocha is serious and determined to serve the people, he can make a lot of difference before his term of office expires in 2015. I believe that the best strategy is to identify a few critical areas for concentrated attention and maximum impact.
The problems of Imo State are deep and hydra-headed – no human being can solve all of them in four years. Consequently, Okorocha should tackle headlong those ones that have the greatest probability of positive impact on the welfare of Imo people.
There is no patina of doubt that in 2012 the country faced a lot of challenges, some of which President Goodluck Jonathan inherited from his predecessors while others were of his own making. To begin with, the President could have reduced the ridiculously high cost of governance at the federal level by drastically trimming down the size of his cabinet.
Moreover, certain expenditures authorised by him, including the prohibitive amounts set aside for feeding and refreshments at the state house and for the purchase of new aircraft for the presidential fleet, portray the President as a profligate ruler insensitive to the sufferings of the masses, especially at a time when the country’s economy has weakened considerably due to official corruption and myopic economic management.
This year Mr. President avoided the fuel subsidy conundrum of January last year. Still, he ought to have pushed hard for serious reform of the petroleum industry to stem corruption, nepotism and other abuses in the system. It is absurd that Nigeria, a top exporter of crude oil, cannot provide enough refined petroleum products to meet domestic demand, let alone have surplus for export.
That said, inspire of the slipshod and shambolic manner the fuel subsidy scam was handled by the National Assembly, enough was revealed during the hearings which confirm that the petroleum sector is a cesspit of corruption. The heart-wrenching aspect of it all is that Jonathan’s administration is powerless to do anything about it, simply because prominent actors in the oil cabals are members of the ruling elite. Total removal of the fuel subsidy is justified because it would automatically eliminate elephantine scams in the management of the subsidy regime.
However, it is very likely that the money which would accrue to government if the measure is implemented will be embezzled by corrupt politicians and their highly-connected accomplices. Thus, it is a lose-lose situation for ordinary Nigerians who over the years have benefited little from crude oil exports.
I have said it before and I will say it again: President Jonathan and his crowd of ministers and advisers are very good in rhetoric and finger-pointing, whereas for ordinary Nigerians daily existence is becoming more and more difficult as thousands of families find it extremely difficult to procure basic necessities of life such as food, shelter, clothing, good education and affordable healthcare.
Oftentimes we are told that Mr. President means well for Nigerians, that he is working hard to improve their lives, that disgruntled elements are sabotaging his efforts towards rapid transformation of the country. Now, whenever I hear the President or any of his aides regurgitate such threadbare assertions or I read same in the newspapers, I feel thoroughly disappointed, for those are the same arguments military dictators used in the past to explain away their mediocre handling of the country. Let’s face it: President Jonathan is not doing as well as he should, partly because of his own personal shortcomings and partly because of the polluted moral and socio-political ecology prevalent in the country presently.
It might be true that the President means well. But that is subjective: the main problem is whether he has the intellectual wherewithal and moral stamina to lead a politically fractious, economically fractured and morally decadent Nigeria. Without prejudice to whatever achievements he has made since he became President, I am convinced that Jonathan could have done better if there were no moral hunchbacks weighing him down.
On the issue of corruption, for instance, a sizeable percentage of Nigerians think that he is incapacitated by a fundamental lack of Spartan discipline to deal with it decisively as he should. But then, Nigerians who bear the brunt of misgovernance are prevented by fear, ignorance and myopic egoism to do anything about it. Given this scenario, Nigeria’s future will be uncertain, terribly uncertain, in 2013.