BY CHIDI NKWOPARA
The advent of the Rochas Okorocha administration in 2011 was heralded by jubilation. It was a mass movement of sorts. Most people, especially the adherents of the Catholic faith, did everything to stop Chief Ikedi Ohakim from returning to Government House, Owerri.
The grouse of the Catholic faithful against Ohakim was principally the alleged manhandling of their priest by the security personnel attached to the former Governor. Now that the chips are down, many have realized the truth but the harm had been irreversibly done.
On assumption of office, Ohakim promised that he was going to engage no fewer that 15,000 hands for varying services in the state. This looked unrealizable but in a matter of weeks, his administration hired street sweepers, tipper drivers, grader drivers, civil engineers, horticulturists and others, who were engaged to plant and tend flowers, ornamental trees and grasses.
Contracting firms that were working on some state projects also hired a good number of hands. Private and public structures started springing up in several parts of the state. Imo became a huge construction site of sorts.
The Ikedi Ohakim administration equally advertised for jobs for his 10,000-job offer. People applied, sat for the examination, got interviewed and later given appointment letters and posted to relevant government ministries and parastatals.
The situation remained until Chief Rochas Okorocha came on board as Governor in 2011. His first broadcast sent cascading shivers down the spine of Imo people. He summarily sacked the youths who were employed by Ohakim.
In a similar move, Imo State Rural Road Maintenance Agency, IRROMA, was scrapped and most of the staff sent packing and into the overflowing job market. The local government development centres, which was created by an Act of the State House of Assembly, were similarly sacked. All the people engaged in these establishments, including drivers, messengers, clerks and technicians, were similarly laid off.
Irked by this development, beneficiaries of Ohakim’s 10,000 jobs dragged the state government to court. They have so far given the Industrial Court sitting in Enugu, a graphic account of how some of them resigned from their previous jobs and came home to serve the government and people of Imo State. It was not very clear at the time of filing this report, the extent the aggrieved youngsters have gone with the court but the truth is that they have not been recalled.
News which made the rounds midway into the saga was that the Governor reacted angrily when members of the Civil Service Commission advised him to re-absorb the sacked youths. The commissioners reasoned that if Okorocha was still interested in sacking them, due process must be followed, including issuing of queries.
Obviously not amused by this candid advice, Okorocha sacked a few Commissioners in the Civil Service Commission, including Chief Analyn Nwaneri, as well as suspended the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Austen Otuokere. This core civil servant was never allowed to smell his office until he was later retired from service by the Governor.
Reacting to the growing level of unemployment in the state, an Owerri based veterinary surgeon, Dr. Godwin Offor, advised youths to stop looking for what he termed “non-existent white collar jobs”.
While saying that there was no way government can employ everybody, Dr. Offor however blamed successive administrations at the state and federal levels for largely ignoring the agricultural sector.
“What will it cost to start a poultry, piggery or snail farming for these school leavers? Apart from absorbing the unemployed youths, such agricultural venture will help in no small measure to ensure food security in Nigeria”, Offor opined.