By Obi Nwakanma
Mr. Anayo Okorocha’s activities in Imo State makes the saying that “elections have consequences” very true and immediate. Elections do indeed have consequence; and the election of the man called Rochas as governor of Imo State, who sold the snake oil of “philanthropy” to Imo people as his most significant quality, has come with great consequence to that state.
Okorocha arrived Owerri with a retinue of goons – a large retinue indeed, among them actors in Nollywood, who put a true sheen to the very theatrical practice of comedy. There was comedy when Okorocha first announced his appointments, among them “special Assistants” for all kinds of routine affairs.
There were originally seventy of them. What he basically did was to gut the state civil service. Let me remind us again why the civil service is established as the central nervous system of government: Nigeria inherited the British model of the civil service, and established that service to carry out three roles fundamental to the meaning of the state: to (a) constitute a functioning system of organic governance and administration, (b) maintain the stability of the institutions of governance, and (c) maintain the security of the established order of government under the rule of law. In these roles, the civil service carries out the policy of the government; it serves the government of the day, while remaining independent of any political affiliations.
The operational delivery of the policies of government through the various departments, and agencies of the public sector rests squarely on the service.
The various departments and agencies are organized with a hierarchy of usually highly trained administrators specially recruited and continually trained by government through the Civil service Commission, a body independent of the political administration, which maintains various protocols and privileges of the Civil Service, and through which the order of the service is maintained.
Through the Head of the Civil Service, usually also the most senior of the Permanent Secretaries, and often playing the role in the administration as Cabinet Secretary, a role now somehow played by the Secretary to the state or Federal governments, various schedule officers of the civil service are deployed to assist the political leadership, advise them, and implement executive policies and programs of the government of the day. These civil servants provide institutional memory.
Any government worth a damn does two things: it recruits its most brilliant graduates into the service – the Teaching service, the Administrative service, and the Technical services, and so on, continually trains them locally and internationally, buffers them from want by providing them good housing, access to credit, and comfortable amenities that would make them resist any temptations to defraud the institution they serve, and the security of a good pension, that would make their retirement at the end of service tolerable. That way, they would protect the system, and prevent its corruption. Secondly, they would deploy them to function in the roles that they are established to play by the Act of establishment.
A government therefore would not need “Special Advisers” of the number that Okorocha did parade. It is not only a ridicule of the office he occupies, it was a move to usurp, through these “sweetheart appointments,” the function of the civil service and corrupt the process of public governance. We see the effects today.
The thorough misgovernance of the state, and the destruction of the infrastructure of transparent public governance is part of the legacy of Okorocha’s “Samanja” administration in Imo State today.
A governor has legitimately only three possible positions for extraordinary appointment as advisors: the Economic Advisor, a Political Advisor, and a Legal Advisor. Okorocha does not get it because he does not have the depth of philosophical and humanizing education that should have civilized him to the culture of democratic governance; somehow, he thinks of government as throw-back to military-era absolutism.
It is injurious in the end because much of the policies of his administration have been built on illegalities, and the structures will be dismantled when he leaves office eventually. Okorocha has very little help thinking through his policies.
There is no person of serious intellectual weight in his government: he is no Sam Mbakwe – who was not only a brilliant Lawyer but already had a higher degree in Political Science before he became governor in Imo State. Mbakwe was a classy man, and he had his Enoch Anyanwu, his Oxford trained Professor of Economics as his Chief Secretary, and heavyweights like Ray Ofoegbu, and so on, as his commissioners.
And he had a vast array of highly trained and experienced public servants at his disposal – in an era when the likes of SC Nwapa were still in service, or Emeghara, or Ekezie, or Ekeocha, or Gaius Anoka, and so many of the old Civil service Mandarins, who were true “mandarins” of the service when it was still the “Civil Service,” and who could, as Permanent secretaries give fearless, and peerless advise to government; when debates at the Executive Council were of a quality of thought, and recorded in the most elegant of language, that puts to shame whatever we have become today in Imo State under Okorocha.
Elections have consequence. The greatest consequence of the election of Okorocha as governor in Imo State is that he brought a rabble to the state. That rabble has defined the current quality of governance in Imo State. Just recently – this past week in fact – Okorocha threw a public punch by putting his bets on his son in-law, Mr. Uche Nwosu, as his successor.
Let me say this, I do not know Mr. Nwosu, his background, or his competencies, and I shall endeavor to find this out in due course as a conscientious public commentator. All one knows for now is that Mr. Nwosu is Rochas Okorocha’s son-in-law. I also must say that Uche Nwosu despite all that, has a right to seek public office on his own terms.
It is fair to grant him the right to aspire. But thus far, I should also say, as part of this administration, which he has served as Chief of staff, which has allowed him a front-row position in the governance of Imo State, he shares profoundly in its failures.
It is an administration with a questionable legacy: its policies are skewered; it has in connivance with the leadership of the State Assembly, failed to restore the authority of the local government administrations in Imo State, and expended money that ought to be held in trust for these local governments without account; this administration has destroyed the civil service of the state; and in owing state pensioners sent many to their untimely deaths. Okorocha must be held accountable for all these by the next administration, and the next Assembly which must bring him hand and feet to justice.
Putting his son in law up for election is designed to shield him from his serial misdemeanors, and give him a backdoor to power in the state. Among those things which we must associate with Okorocha’s ordained successor is the current school policy. Okorocha says his greatest legacy in Imo is “free education.” This is an insulting lie. There is no free education in Imo State. Indeed, Imo State has never needed free education.
It has always had quality education. This is precisely what Okorocha has destroyed. Imo has never fared so badly under any other administration! From being consistently first on the WAEC and JAMB lists, Imo slid under Okorocha to the fifth position, and has remained there. This is the tragedy that has befallen the state, from being governed by a half-baked, poorly educated man, who still thinks we are under military rule.
Otherwise, how could he announce, just off the cuff, the creation of five new university campuses in Okigwe, Mbaise, Onuimo, and the transformation of the Ahiara Technical College into a Polytechnic, when Imo State University currently is underfunded, underdeveloped, and when the original mission of that university has been distorted.
Besides, universities are not just established by fiat. They are established through an Act of Parliament which gives them their charter. Okorocha should go and look carefully at the Act establishing the Imo State University system in 1981, and as amended by decree in 1986, and the careful thinking that went into it all. These new schools announced by Okorocha are not established by the laws of Imo State.
And so, Ahiara Technical College should remain what it is because we need more well-trained technicians. Just upgrade its facilities. But the Eastern Palm University should be renamed Imo State University at Orlu, while we think of chartering two more in Okigwe and Mbaise, not as distant faculties, but as new campuses of the Imo State University system.
Basically, a new administration after Okorocha must reverse much of the illegal mandates of the Okorocha administration. That should be the goal of 2019. Elections do have consequences.