Viewers – particularly the older generations – missing The New Masquerade (what an oxymoron!) should find consolation in the comic turn of events in Imo State today. The nostalgia would most likely be for the lead actor of the old television comedy series, Chief Zebrudiah Okoroigwe alias 4.30. For instance, awarded the coveted national honour “MON”, he would later tease that “EY” was not added to fetch him “MONEY”.
Overwhelmed by the challenge of governance today, Governor Rochas Okorocha would seem to have resorted to trying on the costume of the old comic, obviously to divert public attention and stave possible civil revolt at being swindled by a political conman.
When the other day questions were raised over Okorocha’s absence from his duty post Owerri for weeks, the government spokesman rose stoutly to the occasion. With a straight face, he lectured that his boss only travelled abroad to – what else – “attract foreign investment”. But the stark truth finally emerged last week when the new Zebrudiah of Imo landed Owerri airport. Apparently unaware of the lie his publicist had told on his behalf, Okorocha said: “I went to the land of the dead and our ancestors turned me back, saying it was not yet time.” Thus confirming the earlier speculation that he was stretchered out of the country in a grave condition. So, people are now left wondering when “foreign investors” became a synonym of “our ancestors”.
Earlier, Okorocha had blissfully advertised his poor political education by announcing the formation of the “fourth tier of government” to bring governance much closer to the people. He boasted the idea would catapult rural folks into the boardroom of power. But other than the champagne bottles later popped that night at the Government House in toast of his “wizardry” and “sagacity” for such ground-breaking innovation, nothing else has been seen. The truth: it is only the fulmination of a confused mind.
The same brainwave apparently led the Zebrudiah of Owerri into his latest brew, which, for ease of reference, we can roughly term “Formula 3.0”. In spite of the billions of naira that the state received from Abuja in bailout funds, civil servants are still owed arrears of salaries. Of course, prioritizing contractors’ pay is far more lucrative to the approving authority for obvious reasons.
But not to worry, the governor of comedy in Imo soon announced that state workers are now to work for three days and spend the remaining two working days on their own personal farms or in pursuit of anything “to keep body and soul together”. With that, he must have expected to be garlanded as the most ingeniously considerate governor in history.
But the long-suffering state branch of the Nigeria Labour Congress are not amused and have, in fact, responded by staging yet another march against the governor. The same away the Federal Government – though not exactly known for any profundity of thought either – observed the proposal must be the next worst voodoo visited on Imo after the Otokoto saga of the 90s.
Without shame or remorse, Okorocha brought more comedy to the debate few days ago by shedding light on the rationale behind his proposal: “Instead of being devoted to the work they (civil servants) are paid for, they use their official hours to loiter about; they sell groundnut, gala, chin-chin and sieve egusi (melon seed chaff), among others in the office. I decided to reduce the working days because I want to enhance agriculture in the state.”
But myopic Okorocha is unable to appreciate the original idea behind the civil service. Really, in these lean times, the real challenge is how to optimize manpower to create wealth to augment government earnings. If workers were found to be idle, shouldn’t the duty of a wise manager be to reassign them where their energies are better utilized to enhance productivity?
Myopic Okorocha will not know he invariably shortchanges the state further by suggesting workers would continue to earn full pay for less work. Only a small mind thinks that way.
Without conscience still, Okorocha took his pontification to another level few days ago by advising President Buhari to declare “state of economic emergency” to revive the economy from the present coma: “We have to declare a state of economic emergency right now in Nigeria and all hands must be on deck… For some of us and I think for all Nigerians who travel out, we know that we need to stand up and avoid sentiment and face the issue.”
Sharp words indeed. But if there is indeed anything to say of the globe-trotting hypocrite of Owerri, it should begin with an admission that elsewhere public accountability would have forbidden him from lying that he travelled abroad to seek investors when in reality he was bedridden at taxpayer’s expense.
Before asking Buhari to declare emergency in Abuja, one would have thought Okorocha would set a good example by proclaiming one in Imo already overtaken by filth, buffoonery and tales of graft. For instance, before he took over in 2011, Owerri was rated by the Federal Ministry of Environment as the cleanest city in Nigeria on account on an aggressive green advocacy and urban-renewal initiative. But that is now history as the new Zebrudiah literally turns every thing up side down.
Once upon a time, Imo was a shining beacon in the education industry. Not any more. Nothing perhaps emblematizes the story of a worsening crisis than a statement by JAMB recently that no fresh students would be admitted into Imo State University (IMSU) for the next academic year. Reason: those offered admission for the 2015/2016 are still languishing at the gate since the institution has been under lock and key for several months due to a protracted industrial action that has brought to bold relief Okorocha’s poor managerial skill.
Sadly, just as workers wait on Okorocha’s for the arrears of back pay, admission into IMSU will certainly now be conducted in arrears in future!
All told, what baffles is the air of indifference Okorocha continues to exude at home over these serial derelictions and the shamelessness he exhibits outside. When he arrived Owerri in 2011, he said he came on a rescue mission. But it is obvious the rescuer himself is now urgently in need of a rescue. Meanwhile, the performance of the new Zebrudiah continues. As I heard they say openly in Owerri these days, this Okorocha comedy “has no part II”