“It was very painful to me that while Imo people groaned under the yoke of scanty infrastructural provisions and lack of efficient public service delivery, few heartless people were regularly siphoning huge sums of money from public coffers. Needless to add that these stolen funds could have been used to provide more infrastructures and services to the people.
“I reasoned rightly that I had a choice to make in the face of the daunting situation on ground; to sweep the appalling situation under the carpet and continue to do business as usual, as previous administrations did, and receive accolades for doing little or nothing, -to summon courage and do the right thing by flushing out an endemic corruption that threatened the survival of our state, and risk being initially misunderstood.
“I made my choice and chose the latter. I did so, because I know that leadership is not about early popularity contest but about having the honest courage to do the right things for the right reasons and for the good of the greatest number of the people. I have no doubt in my mind that in the fullness of time, history will vindicate me for not submitting to pressure and blackmail to do business as usual and condone monumental corruption” (Governor Hope Uzodinma, during 100 days in office).
For Christopher Ekemonu(not real name), the only thing that gladdens his heart in Governor Uzodinma’s 100 days speech was the issue of payroll racketeering. A teacher of nearly 20 years who have won many accolades in the teaching profession, teacher Ekemonu have never received a payship (a document that shows a a worker’s gross earnings). Nor has his salary been constant. It is one deductions or another. As he puts, “if the governor will sincerely look into the issue of payroll racketeering, many heads will roll. A situation where a grade level 03 staff in the payroll office will be riding in exotic cars, having buildings in choice areas and living extravagant lifestyle calls for concern. But will the governor attempt the tiger?”, he asked.
Like teacher Ekemonu, many civil servants know that what is happening in Imo Civil Service is like a cult. Recently, the writer overheard a staff of the Government House Owerri, complaining bitterly that she was being singled out for punishment simply because as the officer, responding for staff due for retirement, she pointed out to her senior that certain senior staff have been due for retirement since 2018. While she bemoaned her fate by speaking and doing the right, there are many others languishing in pain from the evils that daily go on in the civil service.
Apart from becoming a cult where one belongs so as to be safeguarded, the senior servants have made it impossible for any governor or politician to poke their noses in their affairs. And with the tacit backing of the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, unfortunately. For politicians the fear of the civil servants, with their instruments of blackmail and intimidations, is the beginning of wisdom. It is like daring the lion’s den or attempting to break through the biblical Persian gates.
That is why Imolites, who are in the know, will take Governor Uzodinma’s attempt at riding the tiger, with a pinch of salt. Many before him have dared only for their fingers to be burnt.
But can Governor Uzodinma break the jinx? Can he dare the demons who Governor Rochas Okorocha clothed with black and white uniforms. Can Uzodinma look the civil service at the face and say enough is enough. I believe Onwa can do.
He has all it takes to clean the Aegean stable. By providence, he is rich, already exposed, passed through the crucibles of life, dared the demons of popularity and elitism, and have learned that climbing an Iroko tree is not for average men. I believe the governor should engage these dare-devil civil service cartels in a winner takes all battle. Luckily, he has majority of Imo people behind him who ironically have been waiting for this moment. Governor Uzodinma has all the elements behind him, but he must be wary of 2023/2024. Assuredly, the civil servants will wait for him.
They have done it to many of Uzodinma’s ilk and always have their pound of flesh for any politician who dared to upturn the apples cart. This is the battle that they have fought for years and come out unscathed. To the civil servants, Uzodinma will only add to their victims. But fight, the governor must fight. Win, the governor must win, to rescue the likes of Ekemonu from the evil hands of oppressors. Governor Uzodinma should know that “ejighi aso mgbagbu eje ogu”. He must work his talk and talk his work. He must seize the moment to write his name in gold. If he should defeat these Amalekites, the roads to 2023/2024 will be cleaner and sure. He must memorize his 100 days in office speech everyday. It is a battle that must not be postponed to another election year. The governor should know that he is not alone in this fight. Well meaning Imolites are solidly behind him. The gates of Persia must be opened and prisoners released. The time to do it is now.