OPINION: FREE EDUCATION AND LAWLESSNESS IN IMO BY COLLINS UGHALAA

“And I will say to them: ‘I never knew you: depart from me, workers of lawlessness”* Matthew 7:23.

Since becoming Governor in 2011 Owelle Rochas Okorocha has never stopped amusing Nigerians and the entire world with his several acts of dictatorship in Imo State, driving everyone into pains and penury. Actions in this regard have led to many saying he is an emperor.

Imagine an elected Governor who beats his chest and claims that he does not like Due Process and the Rule of Law, and that instead of enhancing the smooth running of government, they breed corruption.

That is Governor Okorocha for you. He says what he likes and the way he likes, such as asking people to engage in armed robbery instead of somiking weed. And of course, he sees himself as God, who has the power to do anything without any force capable of stopping him.

That kind of jaundiced mentality was why during the charade of the 7th anniversary of his free education policy on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, Governor Okorocha ordered that any parent who allows his children of school age to hawk in the state should be arrested. This order from the Governor sounds like one from a draconian ruler who has only inflicted pains and suffering on the people and now wants to flog them into the line.

But is Governor Okorocha running a free education policy in Imo State? As far as the Governor is concerned, he is interested in the enrollment figures, forgetting that his fake galloping enrollment figures is not the criterion to judge the success of any policy on education. The figures Governor Okorocha rolls out is different from what you see when you visit the school: you would see almost empty classes, except in very few schools. Curiously, in the rural communities the empty classes are worse as parents prefer the private schools.

It is worrisome that Governor Okorocha has spent billions of Imo people’s money on his so-called free education, yet there is no law in the state backing it up, seven years after. What this means is that the policy as far as the law is concerned does not exist; it is an illegality.

I am not alone in this. Writing on his Facebook wall recently, Dr. Kelechi Okpaleke, an American trained lawyer and former Senior Special Adviser to Governor Okorocha on Public Enlightenment, wondered whether Governor Okorocha’s “free education [is] a political gimmick or genuine?”

He said that “It’s been seven years of rescue free education, according to the Commissioner for Education, yet there is no single law or even an Executive Bill forwarded to the Imo House of Assembly backing the policy.

“Who actually benefits from the free education; the pupils and students of the state or the state Executive Governor? If the pupils and students of Imo State are the actual beneficiaries of Owelle’s free education, why are students and pupils of Imo public school leaving and moving into private schools in droves even in the villages? How many of the persons who disturb the peace and enjoyment of the state with shouts of free education have their wards in public schools?

“Is Owelle’s free education creating a perpetual underclass of house boys and girls through fourth grade education, because these are the only children sent to these public schools by their guardians?”

That Okorocha could not forward an Executive Bill to the Imo State House of Assembly to enact a law for the cardinal policy of his government, free education, that has gulped billions of Imo people’s money, is a large window to the quality of his mind and how poorly intellectually endowed he is. This poor intellectual endowment is the reason Okorocha does not build institutions, because again, he detests Due Process and the Rule of Law; and these are involved in lawmaking and building institutions upon which the society survives.

In the midst of Okorocha’s shenanigans, consider His Excellency Dr Ikedi Ohakim, a refined intellectual colossus who is ever in love with the Rule of Law and Due Process, and whom while he was in office as Governor sent tens of Executive Bills to the State Assembly. For example, Ohakim could not embark upon any policy/programme without adequately providing the legal framework for it and thus building institutions that in turn build and grow the Imo society. No wonder Imo people want to re-elect him in 2019 so that he can put the state back to rail.

When Ohakim came up with his award-winning policy of handing over schools to the missions, he also agreed to continue to pay the salaries of the 44 schools that were handed over in the first phase and to give them annual grants. These were not done while dancing ‘oringo’ or under the influence of alcohol. They were adequately provided for by law. That is why he is called Mr. Quality.

Characteristically, Governor Okorocha who, though elected and sworn-in under the law has demonstrated that he has very frightening phobia for the laws and Due Process, and likes cutting corners, chose to ignore them and not implement them and behaved lawlessly as he pleased. It is the same way he is marching on the Procurement Law and giving contracts like Christmas gifts.

Notably, any society that does not build institutions is doomed. Even in the families, no matter one’s level of education and wealth or otherwise, his/her parents would insist he/she gets married, and until that is done that fellow is not seen as “successful”. He is called “efulefu”, “ofeke”. This is because the people believe in the institution of the family, and it must not be tampered with no matter what.

His strong belief in the institutions of the state was why Ohakim never did anything without recourse to the law. Most Imo people know about the ENTRACO Law, ISIPA Law, Clean and Green Law, IROMA Law, etc. This too is a window into the quality of Ohakim’s mind and how intellectually endowed he is. Perhaps this also shows that Ohakim ran an organised government and Okorocha is running a disjointed government for seven years now, where contractors run away with Imo people’s money and contractors are paid even before they are incoporated. This is rascality taken too far!

In the midst of the ongoing lawlessness and widespread despondency  in Imo, one wonders the essence of Governor Okorocha’s order to arrest parents whose children are caught hawking. The Governor does not realise that someone can only be arrested for committing a crime or violating a certain law. What law would a parent whose child is caught hawking be violating in Imo? The laws of Imo State, Nigeria, or the laws of Rochas? Under what laws would the arrested parents be prosecuted? By Okorocha’s orders? Remarkably, this is not the first time but the fourth Okorocha had threatened Imo parents with arrest should their children be arrested hawking. Things like this may not even happen in the animal kingdom, and Okorocha could only contemplate this because he has become Emperor Nero.

Only emperors behave like this. And Okorocha should know that Imo people did not elect an emperor or a military dictator, and that government is not run by executive fiat or based on emotions. He should know that our laws do not give the Governor, or any one else for that matter, the power to arbitrarily arrest people or jail them.

Where is Governor Okorocha getting these naughty ideas from? We are in a democracy and he should know this. Democracy confers certain rights on the people, such as the right to sue Imo State Government and the Governor if they are arbitrarily arrested on the order of the Governor.

Come to think of it, on what basis would Governor Okorocha order the arrest of any parent whose child is caught hawking? Something tells me that someone is being deluded that the so-called free education is all a family needs; that parents’ salaries should be slashed, pensions slashed and not paid; that businesses of parents should be destroyed or dislocated and shops demolished, and nothing would happen.

Not so at all. Even if free education truly exists in Imo, children would still need food, shelter, clothing, medicare, etc. Their parents would  need their salaries, pensions and a good business to provide those needs for their children, otherwise we would have the kind of outcome we have in the state today: chaos and widespread despondency. Therefore, a child whose parents’ salaries or pensions are not paid, or whose parent’s businesses have been dislocated or destroyed and shops demolished, especially after obtaining a credit facility from the bank or a customer, could be forced into hawking to survive and help his parents. That is the Igbo spirit! In this situation who should Okorocha arrest? Himself or the parent?

After the civil war, the Igbo people who only had their back against the wall did not sit down to mourn their predicament. They took action. They went out, doing all manner of jobs, some into hawking, farming, etc, just to survive. Similarly, now that Imo families have their back against the wall, should they not move out and survive, even if it means their children hawking?

However, one thing is instructive in Governor Okorocha’s arrest order: he was merely ventilating his frustration with his failed project. In the first place, Governor Okorocha has squandered every opportunity he had to make things work for the people. Just like the dog that eats its puppy, Governor Okorocha announced to Imo people in 2014 that they had spent more than N30bn importing school uniforms, desks, sandals and stockings from China, thereby killing the Imo economy. Imagine where N30bn was circulating in the Imo economy as a result of government’s deliberate actions! Imo would have become a paradise!

Interestingly, unlike Okorocha, Ohakim made sure that the Imo economy remained buoyant and money circulated during the world economic meltdown that  occured while he was Governor, by ensuring that local contractors were patronised, especially in building schools and roads in the communities in the 27 LGAs. He also ensured that the state participated actively in counterpart-funded programmes.

But Okorocha is threatening to arrest Imo parents because he has just realised that they have rejected his free education and prefer the private schools, not minding the cost.

If you are shocked therefore that the poor village woman could prefer to send her children to the private schools and pay heavily instead of the empty, unproductive so-called free education, recall that nothing stops a people who are determined. Same way Imo people have provided all social amenities for themselves, including water, they have vehemently passed a vote of no confidence on the Okorocha free education and chose instead to provide education for their children wherever they can find quality and productive education.

If Okorocha actually wants to arrest anybody, he should arrest his appointees who earn salaries from the government and yet reject his free education and prefer paying millions of Naira in other schools for the education of their children.

Hey! Governor Okorocha should arrest himself first for sending his own children to schools abroad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *