Stakeholders in Into State last Friday reviewed the situation of things in the state with the verdict that the state has been badly run by the Okorocha administration since 2011.
The stakeholders spoke during the maiden Town hall meeting organized by the Okey Ezeh Foundation held at the Jesus Never Fails Arena, Owerri.
Speaking at the well attended event, Alhaji Isa Okeke who spoke on “How to Move Imo State Forward” said that frustration is written boldly on the faces of people in Imo State.
“All over Imo State you see faces of frustration, hungry Imolites. Imo people feel quite dejected and disappointed on how their wealth and resources are being wasted on the things which do not matter. And things that matter are left undone, from the center, and to every local government spreading out, are decaying social infrastructure that make life worth living”, he said.
He likened the leadership in the state under Governor Okorocha to the wasteful biblical prodigal son, saying: “The leadership in this state, like the Biblical prodigal son, who having inherited the wealth of his father, went on spending spree, inviting people of the same characters from far and near, they stage night parties, import foreign visitors, exotic wines and rocked prettiest girls at night when other people are working hard to survive, while Imo is burning”. Lamenting that the state has become broke, he said that Imo State “has run to zero to meet their commitment and obligations to the citizens against all the promised made.”
He added that the Imo people have got to a point where they can no longer “pretend that all is well with us, that will be a grand self deceit. We have too many hungry and angry Imo people. They are angry that a state so over blessed with human and natural resources shall have majority of its citizens wallowing in the valley of want and despair, and subdued.
Also speaking at the Town hall Meeting, the Chairman of Okey Ezeh Foundation, Mr. Okechukwu Theodore Ezeh, regretted that despite abundant opportunities the state has been mismanaged due to vissionless leadership. “I have had to talk at different for about our fortunes as a people, our economic downturn, our vissionlessness, our planlessness, and i have had cause to analyze, sector by sector, on several occasions, what has befallen us as a people. He lamented that Nigerians are asked “to pray and fast for a better future. That is the only thing we hear from our leaders. We are told to pray and fast that tomorrow will be a better day. But nobody plans about tomorrow.” Speaking on the economy, he noted that “Every other three to five years, Nigeria moves round a circle. Once the oil price goes up, we go on spending frenzy; everybody is talking about resource control and all of that. But once the oil price crashes, we are told to tighten our belts that better times will come again. However, the bad news is that things are about to change and change drastically.
“Since Nigeria became a nation, we have had cause to depend on a single resource – the cash-cow. But we have milked that cow for too long.”
According to the Financial and Investment expert, over dependence on oil has resulted to gloomy future for the country, and unless something is done drastically the economic conditions may not improve.
“The tragedy that is waiting to befall us as people is that in the next five years oil will no longer be relevant to anybody. Anybody who plans on oil will prepare to drink it, because nobody will be buying oil anymore. And all over the world progressive people are beginning to plan accordingly”, he said.
He added that Volvo, a Swedish car manufacturing company, few months ago “announced that from 2019 they would no longer be producing cars that run on petrol or gas. So, we will not see any Volvo car from 2019 that runs on petrol or gas. All their cars will run on electricity.”
Apart from the Swedish car manufacturing company, Volvo, Okey Ezeh also noted that “India has said that by 2030, there will be no longer be the importation of automobiles that run on petrol or gas into their country”. Continuing on the bleak future as a result of Nigeria’s over dependence on oil, he said that ” around the world, all the countries that used to buy our oil are now checking out. America used to be the number one purchaser of oil in Nigeria, but not anymore, because they are strategic in thinking. They looked into the future and found out that in about five years nobody would need oil any longer. So they decided to open up their oil reserves.
“America is a big oil-producing country, but for many years they refused to use their own oil but preferred to import because their strategic thinking was that time would come when the Middle East would implode, when there would be trouble in Iran, Iraq and the UAE, and they would not be able to buy oil from those countries.
“So, their national security would not be threatened because they would be able to use their reserves. America’s national interest was therefore to keep all their reserves. When they discovered that the resource is vanishing one – it is becoming obsolete – they now decided to open up their reserves. It started with the Obama Administration. And they stopped buying Nigerian oil.”
Okey Ezeh also lamented that that Imo State has not been blessed with creative leaders, noting that we have not allowed “our passion to meet creativity.
“We have had leaders who see themselves as contractors, as tax collectors, as taskmasters. We have not had people who have had to dig into their wealth of knowledge, who have had to manage the resources of our people in a transparent manner, in a sustainable manner and in a creative manner.
“And it is not because our state lacks the resources. It is not because our people do not have what it takes to deliver value. If anybody knows, in short, I know everybody here will agree, Imo is blessed with the most vibrant population you are going to get in the whole of the sub-Saharan Africa. We have some of the best brains anywhere you go. “Anywhere you go abroad and you would see people who are performing as professionals, who are excelling in various vocations. Check very well, there is an Igbo man there, and if you check his roots, he is probably Imo. What I am saying is that our destiny is in our hands. It is not all hopelessness. Imo is rich in resources. We have a lot of human and natural resources that can help us reinvent ourselves.
“Anywhere you look in Imo you see potentials, but potential is useless if you cannot bring it to actualization. So the problem is the leadership gap, because it is not going to be a rocket science for us to develop as a state. “A few months ago I was at the Owerri Timber Market. There, my attention was drawn to a disagreement between some waste management agents and shop owners over the evacuation of sawdust, which the waste managers often clear off and set ablaze. A thing like this still happens in Imo State when the fastest growing economy in the world, which is China, spends twelve billion dollars importing sawdust every year.
“Over seventy percent of hotel furnishings are done with particle boards. Yet we set sawdust ablaze, and it even emits carcinogen which is a direct cancer-causing agent.
“An initiative like this alone can create jobs for over fifty thousand Imo residents”.
Speaking on the ongoing urban renewal programme of the Okorocha government, he said: “In Imo State today, the idea of urban renewal is to build concrete projectiles, not even to plant trees, which are cheaper and give good ambience to the city. When accidents occur you can be sure of higher fatality rates.”
He assured the people of Imo State not to lose hope, saying: “My message is a message of hope. Even if oil dries up tomorrow, Imo has what it takes to be self-reliant. The real oil is not even crude oil, but palm oil, because it is far more lucrative in the international market than crude oil.
“With palm oil you can run an economy that will not devastate the environment. We are not even talking about cassava. The biggest foreign exchange earner in Brazil apart from their oil is a company that produces ethanol, and ethanol is produced from cassava. “Imo is for us to rebuild, and the time is now”.