The Moment (London)

Nigeria: The Sale of Imo State-Owned Adapalm to Roche Group

opinion

THE actions of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the governor of Imo State, have attracted so much criticism from members of the press.

ThisDay newspaper editorial once mentioned that the governor's most notable achievement to date has been to make headline news for all sorts of gaffes. The paper went ahead to say that the governor is giving Nigerians something to really laugh about. It is obvious that Okorocha is making mockery of himself, but the sad thing is that he does not seem to care what people think or say.

At a stakeholders' forum in Owerri recently, Okorocha was asked about the issue of the sale of the state-owned Adapalm Plc. After laughing and making reference to 'certain' press boys (he did not mention them by names), this is what the governor said: 'I detest the press boys. I don't want them to come around me. They go out of their way against even their professional ethics and tell lies about me and my administration. They allow themselves to be influenced by politicians to spread falsehood against me. Because of this, I do not want to have anything to do with the press boys.'

He said he picks up a Nigerian newspaper only when he wants to look for something to laugh about. What Okorocha said about his hatred of the press isn't new. But it's new and interesting that he said it in public. We all know that journalists are the whipping boys of the governor. He has advised his aides and cabinet to ignore all that are appearing in the press about his activities. To him, members of the press are persona non-grata.

Okorocha is behaving like the traditional 'Eze Onye Agwalam.'Agwalam is a village chief that shuns advice. He should blacklist the press at his own peril. This is democracy. He should amend his ways. The bible in Romans 6 v 1 said: 'What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!'

I believe it will not be in the best interest of the governor for the press to hide the truth from him. The press is there to watch the excesses of any government anywhere in the world. The press is the guardian of the people as the fourth estate of the realm.

Okorocha was advised by well-meaning Imolites not to sale Adapalm Plc, but he did not listen. Today, the media is filled with news that Imo State Government has sold the multi-million naira Adapalm Plc to Roche Group, an Irish company. Some say Adapalm was sold for 20 years. Whether for 20 years or less, a sale is a sale. Adapalm plantation is located in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State. Introducing the new owners to the people of Ohaji/Egbema, Okorocha declared that the new owners have the full rights to hire and fire staff.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the sale of Adapalm under the administration of Governor Okorocha is fraught with all kinds of sharp practices, shady deals and under-the-table practices. The sale of Adapalm is criminal to say the least. I see this as an act of insensitivity by the governor to the interests of the poor masses. The sale of Adapalm, especially at a time when thousands of Imo people are needlessly poor and in need of gainful employment, is nothing but an anti-poor, pro-rich policy.

Tragically, this policy is taking place at a time when statistics released by the Federal Ministry of Finance recently rated Imo State financially strong. Imo State has constantly received jumbo allocations since Okorocha came in. He is yet to show us what he has used the allocation money on, as we have not witnessed any genuine project instituted by his administration.

Okorocha behaves like a maximum ruler who will be in power forever, but he has forgotten that, whatever has a beginning will surely come to an end one day. Political office is but for a while, power is ephemeral. His rescue mission has now become the reckless sale of the collective patrimony of Imo people, to his businessmen partners. The due process, rule of law and collective interests of Imo State were not taken into consideration. This Roche Group has taken over all major construction projects in Imo State.

The sale of Adapalm is a pro-rich policy because it puts public wealth into private hands and further increases poverty, as it puts more people out of employment, as the new management is out to make profit at the expense of human life. According to sources, an estimated 2,000 Adapalm workers are to be sacked. Okorocha is about to make so many people of Ohaji/Egbema, the host community to Adapalm, jobless. The sale of Adapalm should be totally condemned by Imolites as it does the toiling masses no good.

But will Eze Onye Agwalam (Okorocha) ever listen to the voice of reason? The truth of the matter today is that the people's patience is snapping and very fast too, despite Okorocha's threat of dealing with unfriendly journalists. We worry about how Okorocha is converting Imo State and its funds into a family enterprise while governing the state with impunity and military fiat, not minding or giving a hoot how the people felt. Save us o, 'God.

Kenneth Uwadi, Mmahu-Egbema, Imo State

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