– UJU REMAINS CHAMPION OF THE OIL REGION.
By Comrade Emma Onwuegbu
A tsunami of sorts recently occurred in the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC), an interventionist agency meant to better the lives of the people of Oguta and Ohaji-Egbema LGAs. It was the heartless sacking of staff of the Commission, numbering One Hundred and Eight (108).
I have personally thought deeply into that broad daylight wickedness meted on the oil region, juxtaposing same with what the happenings used to be when a government that spared a thought for the people reigned, and I have come to the conclusion that HON. UJU KINGSLEY CHIMA is still the man to beat. He is still the Defending Champion. He still holds the flag of responsible, responsive and impactful leadership in the oil region.
It should be recalled that a week before those workers were sacked, the entire staff of ISOPADEC had embarked on an indefinite strike aimed at pressing home the demand for the payment of their many months’ salary arrears and protesting the mindless slashing of their salaries to the tune of 80%.
Regrettably, the leaders of the oil region, who should have risen in defence of the commoners, are the ones who are making themselves willing tools in the hands of the state government to perpetrate a slow but steady programme to annihilate an already troubled region.
Things that were strange when men like Kingsley Uju were close to the seat of executive powers have become the wormy waters with which our people are constantly bathed.
The Oil Region of Imo State is marginalized, humiliated and denigrated in the present 3R administration of Governor Hope Uzodimma, more than ever before. Such things were never seen or witnessed in the time past. Then, Ohaji-Egbema and Oguta were respected within and outside government circles.
Non-payment and slashing of salaries which were hitherto alien to the staff of ISOPADEC, has now become their lot, one that they did not bargain. An unconfirmed report has it that the workers are sometimes subjected to the humiliation of having to queue up in the government house to receive “palliatives” in the stead of salaries. Have things turned that bad?
In the Igbo mythology, the lizard is quoted to have said that it is through body language and footsteps that he recognises a child angling to jab a stone at him, as opposed to an innocent passerby. We recognised early enough the governor’s dance steps when it took ten (10) whole months after the inauguration for the ISOPADEC board to be constituted. Ashamedly, through that waiting period, no day passed without the governor’s supporters singing praises of how he had saved several Billions of Naira, ISOPADEC funds, for the oil-producing areas. It is only in Imo State that a man saves money for another. Now, where have all those billions gone? And fresh allocations are still coming. Who accounts for the ones already spent on nothing?
This government and its agents have controlled the 13% oil derivatives funds coming from the Federal Government for the past fourteen (14) months. Yet, not a single project has been executed in any oil-producing community; not in Ohaji-Egbema, and certainly not in Oguta. No intervention of any kind has also been carried out. It is not enough to release a list of “projects” intended for execution. What is important is, how many of them will finally see the light of the day? The discrepancies in those projects, as listed, will be a matter for discussion on its own, but my worry presently is the distribution. Why push most of the prime projects to Oru East, the governor’s place? Why tactically short change many of the core oil-bearing communities? Has the ISOPADEC sharing formula also been scrapped? And some people still refer to themselves as our leaders? Why the silence? What irony! When UJU called the shots, he made sure that his people were happy first, before “other considerations”. He had the ears of the governor. He knew what to say or do at all times. He perfectly combined service to his people and loyalty to his boss. He pressed the right buttons. And things went on smoothly.
In the last one year, and I stand corrected on this, no ISOPADEC staff has thrown an elaborate party for any reason. None has held a wedding or house-warming ceremony. Many of them are seen in the streets of Owerri, trekking about their businesses, as they are unable to maintain their cars any longer. Some have been forced to change their children’s schools to places where they will have to pay lesser. In the ISOPADEC of today, things have fallen apart, and the workers are no longer at ease. Some of them have received quit notices from landlords, and are contemplating relocation, for want of cash to maintain their present apartments.
Not only the staff of ISOPADEC but also the stakeholders of the oil region, now relive with nostalgia and mouths agape, the golden days of Uju’s reign in the state. His, was indeed the true shared prosperity era. ISOPADEC Youths got their monthly subventions regularly. ISOPADEC Women got theirs. ISOPALF and ISOPASN were also paid. Even TROMPCON were not left out. ISOPADEC bubbled with activities. Both the landlord families and contractors walked to and fro the commission’s office, into and out of their banks, with their faces beaming with smiles.
Even the militants were brought out of the creeks, made to drop their guns and embrace peace. Only OMEUDO could do that. Today, a good number of them have become landlords in Owerri and neighbouring cities. Uju carried everyone and every segment of the region along. He provided leadership to the utmost admiration of the people. Our people could boldly introduce themselves then as having come from the oil region, and their presence in any gathering was greeted with some respect. All that is now history.
The crop of leaders we have these days are those who trade off the people’s freedom and welfare for their selfish economic advancements. They simply receive orders on how best to silence the people. Anyone who dares speak out is arrested and detained. Threats and intimidation have become the greatest weapons at the disposal of this government.
ISOPADEC staff protested the non-payment of their salaries, and fifteen (15) of them, on the orders of the governor, were arrested and remanded in prison custody. All the self-acclaimed leaders of the oil region kept mute until UJU rose and spoke for his people. The member representing the people of Ohaji-Egbema in the House of Assembly was arrested, together with some of his personal aides, for no justifiable reason. No leader from the oil region coughed until UJU rose and fought for his release.
The governor today is recognising his home LGA as an oil-producing LGA, without an official Gazette from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), and against the laws establishing ISOPADEC; and nobody from the oil region has raised a voice. And now, as many as one hundred and eight (108) sons and daughters of Ohaji-Egbema and Oguta LGAs have had their employments permanently terminated, and the vacancies secretly being filled with relatives and friends of the powers that be. Yet, the oil region has remained as dead silent as the graveyard.
Hon. Uju has not spoken. Any day he speaks, the stories will surely change. And some persons will still want to take the glory. But one undeniable fact remains that none of these politicians who pose “King Kung” has impacted positively on the lives of the people of Ohaji-Egbema/Oguta/Oru West Federal Constituency more than Uju Kingsley Chima has done. Perhaps, there may be someone tomorrow; but for today, UJU remains the Defending Champion.
9News Nigeria (Owerri)
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