by Kenneth Uwadi
The bar clock ticked. Jane stubbed out her cigarette, lit another and dropped the pack on the table. I stared at her. She had a perpetual smile which never reached her glassy, expressionless eyes. On my left was Sunny. I still have not worked out why he is so attached to her though he has told me she could cook. She smokes like mad. Here she is, scattering cigarette ash on the floor in spite of the ring of ashtrays around us. She was on her third bottle of beer -Heineken of course. Unlike her, Sunny is a non-smoker and a non-drinker but he loves fruit juice. Although he is in his fifties, he kept himself in a nice trim. He is tall and lean. We were having a good time in Owerri. Bills were not on me. Wink!
Looking up, I saw “Hamper’’. That is his Nickname. He was seated four tables away from ours. Hamper is a young man in his forties. He was putting on short sleeves, a hat and a nice trouser and was busy with his phones. His fat face was expressionless and on his table was a can of beer. He looked harmless though he has grown pot belle. I was told that the Governor of Imo State mentioned him in an N650M pension scam and claimed to have him and his accomplices arrested. He has been in the Pension Board in Imo for the past 10 years. You see, I have always told you how big men and women are stealing millions upon millions of Imo state monies. Like Fela Kuti, I have exposed some evils in government dealings in Imo. I have called some persons ‘ITT -International Thief, Thief’’, “VIP -Vagabonds in Power’’. I cry out because in the midst of oil money, Imo working masses live in abject poverty. The majority of Imolites are kept in unstable and difficult conditions while a tiny fraction has exclusive access to things and comforts of life.
Sven Johnson once wrote “before you speak, your intentions must pass through three portals, one of each kind in letters bold to see: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? “This saying has been attributed to Buddha. Though claimed as being one of the sayings of Buddha, there is no documentary evidence to support this. Some say it was first formulated by Rumi, the 13th-century Persian mystic. Still, there is lack of documentary evidence. Some say it came from Abraham Lincoln. But in all, it was Mary Ann Pietzker who made the saying popular in 1872 in her book “Miscellaneous Poems’’ But I have my own ideas about this. For me, things I say must be true and necessary. I don’t care if they are unkind. I have put myself in jeopardy several times due to things I say. There are times, though, when a person must be willing to put himself in jeopardy with others in other to give of himself, whether it is to another person or to an animal. And because he is willing to take this on in order to give a service of love, he receives God’s protection.
Recently, a few highly placed civil servants and some government officials between themselves and their accomplices tried to steal over N650m of pension funds in Imo. Unfortunately for this set of looters, their case was made public by the governor of Imo. Like late Fela Kuti’s song in one of his radical albums, Imolites continue to remain “original suffer head” while the cabals continue to steal our money. We were told how they discovered six hundred and fifty million naira, pension cheque fraud and that some persons had been arrested in connection with the fraud. We all know that this talk of arresting persons over pension fund fraud by the Okorocha’s administration is just a ruse. The governor does not only permit corruption, he encourages and even glorifies it. Hamper who was mentioned in the scam is already in Ibari Ogwa Village, Owerri having a good time. So also are others.
In 2013, I exposed pension scam in Imo. I pointed out that the primary reason for the embarrassing state of absurdity as per pensioners in our State was a “profit first” capitalist aide of the Governor. He had a gang of pension thieves at the Pension Board. I spoke of how they looted 1billion naira pension funds in the State when he was the Board Chairman. That year, I condemned in strong terms the insensitivity to the plight of pensioners in the state. I mentioned his name and sent copies of my discoveries to the Governor. Fortunately for this man, his matter was not investigated and he was rewarded with the number three position in the state. It was because of same man that Commercial banks operating in Imo State shut their doors against their customers for some days. I exposed how when he was the Special Adviser to the Governor on Internal Revenue Generation (IGR), he collected millions of naira from commercial banks in the state as tax but diverted the monies into his own pocket. The State government later demanded the same tax that he had collected from the banks and the banks had to go on strike for excessive taxation.
When I made these revelations, Okorocha’s praise singers and professional spin doctors called me all sort of names. Now in September 2017, the Imo State Governor claimed he handed over some Pension Board staff to the Personnel of Directorate of Security Services (DSS) over monumental fraud dictated in pension cheques amounting to N650 million naira. Who is fooling who? He should start his investigation and arrest with the man I exposed in 2013. Former Senate President, David Mark, once placed a curse on some pension thieves. Early in 2014, at the commencement of a probe into pension funds administration by the Senate, Mr Mark declared that “pension fund administrators pilfering funds meant to pay pensioners are accumulating “blood money.” He lamented that many people had gotten rich on “blood money while pensioners were left suffering and dying. He declared, “for any living human being to have stolen the money of those who have laboured for this country, I think it is only God who can decide their fate.” “But, as human beings, we have just made our recommendations and hope that the Almighty God will see them to hell,” Mr Mark concluded. Like David Mark, I share the anguish and anger of the ordinary Imolites against this kind of capitalist looting. To me, even the stoning of persons that stole money belonging to pensioners would not be sufficient to compensate the affected pensioners, if on retirement they could not receive their pensions. Many pensioners have died in Imo after years of waiting for their pensions. When they were paid little percentage recently, the amount was too small.
The greatest mistake, the brunt of which the people of Imo had to bear was, no doubt, the voting of the present corrupt and duplicitous government of Okorocha. I say so because of the administration’s clumsiness in handling our affairs. We will never forget the governor’s tenure of nothingness, the years of embezzlement, the reign of misplacement of priorities, the rule of ineptitude, the term of enthronement of cronyism, the period of crass nepotism, the era of corruption. A government that destroyed the houses and businesses of the citizens without compensation. A government that could not conduct council election. A government of thieves, without plans or focus. Do you want to tell me that a Governor with focus will take 14 days just to celebrate his 55th birthday? He even gave N5.5M of Imo money to a Facebook blogger from Afikpo just to play “betnaija’’ with Ndi Imo. I still don’t understand the fanfare currently going in the name of 55th birthday celebration and stagnant performance in office. Sidney Barima once cried ‘ Our money, wonna money eh , Africa money eh, Oga dey chop am fuga fuga. E dey steal am nyaga nyaga’.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Kenneth Uwadi writes from Mmahu-Egbema, Imo State
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