Charge Of Incompetence
The recent Labour crisis in Imo State has been blamed on a lack of tact in negotiation on the part of the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Prof. Anthony Anwuka, who is said to have entered the Governor’s black book on account of this
By Chinedu OPARA
When the rumour mill came alive in Imo State recently bearing tales of a worsening face-off between Gov. Rochas Okorocha and Prof. Anthony Anwuka, Secretary to the State Government, (SSG), government officials, including the SSG himself publicly dismissed it as mere rumour.
Today however, unfolding events in the State have indeed shown that what was initially dismissed as mere rumour is actually a hardcore reality that has put the job of the SSG on the line even as the governor is believed to have kickstarted the campaign to delist Anwuka and his team from his administration with what analysts have described as “bottom top” approach.
Bearers of this news point to the Friday September 30,2011 unceremonious sacking of Chief Lawrence Agbasoga, Special Adviser Sanitation and Environment as proof of this campaign. Chief Agbasoga, an American trained environmentalist is a well known political loyalist of the SSG who is generally believed to have single handedly influenced his appointment to the position which the administration of exGov. Ikedi Ohakim made juicy because of its cardinal focus on the environment. Besides, both Anwuka and Agbosoga hail from Oguta L.G.A.
Reliable sources close to the government told Nigerian OrientNews that government official position on what necessitated the sudden change of baton which it was said, is to enhance effectiveness and efficiency was actually not the real reason behind the action. They insist that Agbasoga’s travails was politically motivated and a deliberate poly to announce to the SSG that his days in Okorocha’s Government are numbered. In fact, opinion is rife that this blow as devastating as it is, is enough warning signal to Prof Anwuka that contrary to claims by him and his men that all is well between him and the governor, a political landslide is actually in the offing for him and by extension, all those appointed by Okorocha on his recommendation.
Nigerian OrientNews investigations revealed that the now very open hostility between these two heavyweights of Imo Rescue Mission could be traced right up to the early part of the life of this government. Specifically, it can be traced to the June 6,2011 maiden broadcast of Gov. Okorocha during which the Governor announced some drastic policy decisions of his administration which many say have transformed into an albatross hanging on the neck of the administration. These far reaching decisions include the suspension of the 10,000 job offer introduced by the administration of ex Gov. Ikedi Ohakim, the dissolution of the state council of traditional rulers and that of the democratically elected council chairmen and councilors.
Nigerian OrientNews can recall that the issues of the 10,000 jobs and elected council officials have become such hot button issues which have caused enormous embarrassment and distraction to the government of the day. For the 10,000 youths, it has now become a daily routine for the beneficiaries to stage peaceful protests at the State Secretariat and Government House with a view to getting the governor rescind its suspension. The Nigeria Labour Congress, it was also reliably gathered, included the issue in the items of dispute between it and the government in a trade dispute currently receiving attention at the Federal Ministry of Labour.
Similarly, the elected council officials dragged the Governor to an Owerri High Court presided over by the State Chief Judge, Justice Benjamin Njemanze, which on August 4, 2011 delivered a judgment which legal experts described as confusionist because it was neither here nor there. Apparently, dissatisfied with the judgment the group decided to take its quest for justice to the Appeal Court in Owerri, seeking a clearer interpretation of Justice Njemanze’s hanging judgment.
Another serious faux pas committed by prof Anwuka which sources say was the straw that broke the camel’s back was the very sloppy and non-committal manner in which he handled the labour crisis that brought about the one week strike in the State.
Gov. Okorocha, it was gathered, instructed the SSG shortly before traveling to the US, to take absolute charge of negotiations. He also reportedly pleaded with him to do every thing humanly possible to ensure that the proposed strike did not go ahead as planned. But, to the consternation of the Governor and, even Labour, the SSG allegedly messed up the whole business by what was described as “his arrogant and I don’t-care-attitude”. It is alleged that this became so unbearable that Labour leaders in the State fell out with him during one of the negotiation sessions and promptly reported the matter to Gov. Okorocha. Worse, the SSG allegedly always assumed the air of an emperor out to dispense favour to his servants, when in fact, he was supposed to show maturity and understanding since negotiation is all about give and take.
Mr Augustine Chilakpu, Acting Secretary of NLC, Imo State Wing, told Nigerian OrientNews in an interaction in Owerri that Prof Anwuka was actually found wanting during that heady period. Chilakpu said on one particular occasion the Labour leaders actually became livid with rage after it dawned on them that Anwuka is still very much under the mentality of lecturer / student relationship. “We had to warn him to know that we were not his students but men who were out to represent their numerous members looking up to us to achieve positive result.”
A top member of the Imo Rescue Mission and currently, a Caretaker Council Chairman who spoke on condition of anonimity to Nigerian OrientNews in Owerri, enumerated several other recent happenings which leave no one in doubt about the no-love-lost affair between the duo of Okorocha and Anwuka. According to him, the SSG was conspicuously missing during the 49th birthday of Gov. Rochas Okorocha even when all of them in the rescue team were aware that he was never on any official or private visit outside the State. “Ordinarily, the third in command of the executive branch of government ought to have been there in body and soul to assist his boss cut his birthday cake, but when the time came Prof Anwuaka was no where to be seen”, our source said. He further stated that “the SSG was shabbily treated and locked out at the Imo Concorde Hotel, venue of the Tuesday September 27, 2011 live address of Gov. Okorocha to Imo people on his first 100 days in office tagged, “State of Imo Address”.
Prof Anwuka had arrived the venue shortly after the Governor walked into the hall but was pushed back and stoutly refused entry by the security attached to the Governor. Try as he did, they remained unyielding and, when it dawned on him that there was no luck he simply walked away. “Tell me, are you saying these SSS boys do not know the State’s number three man?”, he wondered, as he walked away, disappointed.
Mr Ebere Uzokwa, Senior Special Assistant, on Media (print) to Gov. Okorocha, told Nigerian OrientNews that Gov. Okorocha held Prof. Anwuka in high esteem which informed his choice ahead of other strong supporters of the Governor for the post of SSG. Uzokwa however said that majority of the members of Okorocha’s expanded executive have at one time or the other had cause to complain about Anwuka’s style of leadership which reeks of ego and arrogance. Hear him, “yes, I have heard many members of the expanded exco talk about his leadership style. Most say the professor still thinks he is in the University when actually we are in politics and not in the University.”
Pressed further for comments, the SSA Media said Gov. Okorocha as the Chief Executive of the State has the right to hire and fire. He can decide to appoint or sack anybody within the executive arm of government without being summoned by anybody or group. He argued that Gov. Okorocha is out to serve only the masses of Imo and would go to any length within the armbit of the law to achieve lasting and sustainable legacy in the State.
Although Imo SSG would continue to present a picture of all-is-well between him and Gov. OKorocha, many say that judging from events of the past few weeks, the relationship between Gov. Okorocha and the SSG is indeed pregnant and, only time will tell what it will bring forth.
However, on a contrary note, Personal Assistant to the SSG on Special Duties, Rev. Chinedu Godswill Egesionu, who spoke to Nigerian OrientNews on behalf of Prof. Anwuka described the rumour making the rounds as the handiwork of detractors who wish to see Prof. Anwuka and Gov. Okorocha fight in the public. He maintained that Prof. Anwuka has been fully committed to the Governor’s Rescue Mission before, during and after the polls.
According to Rev. Egesionu, Gov. Okorocha used the October 1, 2011 independence anniversary to put to rest the rumour by personally asking the SSG to go and take salute on his behalf that day, saying this singular gesture has put paid to the rumour. He said: “something happened that thrilled this state on the 1st of October. I was in the SSG’s house and we were preparing for the celebrations when suddenly a call came through and behold it was the governor and the governor told him, “please SSG go to the stadium and take salute, I want to bury that rumour that I fell apart with you. Let Imolites know you are still in charge of cabinet office. My boss was perplexed and we all dressed and went to the stadium where he took the salute and there and then the rumour was buried.”