By T.J. Agidi (Ph.D)
When on Friday evening the news broke that the Imo Gov. Hope Uzodinma had just assented to the Bill repealing the Imo Governors and Speakers Pensions and Privileges Law No. 5 of 2007 in his state, initial feelings that crept through me were those of disbelief, surprise and shocks. The fear that the governor may have just committed a costly political blunder and acted in ignorance took over my thoughts, and I believe I am not alone in this.
It’s obvious that Sen Uzodinma has embarked on a collision mission to strip his national mentors and political allies their rights of pensions in their states which have been like their States’ monthly special recognitions to them.
Some of those who may henceforth forfeit their pensions rights include President Muhammedu Buhari when he leaves office in 2023, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in Edo, Chibuike Amaechi in Rivers, Barr. Raji Fashola, Obong Godswill Akpabio, Chief Timipre Silva, among others.
These former Governors who are now of the same APC with Sen Uzodinma would henceforth live with the moral burdens of continuously collecting pensions from their states as former governors when one of their own is currently celebrating the feat of abolishing that same law in his own state.
My personal investigations into the Pensions Acts of former Governors, their Deputies Speakers and Deputy Speakers in Imo state showed that the law was put up by the Imo House of Assembly under the administration of the former governor Achike Udenwa. The law stipulates a total amount of cash as low as N500,000 for a former governor and N300,000 for a former Deputy Governor on a monthly bases from where they take care of their domestic staff and fuel their vehicles as people who had served their states.
My research also shows that Imo state, among all the States in the entire South-east was the only state with the lowest amount of Pensions paid to their former leaders in the abolished categories. It’s on records that some of these former leaders barely feed themselves today in Imo state.
So when a governor who desperately seeks legitimacy and yearn for masses’ recognition goes on populist’s activities without due consultations, what you often have is catastrophic explosion.
First blame goes to the Imo House of Assembly and its lousy leadership who received this Bill from the governor as an Executive Bill and passed it overnight without subjecting it to all due legislative processes.
How could have the Speaker, Mr. Chiji Collins allowed a Bill to be presented to him on Thursday night and by Friday noon his House had passed it through the First, Second and Third reasons with the governor signing it as a law same night without allowing a critical inputs into its merits and demerits? What is the rush for and whose interest is this meant to serve?
Let’s assume that Uzodinma is seeking to impress the public using this action as his Post Covid-19 palliative; but of what impact is the sum Pension of these former leaders that’s less than N2m monthly make in a state where the governor has appointed over twenty-four commissioners and over hundred SAs and SSAs put together with most of them without portfolios yet on monthly salaries?
Couldn’t the governor prune down his aides and even suspended his recent car gifting to Permanent Secretaries and Judges who annually received such gifts as a way of saving Post Covid-19 palliative?
Sen. Uzodinma has just unwittingly showed incompetence and cluelessness through this rushed action. It seemed to me like somebody is in a haste to avenge somebody without first considering the wider implication of his vindictive action.
If so desperate to deny himself of his pensions after office, Could he not have made the law for himself without including others as a way of leading the light? How did he not consider that not all in that category today in his state are able to maintain their lone cars and attend to their medical expenses through that monthly stipends?
No doubt, a governor who attained office through some questionable means; a governor already in the list of the EFCC answering questions over diversions of Federal Government’s money may have already acquired so much for himself and his future generations that he would not need any monthly pensions’ stipend to succeed. Unfortunately, not all had the opportunity he has.
Uzodinma should have just boldly gone after his perceived target (if any), than taking this unfortunate cloudy route whose only consequences would be tension building in a state struggling to survive an eight-year brutal subjugation under Okorocha, and ingratitude to former leaders who served the state. Of cause, that monthly stipend is just about the only means they are still remembered just before their deaths.
If Sen. Uzodinma who spent a total of eight years in the Senate of the National Assembly; a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who understands perfectly how laws are repealed and made could go this far in manipulating the Imo House of Assembly into passing a Bill without the due legislative processes just to achieve his yet to be known selfish aims, then know ye that democracy has finally died in Imo and injustice reigns.
Oh Imo, here you go again!
Thed. J. Agidi (Ph.D) writes from the University of Abuja and can be contacted through email: email@example.com