Civic engagement with the Imo state government currently is like a dialogue between Lions and Hyena – a paradise for thugs and gangsters without any modicum of rationality. It defies sound logic and frightens purveyors of good conscience and men of integrity. Only those who are prepared to jump into the gutter can thrive in such a clime peopled by questionable characters that have foisted themselves on the people forcefully occupying the corridors of power.

The Industrial relations sphere experiences the highest assault as workers in the State are treated with utmost disdain and contempt. The government runs a slave camp where workers rights and privileges are hijacked and scorned. The trade unions are emasculated and their leadership brutally hunted and hounded out of town by the states instrument of terror and fear. All the civic platforms for meaningful dialogue are stifled with little space to operate and provide the needed social valve for ventilating the feelings and desires of the people.

The state has raised task masters who serve as garrison commanders patrolling the vast estate of their master and enforcing the reign of deprivation and enthroning grinding poverty on the workers of the state. One of these major enforcers who control the propaganda machinery is the Commissioner of information who derives joy in using the name of the Governor to cow and intimidate workers and trade union leaders.

While the people live and suffer in absolute fear in the streets, this Commissioner deploys all manners of abusive language in engaging the people in the comfort of their homes through the local radio and television. He struts around without any form of decency spewing.

hatred and mischief against any one or organisation that dares to contradict his unholy position. He appears in all honesty to have the ears of the governor thus uses it to wreak havoc on hapless Imo people.

His actions paint the government of the state in very bad light and leave an ugly after taste in the mouth when he is engaged. The quality and effectiveness of governments are a function of the nature and characters that surrounds the state. The government of Imo state is unfortunately defined by such an uncouth character who seems to have thrown every modicum of honour away totally bereft of the basic tenets of interpersonal relations much more about governing a people.

It is not therefore surprising that the government of Imo state has been held with deep resentment in certain quarters. The garrulousness and the crass imperious and arrogant attitude of such people may have shaped the negative opinion of the majority. It is entirely the choice of the state government who it fields to represent it but we are left with no choice than to also define the government in the light of its representation especially in the public space.

There are repercussions for unbridled propaganda. There is indeed a limit to lies especially when the veneer that sustains them a peeled away. What is immediately evident is a putrefaction of deep dimensions. It is said that a thousand years of lies cannot survive a day of truth and no matter the thickness of darkness, a day of light pierces through it and chases it away. Such is the work and façade which the state government is busy building over the reckless activities against its own workers. As we speak, workers in the state suffer deeply and variously in the hands of the operatives of this government believing that nothing can be done to save them relying on their control of the various instrument of coercion and terror.

The falsehood being spewed without caution from somebody who has disdained decency cannot wipe away the fact that the government of Imo State has made it difficult for sane dialogue to prevail in the state. It cannot erase the fact that it has become difficult for the people of the state to reasonably engage this government within democratic context. It cannot take away the fact that citizens are harassed and threatened to the extent that they have to flee for their lives.

Unfortunately, this style of governance rather than help government only sustains the general notion of some form of narcissistic inclination on the part of occupiers of public offices which has led to citizen’s apathy . It only succeeds in raising praise singers and sycophants who kowtows to every policy of government whether good or bad. This has produced court jesters and clowns and has pitiably turned governance in the state to a Jesters Court. Indeed a tragicomedy of some sort.

We are not surprised that a character like the information commissioner who cannot survive in decent human societies thrives in this environment. His mentality and mind-set can only thrive in this putrid atmosphere. Maggots can only survive in the rot! He therefore enjoys his roiling in the filth which he continues to foster through the biles he dishes out in the Public space.

What he has failed to understand which is also understandable is that no matter how long you lie to the people, they know the truth and will one day get tired of it and rise against it. It is despicable to continue living in lie and its worse when as a public officer, you continue feeding your principals with the same lies. What then happens is that the government he serves are left with sub-optimal choices that are disconnected from the people thus becomes unproductive and unacceptable to the people.

Propaganda eventually weakens the government. Lying to the people shows a great disrespect for the people. The liar deludes himself and believes that the people he governs are idiots and incapable of discerning the truth. This government may have suffered unacceptance because of the reckless activities of some of its operatives but not essentially because of the errors of the Governor.

Does the name calling, insults and generation of amorphous bodies to seek the castigation of the NLC mislead the Commissioner or the state government into believing that the people and workers of the State who are treated as slaves and denied of their basic rights no longer face the realities of these deprivations? Does that wish these sufferings away? The answer is NO.

The truth remains that this government owes workers years in unpaid salaries. No amount of propaganda and lies can erase that or make the workers not to ask for it.

It is also a fact that this government has continued to stigmatise its workers by declaring over 11,000 of them ghost workers and impounding their Salaries and wages in the process. Name calling will not wipe this away.

The truth is that this government owes Pensioners in the state over 20 months in arrears and did not pay gratuities to its workers for nearly 15yrs yet, those in government receive their salaries and allowances without fail. The prattling of the Commissioner will not take that away!

Perhaps, the government believes that insulting the NLC will make it now compliant with the Minimum wage act of 2019. It does not. This government has refused to obey the Laws of the country as it concerns the N30,000 National Minimum Wage act. It has refused to pay workers appropriately despite all appeals. It has blocked its ears to the cries of the workers and pretends that all is well.

It is interesting to know that this government signed an agreement with the NLC and TUC to resolve most of the Labour issues in the state but since then, it has refused to faithfully implement that agreement. This is a clear case of infidelity and a government that lacks the necessary honour to abide by signed agreements but resorts to the use of Noise leaves itself to all manners of negative perceptions.
The truth remains that this government likes the use of threat and violence to extract compliance to their wish as was demonstrated in the disruption of last State Delegates Conference of the NLC where its agents carted away materials that were supposed to be used in the exercise unleashing mayhem on the delegates. Does the Commissioner’s continuous babblings and public gyration wish this away?
The State Government has not weaned itself from the proclivity to violently pursue officers of trade unions and others in the state. We remember the case of our former Chairman in the State Comrade Chilapu who had to abdicate his seat out of the fear of the goons of the government. Whether the noise they make justifies this war on the citizenry is a question that should be asked. It clearly does not.

Playing the Ostrich at this time is not helpful so, we advise the government to brace up and pay what it owes workers in the state. A debtor cannot be this bold. Even a thief knows the limit of his display

of stolen property. It amounts to brazen display of tomfoolery in the public space to refuse to clear the states indebtedness to workers but resort to vituperations in government owned media.

It is utter clownish and we are not amused as it leaves us befuddled as to the degree of debasement and abuse of government power going on in the state. We will refuse this diversionary tactics and insist on government sticking to due process and fair play in dealing with workers in its employ. We remain focused on our demands and wish that the earlier the government realises and understands this resolve, the better for everybody. A labourer is deserving of his wage and this is what the workers in Imo state deserve.

Instead of seeking traditional and acceptable platforms for resolving these issues, the government’s deployment of this attack dog demonstrates the yawning gaps in its understanding of the dynamics of reasonable social engagement. Society has created minimum standards of engagement both locally and internationally which the behaviour and utterances of the government through its Commissioner completely negate.

If government has chosen this path of dishonour, it is their call but we will not in any way balk in the face of this farcical performance. We will not be intimidated neither can we run out of the state like the previous leaders of the Congress in the state. This government will not be the first in Nigeria to seek the use of this dangerous style of engagement neither we are sure is it going to be the last but we want the government to know that we have demonstrated capacity to defend workers in the state and are prepared to deploy it to the fullest working within the ambits of the Law and traditions that govern Industrial relations.

Whichever way this government decides to call it, we are prepared to meet it and not run. We are here for a long haul and it entirely depends on what this government wants and how it wants to resolve the issues that we have raised with it. We cannot abandon our responsibilities to workers in the state no matter what government decides to do. The state -wide strike therefore continues until the issues are satisfactorily resolved.

The NLC remains committed to the detoxification of the civic space which has been stifled by the unholy actions of the government in Imo

state after having seized the space strangulating the major elements within it thus denying the state its tremendous benefits. We are thus committed to promoting citizen participation to encourage transparency and discourage opaqueness and impunity in governance which the government seems to be have enthroned and is enjoying.

If Government deploys the same energy with which it insults people and organisations in their media to providing good governance to the people of Imo state, perhaps, there will not be any reason for us to be here on this deliverance mission. The people of the state would surely have been better but the contrary unfortunately is the case. All the noise may be directed at covering their ineffectiveness and sins against the people and workers in the state. The guilty are always afraid and would always resort to noise to obfuscate and confuse the debate. The earlier it deals with the aberrations and detoxifies the civic space the better so that civic engagement will flow seamlessly.

We therefore advise the government to focus more on serving the people rather than deploying the odious and insensate one in the Ministry of information to unleash insult on its workers and peoples. This is not helpful at all. There are still many good and reasonable men in Imo state which should take the lead in handling sensitive matters like this and not those who behaves like pigs.

We are ready to continue the dialogue that was aborted midway by the government to resolve the issues as it concerns workers in the state. The only path to handling the issue is clear to the government and the choice is theirs. We have a properly negotiated agreement with the Government which we grudgingly accepted with all its weaknesses but was called off at the point of signing by government. Imo state Government knows this. It is their call!

Comrade Anukwuorji Nduka Peter

State Secretary Imo State