The Imo formula

Gov. Okorocha devises an ingenious means of surmounting economic woes

In response to the challenges facing the three tiers of government, Gov Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has announced plans to cut down the number of working days per week. The governor said it had become imperative to find an unorthodox means of confronting the huge problem as all other means have failed to restore health to the state’s ailing economy.

Almost all the 36 states of the federation have been hard hit by the nation’s dwindling economic fortunes. Twenty- seven of the states are practically insolvent, unable to meet their basic responsibilities – to workers, institutions  and the people. Twice, the Federal Government has had to give bailouts to enable states pay their workers’ salaries and streamline their finances. This has driven home the point made by economists that relying on a wasting asset like oil for more than 80% of our foreign exchange earnings is dangerous to the nation’s economy. Yet, successive governments at all levels have consistently paid lip service to diversification of the sources of income.

Therefore, many states have nearly collapsed owing as much as six months salaries to their workers and unable to embark on new projects. This is reflective of the lazy approach to governance adopted by present and previous governments. The states have been satisfied with going to Abuja with the begging bowls every month. All that public officials are concerned about is sharing, not baking the national cake. Now that what is available for sharing is not enough, many of the governors are still slow in responding to the reality. This is why we commend the Imo State governor for thinking out of the box. He has decided to free workers for two of the working days to enable them augment whatever they get from the shrunk state coffers.

This approach will solve two problems.  One, for doing less, they will be paid less, thus freeing resources for other purposes. Two, Nigeria is seen mainly as a consuming country, this Imo formula will boost production in the state if well executed. We commend the measure to other states, in realisation that most of the states’ public services are over-bloated. Some can be more effective with less than half of their current size, but, since downsizing would be too harsh a measure to adopt now, cutting down on the working days and the pay packets could be a more realistic option.

Gov. Okorocha should do more by encouraging the workers to go into farming. This might involve making available to them credit facilities and organising them into cooperatives. Backed by the right machinery and extension services, the result could return the state to buoyancy and the workers to prosperity. In the first republic, states in the Eastern Region were sustained by agricultural products, with palm produce being the mainstay of the economy. It is time to replicate that feat.

We call on labour to support the Okorocha initiative. Nigeria is in an emergency and all hands must be on deck to get her out of the woods. It is not a mark of honour or chivalry for the labour movement to oppose every measure being adopted to tackle this hydra-headed problem without suggesting alternatives. We also commend the measure to other states since the days of free money dispensed from the federation account appear gone. There is no state in Nigeria that cannot survive on agriculture. The Northern states that survived on groundnut and cotton in the first republic could revive their economy by going into massive cultivation of the same products, adding rice and wheat, among others.

In the West, the cocoa and kolanut that served as the mainstay of the economy before the oil boom have long disappeared. It is time to return to those days. A restructuring of the national fiscal architecture is inevitable. This will enable the federating units compete positively, thus promoting national development.

Gov. Okorocha has blazed the trail; it is incumbent on others to also think out of the box.

Culled Editorial, The Nation

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