In the past ten months, pensioners in Imo State have protested five times. It means every other month, they flood the streets of Owerri to press for the payment of their pensions. In each of the outings, the response of the regime of Chief Hope Uzodinma has been the same: brutalize them and describe them as hired impostors. It was in the bid to levy untold violence on some protesters, this time poor widows engaged as road sweepers and left unpaid for a year, that the Punch Correspondent in Imo was attacked and pummeled by Uzodinma’s security operatives. His offence was that he wanted to report the protest.
So, three things have defined the condition of Imo pensioners under the Omuma-born chief. First, they are abandoned, rejected and left to starve to death. Second, they are described as fake, pretenders, imposters and they are attacked by a regime which falsely claims that they have been paid. Third, there is a deliberate, sustained effort to gag the press and ensure that the agonies and ordeals of these senior citizens who have expended their youth and intellect in the service of our State are never public knowledge.
And the meeting Uzodinma had two days ago with the Nigeria Union of Pensioners confirmed all fears that there is no plan to pay the pensioners in Imo State. It also shows that the plight of these old men and women is the least of the worries of the chaotic regime. It proves that Uzodinma is enjoying the pains of the aged retirees, and mocking them gives him additional satisfaction. As some would say, he is catching cruise with them! But this barbarity, sadism and stone-cold cruelty must stop!
In that meeting, after dodging the real issues, Uzodinma spent his entire lengthy speech mocking the dying pensioners. He was beating about the bush. He began by bitterly criticizing them for not joining him to fight his political foes. Continuing, he chided them for keeping silent while some perceived enemies keep blackmailing him. He ended by telling them never to expect pensions, since they could not recover the bailout fund from Rochas Okorocha, who, according to him, transferred the money to bureau de change. He was just talking without saying anything. Akuko mama Ngozi na ndi yard!
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However unfeeling, banal and jejune Uzodinma’s words to the union of pensioners might be, they have offered sufficient insight into his perception about governance. For him, you deserve to eat, or even to live, only if you could inherit his enemies and help him to fight them, and that a pension is a person’s sacred right means nothing to him.
He has weaponized the discharge of even the most statutory obligations of governance, and since the pensioners are classified as his enemies, hunger for Uzodinma is an instrument of warfare, too. And his agenda is to bruise their souls, break their spirits, scorn them publicly and make the end of their lives on earth a misery. Our senior citizens do not deserve these. They deserve better, and may the reign of tyranny be expunged from our land.
By Collins Opurozor