By Hon. Victor Afam Ogene
When the Imo state electorate chose the Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as their next governor, at the last election, it was a bold statement anchored on an informed judgement. Their action was a clear message that “leadership is a serious business that is sustained by trust and evaluated by its level of responsibility and responsiveness.”
That apparently was the verdict that ensured that the people openly rejected Uche Nwosu, the son in-law of the outgoing governor, Rochas Okorocha, who he had presented as his preferred candidate, on account of the perceived recklessness of the administration and its apparent disconnect from the people.
The election presented the needed platform for self examination in retrospect, for the people of the state, over the mandate they had given to the governor in the past. And in what could be likened to a referendum, they spoke in unison about the path they desire the state to travel, going forward, especially as they were obviously dissatisfied with how the affairs of the state was managed by Governor Okorocha, in the past eight years.
And their collective resolve was a nod for a new order. New vision. New direction, inspired by the belief that Imo state deserves better. And that with a more responsible leadership that would make the interest and wellbeing of the people the overriding priority of government, Imo would, in no distant time, regain its pride of place in the nation.
Urbane, savvy, articulate and astute, Ihedioha presents a fresh hope for this collective desire for fresh reinvention, reinvigoration and re-engineering of the creative energy of the state that would engender development, prosperity and progress in the state.
The choice of Ihedioha, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), therefore, was a consensus endorsement for quality leadership, doggedness, loyalty, creativity, and perseverance. It was a vote for a man whose aspiration came with years of strategic networking and preparedness for leadership. And given his well-known antecedent as a trust bearer, Ihedioha’s fidelity to genuinely be of service to ndi Imo cannot be of any doubt.
The nod given to Ihedioha to pilot the affairs of the state, however, didn’t come on a platter. He worked hard and triumphed over 60 formidable opponents from other political parties and persuasions, which included a former governor, former ranking senators, boardroom titans, businessmen and even the clergy.
Many commentators have, therefore, posited that all eyes would be on Ihedioha and Imo state, especially as the pre election controversies that engulfed the state and the controversial public image of his predecessor have combined to turn Imo into a state of interest in national political discourse.
Notedly, Ihedioha is not unaware of this unpleasant narrative. He understands, through his training and practice as a veteran journalist, frontline legislator and former Deputy Speaker, House of the Representatives, that this mandate comes with big responsibilities and very high expectations.
Speaking recently during the inauguration of his transition committee, he promised to turn what he called the bad news of the state to a good story. Adding that he would be leveraging the experiences of many professionals who were indigenes of the state to change the “bad news of the state.”
In doing that he assured that his administration would consult widely and work as a team as he disclosed that in the course of the campaign, “we promised good governance while stimulating development in all sectors and across all the zones of our dear state.”
And because of the urgency to turn around the fortunes of the state, the passion, apprehension and interest of many Imo indigenes to see that the pitfalls of the past were avoided, have become very palpable.
I think I am in agreement with one of such Imo sons, Obi Nwakanma, who had proposed in an open letter to Ihedioha thus: “I think that irrespective of what your technical committee provides for you, you already have some distinguished templates from which to design your programs. I think you must borrow and hybridize five playbooks – Azikiwe’s “Eastern Nigerian Economic Development and Reconstruction plan, 1954-1964” which was fully implemented by Dr. Okpara, for its visionary impetus, the Ojukwu War Action plan authored by Dr. Pius Okigbo, which turned the East into a vast workshop, the Ukpabi Asika postwar Reconstruction program, with its bold economic and social initiatives, and the Imo state Economic Development plan of the Mbakwe administration. These plans, with a few contemporary tweaks, are still profoundly brilliant, far-reaching and relevant.”
It is imperative to note that any meaningful future programmes and projections could benefit from the values and wisdoms of history, as Nwakanma, has suggested. The late Dr. Sam Mbakwe, for instance, remains a positive reference point in administrative acumen, leadership and development foresight, in the recent history of Imo state.
In fact, it was documented that “At creation in 1976, Imo was completely bare and bereft of infrastructure, on account of the 1967 – 1970 Civil War, which affected most communities in the old Eastern Region. But with Mbakwe’s election in 1979, in a period of four years, the state had outpaced even the older counterparts, including those that did not witness the war in terms of development. That deployment of energy and exhibition of committed leadership in piloting the affairs of the state by Mbakwe, is still celebrated by the people, years after his demise. That has also formed the benchmark for assessing successive administrations in the state.”
Beyond fashioning a suitable economic template that take Imo state out of the woods, this is the time, Your Excellency, to deploy your leadership skills and talent to unite, mobilize and galvanize the good people of Imo state for the good of the state.
It is already a consensus among the people that Imo needs healing. There is an urgent need to rebuild trust among the people, for them to have faith in your leadership. This trust building must begin with consultations and listening to the people in order to appreciate their unique challenges, wishes and aspirations which will in turn guide the policy thrust of your government.
By carrying the people along, giving them sense of belonging and working for their common good, you will be strengthening their belief in democracy and its uplifting principles that make the people the bedrock of democratic practice.
Let fairness, justice and equity shape your leadership ethos. But I don’t have any iota of doubt that you will make your people proud, as your time in the leadership of the House of Representatives have sufficiently prepared you for the task ahead, the same way it prepared your good friend, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, former Speaker of the House, in taking Sokoto state to a path of sustainable development.
So, my dear brother, boss and former colleague, I urge you to roll up your sleeve, and get to work, because the task ahead, going forward, calls for total commitment, focus, courage and dynamism, that will have no room for distractions that may arise from avoidable bickering, rancour and other inanities of politics.
Widely hailed as Igwe during his time as deputy speaker, Ihedioha is instructively, not associated with the traditional red cap which defines royalty; instead, he adorns the Green cap, which symbolises vegetation and regeneration.
Therefore, as he mounts the saddle on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 as Governor – with his traditional green cap perched on his head – Imolites can be rest assured that the urgent task of Rebuilding Imo has started in earnest!
Hon. Ogene, a former Editor of The Source, was Deputy Chairman, Media & Public Affairs committee, House of Representatives, Abuja, 2011-2015.