Barely eight months to the 2019 general elections, reminiscences of the 2011 and 2015 elections are gushing back in torrents. Then, as of now, the people were fed on cocktail of unrealistic promises. They were also confronted with an army of aspirants, each laying claim to a messianic mission to salvage Imo.
That was even when it was clear that most of those masquerading as governorship aspirants, would not, in normal circumstances, scale through the rigours of a transparent village chairmanship election. While they suffused the atmosphere with sugar-coated promises, it was difficult to distinguish the genuine contenders from mere pretenders.
And because the pretenders made the most noise, it was not easy for the people to detect and identify those with genuine agenda for the state. It was such state of confusion that Okorocha cashed in and swept the trusting Imo voters off their feet.
In the run-up to the 2019 polls, the clouds are, once again, gathering; the vultures are congregating; the clowns are back to the stage. Who will deliver Imo? Have the people learnt their lessons? These are the biggest questions of the day.
To say that Imo has not witnessed purposeful governance since the commencement of the current civilian dispensation, is perhaps, putting the matter mildly.
The truth, rather, is that the State, which the first civilian governor, late Sam Mbakwe, had hoisted on a very high pedestal, is currently, a shadow of itself. But at no other time, had it been subjected to a more piteous state, as it is, presently. That is why 2019, offers the electorate another chance to lift the state from its current state of disrepute to where it properly belongs.
However, in doing so, the voters must go for the real candidate for the job. As it is, there are about 30 guber aspirants in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), All Progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party (LP), and other political parties in the state. As the days roll by, more will spring up, while some will snake out.
But what bothers most is the package some of the aspirants are offering the people. The swelling number of aspirants, should, ordinarily, translate to the varying perspectives on how the state should be taken to the next level. But that has not been the case, quite painfully. Aside unfounded claims of being the best which many of the aspirants ascribe to themselves, they have not really come out with robust blueprint on how to reposition the state if given the opportunity.
For some even, what drives them to aspire for the high office, is the ridiculous calculation of coming from a zone that should produce the next governor. But strong as that may be, it can hardly be enough consideration for anyone angling to be the next governor of Imo.
It is, therefore, necessary to inform those angling for Douglas House as the seat of government is known, as well as the voters, that taking Imo out of its present state requires a candidate with deep intellectual and philosophical commitment to the challenges at hand. Such a person should also be able to develop a framework on how to achieve results.
This is where, Okechukwu Theodore Ezeh, an aspirant on the platform of APGA, makes huge sense. Aside the commitment and perseverance he has exhibited in going about the exercise since 2014, Ezeh has also come along with an uncommon portfolio that encapsulates his vision and strategies in rescuing the state. The roadmap for action, which he christened Imo Marshal Plan, (I MAP), gives insight into his thinking on strategies and targets in revamping the state.
An exciting feature of the I MAP is the broad vision of weaning the state from the present ugly tendency at depending on the monthly federal allocation as its major source of revenue. This will mark a sharp departure from the existing trend where the government depends, wholly, on the monthly handout from Abuja, hence not much has really worked in terms of physical and infrastructure development in the state.
The I MAP agenda in reinventing the state, aims at sincere and committed return to agriculture, specifically palm oil, as key revenue earner for the government, after three years in office. Another outstanding agenda of I MAP is employment creation. The document acknowledges unemployment as a serious plague confronting the state. It has, thus, articulated strong strategies to confront the monster.
For instance, apart from the thousands of jobs it is projecting from the palm revolution, the document boasts of another wonderful job creation concept tagged State Owned Enterprises ( SOE).
SOE are state established companies that would be run as organized private ventures. This strategy would in turn, promote efficiency, productivity and competitiveness among the establishments. This way, they would generate enough funds to pay salaries and make returns to government. The estimation is that the SOE initiative would create a minimum of 50,000 direct and indirect jobs when it comes on stream.
In projecting agriculture as the economic mainstay of his administration, analyst with insight on history, see Ezeh, looking towards the glorious era of Michael Iheonukara (M.I) Okpara of the defunct Eastern Region. At Independence in 1960, Eastern Nigeria, did not attract world attention in terms of development.
The focus was on Lagos, the then federal capital and the Western Region. But by 1966, when the then civilian government had been forced out of office on account of the January 15, 1966 military coup, Eastern Nigeria, had captured global attention as the fourth fastest growing economy in Africa and entire British Common-wealth. That remains a record no Nigerian government, has matched till date.
Those who followed the trend attributed the feat to Okpara’s purposeful agriculture revolution. Mbakwe toed the same line between 1979 and 1983 (Second Republic), when he was the governor of the old Imo. That accounted for the phenomenal surge the state recorded in physical and infrastructure, as well as general living standard of the people. This is the vision that Ezeh has in his I MAP initiative, which many suggest, deserves a trial.
Ogbuehi writes from Owerri