Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, has acknowledged that he was careless during the 2015 election when he contested same position. The former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives who spoke with GILBERT EKEZIE said he has corrected those mistakes and is now fully prepared to win the seat.
You contested in 2015 and lost, now you are in the race again, what do you have to offer the people of Imo State?
I am in the race to rebuild Imo State and make it a better place to be. Among the comity of states in Nigeria, Imo State has lately become a laughing stock. The once thriving economy and pearl of South East currently lacks purposeful leadership and is in ruins. The last seven years of APC maladministration characterized by flagrant disregard to principles of rule of law and good governance has completely destroyed the foundations laid by our founding fathers, disarticulated a thriving economy, eroded the significance of our once vibrant civil service, lowered the educational standards, chased away investors through policy inconsistencies, confiscated our lands, expropriated and misappropriated our common wealth and systematically impoverished and reduced our collective esteem as a people. Also our dear state is bedevilled with a rapid decay of public infrastructure, crippling debt burden of over N100 billion up from N26 billion in 2011 without any meaningful infrastructure to show for it, but instead, we have mounting salary and pension arrears, humongous unemployment and underemployment, despite the fact that between May 2011 and December 2017, Imo State government received over half a trillion naira from the federation account, excluding the bailout fund of N63.91 billion, Paris refund of N32.02 billion, over N50 billion internally generated revenue, ecological funds running into several billions of naira, the balance of N13.5 billion on the state bond taken by the previous administration, the N3.3billion lease of Adapalm and proceeds from royalties etc.
In addition, from May 2011 to December 2017, local governments in Imo State received N276.6 billion from the federation account, yet there was no functional and democratically elected Local Government System from May 2011 till August 2018. Our human capital development has been severally stunted in the last seven years. It is shocking to note that Imo State University, formerly ranked first amongst state owned universities in Nigeria and 9th in overall country ranking by 2005 is currently ranked 16th and 58th respectively by the 2018 NUC ranking and has lost its accreditation in medicine and allied subjects. The health sector in a state of complete decay as evidenced by the fact that there is presently only one General Hospital in the entire State, which is located at Umuguma. These show that Imo citizens and residents have groaned in pains for too long.
What do you think is the way out?
There is need to take back our state and rebuild it through purposeful leadership. Cleanse the pains of yesterday and restore the pride and dignity of our people. United in patriotism, we can still build a better Imo State that is anchored on transparency, fairness, equity, good governance, sincerity of purpose and dedication. My vision for Imo is to a South east Nigeria that will become one of the top three most developed state economies in Nigeria by year 2025 and ranked within Africa’s top 10 economies by year 2030 while my mission is to rebuild, reposition, and transform Imo into a modern ecosystem for education, agriculture, industry, tourism, culture, sports, entertainment, human capital development, science and technology. I am confident that victory is mine and when that happens, Imo people will begin to rejoice because I will make them appreciate the relevance of good governance. I will al o make them to understand that governance should be a collective responsibility where people will have the opportunity to contribute their quota and at the same time reap the desired dividends of democracy.
You said Imo State University, formerly ranked first amongst state owned universities in Nigeria and 9th in overall country ranking by 2005 is currently ranked 16th and 58th respectively by the 2018 NUC ranking and has lost its accreditation in medicine and allied subjects, what do you plan to do in that regard?
I will establish Imo State Education Trust Fund to promote free and qualitative education; I will massively retrain, re-orientate and motivate existing teachers, lecturers and recruit new ones, especially in the areas of science, technology and ensure adequate subvention to Imo State University.
In the area of health, you said the sector is in a state of complete decay and that there is presently only one General Hospital in the entire State, which is located at Umuguma, what do you plan to do, if elected?
If elected, I will strengthen the primary healthcare system as a solid foundation for implementation of primary, secondary and tertiary health care delivery. I will introduce free healthcare services for pregnant women, children under five years, senior citizens of 65 years and above based on the National Health Act and the National Health Insurance Scheme. I will also rehabilitate and reequip the Owerri Specialist Hospital and indeed all the General Hospitals in all the Local Government Areas, procure residency programmes in medical, Pharmaceutical and Medical Laboratory Technology at Imo State University. I also plan to promote Diaspora investment in healthcare through a Medical Village with basic infrastructure-building power, security, broadband etc.
Imo Transport Company (ITC) is one of the first state-owned Transport Companies in Nigeria and the pride of an average Imo person, but today, it is seen as the least in terms of services, quality and number of vehicles; do you have any plan to upgrade the company?
Obviously, it is in my programme to reorganize for greater efficiency, the Imo Transport Company (ITC) for effective intra-city, Municipal and Urban Mass Transit Services.
What plan do you have for agriculture, especially as the state-owned Adapalm is in a state of ineffective operation?
Well, I will simplify access to land for agro –allied purposes, resuscitate and revamp the Adapalm at Ohaji and Umuogu with higher yielding improved variety of palm seedlings and target the planting of 3,000,000 palms within four years across the state. I will also establish Agricities in the three senatorial zones of the state which shall provide seedlings, training, fertilizer and equipment for planting, harvesting, processing local distribution and export of agro products etc.
What would you point out you have done for Imo people to justify your interest to be governor?
I have done a lot. Under my watch as former Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, and as Chairman, House Committee on Transport and Chief Whip of House of Representatives, I attracted more federal presence to Imo State than any other person up till date. The Federal Government was building a jetty right here in Oguta, dualising Owerri -Elele Road and constructed Airport Road. The projects are there for people to see.
Could you tell us why you are so confident that you will be the next governor of Imo State?
Indications then showed that I won the 2015 governorship election. I believe that I won the highest numbers of votes in the last election, but there were errors. And I was also careless. But, as it is, I have corrected those mistakes I made then and I am sure of victory and will not give any room for any malpractices.
What advice do you have for Imo people?
Imo needs rebuilding to make it better than it is. The people should do everything possible to vote out every bad government and vote in a government they desire in 2015. They should also be faithful, work hard and be confident that Imo will bounce back if only they will use their voters’ card well. God is on the side of Imo people. He loves Imo and will forgive us our sins and liberate our people.