A journey always seems much easier following a man that knows the way. The man of ideas will always have the competitive edge. Ideas rule the world.
These were the thoughts that assailed my mind as I reviewed Governor Emeka Ihedioha’s tour of local governments to inspect works being undertaken by local government chairman. It struck me that Ihedioha would be a man of history, positive history.
Till date, any mention of Cross River State throws up the name, Donald Duke. This is the 12th year since he vacated office as the governor of the state after two terms. Yet, he is still remembered as though he were still there in office. The landmarks he left behind make him a man of history.
This very week, the current governor of the state, Prof Ben Ayade personally flagged off the dry-run for this year’s Calabar Carnival. It is one of the twin legacy projects of Duke. Right out of the blues, he instituted it and got it into the global tourism calendar and it remains a major Nigerian event more than a decade after his exit. That is the intangible legacy.
The other legacy of Duke is the Tinapa Resort and Free Trade Zone. It is a beauty to behold and a product of a sound mind meant to yield revenue to both operators and the government. The fact that the government of Nigeria has blocked this wonderful pointer to Nigeria’s desired future does not diminish the vision that inspired it or the master-craft that moulded it. Its continued official blockade simply amplifies the perception and reality of different levels of ‘Nigerianness’. Tell me that if this edifice were in Minna or Kano, the Federal Government will block it!
My main interest here though, is how this project was realized. In the last few months of Duke in office, he invited a number of editors to Calabar and showed us some of his projects, including Tinapa. I walked close to him and asked him how much the project cost and he said N50bn (a lot back in 2007). Then I asked him how much his government contributed to that. He said N5bn – just 10% of the project cost! He explained that this contribution was in the form of basic infrastructure – basically creating the water channel and the port, as well as access roads.
I marveled. Such smartness! There, he has a legacy that will stand for a very long time, and he didn’t bleed his state to realize that. He understood the concept of leverage and applied that. Finish!
Now, back to Imo State. Governor Ihedioha is showing smartness of another kind and the outcome will stamp his name in the annals of the state. A few months ago, he ordered the local government caretaker committee chairpersons to embark on at least two physical projects. He insisted that one of them must be a mini-stadium.
I don’t know who remembers any local government in the country doing anything with its funds apart from paying salaries, with huge backlogs owed. Out of the blues, Ihedioha ordered them to embark on physical projects, and three months later, he actually went inspecting.
The surprise was that all of these local government chairmen actually got started and by the time the governor came visiting, many had taken the building of brand new secretariat buildings to the decking level! The extant secretariat buildings had been built over 30 years ago and many of them are in poor state. Who believed that these LGs can, by themselves build befitting secretariats? They have also advanced work on the mini-stadia too. If these LG chairmen maintain the current pace of work, then these secretariats could be commissioned within one year.
Something struck me here. Anybody interested in how Nigeria is governed knows that state governments bully and gobble up much of the local government funds illegally. But Imo, right now seems to be bucking the trend. Otherwise, the governor wouldn’t have had the boldness to make this demand of the local government chairpersons. And if he was brazen enough to demand that, the local government heads would have looked him in the face and asked him where the funds for those were.
Now, see how it all kicks in and the picture it creates. Imo has 27 local government areas. If all of them complete two physical projects in a year, that would mean some 54 physical projects that Ihedioha will commission for them in a year. If he succeeds in getting them do this in three out of his four-year tenor, tell me if Ihedioha won’t be considered a super performer?
Add to this, the 380km of rural roads that he has flagged off across all 27 local government areas at a cost of N13bn, and it becomes clearer that Imo State is in for a wholesale change.
Of great interest to me is not just what Governor Ihedioha is doing, but how he does them. The road project is being executed under the World Bank’s Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) – meaning the deployment of low cost patient capital.
Then there is the N9.2bn erosion control project at Urualla, again with massive support from the World Bank’s cheap patient capital pool. Ihedioha contributed just N500m to this project and the rest of the funding came from the World Bank – over 18 times leverage!
A thinking head has certainly come to Douglas House!
Ojukwu-Enendu writes from Lagos