Baring recent changes in the calendar of Nigeria’s major political events, May, 29 had remained remarkable as the day Nigeria returned to the current uninterrupted democratic dispensation. Not only is it celebrated as democracy day, that day is recognized by our laws for the coming into being of newly elected governments.
On that day, both the newly elected president and governors are sworn-in for a four year term. So the day has come to represent so many things for so many people. This year, the situation is not going to be different. With a few days to that date, many Nigerians are anxiously looking up with much enthusiasm and renewed hope.
Perhaps, one state that is anxiously looking up to that date is Imo. It may not be standing alone in this renewed hope as other states where there was a change of baton following the last elections must have voted the way they did because they yearned for new ideas, new ways of doing things and substantial improvement in the wellbeing of their people.
That is the exact situation in Imo. And anybody conversant with its politics in the last eight years; will attest to the monumental challenges ahead of the incoming government of the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
Ihedioha is taking over from the controversial outgoing governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha. Okorocha came into power on popular mandate given that he defeated an incumbent governor, Ikedi Ohakim of the PDP. Given the way he was perceived prior to his coming into power, many had hoped that he would make the difference by aligning himself on the side of the people. The expectation was that he would conduct the business of statecraft in a manner that promotes the greatest good of the greatest number of people. But that optimism was to give way to despair, despondency and failed expectations.
Soon after, he began to systematically squander that goodwill by initiating many anti-people and unpopular policies. He found it difficult to work with the mainstream people and was in the habit of accusing notable leaders of wanting to share government money for their personal use. With that kind of mindset or contrivance, he succeeded in scarring away and driving out quality and experienced indigenes whose services were direly needed to accelerate the pace of development.
Having succeeded in this, he had a field day running the business of government at his whims and caprices. He knew everything and never listened to genuine advice. It became a government of his family members by his family members and for his family members. The matter was such bad that even the national chairman of his party; the APC, Chief Adams Oshiomhole in one of their campaigns in Owerri, had to lambast him for running government as his family business.
If his party could come public to dress him in such robes in public, it remains to be conjectured what the people of the state would have passed through in his hands these past years. Of course, this disposition took a toll on the entire fabric and foundation of governance in the state. For a man, who publicly boasted that he has scant regard for due process, the negative effects of that mindset in the running of government business is best imagined.
That is the background in which Ihedioha is taking up the mantle of leadership of the state. His election has re-awakened new hopes, new expectations. Imo people are anxiously awaiting the restoration of sanity in the conduct of government business, they are yearning for regular payment of workers’ salaries and allowances; they are expecting quick action in the payment of the backlog of pension arrears mounting into billions of Naira and regular payment of their monthly pensions. They are also awaiting the return of the construction and delivery of quality infrastructure, quality public goods and services. It is no doubt, a mountain of expectations
In the same vein, workers are hoping to have the illegal slashing of their salaries restored and regular salaries paid. They also yearn for the lost glory of the civil service, due process and order restored to the entire gamut of statecraft. They want a government with human face and not one that revels in building houses that do not contribute to wealth creation and employment generation but only end up swelling the pockets of unknown contractors. They want a government that places the people first, a government that has regard for the constituents. Above all, they yearn for an all inclusive and quality government. They want Imo to regain its position within the nation’s educational matrix. The expectations are very high and the way the incoming governor confronts them will go at length to reassure the people of the state that they made a good choice in voting the new government to power. Happily, Ihedioha is not new to these challenges. In fact, they form the major thrust of his campaign manifesto.
He had promised during the campaigns that he would reinvigorate and reposition the Public service as a vehicle for efficient delivery of public goods and services; restore the autonomy of the local government and judiciary as well as the principles of separation of power, checks and balances. He also promised to restore due process, openness, transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business.
He exactly knows what the problems are and since the diagnosis of an ailment is said to be half way to its cure, there is great expectation that a new dawn is about to be ushered in into the state come May, 29. He has shown this disposition in running an all inclusive and open government in the manner he composed his transition technical committee as well as the swearing-in and handover committee. The committees stand out as an assemblage of the best brains which Imo is bountifully endowed. That is the way to go.
Ihedioha is not a miracle worker; neither does he claim to be one. Imo people are also not hoping for miracles anyway. They are aware that the challenges are daunting and will take considerable time for the systemic decay to be cleared. What they desire is honesty, integrity, sincerity of purpose and openness in the running of the affairs of the government. Thus, the new government must open up effective communication channels and interface with the people in the running of the affairs of the government to command their confidence and continued support
Ihedioha must parley with the workers and pensioners and make them know the exact state of finances and how he intends to deploy them to meet the needs in their order of priority. He should not only be open but must be seen to be so. In this wise, he will be endearing himself to the hearts of the people if he begins to pay workers their salaries and allowances regularly and pensioners their regular allowances.
It may not be possible to dabble into the offsetting of the billions of Naira of outstanding pensions now but suitable formula for the settlement should be worked out on terms that are mutually agreed between the government and the pensioners. Ihedioha had already given his words on these during his campaigns. All that is required is for him to give quick effect to them. He had also noted in several occasions that though the challenges are daunting, they are by no means insurmountable. He is not going to give excuses and will not be discouraged by the challenges.
Jideofor writes from Ideato.