DISAMBIGUATING the above title, it simply means the secrets of running a government. You can also interpret it to mean the little things that matter the most in the art of governance; the essential, basic ingredients.
Governance is an art of course as well as science and great leaders across history understand it is the small intangibles that add up to become the foundations for great monuments and beacons for lasting legacies. Paying attention to such fine details as the number of blocks to be derived from a bag of cement or the distribution of science teachers in secondary schools in the state; it is stuff like this that has marked Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State out as a leader to watch. Let us take inventory of some of these little things that matter so much:
Weekly Executive Council (EXCO) meetings: Since inauguration in May 29, 2019, hardly has the Governor Emeka Ihedioha administration in Imo State missed an Exco meeting. In the first place, appointments were made rapidly and some of the best minds were brought on board to begin the Imo rebuild process immediately.
These early appointments include the Honorable Attorney General (HAG) and Commissioner for Justice. Most of the governor’s aides are technocrats in various fields of endeavor. They were carefully chosen and many of them personally tapped from top jobs both at home and abroad. It was deliberate that the Imo HAG was among the first appointees of Governor Ihedioha. In fact a special waiver was sought and received from the Imo House of Assembly in order to make this upfront appointment of a commissioner.
Rule of law and separation of powers: The reason was that Governor Ihedioha wanted every action of his administration to be undergirded by rule of law from the outset. He also emphasised reforms in the administration of justice in Imo State. Debates were robust in the Exco each week as the administration learned the ropes in the early days. But the refrain that rang through each week were: there must be rule of law; there must be separation of powers and respect for all tiers of the government; I will lead a government that is transparent and works for the people. And true to his word, Governor Ihedioha would always sound out the HAG on every major decision of this administration till date. He would take the floor and proffer legal opinion.
A well streamlined cabinet: When the full complement of the cabinet was brought on board, the commissioners were among the best as well. Those who are not well-known technocrats were experienced and tested administrators and politicians. For instance, the likes of Prof. Uche Uwaleke, (Commissioner, Finance); Prof. Viola Onwuliri, (Comm. For Education); Reginald Ihebuzor (Comm. for Budget and Planning) and Meekam Mgbemwelu (Comm. For Technology Development) have built solid reputation as professionals in their right than they are politicians.
And there are Chuma Nnaji (Comm. for Public Utilities); Vin Udokwu (Comm for Health) and Ben Ekwueme, old reliables who are sure-footed and of rich pedigree. Notice also such new portfolios like Technology Development; Gender and Vulnerable Groups Affair; Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture; and Commerce and Entrepreneurship.
These are not mere ephemeral tweaking of portfolios; each of these represents Governor Ihedioha’s new thinking, new direction and fresh insights as encapsulated in his inaugural speech. Remarkable also is the fact that Gov. Ihedioha significantly whittled down the size of his cabinet from 33 ministries set up by the former governor, Rochas Okorocha to 18 which is currently in operation.
Supporting systems and institutions: like rule of law, dusting up the Imo State Bureau for Public Procurement, Price and Intelligence (BPPPI) was paramount for the governor. The right fit was sought for the job, the legal framework was strengthened and adopting the right procurement template has been among the major markers of the Imo government today. Sports ministries have been found to be superfluous and unproductive. The appropriate law has been passed for the establishment of the Imo State Sports Commission (IMSC). A tested sports administrator has been appointed and he is revving up sports activities in Imo like a turbo-charged engine. The finance ministry has introduced a series of units that are bound to mark Imo out as applying best practice in its fiscal interpretation of its businesses.
For instance, Imo State budget is now accessible online which means that the state’s website is also up and running. An efficiency unit has been created as well as a debt management office. The state has signed up to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) which is the hallmark of transparency in governance. The Imo State Bureau of Statistics (SBS) has been enhanced and deepened with the right appointment so that it can generate reliable native and indigenous data for the state.
The Ease of Doing Business is probably Governor Ihedioha unmitigated passion. He wants Imo to be among the top-ten states in the country in a couple of years as a smart business environment. The Ease of Doing Business Unit has long been set up and some of the best minds have been deployed. They are driven to turn Imo to an investors’ haven.
Local governments in Imo have been enjoying ample autonomy. Though Interim Management Committees system were appointed last July, council elections have been fixed for December. The Imo State Independent Election Commission (ISIEC) has been activated to begin preparations for the polls. In the interim, the councils have been working in tandem with the State Executive Council to deliver some goods to the people in rural Imo. Proper LGA secretariat complexes are rising furiously in all the 27 LGAs of Imo; so are stadia.
Governor Ihedioha envisions the creation of proper work environment in the LGAs. He also envisages sports hubs and elevated community centres with the completion of the stadia. Recently, he inspected the projects in the 27 LGAs to ensure quality procurement practices had been adhered to. It is salutary to note that the projects are progressing speedily in most of the LGAs, with a sense of competition engendered among the chairmen. This is perhaps the best thing to happen to Imo State in a long while. Rural economy is being revved up in Imo LGAs once again. Compare these stadia and headquarter buildings to the huge chapels former governor, Rochas Okorocha built in the 27 LGAs of Imo State, (the sepulchres in the jungle), which is what they are. They have neither economic nor spiritual value at that; a colossal waste of state resources.
Roads reconstruction and rehabilitation projects have recently kicked off across the state. Fourteen major roads in the first instance; but not many would know that these roads passed through rigorous stages of procurement over a period of about five months. The EXCO debates were exhaustive with Governor Ihedioha insisting that reputable and tested contractors only were to be shortlisted. He was actually taken aback that Imo State could not afford big names like Julius Berger!
The same executive rigour applied to procuring the roads had been brought to bear in the procurement of the massive repairs at the Dan Anyiam and Grasshoppers Stadia. In a few months, Imo would boast of FIFA-rated showpiece stadium in Dan Anyiam. Careful preparation also marked the take off of the construction of four state-of-the-art technical and vocational training institutes. Finally, the pension reform instituted in Imo by Gov. Ihedioha must be the touchstone for imbuing quality thought and processes in the process of rebuilding a state.
In a couple of years when all these unfurl, the outcomes would show up Governor Ihedioha of Imo State as having in his back pocket, the arcana of statecraft.
Osuji writes from Owerri, Imo State