Imo State, the eastern enclave, where raw talent, natural resources, development potential, and cultural aesthetics, all coalesce into a formidable entity, was in the news recently following the outcome of the 2019 gubernatorial elections. This is because Imo is one of the few states where the ruling party, APC was defeated by the major opposition party, the PDP. The victory led to the emergence of Chukwuemeka Ihediohanma, popularly known as Emeka Ihedioha, a onetime deputy speaker of the Federal House of Representatives. His victory at the polls is significant because it is the first time an Mbaise indigene will serve Imo State in the capacity of an executive governor since the state was created in 1976.
This is in spite of all the grandeur, wit, debonair, political sophistication and self-assertiveness of the Mbaise man. It is within this kind of praxis that the victory of the governor-elect must be understood. Following Ihedioha’s victory at the polls, Imolites have been celebrating, which signifies a relief from the tedium of their past political experience. However, beyond the flora and fauna of victory, beyond all the gymnastics of celebrations, there lies ahead huge responsibility before the governor-elect which, in the main, provides the animating impulse for this piece.
Some people are of the view that Imo State has not been lucky with good leadership. Besides the late Sam Mbakwe, no governor in the state has touched the lives of people or left a lasting legacy in the state. Imo state still bleeds from acute underdevelopment, searing hardship occasioned by lack of jobs, unpaid salary arrears for serving civil servants and pensioners, decayed infrastructure and an abysmal collapse of security structures in the state. Given the above scenario, it is a welcome development that a new man will be in charge from May 29th and this comes with a lot of expectations from the people.
It is a good thing that the governor-elect has hit the ground running by immediately constituting the Transition Technical Committee and sub-committees. The committees have a spread of eminent Imolites qualified to proffer solutions to the numerous challenges that beset the state of infinite possibilities. In fact, one can glean the liberal heart of the governor-elect by the appointments of some of the members of the committee who are members of other political parties. To this kind of political maturity, I say kudos to the governor-elect. I am an Mbaise man just like the governor, but I decide to cling on to the weapon of truth which, I am sure will be in short supply around him in this period.
A critical look at the committees and sub-committees shows the numbers are bloated with too many people which constitute a needless crowd. Also, there are some old hands in the committees who have no business there. These are people who have been part of the old establishment for many years without any appreciable contributions to the development of the state. For them to become members of a transition committee of a new government portends an ominous atmosphere for the new government. Having won the elections, it is almost certain that apologists, political jobbers, many sycophants and those motivated by the mirage of crass materialism will queue up at the doorstep of the governor-elect for accruing crumbs from the master’s table. This is expected in a country like Nigeria where political ideology is totally lacking and this constitutes a big challenge for the governor-elect.
Given the experiences of Imolites in the past, one can say that they are a wounded people. The pain in their hearts is palpable and visible even to the visually impaired. Therefore, the first challenge that confronts the governor-elect is to embark on a healing crusade, to restore hope to the millions of Imolites who have lost hope in their state. This should be done without bias for party affiliations or consideration for a place of origin. It is the primary duty of the governor-elect to unite all Imolites, consider everyone as important as the next person, and treat every group with the utmost respect. In this way, it will become clear to Imolites that the new government is poised to run an all-inclusive government and they will inevitably give their support even from the grassroots.
The governor-elect has a huge responsibility in choosing his cabinet members and those who will work with him. No matter how intelligent a leader is, no matter the leader’s bright ideas, if he/she does not have the right people to implement and interpret these ideas, the leader will fail woefully. It is therefore important that the governor-elect appoints qualified persons into various positions in his cabinet.
The appointment of officers is always the greatest challenge of a political leader because the success or otherwise of his administration rests on his officers. Of course, the governor-elect is going to be under immense pressure from various quarters to appoint one person or another, this is the banana peel. Mr. governor-elect should be mindful not to use appointments as a way to compensate incompetent people who have been loyal to him, rehashing in a new key the stale melody of political patronage. The governor-elect should not indulge in the mindless act of recycling old hands who have lived their lives within the corridors of government. The emergence of the governor-elect is a new beginning in Imo, therefore he must ensure he makes it a new beginning in his appointments.
It is clear to mortar and pestle that education is in dire need of renewal in Imo State.
The governor-elect should take a trip around all the primary schools and secondary schools in Imo state. I am sure the sight will violate his emotions. I am talking about remote parts of Imo state, not just Owerri, the capital. The buildings of most of the schools have collapsed and the students and pupils have their classes under the trees or in the open field. If this assignment is delegated and anyone returns with any report which contradicts my position, then it will equate to a composite falsehood from the pit of hellfire and a deliberate act of deception. The schools in Imo state are crying in disrepair, almost all of them don’t have toilets and the students and pupils are forced to answer the call of nature in the bush.
The governor-elect should visit Imo State University too and take a trip around the campus. The institution is a caricature of an Ivory Tower, not fit for serious research or academic pursuit. Also, there is the uncompleted Imo State University of Science and Technology in Ogbor Uvuru originally earmarked by the Sam Mbakwe administration.
However, almost 40 years now, the campus is still a job in progress. The new governor will do well to complete this university and let academic work commence there immediately. The people of Imo voted for a new government for a reason and they are waiting patiently, expecting eagerly to see success in a new beginning.
Dr. Adiele writes from Lagos via [email protected]