THE people of Imo state last Saturday overwhelmingly elected former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha from Aboh Mbaise to be their Governor for the next four years, starting from May 29. Ihedioha’s victory did not surprise many who knew the former Rep as an articulate, meticulous fellow. He exhibited this much when he chaired the House 1999 Constitution Review Committee between 2012 and 2013 inaugurated by the 7th House. His committee visited all the states of the federation and collated views which formed the critical terms of reference for convoking the Jonathan administrations-organized National Constitutional Conference of 2014.
That the 2014 document has been receiving rave reviews for its all-embracing contents owes much to the dexterity and forensic detailing of the nagging points and craw-craw areas in our national polity which its precursor—the Ihedioha-led constitution Review Committee articulated earlier. Therefore, Ihedioha’s victory during the elections ought to herald the much needed paradigm shift in the governance of Imo state.
He has been in the power corridors since 1999, long before his predecessor registered in the fourth Republic political scene. He understands more than Okorocha the intricacies and know-how of political economy and the requisite governance template for a small but resources-rich state like Imo. He is educated and a successful corporate man and community leader. This piece is not an advertorial. But a description of Ihedioha persona is essential for the business and political community to know that the choice of Ihedioha as Imo governor bodes well for the state, if the man is allowed to implement a development-driven template without petty distractions from loser politicians and other turncoats in the state who still see leadership as a platform for hedonistic showiness and primitive aggrandizement. Imo people do not need such elements at moments like this in Nigeria today .
The problems of Imo state are few but fundamentally tasking because no concerted efforts at inaugurating a sustainable developmental template in such a manner that the largely rural Imo people can develop their innate self-actualizing potentials has been put in place.
First fourth Republic Executive Governor, Achike Udenwa was like a fly-by administrator who thought that beautification of streets and regular attendance at Council of states meetings at Abuja are all that governance is all about. Ikedi Ohakim, his successor, another corporate man did his beat also. But his tenure was cut short by crooked electoral manipulations such that his developmental blue-prints could not crystallize beyond market/traders’ canopies and flogging of church priests before Okorocha waltzed in with his bravura popularity and area-boys cultism. The discerning spirit to identify and constellate the fundamental processes for Imo people was lost to him, Okorocha.Erection of beautiful and eye-catching secretariats and complexes plus one less than 5-km fly-over, complemented somehow by staccato pulling down of community markets and erection of N500m carved monuments of his imaginary icons are not all that the stuff of superlative achievement. Nor can we say that a free education of up to University level marked by unpaid salary bill to teachers, judges, civil servants, pensioners and contractors is the stuff of quality social service. No.
For a start,Ihedioha must approach governance in Imo with a future-view. Imo is backward in terms of living index of the people. The number of industries and employment-generating enterprises are very few for its population, especially for fresh graduates—often tempted to migrate to Lagos where the green pastures are no longer in existence, choked by Nigeria’s tough business climate and ethic xenophobia against the Igbo all over Nigeria these days. Ihedioha should people his cabinet not necessarily with fellow politicians as “political compensation” or as “government of unity”, whatever that means. He should look out for tested and result-achieving young professionals to fill the ministries as Commissioners. Journalists are current and know so much about modern development patterns. He should look out for some of them.
To develop Imo in a sustainable manner, she needs beyond monthly allocations from Abuja. Massive private sector investments are most critical. But most Igbos invest outside homeland, and that is the tragedy of our time.Ihedioha could attempt to reverse this by embarking on ecohomic diplomacy to negotiate investment deals with Igbos in the diaspora in Nigeria and abroad. Government could encourage them by provision of land to set up businesses and needed amenities with tax holidays.Government can also be joint partners in such businesses on behalf of the people. This is the method China and other MINT 20 countries adopted to build home-grown industrial clusters in their remote regions. This resulted in these newly developed economies notching up fabulous IGRs, fat external reserves and terrifying aid packages for most African countries.
It has become fashionable (and it is working) for state managers in developing economies to construct enterprise-enhancing policies, initiate or inaugurate upscale employment generating mega projects to lure in private capital while gradually relinquishing ownership and management to the private sector, backing them with appropriate regulatory environment. It is not late for Ihedioha to try this formula without necessarily worrying about whether he would serve through his eight years tenure to see to its completion. This could at least mark the start of a long journey to revive job creating enterprises in Imo state than for the state perennially being in the mode of a civil service enclave it has been noted for quite a long time now.
Another area Ihedioha would need to pay attention to is Imo’s fabulous oil and gas reserves which many governments in the state have failed to stream in investments for the benefits of their people. It is a bit self –deprecating and an assault on corporate interests of Imo people to hear that an Alhaji from far-flung North will soon open a refinery plant somewhere in Ohaji Egbema oil area and would be refining crude oil which the firm drills from Ohaji Egbema fields. Then you ask yourself why Igbo leaders make so much fuss about marginalization and resource control.Lagos state which has been smuggled into the list of oil producing when it has only discovered just small quantity has gone beyong expecting derivation pittance and now has a well functioning mineral resources Ministry which is nurturing various deals with sundry energy firms, home and abroad to help her exploit the little that been discovered in the state—such that no every accruing revenue runs into the extravagant and corrupt Central Government purse.
Why have successive Imo governments chosen to become the weeping Tom of Nigeria’s aberrant exclusive clauses and monopoly in the oil and gas sector, whereas most states have taken a short-cut to beat this by partnering with private firms to cut their slice of Nigeria’s ever expanding and always profitable oil and gas sector. Is it too hard for Ihedioha to front one energy firms using a local player to purchase wells and fields for Imo people or drill the ones or drill the ones we have or exploit our huge gas reserves and wire the rural communities with industrial and cooking gas for homes and artisans, using the PPP model of development.
Imo people need large scale corporate farmers to make agro business attractive to teeming young school leavers. Ihedioha need to make Imo people feel the impact of NDDC and the Amnestry programs of the Federal Government. It is not when the boys in Ohaji Egbema and Naze Owerri got militarized that we begin to lament that all this while the GF-funded Amnesty programs and NNDC has been shortchanging Imo oil producing areas.
Nwokoro writes from Lagos