The famous novelist, John Munonye in his winning novel, The Oil Man of Obange, did posit thus: “let’s trace back and see where the rain started to beat us”. Munonye perhaps, in saying this, appreciated the fact that there can be no today or tomorrow without yesterday. It is yesterday which begets today and tomorrow.
I have chosen to start this piece this way in order to eliminate any ambiguity in comprehension. Imo, my dear state, has today become a topical issue in various fora. Some discuss her for the very bad reasons occasioned by the inglorious eight wasted years from May, 2011 to May, 2019, while others discuss her with renewed hope and assurance for a better Imo since the incumbent administration of Governor Emeka Ihedioha took over the State’s mantle of leadership on May 29, 2019.
The word “yesterday”, represents the Rochas Okorocha’s era as Governor of Imo State, May, 2011 to May, 2019. During this period, Imo was subsumed in all manner of theatrics. The State became the epicenter of comedy of sorts under the unfortunate leadership of a comedian as governor.
Governance was reduced to a huge joke. The gullible minded kept clapping for the comic utterances and actions of Okorocha, while he gleed at the stupidity of the masses. Those who should have called the emperor to order were either blackmailed and made to recoil like a snail which suddenly found splinters in its shell, or were made to capitulate to the whims of the loquacious Imo maximum ruler then, out of the dire need to maintain equilibrium with their “stomach infrastructural” needs.
Like late Emperor Nero of Rome, who was busy indulging in unnecessary merriment with his cohorts and never gave a hoot while Rome was in turmoil, Okorocha did same in Imo. He was more interested in the collective patrimony of Imo people, that is, their money.
The result of the eight wasted years of Okorocha’s administration was total collapse of due process in governance, alarming rate of financial malfeasance, infrastructural decay (not even a road was good when he left office), non-payment of pensioners, slashing of workers salary, brazen desecration of the traditional institution, legalizing and elevating touts as official enforcers of government policies.
Others include massive drop in Imo’s standard of education, disappearance of government properties, destruction of Imo’s cultural heritage and people’s source of livelihood, creation of hostile and unhealthy business climate, annihilation of local government administration, plunging Imo into humongous financial debt, amongst uncountable others.
Perhaps, apart from Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Okorocha was the worst thing to have happened to any State in Nigeria (Imo in this case). He ran Imo aground and shall for a long time, remain an indelible horror in the memory and minds of the people.
Today however, hope is being restored again. Just after six months in office, Governor Emeka Ihedioha has made Imo people to stop crying like people without hope. Despondency has taken flight out of Imo. The slogan now is “we have done this and that” and no longer “I will do this and that”.
As I write this piece, Ihedioha has awarded the reconstruction and rehabilitation of about 30 roads with 16 reputable construction firms all mobilized and on sites. Despite the huge deductions from Imo funds caused by Okorocha’s excessive borrowings, the incumbent governor has remained undaunted in his resolve to rebuild Imo.
The internally generated revenue of the State has tremendously improved from a little over 200 million as in June, 2019 to now above 800 million as at last month. This was possible due to Ihedioha’s financial prudence and the blocking of leakages in government finances.
No more arbitrary taxes and deductions. Workers are receiving 100% of their salaries. Pensioners are now enjoying the Ihedioha alert payment” regularly in the comforts of their homes.
Public water supply is gradually being restored in Imo again. Today, some parts of Ikenegbu Layout in Owerri and its environs, have again started enjoying public water supply. Throughout Okorocha’s tenure, there was nothing like Imo Water Corporation. He closed it down.
Electricity has also been restored to the State secretariat complex. For eight years under Okorocha, power supply was cut off and he never bothered. Even the Government House, where he lived and ruled Imo from, suffered similar fate, but he never cared. What a man!.
Ihedioha has reversed all these. There is now public power supply everywhere. Workers are most grateful to him for this. Before now, staying at the secretariat could cause unsolicited headache because of the quantum of noise emanating from the humming power generator sets of all types and sizes everywhere. The place was horrible and unconducive for work, but the workers persevered.
Gladly, Ihedioha has also revived the Imo Fire Service Agency with the provision of four brand new fire fighting trucks. As a form of encouragement, the federal government provided additional two trucks, making it six trucks in all. If not for the timely provision of these trucks and other equipment for the agency, perhaps the Ebere Links Petrol station along port Harcourt would have been a story being told today. “A stitch in time indeed, saves nine”.
In the educational sector, Ihedioha is recruiting 4000 teachers for the secondary schools in Imo. Before now, schools in Imo were mere shadows of themselves despite the much touted free education which Okorocha used to hoodwink the sympathy of the poor for political expendiency. The same recruitment is simultaneously going on for primary schools as well. The State owned tertiary institutions are not left out. The Imo State University, Owerri, Imo Polytechnic, Umuagwo and Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Orlu, are all in the development radar of Ihedioha. Already, he has set up visitation panels for these institutions made up of eminent academics and administrators to appraise their high and low points. They are to advise the Governor on the way forward or any positive reform expected to be injected into the institutions in order to restore their lost glory.
On sports, Ihedioha is carrying out massive and eye-popping renovation works at Dan Anyiam Stadium, Grasshoppers International Handball Stadium and Old Stadium at Tetlow Road, Owerri. Okorocha callously allowed these stadia to rot away because of his glaring hatred for sports.
Today, the situation is being reversed. After a visit to these stadia on inspection and filled with awe about the quality and standard of work being done on them, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare could not help exclaim that “indeed, Imo is blessed with a 21st century Governor, whose initiative and passion for sports development is awesome”.
The transformation Governor Ihedioha is doing in the 27 Local Government Councils in Imo is a story for another piece. The scenario seems incredible and magical, but real.
Perhaps, one of the very significant strides of the Governor is the restoration of the annual Ahiajoku Lecture instituted 40 years ago by the legendry first civilian Governor of Old Imo State, Dee Sam Mbakwe, Ph.D, of blessed memory. Okorocha banned the celebration of this annual intellectual fiesta which illuminates the Igbos socio-cultural heritage. He enviously branded it a pagan activity just because it wasn’t his initiative. Imo people had recoiled and expressed shock at Okorocha’s harsh decision. They imagined how “a kettle could be calling pot black”. What an irony! Little wonder former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani Kayode (FFK) at the Ahiajoku colloquium, described Okorocha as “ an intellectual barbarian who ruled Igbo for eight wasted years”.
Happily, Governor Ihedioha in his Solomon’s wisdom, has re-instituted this intellectual festival. He has gone a step further to elevate it by establishing the Ahiajoku Institute under a Director General. The institute is saddled with the responsibility of over-seeing everything relating to the Ahiajoku festival. He equally expanded participation at the intellectual festival to include the South-South part of Nigeria.
Last Saturday, November 30, 2019, the Ahiajoku lecture came back to life with its pioneer lecturer in 1979, Prof M.J.C Echeruo as the Guest Lecturer. Imo was agog. People from far and near, including other States Governors trooped out to participate in this epoch intellectual gathering. It was indeed spectacular. Many thanks to Governor Ihedioha for restoring the pride and cultural identity of Imolites nay Igbos.
There is joy everywhere. One may ask how Governor Ihedioha was able to achieve all these and even more not captured here. The answer is simple.
First, Ihedioha is a contented man, who is not greedy. This was Okorocha’s major flaw. Ihedioha is not moved or awed by materialism or pecuniary interests. This is his major virtue as a leader.
Secondly, Ihedioha is very focused, has capacity and pedigree. These are vital essentials any leader must possess if he is to succeed.
Thirdly, Ihedioha is very conscious of public opinion. While he is open to constructive criticism as a democrat, at the same time, he is always mindful not to hurt or injure public feelings, which might ultimately attract opprobrium to him. This worthy idiosyncrasy makes him a primus inter pares.
Conversely, Okorocha is the “I-don’t-care” brand of ruler. Unlike Ihedioha, Okorocha doesn’t care the reprehensible names you call him provided he lays his hands on public funds to suit himself.
Fourthly, Ihedioha has a hard built reputation and name to protect. His records are clean. He climbed to the pinnacle of leadership through hardwork, decency and loyalty. It is on record that in the history of the leadership of the National Assembly, he is the only presiding officer to have been unanimously elected by the 360 members in the Green Chambers without a single dissenting voice. The records are there.
Fifthly, Ihedioha is methodical and meticulous in whatever he does. He is a careful planner, who does not believe in hotchpotch approach to governance. It is axiomatic that “he who does not plan to succeed, has planned to fail”.
Before contesting for the governorship of Imo, Ihedioha already had a blue print for rebuilding Imo. He understands Imo and knows every nook and cranny of the State because he lived in the State. He was a “home boy” Unlike Okorocha who just flew in from Jos and told us he was from Ideato South Local Government Area and we swallowed it hook, line and sinker without thoroughly investigating the claim.
No home grown administrator can ever misgovern his home because at the end of the day, he remains with the home front. Ihedioha is aware of this. But where is Okorocha today? Imo is now like America to him. He has returned to where he really belonged.
It is therefore, not a thing of surprise to note that within six months, Ihedioha is doing what Okorocha could not do for his first four years in office. That Ihedioha has started laying solid foundations for Imo’s tomorrow in virtually all sectors gladdens the heart.
“Evil only thrives where noble men keep silent”, just as “the people rejoice when the righteous is on the throne”. The “evil” here, represents Okorocha’s horrible eight years as Imo’s governor, while “Rejoice” represents the happy mood of Imolites today under Ihedioha’s leadership.
Therefore, Imo people’s tomorrow, from all indices, looks brighter and assured as melancholy and despondency have now given way for quality and reliable assurance to prevail in concomitance with Ihedioha’s mantra, “my word, my bond”.