By Henry Ekpe
There is a breath of fresh Air in Imo State now. The masses feel liberated. And there is high expectation from the current administration led by Governor Emeka Ihedioha.
Obviously, I don’t expect anything less from the people of the State who in the last Eight years were in bondage, looking for escape.
That escape route came in the person of Ihedioha who was elected Okorocha’s successor. And that is the reason the burden on his shoulders is enormous.
Enormous because the now-set-free Imolites see a Messiah in Ihedioha who must meet their demands and needs within a short time, despite the challenges facing the Governor.
Unfortunately, the locust years of the Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s regime has heaped a lot of responsibilities on Ihedioha following the abject poverty ravaging the State raped dry of its common wealth for Eight years.
Therefore on the account of the present scenario, Imo people are expecting a quick miracle and recovery that would lift them out from the Okorocha spell. And this situation puts the Governor under pressure to perform and deliver the goods quickly.
However, on the surface it looks easy, but practically a herculean task because the rot left behind by Okorocha is unimaginable.
This the Governor recently made clear during his first Stakeholders meeting with Imo people. Imo State as Ihedioha met it is in tatters. The soldiers of occupation led by Governor Okorocha pillaged the State in every sector.
Doubting Thomases should visit the Government House and see that even the Governor’s office is vandalized leaving Ihedioha to operate from a make-shift office, while living in his private home till date.
The question we should ask is that: If the Government House is ruins what about other parts of the State?
Therefore, this is the reason Imo people should be patient with Ihedioha. Not that he will not deliver the goods, but because he met a very bad situation on ground.
In 2011 when Ikedi Ohakim handed over to Owelle Rochas Okorocha, his stewardship was contained in volumes of papers, and Ohakim even took Okorocha round Government House, including the Governor’s office.
But in 2019 Okorocha was compelled after many weeks he left office to post through courier, what he called a hand-over Note to Ihedioha.
Neither did he take Ihedioha round the Government House, nor showed him his office.
By 2011, all Government appointees, including yours truly as then Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, was ordered to vacate offices with only our personal effects, while leaving our official vehicles and Documents intact for the next occupant.
But rewind to Okorocha the era, there are no vehicles left in Government House for Ihedioha and Aides. No vehicles left in the Ministries and Agencies. Even Televisions were pulled-off the walls, while all computers were carried away, without trace of records and documents to start from.
It is a fact that Imo people massively voted for Ihedioha and want a quick change of things, but patience is important, so that the Governor is not pressured into making mistakes of past regimes.
The only way to rebuild Imo now is to gradually commence from the scratch, because the last regime could not follow due process in all it did, therefore left every sector in ruins while quitting.
Many commentators had made it clear that Ihedioha deserves pity because what is on ground is confounding, as it takes only a magician to wright the various wrongs wrought by the Okorocha era.
For eight years, Imo State never had any functional Local Government Area, as all the allocations went to Okorocha in Owerri, which he used as he wished.
Now, Ihedioha has restored the Local Government system by constituting Interim Management Teams for each LGA.
But most unbelievably, all the LGAs in Imo got their July allocations intact, without a kobo removed.
The instruction Ihedioha gave was that after salary; whatever remained from the allocation must be ploughed into Rural Developments with immediate effect.
Therefore, within the next few months, with patience, Imo people will begin to see life return fully in the LGAs.
For months, Football matches were not played at the Dan Anyiam Stadium. Heartland FC marches were moved to Okigwe Stadium because Dan Anyiam Stadium was a rot.
Today, that stadium is back to life. The Tatan tracks are undergoing repair, while new grasses are planted.
The leaking rooms and decayed chairs are back with new ones. The Grass Hopper Hand Ball Stadium abandoned for Eight years is now like a new one.
All the State owned Football Teams have breathed fresh air, both the male and female ones, with new Management Teams poised to do the needful.
We must realize that Okorocha built twenty seven gingantic edifices called General Hospitals, without completing one in eight years.
Does anyone expect Ihedioha to turn the Health Sector around within 50 days with such a sorry state? Therefore gradually, the Imo Health Sector will bounce back to life, with functional Hospitals and personnel.
The education sector which the past administration prided itself is not but a window dressing. There is a difference between an affordable and quality education, and a free and quantity education that does no one any good.
All over the world, including in America, education is never free without subsidy.
But we must not forget the fact that education in Nigeria is free from primary school to JSS3. Therefore, whoever told you that there was free education in Imo State was economical with the truth.
When you speak with parents who have children schooling in Imo State University, you will realize that it is a crime for a Government to deceive the masses.
However, to clean the mess in the education sector in Imo, parents and their wards must see reason with the present administration in fixing the sector once and for all, instead of crowding thousands of students in one class room with just a Teacher for all subjects.
The highest patience of the people would be tested in the infrastructural sector, where Ihedioha has a big problem in his hands.
The past regime claimed it constructed roads, but none last for more than three months. Therefore, Imo particularly the State capital Owerri, will go through tough times for things to be corrected.
From Amakohia, Egbeada, World Bank, Trans Egbu, Aladinma, Ikenegbu etc, none of these Estates have one motorable road.
The last regime rather concentrated on demolishing solid roads built by other administrations, and ended up creating more problems for the Ihedioha regime, if it must reconstruct all these roads. This is why the inhabitants of the State capital must endure some discomforts before the roads are finally corrected.
All the buildings constructed by the last Government are not habitable, even as professional Engineers and Regulatory Bodies warned. Most of the Buildings have collapsed, while the rest are death traps.
Rather than plant trees, Okorocha erected pillars and Rods on the roads, which the present administration is gradually pulling down for the safety of the people.
This means that the Ihedioha Government should be given time to correct all the construction crimes committed by Okorocha that endanger the lives of Imo masses, before he commences his own projects.
The last regime budgeted Billions of Naira for sanitation exercises that today has exposed that such humungous funds went down the drain pipes, following the tones of dirts that are now being exhumed from Gutters in Owerri.
You now ask; How could an administration spend Eight years in office without bothering about the health of its citizens?
Cleanliness is next to Godliness, they say. Therefore, for Eight years God left Imo, because the State stinks. Now, the sanitation culture first brought by the Ikedi Ohakim era is back in Imo, as the masses are voluntarily poised to return the State to “Godliness”.
The Civil Servants in the State should realize that the Ihedioha’s regime deserves every support to look into their lingering problems.
For years Imo civil servants were not paid. And whenever they were paid, it was based on percentage as decided by Okorocha himself; what an Irony!
Now, Ihedioha has agreed to pay not only regularly but 100%.
Pensioners in the State recorded more deaths ever within the last eight years. But the present regime has agreed to off-set their accumulated Bills.
But both the regular workers and pensioners must be patient. There is nothing wrong in allowing the present Government to know the total number of workers and pensioners Imo State has presently.
The former regime is accused of over-bloating the salary Bill of the State. Therefore, it is only right that such allegation, true or false, must be clarified through enumeration exercise to know the authentic number of staff strength of Imo State civil service.
It is both for the good of the staff and Government. Therefore, all parties must exercise patient for the over-all interest of the State.
Much as the expectation is high, the masses must note that it is easy to destroy than to build.
Ihedioha has come to rebuild all that Okorocha destroyed and it will take concentration and time.
He is gradually assembling his team, by putting round pegs in round holes. Already, all his appointments hit the Bill’s eye as you cannot fauth his choice of appointees.
He began well in his first 50days by calling Imo people together in a “Town Hall Meeting” otherwise called Stakeholders. There he briefed the people what he has done so far, and questions were entertained randomly from the crowd.
Ihedioha has not claimed to be a saint or above mistakes. Therefore he should be seen as a human, and be corrected whenever he missed it. With patience, Imo will get back to reckoning.
We must realize that you must break an Egg to make an Omelette. Ihedioha deserves our support and patience to succeed.