By Henry Ekpe
Once beaten, twice shy. Imo State and its citizens have seen administrations come and go. But the last eight years remain evergreen in their minds to the extent that the citizens are now afraid of administrations.
The people of Imo State, following what they passed through Eight years ago are now apprehensive of Government. They take everything that comes from Government with a pinch of Salt.
Skeptism now rules the mind of Imo people as they are yet to come out from the trauma of last administration led by Owelle Rochas Okorocha. That era has engraved doubts into the minds of Imo people that Governments and their pronouncements should not to be trusted.
But do you blame Imo people? In their own very eyes, they saw where cheques issued to Government officials, by same Government failed to cash in Banking Halls.
Imo people saw where a Government for eight years told them it would create factories and provide jobs for the teeming unemployed youths. Only to leave after Eight years without attracting just a pure water factory.
A Government would gather the masses and tell them it will make hundreds of youths millionaires.
Truly, it issues cheques bearing millions of naira openly to unsuspecting youths only to retrieve the cheques from the youths after the crowd had dispersed.
An elected Governor will import brand new vehicles to be shared as Taxis to Imolites, but on the appointed day the Governor will produces refurbished passat cars on the day of presentation to bemused citizens.
Unfortunately, it is under this psychological miasma bedeviling Imo citizens that Ihedioha arrived the scene as a Governor.
Therefore, one of the major problems facing the Ihedioha regime is how to change the thought of Imolites who have now resigned to the notion that Government is a liar and cannot be trusted.
Infact, Imo people in the last few months before the 2015 election had given up on Imo Government and cared less what it was saying or doing because the people had gotten tired of promises and failures that dogged that administration.
Therefore, when Ihedioha came on board and promised Imo people that within months Stadia and befitting secretariats will dot Imo LGA Headquarters, it sounded like a tale in the moonlight to so many Imo people.
Do you blame them! They had thought that the Ihedioha administration has come to bandy lies and continue from where the Okorocha era stopped.
However, that skeptism has now given way to optimism as Ihedioha has not only surprised doubting Thomases with his Stadia and Secretariat projects, but has restored confidence once more on Imo people.
There is nothing compared to when Government promises a thing to the masses, and keeps to them.
When Ihedioha two weeks ago in a Forum at Concorde Hotel organized for Imo pensioners said that he would start paying pensioners next week Thursday after the Tuesday deliberation, it sounded like changing wine into water.
Even some of us who believe in Ihedioha expressed doubt of that happening on the day promised.
But behold, that Thursday, as early as 3am, instead of coming to qeueu at Government pay centers, the pensioners, in the comfort of their Bed rooms got alerts of a two months pension pay.
That singular action disappointed a lot of people who had sharpened their political knives waiting for the kill should the promise turn awry.
It also restored great confidence on our senior citizens that really, things have changed in Imo State in doing business with Government.
Some Imo people had even taken the construction of twenty seven Stadia and Secretariats as misplaced priorities that cannot be actualized.
But with the touring of Imo LGAs on inspection of the said projects, indications are that really when an Administrator is serious with his policies they would be pursued to successful fruition.
From what has been gathered from the 27 LGAs, the projects are steadily in progress and would be completed as envisaged.
Many had compared the Stadia and Secretariat ventures with the Okorocha fathom General Hospital projects that ended a mirage with tax payers money going down the drain.
Ironically, the Stadia project to many, is not necessary now. But it is part of Ihedioha’s regime signature policies that was conceptualized to attack unemployment among teeming Imo youths.
One of the major problems facing Imo State is how to engage her teeming youths meaningfully. And the sports sector can tackle this menace.
With fuctional stadia, equipped with relative facilities in our LGAs, the outcome of what Ihedioha is visionlising now will soon come to light in a few years time.
All over the world, the highest employer of Labour now is Sports, and also pay highest.
Today, most of the known personalities and Richest in Nigeria are sports men and women.
Sports do not end and begin with soccer. There are Judo, Table Tennis, Volley Ball, Basket Ball, Sprinting, Takwando, Wrestling, Boxing, Javeline, Shortput etc.
Before now, Imo State used to be among the best States in sports, to the extent the State rules the Nigeria at Sports Festivals.
Then, other States come to Imo to poach our stars to represent them in sports festivals. But unfortunately, that trend seems to have withered away because Imo State for over eight years no longer sees sports as a big market and employer of Labour.
Now, our Budding stars flizzle out early because there is now encouragement, which begins with facilities.
From what I heard, there would now be Inter- LGA sports competitions where the LGAs will knock horn with each other. Obviously such a competition will restore our grassroot sports that gave birth to the likes Kanu Nwankwo who commenced his football career at Ministry of Works Football Club, Owerri.
I remember the likes of Eregbu and Chioma Ajunwa, who were all fished out from School Sports in Imo.
When we were young, ordinary Inter-House Sports in our secondary schools attracted our parents, who attend with some relations.
Today, such things are novel in Imo, where most private schools don’t even have sporting facilities, which ought to be a must for every growing child.
Since Ihedioha has decided to restore this past “Culture” that is gradually going into extinction in Imo, we should give him the benefit of doubt and see how it pans out in the next few years. Rome was not built in a day and abandoned norms are usually difficult to be rejuvenated.
A lot of our children who are not successful in Education or other trades could be exceptional in sports.
And since sport targets the youths, it will take off the streets of Owerri, and villages of Imo State some of our youths who would have due to lack of opportunities easily taken to crimes and end up being society delinquents.
On the issue of Secretariats, when you make a little journey to our neighboring brother State Anambra, you will then realize that Imo LGAs Headquarters are nothing but glorified poultries, except for Orlu and Nwangele LGA, where you can see befitting council secretariats.
In Anambra State, Agulu, Orumba, Nnewi, Dunokofia LGAs Secretariats seen along the roads could be mistaken for a State Government House.
Ihedioha as an urbane Administrator, and because of where he is coming from, realizes the importance of a comfortable environment for staff to carry out their day to day assignments.
A comfortable office must bring the best out of individuals, which helps Government officials in discharging their duties.
Moreover, if these secretariats are successfully completed now, Imo LGAs would have waved a final goodbye in embarking in such gigantic projects in the future.
What should bother us now is that these projects should be completed. Not whether they are good projects, because they are.
There is no gain saying the fact that Ihedioha met Imo State in a comatose. He dubbed his administration “Rebuilding Imo State”.
In this Rebuilding process, Ihedioha has returned Imo Housing Board, Due Process Bureau, Ahiajoku Lecture, with Ahiajoku Centre, Single Treasury Account System, Bureau of Statistics, Pension Biometric System etc.
He has flagged off road constructions, with the amounts and construction companies no more a State secret. Let us wait for the rains to be over and try Ihedioha on that score.
But for eight years, Imo people remained patient and supportive to the Okorocha administration until he ended up shooting himself on the foot.
Let us extend the same measure to the Ihedioha regime, after which we will decide to give him the Okorocha treatment or not depending on his output.
But for now, it is too early in the day to pass judgment because the journey just started and the road is rough, tough and far. But Ihedioha seems to know the way and now maneuvering the path to utopia. Rebuilding Imo is possible.