By Henry Ekpe
At the creation of Imo State in 1976, the State then had several military Governors. The first was Ndubisi Kanu, who laid the foundation of “Old Imo State” which comprised of today’s Abia and some parts of Ebonyi States.
At the reign of the various Military Governors in the State, nobody bothered to advise them on what to do to lift the State economically, because the soldiers were posted to Imo on “Military assignment” by their Bosses and were not chosen by Imo people.
Therefore, in truth, Imo State have only had Seven Civilian Governors, who came through the ballot boxes. They are Chief Sam Mbakwe, Senator Evan Enwerem, Chief Achike Udenwa, Dr Ikedi Ohakim, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha and now Senator Hope Uzodinma in that order.
But unfortunately, Imo State has not maximized its potentials, when compared with some other South East States like Anambra, even Ebonyi State, which was a part of what was formerly called Imo State.
While other States like Anambra, Rivers, Lagos, Cross Rivers consciously designed a model of who emerges their Governors, that of Imo State is for the highest bidder or “grabber”.
This situation has not been healthy to Imo State and its citizens. The scenario is so deplorable that the State has no “Master plan” of developing both its material and human resources. There is no short term or long term plans. And there is no template on how to manage the State.
This scenario has left Imo State to literally be groping in the dark. The State is in motion without movement since 1983 the first Civilian administration, until 1999 the present Democracy birthed.
Therefore, when you place the achievements recorded in Imo State with that of Sister States like Ebonyi and Anambra, you begin to wonder if Imo was not getting Allocations and Internally Generated revenue like these other States.
It remains only Dee Sam Mbakwe’s signature and imprimatur that are written all over Imo State, up to Abia and Ebonyi States he administered for just four years.
Till date, the legacies Mbakwe left behind in these States speak for themselves. Today every Governor that graced Imo State equate himself with “Sam Mbakwe”, which connotes performance.
Yet, the present day Imo State Governors saw and are seeing much more money than Mbakwe, even though it could be said that money had much value then now.
But take it or not, it is clear that the present development recorded in Imo State would have been huge had the Governors been more altruistic like Mbakwe than seeing Governorship seat as an opportunity to feather their nests, empower friends and relations and getting even with perceived enemies, instead of being more Statesmen, than materialistic.
Although I am not preaching that Governors should lead Imo State and go home later in penury, but a sincere Governor can still return home in affluence without touching the common patrimony of the State, because what accrues to a Governor as allowances and security vote in four years is enough to make him/her remain a Billionaire after office without stealing the State dry.
Imo State is different from other States, and has its peculiarities but there are certain indices that are same everywhere in the world. Such as transparency, justice, equity, peace and development.
It is quite unfortunate that from what transpired in the State on January 14, 2020 after the final judgment on the 2019 Imo Governorship election that, Imo State is far from joining the ranks of States that have genuine and committed Elites. Rather, 90% of people we have in Imo State as elites look up to what they can get from the Government and not what they can do for the State. While not concerned here on which side the judgment swung to that day but it was a shame that men who ought to remain steadfast as Elders began to speak from both sides of their mouths, to the surprise of even their own children.
It is quite unfortunate how politicians in Imo State jettison political parties without no atom of principle, and they care more about themselves than the State.
And they call it politics. Is it under this false behaviors that a State can be build on a strong foundation? You don’t tell lies in the front of your children and expect them to trust you tomorrow.
For Imo State to get its bearing like Anambra State, there must be men and women of integrity who will look whoever is the Governor in the face and tell him/her the truth without knowing whose Ox is gored. Do such men and women still exist today in the State?
The State had started on a good footing under PDP in 2019 when the party canvassed for a zoning formula that would afford the three zones of Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu the opportunity to lead the State at a given time.
But right now, that good venture was thwarted as one zone has been primed to lead the other zones till when it likes.
But in Enugu, Anambra, Cross Rivers States for instance, the masses already know from which side of the State their next Governor will emerge from. Therefore, this arrangement has already brought peace to the States, as what is of concern to the people is to fish out the qualified fellow from the zone concerned. It does not matter the political party, but what bothers the people is equity and justice with performance.
As at today in Imo State, by 2023, the entire State will charge up again with everybody running helter skelter to which ever end his bread is buttered. Therefore, Imo State looks like a House of commotion, without a predictable end.
This is the major reason Imo remains in motion without movement.
It is a shame that since 1983 every administration that came to Imo State had concentrated on Douglas, Whetheral and Okigwe Roads as if they are under a spell on these roads.
Each administration does what it wants without first prioritizing what bothers the State most.
Every administration in the State has either budgeted Billions in renovating the Old “Douglas House” or built a new one on the same small portion of land at the old Owerri Government House called Douglas House as if the comfort of the Governor is the fundamental problem bothering the State.
These frivolous projects take place when there are major roads begging for repair and construction in the State. This is even when Imo State has a permanent site for Government House marked out in new Owerri.
Is it not shocking that for more than twenty years the new Democracy hit Nigeria, Imo State has not yet seen reason to abandon the old Owerri for new Owerri.
Is it not a shame that despite all the Billions of Naira that accrued to Imo State since 1999, the State capital has one of worst road networks in Nigeria.
When will the State move to Okigwe and Orlu? Other States have since finished developing their State capitals and moved to new Areas.
Is Owerri not up to Emekuku, Agbala, Ohi, Obinze, Irette and Others? Why is every administration running around old Owerri? Cant Imo State emulate Anambra and Ebonyi States that even collect less Federal Allocation than Imo State yet have surpassed Imo in development?
Unfortunately, what most Governor’s in Imo do is to demolish what their predecessors built, rather than improve on them, or simply build there own and allow the old ones.
This ugly method came to a head during the Okorocha’s era. He demolished everything built by his predecessors, both the civilians and military.
In the process he set Imo back in million years, as it would have served the State better that the masses managed the old once and enjoy the new.
Today, most of those structures built by Okorocha are facing demolition by Uzodinma era, with the excuse that they were not well built and stand a risk to claim lives later.
So, under this unfortunate scenario, while Imo State keep building and destroying, Ebonyi and Anambra States engage in new projects that will stand the taste of time.
That somebody is elected Governor does not make him/her more intelligent than others to the extent of doing what he or she pleases.
All the roads constructed by Mbakwe, Udenwa and Ohakim are still standing because they were built strong and therefore saves the State waste of funds in either repairs or total reconstruction. So, why build substandard projects with Tax payers money?
Today our children are growing up and passing out of schools. Have we thought of where these new generations will earn a living, or is it after passing out from our Universities they proceed to other States to run their economic engines while he look on?
When will a Governor in Imo State, since after Mbakwe, build factories and companies for the employment of the teeming skilled unemployed Imo youths?.
A certain Governor once told Imo people he will build factories in all the Wards in the State. He even chanted “Factory, Factory, Factory! Job, Job, Job. But in the end not even a pure water company was set up.
Other States are planning ahead for the future and diversifying their economy to other sectors, while all Imo State does is to wait for every month for Abuja allocation which is not even enough to pay pensioners and workers.
But Imo State is equipped with abundant human and natural resources and only needs a State Chief Executive who will maximize the bursting energy of the youths for meaningful ventures and not using them for thuggery during elections.
Today, Anambra exports food items to other African Countries. What does Imo even produce for its citizens much more exporting? Imo youths are there waiting for direction. It is lack of what to do that leads our youths become idle personal Assistants to politicians after graduating as Engineers and Doctors.
Must it continue like this? Soon the reality will set in, and it may be late. Imo most think of tomorrow now.
By Henry Ekpe