By Henry Ekpe
Since the birth of the current political dispensation in Nigeria, Imo State has produced five Civilian Governors.
They are in that order, His Excellencies, Chief Achike Udenwa, Dr Ikedi Ohakim, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha and Senator Hope Uzodinma.
To help trickle dividends of democracy to the grassroots, Nigeria designed a Constitution of a Three Tier system of Government of the Federal, State and Local Government.
However, the Local Government Areas would have been the foundation and root of development in Nigeria, had the constitution made it a bottom to top situation, which ought to assume the design a pyramid situation.
Instead what we have is a mammoth Federal Government, over-bearing State Government, and a begging Local Government whose live dependents on a Federal Government that sends LGA funds through a State Government that in the end dishes out stipends to the LGA, leaving the rural areas, which contains the majority of the population, wallow in poverty.
In this situation, rather than conduct periodic elections in the Local Government Areas, which allows the populace to elect Council Chairmen and Councillors to work for their welfare, without unnecessary meddling by the State Governments the State Governments stifle such exercise. This important civic responsibility is denied the masses (Grass roots) because the Governors sitting at the State levels fiddle with the Local Government Accounts.
However, despite this scenario, some States are lucky as their State Governors conduct regular elections at the LGAs, where development in such States, in comparism to others that refuse to hold Council election cannot be compared.
Though studies have shown that most Governors hardly allow other political parties than theirs win LGA polls, yet indications are that such States are still better off than States that don’t hold elections at all.
It therefore corroborates the hypothesis that says that the worst Civilian Government is better than the best Military regime.
Now coming to Imo State, Governor Achike Udenwa who spent Eight years of two terms in office conducted two Local Government elections in Imo State before leaving office.
His idea was to take development to the grass roots and decongest the State capital where rural people rather than get engaged in the communities troop to Government House Owerri, when their little problems can be attended to in their LGAs.
He even created Fourty Four (44) Development Centres to get the masses participate more in Government.
Today most of the Council Chairmen and Councilors produced by Udenwa are manning various top positions in the National, States and Local Governments.
I can mention a few of them: Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Ikeduru) PDP National Secretary, HE Hon Gerald Irona (Oguta) former Deputy Governor Imo State, Chief Bar Emma Nwogu (Ngor Okpala) former Federal Commissioner Population Commission, Chief Bar Victor Muruako (Owerri West) Chairman Fiscal Commission, Hon Uche Diogu (Isu) Federal Commissioner, Dr Jeff Ojinika (Orsu) Ex member House of Reps, Hon Mayor Eze (Orlu) former member House of Reps, Hon Emma Ibediro (Onuimo) former National Organizing Secretary, APC and others.
We all know that if Udenwa’s Local Government Administration did not take these people to political limelight they may have rottened away in their villages today.
Therefore, when we clamour for Local Government elections, it is for both development of Human and Natural Resources.
Udenwa was succeeded by Dr Ikedi Ohakim who sustained the Development Centre policy and in his four years in office conducted Local Government election that also threw up another set of bright young men and women who are scattered in every sector in Nigeria, and doing well.
Now, the issue of elections in Imo Local Government Areas had a lull during the administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha which lasted for Eight years.
From the inception of Okorocha’s Government, the Imo Local Government Areas suffered terrible degradation and dilapidation.
Okorocha did not hide his contempt for Local Government Administration in the State.
Rather than continue from where his predecessors stopped, he over-looked the Local Government system, and even abandoned completely the Development Centres which helped in taking dividends of democracy to more people and reduced unemployment in the State.
Okorocha at a time toyed with the idea of a 4 Tier System of Government, even when he had refused to breathe life into the existing Local Government Areas.
He rather prefared dealing with hand-picked Community Leaders, ignoring the already existing and recognized Local Government Institutions.
After fiddling with the idea of working with his own contraption called Community Government, which failed woefully, he returned to the Local Government system to conduct Council election, only when he had a few months to round off his Eight years in office.
Even at that, rather than conduct the Council elections based on the political Wards, he foisted Councillors on Imo Autonomous Communities, which was a novel to the masses, and turned out an aberration and fizzled out with his Administration.
Therefore, had Okorocha followed the steps set by Udenwa and Ohakim, Imo State would have been more developed as it is today, more democratically deepened, peaceful and focused.
After Okorocha was Emeka Ihedioha who showed from the onset that he was going to anchore his administration on the Local Government Areas through his Infrastructural and Human Development political Belief.
Ihedioha spent only seven months in office and within this period constituted the State Electoral Commission headed by Bar Onyenaocheya.
The earlier constitution of the Electoral Body was an indication that he would have held council elections if he had lasted in office.
Ihedioha used what he called Interim Management Committee IMC, in the LGAs headed by a Chairman, with appointees representing their Wards as Councillors, in a quasi Local Executive and Legislature system.
The administration commenced big projects in the Council Headquarters, like Council Secretariats and Stadia, which some were nearing completion, and still standing in the Councils today.
Ahiazu Mbaise LGA was lucky to complete hers before Ihedioha was removed from office.
Now succeeding Ihedioha in office is Senator Hope Uzodinma whose administration has spent more than two years in office.
He initially followed the Ihedioha method by appointing Council Chairmen, and representatives from the Wards.
He has constituted State Electoral Commission and promised to conduct elections in the Councils.
But after the Appointed Council Chairmen were dissolved recently, Sole Administrators have been selected to take over the LGAs now.
However, Imo LGAs have not fared better under the Uzodinma administration. The Council Areas are even worse than the Okorocha era, because Okorocha at least constructed some rural roads and engaged in other projects like Computer centres and Prayer Chapels.
The Uzodinma’s Administration has not added any other structure in the Councils, and has refused to complete some of the projects started by the Ihedioha or any other administration, not even those that needed just a few funding to be completed.
Now, with Sole Administrators incharge of Imo Local Government Areas, will they discharge more dividends of democracy to the people, than when the Councils had representatives from the Wards?
More worrisome is that the SOLADs include former IMC Chairmen, who served for over two years in office. What are they bringing new to office, instead of giving fresh hands opportunities to serve too?
Indeed, what Imo State needs now is a Local Government election, no matter how sham it may turn out to be provided the “elected” are Imo people, and seen as “elected” Council Chairmen and Councilors representing the masses.
No State can succeed without development trinkling down to the grass roots, who are the real people that need Government patronages because even in politics, every Big Man has a “Local place” where he/ she comes from and vote during elections. That is the reason it is said that “Politics is Local”
Local Government election will open up the rural areas, create jobs for the people, restore relative peace in Imo State that is now standing on edge because of insecurity, caused by idle Youths and overwhelmed Government.
Therefore, it is a challenge for Governor Hope Uzodinma to conduct Local Government election so that the money allocated to the people gets to them, and help take dividends of democracy to the people at the grass roots. Imo State has suffered enough.