By Henry Ekpe
Emeka Ihedioha, a former Chief Whip and Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives and later Ex-Governor of Imo State has dominated the airwaves in Nigeria these few days.
He does all the times, though. The last time he attracted such concern and comment among Nigerians was in January 14, 2020 when the Supreme Court said he was no more the Governor of Imo State.
However, the latest matter on Ihedioha was caused by a simple harmless speech he made in far away Ghana, during the occasion of New Yam Festival celebrated by Mbaise people in the West African country.
As a partisan politician and die hard member of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ihedioha uses every opportunity to sale his party, especially this period elections are by the corner.
Ihedioha in Ghana told his audience to vote for his party, PDP, and its candidates. He emplored members of PDP to vote PDP, as anything short of that is sabotage against the party.
It is Ihedioha’s fundamental human right to promote his party as guaranteed by the constitution, because anything to the contrary is antiparty, and attracts penalty from PDP.
However, immediately the story hit the public domain, the narrative changed, as the simple counsel Ihedioha admonished his PDP followers was changed to mean different things to different people.
The word “Sabo”, as Ihedioha used it, was misconstrued, both in content and context. It generated too many and different reactions, depending on the side of the divide you are standing.
Well, the development that followed that simple statement showed how important Ihedioha is in the Nigerian politics, her polity and in Igboland. It showed how dearly he is cherished, regarded and cared for. Ordinarily, most politicians in the land have said worse things than what Ihedioha was alleged to have meant, yet nobody took note. Ndigbo did not even notice such “Freudian slips” from such politicians.
The latest development, I am sure, has taught Ihedioha how high his people place him. It has shown that they don’t want him to make comments that will not sit well with them, whether misconstrued or not, just because he is not like others to them. He is their special son, in whom they are well pleased. Therefore, from hence, he must be cautious, as many are interested in his well being and Leadership growth.
It seems they want to use him for something special dear to them, and therefore don’t want to hear that enemies capitalized on fathom errors to jeopardize the plan they have for him in future.
The deluge of reactions to the “Ghana Statement” was as a result of care and conscious affection and concern from the masses about Ihedioha. They care and don’t want him to misstep.
And Ihedioha, as a humble man, well weaned, did not fritter away the chance, or take for granted the concern shown by his people in this circumstance.
He rose to the occasion by showing Leadership, Accountability, Responsibility and Respect to Public opinion. He threw away arrogance for which most of our Leaders are known for, but exhibited humility, by appearing in a prime time National Programe on Television, and said “I am sorry”. English language calls it Apology.
He made it clear that many people misunderstood what he said, which was not what he meant.
But without further argument, or parrying the matter, Ihedioha asked for forgiveness, whatever it was anyone heard or thought about his outing in Ghana.
He showed a rare quality lacking in most Leaders. He exhibited a virtue of what type of Leaders Nigeria is praying for this time.
He respected others opinions, which was anchored on Leadership qualities that are expected in a Democratic environment like ours, where unfortunately people voted into power see themselves bigger than the masses that gave them power in their trust.
Ihedioha has shown that to err is human, and to forgive is divine. His action has softened the most of hard souls, even though mischief makers and legendary haters still harken their hearts.
The universal remorse of any action is “sorry”. It shows Amity in man, as only the wicked refuses sorry.
Therefore, having done this, Ihedioha has cleared his conscience and now free to move on. And reactions have shown too, that he has been forgiven, and his worth even higher now, as his latest action proved his candour, respect, humility to accept faults, which many of his type cannot do.
Therefore, it is now a burden on the shoulders of those who have even come openly to say “we won’t accept the apology”. It is left for them to carry along the luggage of hate or drop it, as Ihedioha has freed his mind and has moved on with the people hailing his action.
It was the Appointees of Imo State Government, who have stated that they will not accept the “Apology” as if Ihedioha owes them a special one.
One of them said that Ihedioha cannot “Insult us in Ghana and come to Nigeria and Apologize”.
The other published a T-Shirt with “Saboteur” inscripted on it. One even made a song out of the event.
The other accused Ihedioha of being ignorant of National Politics, even though he has been playing politics in the Nation’s capital for years till date.
However, in Imo State, how Ihedioha handled the issue should have been a case study for the Government on how to communicate with the masses, which is a very important aspect of failure and success of every Government.
Let me put it here that the communication between the present Government in Imo State and the masses is at all time low. There is a serious dis-connect between Imo populace and their Government, which has created suspicion, doubt and skeptism as regards Governor Uzodinma’s policies and records.
Descending on Ihedioha, exposes the shortfalls recorded by Imo Government in terms a failed Mass Communication mechanism with the people. A Government in power should spend more time enlightening the masses of its programs and achievements than on attacks on opposition and perceived enemies.
At least, Ihedioha took responsibility and owned up that humans are prone to mistakes, and therefore bound to make corrections. Accepting mistake indicates that it will not happen again.
But Imo State Government has never accepted that mistakes are part of human nature and dynamics of sociatal changes.
Many times Imo people have been let down openly by her Government without any action of remorse much more taking responsibility, through Apology.
For instance, sometimes ago the Imo masses were told of how a world class Construction Company will handle the Orlu-Owerri road, to the dancing of the masses.
But behold, when the job commenced, another company was at site. Till date, no explanation was given to the people why the original plan did not materialize.
In an organized clime, the same Government should have at least in one paragraph of Press Release, informed the masses what led to the change. But no, Imo masses do not matter.
After that, other embarrassing but avoidable occasions had taken place in the State with Government, showing no remorse.
The other time Commissioner nominees, Local Government Sole Administrators, their relations, invitees and other top Government functionaries were gathered in Government House Owerri for swearing- in and inauguration ceremony. But after waiting for hours to no end, everybody was asked to go home.
No apology, no remorse, as if Government is not in office, in the first place, for the masses. No Government exists without the people. As Governments are meant for the people, and not the people for Government. Governments must treat the electorate with some element of care and respect.
As if that was not enough, the same Government announced about Imo Productivity Award ceremony which was hyped in the Media for weeks.
Awardees across the Nation and beyond stormed Imo State.
The Hall was full of dignitaries and relations. But to the shock of everybody in attendance the ceremony was aborted midstream, with all the funds sunk into it going into the drain. This one happened just a week ago.
Till today, nobody explained to Imo masses and the Awardees to be why such a high profile ceremony was dashed after invitees were already sited.
No apology, no explanation, and nobody has taken responsibility of that till date. Government went on as nothing happened. Did anybody bother about the negative image it caused Imo State and its citizens!
Such developments do not portray the Government in good light and keep distancing the masses from their Government, as they don’t know what to believe. Government is a serious business, because it controls the life of the masses.
The latest now is the issue of Urashi River or port or dredging.
Today, Imo Government is busy denying or confirming what is really the situation.
In the beginning, it was learnt that FG had agreed to dredge the Urashi River. How the story of a Sea Port emanated as part of the project is not yet clear. But embarrassingly, FG denied of such projected sited in Imo, which put the story of dredging to the back seat.
The last, but not the last, was the Birthday celebration of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu where NEPA struck immediately Imo State Governor was invited to the rostrum. When attempt was made to restore the power, it was discovered that there was no functional generator in the entire Imo Concorde Hotel premises. Yet such a big occasion, attended by Ex President Goodluck Jonathan was slated for the venue, without adequate preparation. But did heads role, did anybody own up? No.
With these few illustrations, Imo Government should therefore correct its Mass Communication lacuna. It should mend its “disconnect” with the people.
Any pronouncement from Government is like a Law, until otherwise recanted.
With what Ihedioha has done, it is left for our Leaders, Governments, Political Parties, Individuals, Groups etc to learn to be bold and humble enough to own up to their responsibilities, and put the records straight when necessary, recant if misconstrued, and most importantly, communicate well with the masses.