REVIEW OF POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE IN IMO STATE ( 1976-2011).

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Imo State was carved out of the former East Central State in 1976 by the then Military government of General Murtala Mohammed. The first governor of the State, Commander Ndubuisi Kanu from Ovim, Isuikwuato in the old Imo State strove hard and not only worked out a blue print for the development of the young State, but also devotedly followed the blue print until he was removed with military dispatch. It will not be necessary here to bore you with the activities of subsequent military governors up until 1979 (and even after 1983 when the second republic was again terminated by the military) but suffice it to say that the only military head of government in Imo State who made some sort of noticeable impact was Brigadier Ike Nwachkwu who, through his excruciating Imo formula built the Imo State University Uturu now in Abia State. We will therefore limit ourselves to civilian dispensations which the people are assumed to have put in place.

Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe was the first Civilian governor of old Imo State( now Imo, Abia and part of Ebonyl States). Considering the size of the State then and extent of war dilapidation, Chief Mbakwe is as yet considered by many as the most performing governor the State has had. He had a vision, pursued that vision with vigour and fair- mindedness, factored the people into most of his actions and was loved and supported by them. He appreciated the need to create wealth and generate employment hence he established industries in all sections of the State; he planned and worked to make life easy for the people and so established power stations , tarred rural and urban roads and provided the people with water. From available records, his government had a human face. Critics say that he did all those with borrowed money the settlement of which the State is still saddled with, but those loans were put to good use. Sadly, the regime was kicked out by the military chaps in 1983 and the investments were all sold and bought by the military and so could not pay their ways. The” boys” remained in power till 1999 when Chief Achike Udenwa was elected as governor.

As alluded to in the preceding paragraph, the military in government is usually an aberration because they are trained to kill not to govern. They operate a unitary and dictatorial system which is antithetic of democratic tenets. Being in government for about fifteen years (1983-1999), they dragged the State and country many steps backwards. That was the state of affairs when Chief Achike Udenwamounted the saddle in 1999. His first four years were therefore understandably without much achievement. However, his second tenure marked an explosion in social infrastructure in the State – an imposing civil service secretariat, the Imo State University Teaching Hospital, the Orlu International Market, the Nekede Exclusive Garden Estate, the Umuguma Housing Estate and others, as well as various water and road projects scattered all over the State. He had good intention and tried his best to realize his vision for the State.

Chief Ikedi Ohakim’s tenure (2007-2011) can be said to be a period when the State reached its peak in environmental sanitation. Using his ENTRACO, he gave Owerri, the State capital a new and enviable look. He also started and completed some road projects while others were at various stages of completion before his exit.

Sam Mbakwe, Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim all tried their level best but the judgment as to whether their best was good enough rests with the electorate of which you are part. It is yet, to my mind, too early to pass judgment on the government of Rochas Okorocha.

I should at this point dwell, even if briefly, on the electoral process encompassing the party congresses, party primaries and the general elections. It has been said both at the international and domestic levels that the conduct of party congresses and primaries in Nigeria and, for that matter our State could be much less untransparent. They could be carried out more freely and fairly and you, as party faithful, are in a position to ensure that it happens. The malaise of dishonest conduct of primaries and congresses is as prominent in party A as in party B and that accounts for the series of litigations over who are actual party candidates even after elections have been won and lost. It also affects party performances in elections because if the people’s opinions and choices are not respected, there will be protest votes and loss of election.

THE WAY FORWAD

A. WEALTH CREATION: From available records and our review of governance in Imo State since 1979, it is evident that apart from Chief Sam Mbakwe of blessed memory, no other regime in the State has made any noticeable effort to create wealth and by implication, generate employment. I do not subscribe to the time

—worn belief that Imo is a Civil Service State and so our industry is education which produces man power for ministries andparastatals. No doubt, education is a prerequisite for development but if we educate our youth and do not give them the opportunity to express their capacities and capabilities by way of employment in industries and civil service alike, we are courting insecurity and underdevelopment. We can certainly set up a power generation station at Egbema where gas is been flared away. River State has done it successfully, why not us. We can establish agro-allied industries like fruit juice packaging industries and reduce waste in that area; we can build a petro — chemical industry in our Niger Delta area with the collaboration of the federal government and br foreign investors. We can do many other things to create wealth. We certainly can if we work towards putting the right person at the helm of affairs in this State.

B. PUTfING A SQUARE PEG IN A SQUARE HOLE: The man who can take the State to lofty heights must be a man who has the right kind of education from the right institutions at the right places with the right orientation and contacts. He has to be a man who has been tried and tested in the application of human and material resources to achieve desired results. That man has to have INTEGRITY, respect for the views of others and for the rule of law. Governance is not for mediocres and gangsters who come into government intent on plundering the people’s treasury. The Governor of Imo State must be clear in his mind what he /she intends to do for the State, sell it to the electorate through his manifesto and, if elected, remain focused on the attainment of his vision and not drift like a rudderless ship. In the pursued of his vision, he must make probity, transparency and accountability his watch words. He must lead by example. He must be a square peg in a square hole.

C. SELECTION PROCESS: As earlier mentioned, the process of emergence of party candidates has a direct relationship to the election fortunes of the party. Now that party congresses are around the corner, party members must ensure that they are not disenfranchised by a cabal intent on foisting unsellable candidates on them. It is in the interest of the party that a popular candidate emerges because he brightens the winning chances of the party. Examples of the adverse effects of impositions abound all over the State. The party leaders must listen to the heart beat of the people and act in tandem with it in order to avert electoral disgrace.

D. GOVERNORSHIP ZONNING: I used to be averse to the zoning system being practised in the State because I believed it would encourage mediocrity but the dynamics of Imo Politics have brought me face to face with the reality that unless it is sustained there may be a continued governorship imbalance capable of engendering disharmony in the State body politic. In this connection, it is to be expected that Governor Okorocha , in keeping with his promise to the electorate, will make way for Owerri Zone which has been represented on that seat for just one and half years by late Evan Enwerem.

In surporting the zoning system however, I strongly recommend that Owerri zone or any other zone whose turn it maybe to produce the governor any time should choose from among their best taking due cognizance of the attributes outlined in item B above. Having been started, the zoning system cannot be jettisoned midstream.

CONCLUSION : Even in this modest and sketchy presentation which I had to do on short notice, I want to belief that I have touched on issues capable of agitating your minds enough to work more assiduously towards the attainment of INTEGRITY IN POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE in Imo State . Once again, I thank you for this opportunity to speak to you and hope that we shall put all hands on deck to get there.

God bless you.