By Ikechukwu Amaechi
Although the swearing in ceremony of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha had come and gone on May 29, 2019, this master piece from Mr. Ikechukwu Amaechi, the Managing Director of TheNiche newspaper, and the former chairman of the Inauguration lecture sub-committee of the Imo State 2019 Inauguration Planning Committee is worth our attention.
Emeka Ihedioha will take the oath of office as the sixth democratically elected Governor of Imo State on Wednesday, May 29, a dream come true both for himself and for Imolites who have suffered for long. Expectations are high, from the ruling class and from the masses. Imo presently plumbs the depths of despair and mediocrity. Governor Rochas Okorocha threw to the dogs, due process and the rule of law, the cornerstones of good governance. And elevated insouciance to an art.
That was to be expected, though, from a man who declared from the outset that “I do not believe in the use of files or in due process. Due process is due corruption; whenever I wake up, I move where my mind directs me.” The consequence of such buccaneering disposition to governance is predictable. Imo is a wasteland, literally; a devastated, barely inhabitable place, so much so that living in the state dehydrates spiritually and emotionally.
Eze Madumere, Deputy Governor and Okorocha’s political sidekick, put it this way at an All Progressives Congress (APC) fund-raiser late last year: “What Okorocha has done to the socio-economic status of this state, quote me, will take 25 to 30 years for the state to recover. The level of damage is simply unimaginable.” There couldn’t have been a worse testimonial. This is the sorry state Ihedioha will inherit on May 29. And he is under no illusion that rebuilding Imo will be easy.
But he comes prepared with his four-legged agenda of good governance, human capital development, job and wealth creation and integrated infrastructure development. His approach to governance is inimitable and inspiring. In a country where razzmatazz soars above substance, Ihedioha says he will tread – out of the two roads which diverge in a wood – in the words of Robert Frost in his poem The Road not Taken, on the one less travelled by, using the compass of intellectualism to navigate his way. Will Ihedioha’s approach make any difference? Time will tell. But Imo people are already seeing the difference and are rejoicing.
Activities leading to his inauguration spans four days, starting with an interdenominational church service on Sunday, May 26 at the Grasshoppers’ International Stadium Owerri, and culminating in his swearing in at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, on May 29. In-between those two events are others. There will be an arts exhibition at Ahiajoku Convention Centre and a novelty football match at the stadium on Monday, May 27. On Tuesday, May 28, there will be an inauguration lecture at the Ahiajoku Convention Centre and a mega youth concert at the Grasshoppers’ Stadium. Of all these events, the flagship is the inauguration lecture.
The Inauguration Planning and Handover Committee headed by Chris Okewulonu is pulling all the stops to ensure it achieves its academic, political and leadership purposes, as directed by Ihedioha, because the lecture is a roadmap of the direction the new administration is headed. John Nnia Nwodo (lawyer and economist, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, former Minister of Civil Aviation and Information and Culture), will deliver a keynote address on Problems of Governance in Today’s Nigeria: The Imo Challengeto set the tone for the intellectual harvest.
The inauguration lecture will be delivered by two outstanding Imolites. One of them is Leo Stan Ekeh, philanthropist, businessman and Chairman of Zinox Technologies, a company that has the WHQL certification, the first in sub-Saharan Africa, and the NIS ISO 2000: 9001 QMS Certification. He will speak on Creating a Model Imo Economy. The topic lays emphasis on Ihedioha’s “Rebuild Imo” campaign mantra, which points to a new beginning anchored on knowledge and human capital development achievable through good governance.
The icing on the intellectual cake will be Ernest Ebi’s lecture. He is a financial guru, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fidelity Bank, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where he handled policy and corporate services portfolios for 10 years and had oversight over External Reserves, International Economic Relations, Trade & Exchange and Research Departments. Ebi will speak on Transitioning From Poverty to Wealth: Infrastructure as the Linchpin.
Just like Ekeh’s topic, the idea is to give Ebi, who chairs Ihedioha’s Transition Technical Committee, the latitude to explore the promise of Imo, and the challenges vis-à-vis the huge expectations of Imolites. Paschal Dozie, another quintessential entrepreneur who has played pre-eminent roles in national and global economic development, will chair the occasion. The special guest is Peter Obi, former Anambra State Governor and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Vice Presidential candidate in the 2019 election. Imo State is agog with expectations. A public lecture presaging the inauguration of a new administration is novel.
Ndi Imo are looking forward to this fulfilling intellectual exercise and the reality of a new era, and a new beginning is gradually sinking in. But it couldn’t have been anything different. For the first time since the state was created in 1976, the affairs of Imo will be superintended by two accomplished lawmakers. Some say it is poetic justice that this era comes right after the one that had absolute disdain for due process and the rule of law. Ihedioha had a 12-year stint as a federal lawmaker, which culminated in him becoming House of Representatives Deputy Speaker in 2011, and Speaker between May 27 and June 5, 2015, following the withdrawal of Speaker Aminu Tambuwal when he moved on to Sokoto as Governor. The deputy governor-elect, Hon Gerald Irona, a chemical engineer and grassroots politician, was elected twice as Councillor and in 1998 became the youngest state Secretary of the All Peoples Party (APP), which transmuted into the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), before his election into the Imo State House of Assembly in 1999.
In 2011, he was elected into the House of Representatives where he served as South East representative on the Selection Committee and later Gas Resource Committee Deputy Chairman when Ihedioha was Deputy Speaker. To borrow a local parlance, Imo State is getting two for one. It promises to be an interesting episode in leadership voyage. Ndi Imo, and indeed fellow Nigerians – scandalised by the inexplicable tomfooleries and monkeyshines in the Igbo Heartland in the past eight years – await the new dawn.
The inauguration lecture points to the direction the new government is headed. It will be an administration where the intellect of philosopher kings who possess a love of knowledge, as well as intelligence, as characterised by Plato, rather than the gut instincts of one man, will rule.