By Charles Odibo
“My vision for Imo is a South East Nigeria State that will become one of the top three (3) most developed state economies in Nigeria by year 2025… leveraging on the abundant human capital and natural resources the state is endowed with to build an economy anchored on good governance, wealth creation, rule of law and sound management of state resources.” – Governor Emeka Ihedioha
In the lead-up to his inauguration and swearing –in on May 29th, 2019 as the sixth democratically elected Governor of Imo State, Rt. Honourable Emeka Ihedioha invited a number of dignitaries – business, political, religious, activists – to Imo state to participate in the series of events heralding a new dawn for Imo, over a four-day period. Six of them, captains of industry, who collectively lead businesses that employ over 20,000 Nigerians, and who did not associate with the immediate past administration because of the hostile environment then, caught my attention.
Two of them who are not from Imo State lead a flourishing airline and a quoted indigenous upstream oil and gas company. The other four from Imo State are key players in upstream and downstream petroleum; Information Communication Technology (ICT); E-commerce; Telecommunications; and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG). Beyond these six titans, the Imo State capital, during this transition period, was awash with an overflow of the nation’s business leaders and advisors.
What changed? The reality of perception, because our view of the world is shaped by communication, which means that perception being a function of communication is a reality. In his over 20 years in public service, mainly as a legislator, Governor Emeka Ihedioha has been projected and therefore identified as a man who is faithful to his words. He has consistently advocated for due process, openness, transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business attributes, which appeal to the business community and this perception has defined his persona in the public space and influenced how people relate with and respond to him.
Little wonder his four-point agenda to rebuild Imo State is laden with a commitment to good governance – revitalize the Imo economy by thinking and acting like a business driven by premium talent, cutting-edge strategy, and operating process; effective and efficient service delivery leading to better resource use and value for money, which will ultimately promote economic growth, employment generation and poverty reduction. Other components of the economic blueprint as articulated by Governor Ihedioha in his four-year action plan to transform Imo State include growing the economy through functional education, rapid industrialisation, entrepreneurship/skill development and innovative technologies; reform and increase investment in agriculture for sustainable wealth creation and food security; facilitate integrated infrastructural development across the state; and guarantee the security of lives and properties of citizens and residents.
Other actionable plans of the “my word is my bond” Governor include revamp of tourism and entertainment as key contributors to the economy; launch a four-year N10 billion Employment Trust Fund to give access to entrepreneurial ventures in the state; ensure strict observance of the principle of separation of powers with the legislature and respect the autonomy of the judiciary in order to promote the rule of law; and establish Imo State Investment Promotion Council (IPC) to act as a one-stop shop to implement Government policies on private investment and Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements.
No doubt that these are indeed laudable plans on paper but which success is dependent on the discipline of execution.
In their 2002 best-selling book, “Execution – The Discipline Of Getting Things Done”, Larry Bossidy, an acclaimed CEO, and Ram Charan, a legendary advisor to senior executives posit that “with the right people in the right jobs there’s a leadership gene pool that conceives and selects strategies that can be executed”. According to them “people then work together to create strategy, building block-by-block a strategy in sync with the realities of the marketplace, the economy and the competition, then linked to an operating process that converts the strategy into specific programs and actions…”
Referred to as “tested and trusted” based on his strings of identifiable accomplishments as a legislator, too numerous to outline here, Governor Ihedioha has already hit the ground running in selecting people, articulating strategy while guided by due process.
So far he has approved the appointments of over ten technical and special advisers, amongst others. But one of these appointments stands out in framing the evolving Ihedioha governorship that places premium on exceptional talents and will go to great lengths to attract them.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, whose appointment was announced on June 8, 2019 is not from Imo State but from the neighbouring Abia State because it is a talent hunt to recruit the best to rebuild Imo. The safety of lives and property ranks high in the social contract between the government and the people, and is a sine qua non to attract durable investments. During the tenure of the out-gone administration, Imo state was not regarded as a secure state and insecurity deteriorated to the point that the United States of America, through its Embassy, in 2017, included Imo State in its security advisory notice as one of the states in Nigeria that its citizens should be wary of visiting.
It is against this background that the Governor sought out Mr. Raymond Nkemdirim, an experienced security intelligence administrator and expert who served in the nation’s security service for thirty five years, rising to the position of Director of Operations in the State Security Service (SSS), to be his Adviser on Security Matters. An alumnus of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Mr. Nkemdirim holds Bachelors’ Degrees in Law (LLB) from the University of Abuja, and B.Sc in Education and Sociology from Abia State University. A Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) he is a Fellow of the Security Institute.
In terms of strategy, the plan of action to achieve the overall “rebuild agenda”, the Governor, in a process-driven manner has set-up simultaneous activities that are developing the frameworks for action. These include the Financial Advisory Committee headed by a former Director General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Dr. Abraham Nwankwo; Committee for the Review of Appointments, Recruitments and Retirement; and an Interim Management Committee for Imo Transport Company.
Of strategic importance is the Financial Advisory Committee, apparently a standing committee, which signposts the Governor’s disposition for stringent fiscal discipline. Its mandate includes a review of all financial transactions, including forensic audit to ascertain sources of funds and application in the past; and recommending measures to strengthen internal controls and enhance the performance of agencies of government. To put his words and promises to action and assure Imo people and potential investors that truly his word is his bond infrastructural development has already kicked-off. True to his commitment not to use the state’s paucity of funds as excuse for non-performance it is obvious to the discerning constituents and stakeholders that Governor Ihedioha is reaching out to do the needful.
Two weeks after being sworn-in as Governor of Imo State, emergency repair works have already commenced on the ever-busy Owerri-Mbaise-Obowo-Umuahia road, arguably the second busiest inter-state road in the state, which has been a traveler’s nightmare in the past eight years. Simultaneously, as part of the integrated infrastructure development of the “Agenda To Rebuild Imo”, reconstruction works have also commenced on the roads connecting Protea Hotels to Ahiajoku Convention Centre to Port Harcourt Road, all in New Owerri. Though the projects are being executed by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), it is apparent that these critical infrastructures redevelopment reconstruction that did not happen in the past eight years, are at the behest of the new state government which is committed to make the first 100 days count for something.
And for the first time in over three years Imo State civil servants have received their May 2019 salary which, was paid in full as against previous practices of owing full months or paying paltry percentages under the out-gone administration. Recall that the state chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) had been on strike until Governor Ihedioha in his first week in office prevailed on them to call-off the strike. The early, quick, and sure-footed steps of the Governor are an affirmation of his resolute commitment to ndi Imo and his strong desire for them to own and control their resources and key means of production, as he promised before being elected as Governor.
Because morning shows the day, the new Imo State led by Emeka Ihedioha is steadily assuming positive brand association that Ndi Imo can proudly relate to. Ndi Imo can now identify with such noble attributes of a Governor who speaks in characteristic measured tones, with candour and decorum befitting of the office; a Governor who thinks before he speaks; a Governor who does not frivolously make promises that he hardly keeps, but one whose word is his bond; and overall, a leader who is guided by rule of law.
Above all, to deepen the evolving amity between the government and Ndi Imo, the Government as a brand has to entrench the new-found connection with Ndi Imo which ensures that they will defend the government vigorously even in the face of obvious weakness against opposition and detractors; the administration should communicate effectively by framing its issues properly and telling its story proactively; and ensure that the state lives up to and consistently delivers on its promise to the people.
Mr Odibo is a Marketing and Communications Practitioner