By Matthew Duru
IMO State is not new to rejecting ruling and established political parties that fail the citizens of the state. In 2011, it rejected the incumbent People’s Democratic Party, PDP, ruling government in the state led by Chief Ikedi Ohakim who had switched in July 2009 from the party that gave him a gubernatorial mandate to the Progressive People’s Alliance, PPA. The citizens elected a candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA! Although, the elected APGA candidate also crossed over to the All Progressives Congress, APC, with the mandate, the people of Imo State appear set to repeat the feat again in 2019 with the level of growing disaffection currently spreading within and outside the ruling party in the state and the economic and social burden the citizens of the state are currently forced to endure.
Leaders are elected to help the citizens overcome or mitigate hardship. It is therefore a crying shame that in Imo State, the people have been so let down by their leaders whom they reposed the hope of an end to their hardship, instead the leaders deliberately, arrogantly, and viciously deepened the suffering of the people.
Under the current circumstances, it is important to let the leaders know how they became leaders, and not owners of the state. Prior to the colonisation of Nigeria, the Igbos like many Nigerian tribes and nationalities, had evolved a society with a world view in which leaders were guided by the common good, informed by traditions and norms that respected every man and woman and their household. Under those circumstances, appropriating someone’s property, goods or services will not come without consequences like ostracism. Addressing the collective concerns of the community required occasional meetings in which every household has a say and the burden for meeting the goals of the collective was not laid unduly on a few people. Then the colonialists came and overturned the social balance. The yoke of the colonialists, which looked fair at the time was not lost on the local people, hence the local citizens supported local leaders whom they expected to reduce their burden, define common interest in the old tradition and use this as a guide for common development. But this did not happen! Instead, elected leadership disappointingly made themselves the modern successors of the colonialists. The modern day “Warrant Chief” extracting the commonwealth of the people, particularly in Imo for their own benefits and their immediate families.
This is shamelessly being re-enacted as the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha swears daily that Imo for him has become a family heirloom that one can hand over to a family member without even the decorum of respect for fair democratic competition within his own party, before allowing the people of Imo State who own the mandate to decide at the polls. This type of disregard for democratic norm informs the desire of Imo people to look beyond their borders to the benefits Anambra State has derived from governance under the APGA, as the state make strides in social ethos and economic growth.
The experience of Anambra State under APGA governments may also be an added incentive for fresh leadership, as Imo citizens wonder what may have been their lot if the mandate they ceded at the ballot had remained under an APGA rather than an APC policy framework. The comparative indicators are noteworthy and a few illustrations will do.
For instance, whereas Imo State has become a poster state for industrial disharmony as a result of the months of unpaid arears to workers and pensioners, Anambra State under APGA, has been an emblematic state for industrial peace and harmony as it owes no salaries and wages to workers or pensioners. Anambra State has also become a net exporter of agricultural goods mainly vegetables, unlike Imo State that has remained in the league of national ‘feeding bottle” dependent states. This is inspite of its being an oil-producing state which should be at the frontier of investments that make it viable. By now, it should be autonomous and federal allocation only a bonus income. Additionally, while Imo State remains a security flashpoint, where in recent times, kidnap cases from the South-West were traced to it. Conversely, Anambra which took its previous status as a haven of kidnapers seriously, took decisive steps that resulted in the state becoming one of the safest and most secure states in the country.
Furthermore, while Anambra State can boast of very high quality sustainable social infrastructural development such as the construction of one of the longest bridges in Southern Nigeria built to link the oil-rich Aguleri-Otu area of Anambra State (where an oil refinery is being built) with the rest of the state, comparatively, Imo State has been developing such structures in a shambolic unprofessional and unsustainable manner where it has acquired an unsustainable debt profile from many unfinished and poorly finished construction work.
One of the noteworthy ingredients that has taken Anambra State from a potential development to a kinetic development state is the competency of those who have assumed leadership position in the state. They brought diligence and discipline of fiscal planning and control from the private financial sector to the public. This type of competency and private sector orientation and value is currently also evident in Akwa Ibom State. Although not an APGA state, the leadership ethos of disciplined planning and control where the criterion of value for money has ensured a new focus to sustainable and purposeful development, has made a difference in public welfare maximisation. This competency and the positive outcome it has instigated, particularly in Anambra, has been nationally acknowledged, and encouraged those who have urged leaders with passion for grassroots development such as Stanley Amuchie, to enter into the 2019 race in Imo State.
Amuchie, a young and vibrant manager of men and resources with a credible track record in the financial sector, moved after a stint in KPMG to management roles in Zenith Bank Nigeria PLC from where he rose to become a General Manager and CFO. Several interest groups that share a common concern for the deterioration of the economic and social fortunes of Imo State have expressed hope that such credible emerging leaders will bring their credible leadership record to the ring of leadership in Imo State.
the Imo rin, untainted by the political failures of the established parties such as the APC and the PDP that have failed the people in Imo state, so that people like Stanley Amuchie can compete in the 2019 election in Imo state and thereby bring a renewed hope and “light of progress” to public sector governance in the state.
*Mr. Duru, a development analyst, wrote from Owerri, Imo State.