By Stanley Amuchie
ON August 26 I met the Executive Committee of my State Chapter of our party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, in Owerri. I addressed the State EXCO members and formally told them about my intention to run for the office of Governor of our dear state, Imo in the 2019 general election.
Personally, it was a solemn moment and the decision to run is one taken after deep introspection and wide consultation. I have had an enviable career trajectory spanning over 20 years in the Nigerian financial sector. It has been a story of triumph and fulfillment.
But given the parlous state of affairs in Imo State my fulfillment has not been total. Despite spending my entire working career in Lagos since after my graduation from the University of Benin and subsequently, Youth Service in Benue State, I have been, at heart, a home boy. I grew up in the village, had my primary and secondary school education in the village and even as a high-flying financial sector professional I have always spent time with my kit and kin in the village.
So why am I in this race?
When I move round Imo State, I see a state where despair has become second nature; where hunger has reduced the humanity of it’s people; where our youths, who are the leaders of tomorrow and through no fault of theirs, grope about in helplessness and hopelessness; where traditional rulers, our once revered royal fathers are not given the honour and dignity they deserve.
When I move round Owerri, our state capital, I see that a city that was once declared the cleanest state capital in the country, is now actually the dirtiest.
And so much more.
But it doesn’t have to be so. We have to take a critical look at our situation in order to know where the rain began to beat us. That way we will be able to chart a course that will take Imo State to the level we all desire. In a recent interview I granted to Vanguard newspaper I said “Developing a society is not rocket science, because there are demonstrable good practices of what works best or better. The only challenge is adapting and transferring those things that are suitable contextually from the defined vision and aspiration of the people in their context. It is just like a business defines its vision, mission and how to achieve them, and with what resources. A society must begin by defining its vision of what its people desire as development. You don’t walk into an elected office and begin to say we are building 40 roads, 30 flyovers, 400 primary schools; that is utterly ridiculous. Even the Bible says, think and plan your vision, then write it down, which shows you that building a society is first a mental exercise. So if we must offer to make our society in Imo better, we must first agree on what society we really want, then we develop processes by which we examine that consensus periodically because human wants and desires are dynamic. So the first fresh idea is that I have a fresh vision of what we can do to make Imo better than all states in Nigeria or be at an advanced stage of being so within four years. Additionally, I will build a consensual mechanism by which all people of Imo State have a say and input into how that vision affects and impacts them in each area or zone of the state and their roles in actualising that vision as it affects them. Simply put the first fresh idea is responsive and inclusive conceptualisation of the development of Imo State to make it the leading or one of the leading states in Nigeria within four years.”
I go around Imo State and I see that those in authority in our state appear not to give a thought about the welfare of the people. For instance, our senior citizens who gave the state their best in their youthful years are not being taken care of. Pensioners are owed arrears for up to one year and no one loses sleep over how these elderly men and women survive. I see many of my father’s contemporaries in the civil service dying out of neglect. If my father has children who take care of him, what about others who are not so lucky? They are left to suffer and not a few die from ailments that easily could have been taken care of if there was a support system in place.
Just as I noted in the same interview, we will ensure that Imo State will offer its people the best and highest form of welfare, be a leading state in education producing the best human resources for its needs, and be the best enabler of industrialisation which creates more jobs than any other state in Nigeria and supports its businesses at all levels to do well and thrive.
Having determined that we want to lead in education, we will benchmark our state with three cities in the world that meet our desires and educational aspirations and adapt that aspiration to our context in Imo, by doing this we can tell what our standard criteria will be for education at every level from the amount of cement it takes to build a classroom to the maximum number of children in a class, the minimum number of teachers, the best wage and performance bonuses, the best incentive for learner performances, and we will have carefully measured indicators showing us how we are progressing towards our goals and ask objective observers to judge us by our progress towards our benchmark.
Another aspect of our education programme is that we shall return Imo State to it’s previous status as the intellectual hub of Igboland. Our revered Second Republic Governor Dee Sam Mbakwe gave Imo State that status when he instituted the annual Ahiajoku Lecture Series in 1979. It grew to become the greatest intellectual feast in the Southeast and a forum that brought Igbo intellectuals together. It was in the 1986 Ahiajoku Lecture that the late economics giant, Dr. Pius Okigbo, declared the Okigwe – Owerri – Orlu axis (where Imo State belongs) as the canonical representatives of Igbo civilisation. Under our leadership, Imo State will claim it’s manifest destiny and become the torch-bearer of Igbo civilisation.
In the area of industry, we shall benchmark our state with standard and practical exemplars that meet that aspiration and work towards milestones. For example, we will identify what are the global and regional industrialisation drivers for a state in our location and with our peculiarities, we will then dedicate resources to those things. If what is required for instance is to license private people to build haulage rail lines to the nearest ports, or concentrate functional power supply for specified times of the day unfailingly to specific areas using public and private players we will do it diligently. If you are importing industrial goods to Imo State we will not allow you to just swim with the sharks, we will develop mechanisms that will make Imo State an investor’s first choice destination.
Determining that development is providing the highest and best welfare system for our people, we cannot have a state where people wonder if they will be paid a living wage and on time. We will develop a system that ensures the funding of all jobs well ahead of the completion of a month’s earnings such that you can set your wristwatch or calendar by the regularity with which we meet our social obligations in health and social support for the vulnerable. This will create an ambiance that does not only guarantee you an enjoyment of your human rights and privileges but a judicial system and support system that allows you to be able to enforce breaches to these rights without fear or favour.
We have taken it as an article of faith that we will make Imo State whole again, rekindle the hope of our people and make years of the locust a thing of the past. There can be no better reason to look forward to stewardship.