BY James Udemba
Before any serious politician seeks a public office, it is a fait accompli that he should have an agenda. In advanced Western democracies, the manifesto of political parties solely recommends them to voters while the personality of the candidate helps to re-enforce the beliefs, preferences and choices of individual voters.
It presupposes therefore, that an elected public officer like Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the Imo State Governor-elect must have an agenda to pursue once he is sworn in. This could be a combination of the manifesto of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the vehicle through which he came to power and his personal convictions based on the economic and political realities of the time.
However, given the wave of factors that brought him to power, especially the unsavoring experience of the past eight years when Imo people had to beg God for a divine intervention, the in-coming governor cannot afford to ignore the following issues if he is to steer the ship of state to safe anchor in 2023 and possibly seek re-election. He should do all within his powers to probe the out-going administration to reassure the people that it would no longer be business as usual.
He must be inclined towards running an all-inclusive government; restore the dignity of religions and traditional rulers battered by his predecessor; conduct local government elections; institute a working frame work for the economic revival of the state as well as ensure the payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities among others.
Some might think it is a waste of a time and resources probing the out-going government. Ironically, that is what every average Imolite wants more than anything. Such a probe will even be good for the departing governor. It would afford him the opportunity to explain how he has just, within eight years, become the richest man in Imo State.
But such a probe should not be limited to the executive alone. It must be extended to the legislature to establish whether members of the House of Assembly colluded with anybody to rape Imo State or whether it was just an abdication and/or dereliction of duty. Ihedioha needs this probe for catharsis effect on a distraught people. As a top lawmaker, he also needs to know how to enthrone an independent legislature that will work for the people and not the governor.
Another vital point in the agenda is for Ihedioha to run an inclusive government. Although he belongs to the PDP, he should form a cabinet made up of technocrats, politicians and other interests that will help
rebuild Imo State. As an Mbaise man, he is aware of the concerns and reservations some people have misconstrued them. He should reassure such people through a government of state unity and being broad minded, fair and just in the distribution of appointments and infrastructures across the 305 wards in the state. It would be suicidal for him to allow sectional interest to take him hostage the way his predecessor allowed greed and ambition to capture him.
When Ihedioha visited Emekuku community shortly before his election, the people complained of how revered institutions in the state, especially traditional and religious, had been battered and bastardized by the out-going government. The feeling resonates across the state. Our value system collapsed in the last eight years. Unfortunately those who were supposed to speak out kept mute. Apart from Archbishop Anthony Obinna and few others, majority of our religious and traditional rulers were castrated by Okorocha.
This must be addressed. One way of doing it is to revisit the issue of creation or balkanization of communities and the installation of emergency government traditional rulers. The governor may reach out for the report of the Hon. Larry Ajaero committee of Imo House of Assembly that looked into the issue before 2011.
Closely related to this is the welfare of civil servants and pensioners. For reasons that are inexplicable, the out-going governor completely destroyed the civil service. There is no longer order in the system. Seniority has been eroded. Powers have been taken away from the permanent secretaries and Directors.
Worst of all, under a dubious and convoluted system, workers and pensioners were forced to sign away a percentage of their entitlements. This must be redressed. A total over haul of the civil service, prompt payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities will help restore the dignity of the service.
Another segment of the society badly in need of restoration is the political class or what is left of it. Through a policy of divide and rule; through the weapon of starvation and sundry subterfuge, the political class was emasculated and turned into the stooge of the governor.
Okorocha wanted to and largely succeeded in erasing the political class and enthroned in their stead, mediocre and clowns who depended on the crumbs from the table for their survival. Imo has remained a cosmopolitan State with a robust political culture. It is the duty of Ihedioha to return Imo to the days of Sam Mbakwe and other leaders who encouraged even an articulate and vibrant opposition.
This plurality of ideas being canvassed will provide the fillip for the conduct of a local government election that will replace the contraption put in place by the receding emperor. Enthroning a democratic culture at the grassroots will help the people feel the pulse of governance quicker than the layers of bureaucracy created by Okorocha for his convenience.
I am aware that the only credible local government election conducted in the state was done by Governor Ihedi Ohakim. Luckily we have another PDP government that should leverage on the successes of that exercise to get Imo people fully involved in the process of governance. Such an exercise must of course be transparent, free, fair and credible involving all political parties.
It is when we have such a democratic culture in place that the two tiers of government shall pursue an aggressive economic policy that is community oriented with the capacity to return our teaming youths to the grassroots. Since it is obvious that government alone cannot employ all our young graduates and school leavers, Ihedioha should put together an economic team that should draw up a road map for backward integration.
There is no community that does not produce palm oil and its ancillary services. The government can leverage on that and collaborate with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create jobs for our youths.
In doing that, Ihedioha should also overhaul the educational policy in the state. Part of Okorocha’s campaign gimmicks for Uche Nwosu was that he remained the only candidate that will sustain the so-called free-education policy of his administration. Do we really have a free education in Imo State? Students have complained that they paid money through the back door and through the so-called community government.
Ihedioha should institute a judicial commission of inquiry to know the truth. Part of the terms of reference should be to ascertain the true owner of the University at Ogboko, Okorocha’s home town. Until such a truth is known, Imo people will continue to wonder whether they actually lost anything with Okorocha’s exit.
Although the aforementioned points are not in themselves exhaustive, I believe that a holistic attention to them will help place the Ihedioha’s administration on a sound footing as it seeks to liberate Imo people from their eight years bondage. An in-depth interrogation of the issues will assist the government to be on the same page with the people in this glorious quest for total freedom from familitocracy.