BY JAMES UDEMBA
Exactly one and half years ago, I had predicted that equity would be on the side of Emeka Ihedioha and that he would emerge victorious in the 2019 governorship election of Imo State. That was in an article I wrote titled “Equity on the side of Ihedioha”published under the pen name of Jude Ejiofor in Saturday Vanguard of September 17th, 2017.
I based my prediction on the fact that he had remained steadfast with the battle for justice in PDP and that the voters and the law of equity would most likely reward him with victory in the polls in 2019. I also did mention that he was well recommended by his wealth of experience and relatively clean background.
Now that he has won, I cannot but recall that piece because I can readily recollect that in the past 20 years, Imo people have been grappling with the conundrum of establishing an interrogative leadership that would stand the test of both public scrutiny and acceptable societal norms. This burden which was not self-inflicted but came about by sheer circumstance and coincidence left a scare that tended to question the choice of the electorate at any governorship election. The concern became even worrisome as the 2019 elections drew nearer and the candidates emerged from the various political parties. Must we travel this road again, became a refrain as people feared that history was about to repeat itself. Mercifully, the election of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as the next governor of Imo State finally put to rest that apprehension.
Compare the scary Imo scenario with the situation in Ebonyi State and you will get the picture clearer. While the people of Ebonyi State had no trouble in situating those that have emerged as their governors, the opposite seemed to be the case in the neigbouring Imo State. People knew Dr. Sam Egwu, a disciplined lecturer, refined by the Assemblies of God Church. Chief Martin Elechi, a technocrat that paid his dues in the Civil Service and served Igboland in various capacities succeeded Egwu and people also knew him. Then came in the home-boy, Engr. David Nwaeze Umahi, an engineer of repute as the next governor. Everyone also knew him.
Now juxtapose that with the emergence of Chief Achike Udenwa as the governor of Imo State. A relatively obscure Accountant whom late Sam Mbakwe described as being fit to occupy the position of a member of the House of Assembly. But at least, some people knew the man who worked in a construction company in Port-Harcourt. But did they know Ikedi Ohakim who came literally from nowhere to become the next governor? The answer is no. Did they know Rochas Okorocha who deceived Imo people by presenting himself as a Philanthropist, but turned around to become a tyrant? The answer is also no! That was the dilemma of Imo people as they were faced with the choice of electing another governor in 2019.
For inexplicable reasons, the front-runners in that election also turned out to be men whose background, majority of Imo people are not comfortable with. Senator Hope Uzodinma, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and Okorocha’s protégé, Uche Nwosu also had question marks regarding from where they were coming from. Many Imo people believed that had any of them emerged the governor, it would have been a continuation of the sordid past which they had grappled with in the last 12 years.
Herein lies the re-assurance in Ihedioha’s election as the next governor of Imo State. It is not for nothing that Igbo people often pose the question to anyone aspiring for leadership: WHO ARE YOU? The interrogative sentence is not just for you to introduce yourself. The intrinsic and underlying meaning simply seeks to know your background; where you are coming from. It is this quest to know a man warts and all that drive the search for a credible leadership in Igboland. So now, for the first time in as many as 20 years, Imo people have found the right answer in the choice of Emeka Ihedioha as the governor.
It is not that Ihedioha is a saint. Far from it. But he represents a fresh breath of air from the odious and sordid past. He is truly the new face of Imo in terms of integrity and verifiable background. Above all, he comes into office with a solid background of experience backed by tested efficiency and cerebral fecundity.
Indeed Ihedioha could be likened to the boy next door. His childhood friends are everywhere. His classmates in secondary schools are everywhere. His course mates in the university could be located in a matter of minutes. And whatever wealth he has acquired, the source is well known. For the past 20 years, he has been with Imo people. His political career is well known to all, first as a political adviser to the Vice President and then as a third – term member of the Federal House of Representatives where he rose to the height of Deputy Speaker and Acting Speaker. Within this period also, Imo people assessed him and found him to be worthy.
It is noteworthy that Emeka Ihedioha has displayed an incredible level of consistency and loyalty such that people have often wondered whether he is actually a Nigerian politician. He is among the few that have remained with PDP since inception. The same cannot be said of his opponents in the election and even his predecessors in office. Many of them have jumped ship four times over. If consistency does not equate to trustworthiness, I may not know what the name Ihedioha means.
What I do know however is that Imo people should guard this victory of Ihedioha jealously. Many religious leaders prayed fervently for God’s intervention in the political life of Imo State. In my view that prayer has been answered in Emeka Ihedioha emerging the governor. However, the forces of darkness are not relenting. They are gathering. Even before the new governor takes over, there is a gang-p to stop him because he represents a light in an environment that was for long enveloped by stench and darkness. Those who have benefited from the yahoo yahoo governance that characterized leadership in the last 12 years are not about to give up.
That is why it is not just enough to celebrate Okorocha’s defeat. Ihedioha victory calls for eternal vigilance because he represents a clean break from the sordid past. Imo people must work in concert with the new governor to chart a new course for the renaissance of the state especially in its value system and orientation. Because some people are used to the retrogressive governance of the past, they may not easily become new converts to this reawakening that will define the tenure of Ihedioha.
Therefore the people must form an army of support base for the new administration, especially in the formulation and implementation of its policies. Both the religious and traditional rulers owe it a duty to their followers to preach the new gospel anchored on truth, probity and accountability. With the emergence of the new government, partisan politics, ethnic cleavages and petty supremacy battles among the elites must take the back seat. The sole item on the agenda should be the development of Imo State with Ihedioha in the drivers seal.
For Emeke Ihedioha, history beckons. The task is not an easy one. With a battered economy ravaged by poor leadership; with a dysfunctional civil service rendered impotent by corruption; and with a disoriented populace wearied by failed leadership, Ihedioha has so much to do within such a short time. Luckily, he has the goodwill of the people and history is actually on his side. Truly this is a new dawn for Imo State as the people celebrate a clean break from their better forgotten sordid past.
- UDEMBA IS A PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST BASED IN OWERRI