Hon. Emeka Ihedioha
Ndubuisi Ugah writes on the 2015 governorship ambition of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and contends that the road to the government house will not be an easy one.
Even though he is yet to declare an intention, it is hardly a secret that the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, wants to be governor of Imo State come 2015. The question is whether he can realise that dream given the hurdles readily strewn on the path of prospective challengers to the incumbent Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
Apart from the incumbency factor, which is to the advantage of Governor Okorocha, who is yet to declare his 2015 ambition in any case, the array of other contenders for the race to Douglas House as well as recent political dynamics in the state all combine to cast some shadows on the ambition of the deputy speaker.
The question therefore is can he weather the storm? Are the people of Imo State ready for him and what does he have to bring to the table to better their lot? While answers to some of these questions lie in the belly of time, some dissection of the personality and politics of Emeka Ihedioha can offer some insight into the electoral scenario as far as it concerns the deputy speaker.
A third term member of the lower chamber of the National Assembly, Ihedioha, many believe, has used his network of influence and power developed over the years to benefit the people of Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala federal constituency he represents and even lately, throughout Imo State as a whole. The federal lawmaker has demonstrated consistency in practical service delivery to the people since he was first elected in 2003 by attracting federal presence, including infrastructural projects and empowerment programmes to his constituency. Perhaps, to prove that if given the chance as governor of Imo State in 2015 he can do a whole lot for Imo people, Ihedioha has been very visible in projects flag-off and commissioning in different parts of the state lately. And at each of these ceremonial events, the point is never lost on the people that the project or programme in focus is attracted to the community by the deputy speaker. And this has reinforced his attribute among the people as a trustworthy man, a politician with integrity and a legislator with a liberal temperament, a testament that will easily count for him when all the cards are thrown on the table for the 2015 governorship.
The kind of appreciation and excitement that trails Ihedioha’s beneficial engagement with the people is exemplified by the events at a recent outing in some communities in Ngor Okpala Local Council of Imo State Friday, March 1, 2013. The deputy speaker was on an inspection tour of some of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) projects he attracted and facilitated to the area. The projects included road construction, erosion control, power injection station and electrification schemes. Before his arrival, the people in their hundreds including political leaders, traditional rulers, youths and women thronged the project site chanting praise songs and displaying signs and placards inscribed with messages of appreciation and excitement. The indigenes of the benefitting communities had lined the roads waving the deputy speaker’s convoy of vehicles which stretched through a kilometer from Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri.
Of significant note during these inspections was a five-kilometre road linking Umuowa Community to Nguru. This road was one of the many roads the Imo State government had earmarked for construction shortly after assumption of office by the current administration but had not been executed. It was in appreciation of the strategic importance of the road that Ihedioha influenced provisions for it in the 2012/2013 NDDC budget. The project site was a beehive of activities as bulldozers and other construction equipment were being heavily engaged. This inspection tour also took the deputy speaker to a power injection sub-station being constructed at Umuneke, headquarters of Ngor Okpala local government area. This is another project facilitated to the area by Ihedioha in fulfillment of his campaign promises during the elections. Another electrification project at Umuekwune, a large community in the LGA was also inspected on that day. This multi-million naira project which involves installation of transformers, cables, poles and so on has raised the moral of the people of the area, as expressed by the traditional ruler of the community, Eze George Nwosu who extolled the virtues of the deputy speaker for “showing deep concern over the plight of the people and ensuring federal presence in the community for the first time.”
However, beyond his federal constituency, Hon. Ihedioha has attracted beneficial programmes that touched the entire Imo State as a whole. A recent skills acquisition programme he facilitated to the state through the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) benefitted youths and women from all the wards in the state without discrimination as to political party affiliations or social and residential status. After the training on different skills and vocations, seed money and equipment was distributed to participants to set them up to face the future. That particular programme touched many livelihoods throughout the state so much so that Imolites are looking forward to a promised phase two of the empowerment.
It is instructive that Ihedioha’s stint in the House of Representatives has witnessed evidences of empowerment programmes and infrastructural projects as the centre of his legislative governance. This is on account of his legislative open-mindedness, liberal political ideology and instructive political forthrightness.
Driven by liberal political disposition and passion for democracy dividends trickling down to the masses, Hon Ihedioha’s commitment has remained one targeted at ensuring capacity building through entrepreneurial training programmes aimed at scaling down the rate of unemployment and creating wealth especially among the rural poor. All of these are geared towards setting off socio-economic development and more importantly battling social challenges particularly insecurity which has currently enveloped Imo State. Herein lays his leadership trait of vision and tenacity towards bequeathing a better society for all.
In fact, the record of Ihedioha’s road infrastructure, electricity projects, education facilities, water projects, hospital facilities is significant and verifiable. For instance, Ihedioha got NDDC to award contract for Okpala-Igwuruta Road, linking Imo to Rivers with the first phase costing N4.2b; facilitated award of contract for the dualization of Owerri-Elele (Omayelu) 35-kilometre road at N23b. He also attracted contract for the design of the famous 63-kilometre Mbaise Ring Road cutting across three local councils at the initial cost of N1bn. Besides, Ihedioha facilitated the award of N5bn contract for the award of construction of roundabout at Ahiara junction along Owerri-Umuahia Road with two spurs and got the Federal Government to take over the construction of Airport Junction, Umuohiagu-Uvuru Road. He also initiated the process of constructing N1b jetty at Imo River and construction of a giant size 133 x 333KVA substation at Mbaise located between Nguru and Ibeku with initial contract cost of N2.2b. These further attest to Ihedioha’s commitment to the well-being of the people, a leadership trait the people of Imo have always yearned for.
But beyond these niceties and records of achievement, can Ihedioha take on the power of incumbency exemplified by Governor Okorocha who many still believe has put up a commendable showing in office in the last two years? Assuming the incumbent does not even seek re-election as has been rumoured in some quarters that it is the presidency that he actually wants to go for in 2015, will he just vacate Government House without ensuring that his choice of successor is installed after him? The recent impeachment of the deputy governor, Sir Jude Agbaso, from office by the state House of Assembly and his replacement with Prince Eze Maduemere from Owerri zone signals a deliberate political calculation by Governor Rochas to leave nothing to chance. As things stand, the new deputy governor, some analysts believe, can lay a stake to the claim of Owerri zone that it is their turn to produce a successor to Okorocha. This no doubt, further chokes the contest among possible contestants from the zone to become governor in 2015.
The list is long already within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- Ihedioha himself, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, Hon. Bethel Amadi, Chief Emma Ojinere- and there is Senator Chris Anyanwu and Chief Martins Agbaso in the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). This suggests that within the PDP itself, the race for the party’s flag bearer for the 2015 governorship will not be a piece of cake for the deputy speaker even though he is acknowledged to be the leading leader of the party being the highest political office holder from the state. But with PDP politics, being a frontline leader does not guarantee a ticket, especially given the history of the party in Imo State. But just how this scenario shapes the game for Ihedioha is another question that only time can answer.