Imo State deputy governor, Mr. Eze Madumere, in this interview with Amby Uneze in Owerri, spoke on how the state is surviving the economic downturn. He also spoke on his working relationship with his boss, Governor Rochas Okorocha
How has the Imo State Government been managing the current recession?
Truly, it has not been easy for our people. I can understand what it portends for the low income earners, especially where there is only one bread winner feeding many children on daily basis with the continual rise in cost of food stuffs and other family needs.
The Chief Executive of Imo State Government, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, our leader, a meticulous administrator with the midas touch, because of his love for our people, has maintained some of his policies that have continued to serve as stimulus in cushioning the effect of the recession. From December 2016 to January 2017, the government relaxed some of its policies in revenue drive to serve as succour to the economic issues.
The free education policy at all levels has continued to run unstopped. My problem is the denial of some people that there is no free education in Imo State at the tertiary level. It is painful. That students pay their utilities should not be the headache of the government. Things like identity card, departmental, association dues and probably light should not be the headache of the government. Beyond this, the governor insisted that whatever payment on utilities should never exceed the total of N20,000 only and to the best of my knowledge they pay a token of N19,500.
What am I saying? Every parent in Imo State has been shielded from the burden of paying school fees from primary to tertiary level. It is only in Imo State that there is zero dropout or families temporarily stopping some of their children from going to school. This is never the case in Imo.
Like we have always said, recession is never a death sentence but rather a critical mirror with which we have been able to put Nigeria on a factual scale to ascertain whether we have been growing in stature without developing. Recession exposed our vulnerability. And for me, it is one hell of a dislikeable good omen. Were it not for recession, we would have been living in a fool’s paradise; we would have still been wandering in a false affluence. Today, we have known our true state and the need to face the real challenge of building for the future, not on mono-economy, but through articulated economic blue print. We have agreed that we need to feed ourselves first. The federal government is serious about it. I am happy that we talk less about foreign rice these days. We talk less about foreign commodities. I eat local rice, which is more nutritious, healthier and tastier. Aquaculture is growing by the day with better technology for processing and packaging being re-invented by the day.
Recession has not changed the vision and the course of Owelle Rochas Okorocha resolve’s to develop Imo. This is the reason he has not rested on his oars despite all odds. For salaries, Imo State Government does not owe workers. Workers have been paid till December. Urban Renewal Project is ongoing. Imo State, since the return to civil rule in 1999, has never witnessed the kind of rural road rehabilitation currently being witnessed especially between December and January this year as many of the economic roads are being prepared for tarring.
Water schemes in Imo, Okigwe and Orlu zones are being rehabilitated. For the first time in fifteen years with private partnership, we have been able to get water running in Owerri again. These are some beautiful stories so sure to be told in the mouth of our detractors. I am happy that Imolites who came home for festivities were surprised at what they saw on ground, which is different from what was being peddled on social media and other news platforms.
How would you evaluate the performance of some core policies of the state government?
It has been so far so good. I know it is somehow one blowing his own trumpet. One thing is sure, there has been policy consistency since the inception of Rescue Mission Government. Right from the inception of the Owelle Rochas Okorocha-led government; one of the core policies is free education. We are proud to celebrate about six years of free and qualitative education in Imo State. Let us not forget that this government provided all the materials, which include uniforms, shoes, desks and others. Rescue Mission Government also built 305 six class room one story buildings; one in each of the 305 electoral wards of Imo State. We also promised to tackle the high spate of insecurity in the state. Before we came on board, Imo was spotted as one of the failed states. This is not unconnected with the fact that the first charge of every government is security of life and property, which was never there. We had a situation where fear and uncertainty had become the then new normal. That has been changed. In the area of infrastructure, we have done well. The three senatorial zones of Imo State – the people of Okigwe, Orlu and Owerri zones can attest to the good work of rescue mission.
In the area of industrialisation, you will agree with me that Imo State has become one of the preferred place for tourism owing to the construction of state-of-the-art event and investment centers that can readily cater for events in whatever form and capacity to accomodate a population from the upward of seven thousand to ten thousand participants. This has not only changed the clientele in our hospitality sector but has brought in other value chains. Last December was our third carnivals in the series. Most hoteliers could not contain the spill over effect because of guests in their facilities. Those that were into cab businesses had their hands full. Of course, with beautification of the cities coupled with security, the environment is secure and conducive for businesses to thrive.
In the area of manufacturing, we have done quite a bit because incentives are there. The former Resin Paint Industry in Aboh Mbaise has been taken over now for production of meters and other electrical appliances. However, we have been encouraging our young entrepreneurs, a number of them in agriculture and agribusiness. Just recently, the governor of Imo State approved N2 billion repayable loans for our people.
You headed a security committee that battled kidnapping and other criminalities in the state, what would you say is the current security status of the state?
Thank you so much for that question.
All over the world, establishment of government is majorly to safeguard and protect lives and property. Before the Owelle Rochas Okorocha-led government came on board, like I said earlier, Imo State was a place of fear; freedom was one hell of a commodity no one could afford; loved ones ran far off their homes and towns while parents would prefer their children staying far away from Imo State. Okorocha promised to work out a solution with the security agencies. It was a daunting challenge but by the gallantry of the joint task force, which include the police, the army, civil defence, among other security agencies, we were able to bring the situation under control. The hydra headed monster of criminality was checked. I commend them for their patriotism and sacrifices. This is the reason the governor does not joke with them. On the security status of Imo State, I stand to tell you that Imo State remains one of the most secure and safest states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Last festive period (throughout December and the preceding months) we had almost zero crime record. Our people and the guests of the state enjoyed themselves to the fullest because there was security in place.
There is growing agitation from your zone for you to join the guber race but you seem to be silent on the issue. What are your plans?
My answer has always been simple. I am in a joint ticket with my boss, Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha. We owe Imo people a responsibility of providing a long lasting dividend of democracy. They voted massively for us and we must not begin to play out unpalatable scripts to our people.
We are just less than two years into the present dispensation. For those who are already on the political dance floor, I hail them because it is their inalienable right to seek any elective post. Again, agitation cannot be separated from democracy. Owerri zone from where I come from does have the right to agitate just like Okigwe is doing. However, it will be a show of ingratitude to my leader and that of Ndi Imo to hurriedly join a race when we have a job to do. My take on this is, it is just too early and it is not about who agitate most but the will of the father in heaven.
Imo has been described as an emerging tourism destination, what are your projections in another two years when the current administration will be rounding off?
With our experience; with what we have in Imo in infrastructure even with the soon-to-be commissioned Imo International Cargo Airport and our present effort to ensuring that we understudy the commercial angle to our programmes, Imo will surely take over in the next two years.
The succession of the Governor Okorocha seems to be hitting up gradually, what is your projection towards this?
Well, it is normal because Imo people are highly politically conscious with everyone having one or two things he feels he has to sell to the people in terms of governance. I have no projection because, I have a mandate with my leader, it is just too early to begin to discuss this as I said earlier. For God’s sake, we are less than two years in office. We are busy working hard to put smiles on the faces of our people and to also ensure that we create an atmosphere where businesses can thrive. That is the best approach to ensuring that we justify the peoples’ mandate. That is my take on this ever recurring question on 2019.
Recession is never a death sentence but rather a critical mirror with which we have been able to put Nigeria on a factual scale to ascertain whether we have been growing in stature without developing. Recession exposed us our vulnerability. And for me, it is one hell of a dislikeable good omen. Were it not for recession, we would have been living in fool’s paradise