In any given social unit, there is always that one person, who makes a huge difference even in the midst of challenges. In Imo State, former House of Representatives Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, appears to fit that description. Amby Uneze writes
Abride does not hide in the crowd. Rather, she is always celebrated and seen as a jewel that is shielded from the enthusiastic spectators, who would always want to capture a glimpse of her. A bride has a lot to behold and that is the reason brides everywhere are nurtured, admired and projected so that their suitors or grooms would remain elated for having something to guard jealously.
In today’s Nigeria, Emeka Ihedioha fits into the shoes of his political fathers, who had recorded great exploits in the annals of the body polity. It is no surprise, therefore, that when it comes to fixing the political dilemma, Ihedioha is first among equals to be called upon, because he has the magic wand to calm the nerves of agitators.
He began his political carrier in the early 90s, precisely in 1992 as a press officer to then Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu. He was appointed Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Senate President, Senator Albert Legogie (late) barely a year later. Following military incursion into the polity in November 1993, Ihedioha returned to his communications practice as Chief Executive Officer of First Page Communications.
However, by 1995, when the whistle for transition to civilian rule was blown, he readily returned to the familiar waters of politics. He promptly connected with the mainstream and like a gold fish that has no hiding place, became the Director of Publicity of the newly formed Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), which later joined other groups to form the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998.
He did not stop at that as he took his search for knowledge to different parts of the globe, certifying and specialising in several fields of endeavours that have made him a rounded professional, administrator and consummate politician of towering repute. Not satisfied with his numerous academic feats, Ihedioha delved into practical post-graduate training as a communications and public relations specialist.
As a communication expert, he worked with various top-rate organisations and consultancy firms before responding full-time to the call of is natural love and vocation, politics. And in this field of public service, he has built a rich background of experience from various high calibre positions that afforded him opportunity to serve his fatherland.
In that capacity, he played very crucial and prominent roles in the emergence of the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 1999. Accordingly, Ihedioha was appointed into certain key positions in the growing democratic dispensation: first as Special Assistant to the Presidential Adviser on Utilities (July 1999); later, as Special Adviser on Media to the President of the Senate (November 1999); and eventually Special Assistant on Political Matters to the Vice President (September 2001).
It was from his last assignment in the Office of the Vice President that he contested and won a seat in the House of Representatives as a member representing Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency of Imo State in 2003. Between 2003 and 2007, he served as Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport, where he brilliantly coordinated legislative oversight functions over Nigeria’s maritime sector.
The passage of the Cabotage Law, a key legislation, which reformed the maritime industry to allow for increased participation of Nigerians in that sector of the economy, is generally credited to Ihedioha. He re-contested and won back his seat in 2007, serving as Chairman, House Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa before he was elected Chief Whip of the House, a position he held till the expiration of that term.
He was elected the deputy speaker in 2011, a position he discharged with excellence as he exhibited goodwill, candour, accommodating spirit and above all accessibility to his colleagues till 2015. Renowned for his political savvy and legislative dexterity, Ihedioha played very notable roles as a stabiliser, synthesizer and great mobilizer both in the House and his party, the PDP.
These achievements made him to develop a reputation for competence, a reputation for leadership capacity and a man that can be relied on to deliver on even the most difficult assignments. He was clearly marked out as a man, who could be entrusted with higher responsibilities of state. He epitomizes a rare brand of legislative excellence and is generally seen as a man who would spare no effort to improve the lives and living conditions of people.
Even though he placed his constituency at the centre of Nigeria’s political map as his first duty of representation demands yet his approach to issues is pan-Nigeria. Ihedioha has throughout this time in the National Assembly become the darling brand of not just the people of Imo State but the entire Nigerian masses.
It was therefore not surprising when on the 6th day of June, 2011, he was elected unopposed as the Deputy Speaker by his colleagues. The principled stand of the House members is seen as an affirmation of implicit confidence in his leadership credentials.
Ihedioha’s popular emergence as the Deputy Speaker, brought inspirational, rancour-free and dynamic leadership to the Green Chamber, where he displayed tact, dexterity and maturity in the conduct of official business. It is important to observe that the leadership of the 7th House of Representatives made outstanding contributions to the peace and stability of Nigeria through its legislative interventions in motions, bills and constituency representation.
More than that, Ihedioha’s mode of emergence represented a paradigm shift in the nation’s democratic experience. Throughout his tenure as deputy speaker, he enjoyed the trust and confidence of his colleagues across partisan divide.
Apart from the positions earlier mentioned, Ihedioha by virtue of his office as Deputy Speaker served as chairman of various crucial committees.
His leadership ensured that the amendments made by the House remained revolutionary and unprecedented. It is on record that after several other amendment processes in the House of Representatives, the committee under Ihedioha’s leadership processed a record of 70 clauses of the Constitution for amendment, which were eventually passed by the House of Representatives in a transparent vote applauded by Nigerians across board.
As the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, Ihedioha presided over the consideration of committee reports. It was at the Committee of the Whole that laws as different from just resolutions were made. In other words, he presided over the most crucial aspect of the legislative business: law-making.
To this unique role, which existed only in the House of Representatives, he demonstrated considerable expertise, experience, capacity, wisdom and tact in handling contending and contentious issues. He was always a delight to watch, when he was presiding, as he brought uncommon brilliance and political sagacity to bear on this important legislative process.
Ihedioha has been on the national political scene for about two decades during, which period he has made his mark convincingly and creditably. And in all this time, he has played politics of consistency, loyalty and commitment to his party, the PDP, joining forces with other prominent politicians to fight military incursions into the polity especially after the botched Third Republic.
The PDP is a notable result of the political activism of that era. It could be safely said that Ihedioha was actively involved in midwifing the PDP and he has not left the party since inception. He has always served the PDP faithfully since then including being prominent in the presidential campaign organisation that brought Obasanjo to power in 1999.
In the 2012 National Convention of the PDP, he served as Chairman of the National Screening Panel that screened and certified the qualifications of aspirants to the various national offices of the party. In the following year 2013, he also served as Chairman of the Publicity Committee of the Special National Convention of the party. In that capacity he ensured that the proceedings of the convention were well publicised in both local and international media. Only in September 2014, he was appointed into the National Integration Committee of the party for North-Central. These appointments are obviously in recognition of his intellectual and political standing within the power echelons of the party.
At the state level, Ihedioha has been a major bulwark and one of the major financiers of the PDP in Imo since the party lost the gubernatorial office in 2011. In his capacity as Deputy Speaker, he has rallied other party stalwarts, members and supporters to rebuild the PDP in Imo State to make it such a formidable force.
Ihedioha is a pro-people and development-oriented legislator, who consistently used his position as leader and driver of the budget passage process of the House of Representatives to push for actualisation of democracy dividends to his immediate constituency, Imo State and the South-east geo-political zone at large. He has remained the only elected official in Imo State, who has brought meaningful development through infrastructure, youth and women empowerment and capacity building to the Mbaise.
Ihedioha is a detribalised Nigerian, who will always insist on the best without considering tribe, religion or place.