Emeka Ihedioha lists what he will do differently if elected governor of Imo State

According to the 2010 UNESCO survey, more than half the people of Imo State above the age of eight can read and write. This not only confirms the fact that our people are traditionally sophisticated, intelligent, enterprising and industrious, it also explains why they are ever prepared to help government fast track development through self-help projects encapsulated in the spirit of “Igwebuike”. It is therefore no surprise that a great number of our people in the Diaspora are highly educated professionals, particularly in the medical and engineering sectors. These men and women are also ever prepared to make valuable contributions to the development process in the state. But only if and when the environment is conducive for such sacrifices.

Meanwhile, our inability to harness these potentialities has left our state poor. In Imo State today, all the critical sectors such as education, health, basic infrastructure, water and sanitation have deteriorated beyond the threshold of manageability simply because the present government not only lacks imagination and direction but is also lawless. Consequently, also because the fundamentals of the governance structure do not inspire any confidence, investors have deserted the state, businesses have closed down, unemployment and the attendant poverty are on the rise while only mortuary patronage statistics has gone up. The once Eastern Heartland and pride of the Igbo nation is lying prostrate and a shadow of the Dee Sam Mbakwe era.

The decay in two critical sectors attracts the most attention because of their fundamental importance to the overall development process–Education and Health. Going forward, we must declare a state of emergency in these sectors. Prior to 2011, Imo State used to record about 90 per cent credit level in NECO and WAEC. But today it has fallen to 45 per cent. Do we expect magic? According to available records, for the entire 572 public secondary schools in Imo State, there are presently only eight qualified Mathematics teachers, 30 qualified English teachers, 20 qualified Physics teachers, 20 qualified Chemistry teachers and no qualified Further Maths teacher. In the course of our engagements and survey, we also discovered that our people are no longer taught to be wealth creators, but rather for paid employment.

We are determined to reverse this ugly trend in Imo State so that we can effectively fit into the present global economy that is knowledge-driven. We shall revive technical colleges and make them centres of excellence for critical skills like welding and fabrication, bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, electrical installation and repairs, etc. These are critical skills that provide immediate jobs, especially self-employment. In our manifesto, we have also laid out a careful plan to make Imo the regional ICT hub, by establishing a fully equipped and funded state of the art ICT Village. In this direction, we shall be glad to partner with state platforms in the U.S, international aid agencies, corporate bodies and individuals particularly our diaspora professionals, to help make this digital ambition come to fruition.

Sadly, in the heath sector, the story is the same. There is no functional General Hospital at present in Imo State. The only one, so-called, is the Umuguma General hospital which has been leased to an unknown company in a deal that was considered by many as opaque and fraudulent. However, given the statistics of medical personnel in the employment of the state, even if the 27 hospitals purported to have been built by the present administration are functional, the Imo State Hospital Board still lacks the requisite manpower to sufficiently provide the needed services for our people.

According to the records also available to us, the State Hospitals Management Board presently has only 52 Medical Doctors; nine Pharmacists; seven Medical Laboratory Scientists; two X-ray technicians and 172 nurses for the 19 moribund General hospitals across the state. These are the medical personnel expected to service 3.9 Imo citizens. And these are just numbers, we haven’t talked about the proficiency. Under our watch, we shall consider affordable health care the least obligation that we owe our people. It should not be a luxury for a privileged few.

We shall resuscitate the health sector by establishing a specialist centre in each zone as centres of excellence for tertiary medical care, internship, training and research. We shall adequately equip our hospitals and staff them with appropriate personnel. We are determined to reverse medical tourism as well as save the lives of Imolites most of whom now die as a result of lack of quality health care. In our manifesto, we have elaborate plans to make Imo a Medical Centre of Excellence in Nigeria and in the sub-region by establishing a Medical Village to facilitate research particularly in tropical diseases. We are hopeful that our brothers and sisters in the diaspora who are health professionals shall leverage on this opportunity to export their expertise homeward. We are prepared to partner with you to achieve this important target.

We shall equally give attention to other critical sectors that have suffered neglect over the previous years, particularly agriculture, wealth creation, security, tourism, sports, infrastructure, energy, water and sanitation sectors. We welcome partnership in these sectors even as we are exploring other opportunities of expanding revenue frontiers, particularly in the tourism sector.

Imo State is uniquely located at the heart of the South-East of Nigeria, as well as being the gateway to the South-South. We have an elaborate plan to make Owerri an International Conference Capital of Nigeria, taking advantage of the aforementioned and the growing hospitality industry it boasts of. I consider this a low hanging fruit. This shall be complemented by investing in Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, in collaboration with the federal government and the private sector, to bring it to optimal utilization. We have a firm belief that this, in addition to the proximity of Port Harcourt International Airport, will open Imo to the outside world for business and tourism, and in a very remarkable way improve the lives of our people. We must build the future from the many potentialities of today to guarantee a better life for generations of our children.

Under our watch, the business of governance shall be anchored on the principles of rule of law, transparency, prudent resource management and accountability. More importantly, we shall abide by the fundamental principles of contemporary economic model, where government’s role is only limited to providing the needed impetus for private capital to thrive and drive the development process. We are truly anxious to tap into the vast ingenuity of our people by providing them with the right environment and all necessary assistance that may be required for them to invest and contribute to the development of our homeland.

To encourage our people, particularly those that are in the Diaspora to take advantage of this opportunity, we have initiated a confidence building framework to be known as Imo Diaspora Bond, to boost inflow of funds for infrastructural development. Our government shall declare Imo State open for business. Be our partner. We shall provide the right conditions and honour all agreed obligations. We shall equally make deliberate efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the state, which must include sanitizing the land administration system and providing security. I am confident you will consider the plight of Imo, appreciate our potential and willingness to provide the right environment for partnership to thrive, and above all, honour our obligations.

Excerpts from a speech delivered by Mr. Ihedioha in Washington DC. to Imo State citizens resident in the United States