By Charles Odibo
“…Let no one underestimate our resolve to do what is right for the good of our people. There is nothing wrong with Imo which cannot be cured by all that is right in Imo.” This was part of Governor Emeka Ihedioha’s inaugural speech to the people of Imo State.
Hardly had the ink dried on the signed documents affirming the handover of government to Rt. Honourable Emeka Ihedioha as the 6th elected Governor of Imo State than a fortuitous incident provided for him a golden opportunity to walk his campaign talk that endeared him to Imo people and earned him massive support.
On this fateful day of May 30, 2019, at about noon a video clip went viral on social media, of an excavator earth moving equipment hacking at a gargantuan, 50-feet Akachi statue, built by the administration of the immediate past governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha, in Owerri, the state capital. An appreciative crowd, reflective of the sentiment of majority of Imo people who loathed the previous administration’s profligacy of building meaningless statues and projects, urged them on.
But in a swift and decisive response in line with his mantra of strict adherence to due process and rule of law, the government of Ihedioha directed security agencies to halt the mob action and disperse the crowd. However, this was not communicated appropriately and missed a perfect opportunity to frame an issue dear to the government, thereby giving the unruly propagandists of the unpopular out-gone administration an undeserved opportunity to enter the fray and create doubts in peoples’ minds about government’s action.
Projected as a man who keeps faith with his words, Ihedioha, by this first public action of going against seemingly popular sentiments of a people impoverished by maladministration, but sticking to what he promised will guarantee a stable state where the underlying principles of good governance reigns supreme. He has sign-posted the core fundamentals of his rebuild agenda.
A quick recap of how Imo State got to this sorry pass will do because our people say that a person who does not know from where the rain started beating him will not know where the rain stopped.
In the past eight years, Imo state people had to endure a cruel administration that inflicted hardship on them through flagrant disregard for rule of law, abuse of due process, and loathing of all accepted and established norms and ordinances that guide civilized societies that are greatly admired.
Former Governor Okorocha arbitrarily cut civil service working days from five to three. He was reported to have coerced civil servants and pensioners to sign-off some percentage of their earnings. He made a mockery of the state by constructing a statue of indicted former President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. He created a laughable Ministry of Happiness and Couples’ Fulfillment (sorry, Purpose Fulfillment); and he publicly admonished the youth to take to robbery instead of smoking Indian hemp.
But in his maiden address to ndi Imo, Ihedioha rekindled hope, reminded Imolites who they are, and changed the narrative, promising that “the task of rebuilding our broken state is a sacred one. We are armed with the courage of our conviction. We are not captives of fear, for if we were, we would not have dared and if we did not dare, this day would not have come.”
The dawn of a new Imo is encapsulated in the governor’s shared vision to build an Imo economy that is anchored on good governance, wealth creation, rule of law and sound management of state resources.
However, the government will face a real test of consistency and continuity with which it communicates its purpose to define the essence of this administration. The real challenge will be that of credibility, how Imo people will quickly develop a ready to act attitude that is consistent with the aspirations of government, but also of demands that government makes of them as consequences of its aspirations, and this sits in the domain of amity between government and the people.
Some key critical objectives that the government has to quickly pursue in fulfillment of the governor’s vision for Imo to be a “South-east Nigeria state that will become one of the top three most developed state economies in Nigeria by year 2025,” are awareness, brand equity, connection, and affinity. Imo state has to have Top of Mind (TOM) awareness with constituents and also rank within the top three states in Nigeria with highest TOM awareness, which means that when asked to mention three leading states in Nigeria, Imo State should be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd to be mentioned. This is what will get Imo state into the competitive set to achieve the governor’s economic vision of top three most developed state economies.
Consequently, the government should create a new meaning for the state given the litany of negative associations the past administration gave the state in the past eight years, and build a state that stands for something in the minds of the constituents who must see it as being able to deliver on promises around desired benefits. Also of significance is the urgent need for the government to connect with the people because this is what will make ndi Imo stand up for the governor even in the face of obvious weakness, or the propaganda of opposition. This will happen when every Imo person believes that the state is for him/her; is forward-looking; and can lead them to their desired future because it understands them, knows their fears and aspirations.
Across Imo State, he is fondly addressed and referred to as Ome Nke Ahuru Anya (the one whose accomplishment is visible). Before assuming office as Governor, he had between 2003 and 2015, represented two Local Government Areas, (Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala) in the House of Representatives, but over 180 infrastructural development projects which he funded or attracted from the Federal Government cut across the three senatorial zones of Imo State. It is this public service pedigree that is his testimony and gives Imo people the confidence that he has the capacity to lead from the front.
The new Imo narrative, therefore, is an Imo State where the Governor is humble and requests “to be treated as an ordinary citizen once I am before God,” and not the “iberiberism” leadership that attacks revered men of God. The new Imo is the state where the governor runs an open-door policy and insists that, “security men should allow Imolites access to Government House…to see what the Government House looks like.” The new Imo of due process is a state where the people are now willing to develop a ready to act attitude that is consistent with the aspirations of Government.
*Odibo is a Marketing and Communications Practitioner