First 100 Days: How Ihedioha Defied Odds

Emeka Ihedioha

Ogu Bundu Nwadike

It’s the season for “First 100 Days” in office for elected political leaders, particularly of the executive cadre, of Nigeria at both the national and state levels. This is sequel to their swearing-in and inauguration on May 29, 2019. I am referring to the president and the governors of Nigeria that elected in the February 23 and March 9, 2019. In Imo State, it is Emeka Ihedioha, CON, KSC that was sworn-in and inaugurated as the sixth democratically elected governor of Imo State. Hence, he too is counting his chicken after his first one hundred days in office. 

The central theme of this piece is that in spite of various sorts of odds that were strewn along the paths in the garden of government and governance. By that I mean the fact that right from the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Governor Ihedioha as the governor-elect on Monday, March 11, 2019, two days after the Saturday, March 9, 2019 Governorship Election till date, the ex-governor, Rochas Okorocha, his predecessor has continually laid landmines for the new governor.

For instance, it’s on record that the ex-governor didn’t provide any Handover Notes to Governor Ihedioha. That was a major cog in the wheels of progress of the new government. The common notion is that Government and governance are continuum. But in the case of Imo State Government relinquished by the ex-governor, it was not a continuum but an end of the Government and governance road in Imo State. Starting was simply a near mission impossible. The Government House, the Governor’s Lodge, the Deputy Governor’s Lodge and various Administrative Building Complexes in the Government House, Owerri were virtually looted and left to rot and decay. The worst was the Office of the Governor, which leaked water when it rained.

Critical sectors in the civil service of the Government of Imo State viz the ministries, departments and agencies were like the land visited by the parabolic vandals. It was like a place where a fratricidal war was recently brought to an end. Imo State, therefore, required the 3rs of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. It was such that till date the governor and his deputy, Gerald Irona, still operate from their private residences. For a better part of the first 70 days in office, the number one and number Imolites worked with their own private cars.

At a point it was confirmed by the Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Imo State, Comrade Austin Chilakpu, that not less than 5000 (five thousand) illegal persons were hurriedly injected into the payroll of the State Civil Service between March and May 2019, by the ex-governor and his aides and agents. This was similar to the situation with the pensioners in the State. There were reportedly nearly more ghost persioners than the living ones.

We’re talking about the odds that Governor Ihedioha had to contend with to kick-start his RebuildImo administration. The summary is that by there were copious, established, verifiable evidences of the landmines, which for time and space constraints may not be catalogue absolutely here.

However, in spite of the odds, Ihedioha started strong. He swung into action and began to do first things first, in the order of the principles of rule of law and due process, on which his administration was founded. He needed to determine the magnitude of the vandalization and devastation he inherited. Hence, he made recourse to the State Legislature for various statutory enablement. And upon securing legal impetus from the parliament of the State, Ihedioha instituted and deployed various fact-finding Committees and Commissions to assist assess and determine the status of nearly every sector of the State’s socio-economic profile from 2011 to 2019. All the Committees and Commissions are still working within and outside the State to accomplish their terms of reference.

 As the Committees and Commissions went about their work, Ihedioha was running the Government the best he could. He assembled a crop of tested and proven intellectuals, technocrats and professionals his aides. He trimmed the bogus 31 ministries he inherited to 18. He signed Order 005 to activate the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy in Imo State to end the regime of 250 bank accounts purportedly belonging to the State. The city of Owerri which was a literal pigsty as at May 29, 2019, began to be freed from the ravage by waste and refuse. This was as the Imo State Enviromental Transformation Corporation (ENTRACO) evacuated over 100,000 tonnes of waste and refuse from across the State capital alone. Flooding was a major challenge. But the new administration activated the project of desilting of the gutters, drainages tunnels and channels leading into the two major rivers in city – River Nworie and River Otamiri, together with Lake Nwaebere. Today, once it rains for hours, it takes minutes for the flood to drain away.

The Government has paid a number of counterpart funding, which has led to the return to Imo State of donor/assisting organizations and agencies like the World Bank. Consequently, public water supply, which was viciously blocked since 2011 has been restored in the State, beginning from the State capital. A major erosion control project has commenced in the State. It’s a N9.8 billion World Bank/International Development Association/NEWMAP assisted project. A number of Communities that had not had public electricity since 2011 have been reconnected to the national grid. A number of very terrible roads in the State have received prompt intervention from the State Ministry of Work, with contracts set to be awarded for some ten major roads across the three geo-political zones in the State viz Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe Zones .

 The attitude of Imo people, particularly Imo workers to the State have continued to be redefined, with a tremendous change from apathy and lethargy to confidence and trust in government. In spite of the bent by the ex-governor to make the State ungovernable for the new administration, the people of the State have continued to shower the new administration with trust and confidence.The foregoing and indeed much more are what I articulated as starting strong in spite of evident odds. It’s believed that with the successes of the new administration so far in repositioning the State for growth and progress, with greater propensity for a better tomorrow, the vision and mission of rebuilding Imo State as declared by Governor Ihedioha will be accomplished.

––Nwadike is the Special Assistant on Research to the Governor of Imo State.