By Chibuike Onyeukwu
A digest of the text of the New Year broadcast of Imo State Governor, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha CON, to the good people of Imo state would delineate three major perspectives. One, it is very motivational. The text of that broadcast would make even the most skeptical critic return nothing but a verdict that the future of the heartland state is indeed great.
The broadcast, while not necessarily painting a rosy picture of the affairs of the state, reassures the people that their collective destiny remains in their own hands once they are ready to continue to work with diligence, patriotism, and, as the governor himself put, “abiding faith in the Almighty God”.
Says the governor: “We are not Abuja (the Federal Capital Territory). We are not Lagos (the commercial capital). We are not Port Harcourt (the oil capital) but we are Ndi Imo, a people known for industry and excellence”. Nothing can better motivate a people to work with relentless confidence and determination than the above passage.
Two, the New Year broadcast, in its no-holds-barred and comprehensive character, provides Ndi Imo with a material to evaluate the administration’s performance as well as monitor how it meets the standard it has set for itself. A point-by-point review of the broadcast, would reveal that there is not an iota of exaggeration in the governor’s claims concerning what his administration has achieved in its seven months of existence. From good governance – which is over 70 percent intangible – to physical (tangible) infrastructure, what the people saw – in the seven months – are exactly as stated in the broadcast.
Just before the yuletide, there were anxieties over the condition of roads in the state. Even though the government kept reiterating its preparedness to commence massive reconstruction and repairs once the rains were over, some elements, out of partisan fixations, preferred to drag the few followers they have into wallowing in skepticism. But they have been proved utterly wrong. As soon as the rains receded, Imolites began to witness massive reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads in nearly every nook and cranny of the state capital, Owerri, at a speed never seen before in its 43 years of existence.
Intra city roads that had remained inaccessible for upwards of 6 years wore new look overnight. For example, the Federal Polytechnic-FUTO road, beginning from Aba road – Naze - and which transverses Nekede up to Ihiagwa – that constituted a nightmare for the students, workers in the two federal institutions, as well as indigenes of the areas for years, has dawned an incredibly new look. An erosion gully at the foot of the Amakaohia flyover and which had lasted for over three years, threatening lives and property, was filled up over night. A colleague who was visiting for a second time between November and the last Christmas – I live in that area – was shocked at what he saw on his second visit. The stretch of the Port Harcourt road, around the Assumpta Cathedral, which had remained inaccessible for upwards of two years and for which several appeals were made in the past, is today wearing a new look. The case is the same with the five major federal roads in the state – Owerri – Obowo; Owerri – Orlu; Owerri – Aba; Owerri – Okigwe; Owerri – Port Harcourt as they are being repaired, simultaneously, by notable construction firms, following their award by the governor few weeks ago.
This is to say nothing of the 30 on-going road construction projects distributed all around the state and the 88 rural roads covering 380.7 km across 26 local government areas.
And talking about intangibles, Imolites are also witnesses to the fact that the perennial issues of unpaid salaries and pensions have, audaciously been taken care of. Not only that. In the broadcast, the governor promises as follow: “Government shall sustain salary payments in full and create necessary incentives to promote productivity”. Still on intangibles, the state in the last seven months witnessed an unprecedented harmony in the relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government and which, as the governor revealed in his broadcast, resulted in the record breaking passage of 18 Bills, all signed into law already. Imolites also witnessed a remarkable departure from the way and manner the state’s economy was managed in the past, particularly in the period between May 2011 and May 2019.
If nothing else, we saw the closing of virtually all the avenues through which state officials siphoned public funds with the replacement of over 260 bank accounts operated by the past government with the Treasury Single Account (TSA). One of the major fallouts of that measure was that the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), rose from about N250 million per month, by the time the administration came into being, to over N1 Billion, One Billion Naira (per month) in December 2019. Is it any wonder, therefore, that reputable national and global agencies have rated the state as that least corrupt and the fastest growing economy in Nigeria?
Aside transparency and accountability, other factors that led to the achievement of this enviable status, the governor told Imolites, include the adoption of world best practices like the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and the effective application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for which the state was also adjudged the best by and National Council on Communication and Digital Economy. And as already noted, the achievements of the administration in the last seven months as succinctly presented by His Excellency but without any propaganda in the broadcast under review, are there for all to see.
But that is just the beginning of the challenge it will be faced with in the next three years. And that constitutes the third major perspective in which His Excellency’s broadcast should be looked at. Having raised the standards so high, Imolites, known for their sophistication and erudition, are certain to judge the administration with the standard that will be no less than the one it has already set for itself. As a matter of fact, His Excellency, going by the tone of his broadcast, even raised the standard higher. Hear him: “The path of the just, the Bible says, is like the shining light, that shined brighter and brighter into a perfect day. This shall be the path of the Rebuild Imo journey”.
Only a leader who has built a formidable confidence in himself can make such a projection in a highly volatile and vulnerable political and economic environment. For example, witness the target His Excellency set for his administration in the very vital areas of health, education and unemployment when he says: “In my inaugural address, I specifically declared technical and vocational education (TVET) as the major pillar of our educational transformation programme. We are investing N4 Billion in the reconstruction, physical upgrade and curriculum improvement at the four premier technical colleges in the state. We have set a target for ourselves to have 70 per cent of these TVET graduates to get jobs, be self employed or advance to tertiary institutions for High National Diplomas or Degrees…. Imo is leading the way in technological development with a view to making the state an IT hub… we are attracting the big names in tech such as Google, MTN etc. in partnership as well as operatives”.
On health services, the governor promises that “… government shall renovate, re-equip and re-staff Primary Health centres in all the local government areas in line with the national objective of achieving Universal Health Coverage. We shall also upgrade one general hospital in each zone to the status of a specialist hospital in specified areas of medical proficiency”.
In all these “we shalls”, what His Excellency effectively did was to hand over to the people a “To Do” list, which they will run through every day, week, month or year, to see if he is achieving the goals. As I noted earlier, only a leader that has built into himself, tremendous self confidence can afford to arm potential critics or even enemies, so to speak, with a weapon to attack him in the future.
But witness that the governor is not under any daydream that he and his team in the executive arm can go it alone. Right at the beginning of the broadcast, he notes as follows: “… Our vision for the future is very clear and we believe that all these possibilities are still attainable. I say so because we have the determination of a committed executive team, the partnership of a collaborative legislature, the wisdom of an independent judiciary and the heart-warming support of an enlightened, God-fearing and hard working people”. He goes ahead to add that, “By your prayers, support and partnership, the last seven months have been both a period of liberation and that of laying the foundation for effective take-off. Our COLLECTIVE (emphasis mine) accomplishments in pursuit of the Rebuild Imo Agenda imbue us with a very strong faith in a positive and prosperous future”.
Overall, it can be seen that even as the governor went ahead to list, with great confidence, the things his administration hopes to accomplish between now and 2023, he does so with a certainty that the people will extend to him maximum cooperation as they have done in the last seven months. No wonder he says: “… I am impressed thus far by the show of good will by Imolites to our administration. I am also excited by their willingness to partner and support us as we rebuild the state from the ruins of the past. Moving around this festive period, I have seen a highly spirited people, eager and resolved to move the state forward… This, in no small way, strengthens my resolve”.
The ride promises to be very interesting…
Onyeukwu is the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Imo State