Nigeria: Understanding Ihedioha's 'Rebuild Imo' Agenda

30 August 2019
opinion

"Never forget these commandments that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. Write them on the door-posts of your houses and on your gates." - (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) - Moses admonishing the people of Israel to strictly observe the Ten Commandments

A peoples' mantra, battle-cry, or watch-word, is ideally their guiding principle that ultimately shapes their actions - what they do, how they do it, and why they do it.

Moses, a man chosen by God from birth to liberate the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, gave the people the above strict instructions when they were about to cross the River Jordan and ultimately take possession of the land flowing with milk and honey, which the Lord had promised them. But the caveat was that they had to live by God's commandments to reap the promises, and much more.

Good institutions that endure have long learnt this principle of creating foundational guiding principles, core values, and vision shared by all, to create amity, and achieve organisational goals.

When in 2018 then candidate Emeka Ihedioha set out to seek the mandate of Ndi Imo to lead them he knew he needed to be clear about what the journey was and will entail, and what he would be judged by. More importantly he desired that every Imo person will share in his vision for a renewed Imo, and so, after series of sessions with critical stakeholders, it was clear to him that Imo State, a once thriving state had been practically destroyed by bad governance and needed to be rebuilt.

As the Imo Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate he stated that, "among the comity of states in Nigeria, Imo state has become a laughing stock. The once thriving economy and pearl of the East currently lacks purposeful leadership and is in ruins. The last seven years of APGA/APC maladministration characterized by flagrant disregard for principles of rule of law and good governance has completely destroyed the foundations laid by our founding fathers."

Why destroy Imo, its people and place by a government voted by a people in trust and governed under oath? We may never know except to interrogate human nature and behavior - maybe Senator Rochas Okorocha's antecedents, background, and what circumstances influence his being - body, mind, and soul.

How do you destroy? By decapitating the structures, institutions, and controls for good governance - destroying established institutions like local government areas, starving them of funds and ensuring they are not functional; tele-guiding the state assembly; emasculating the judiciary and disobeying court orders; pocketing the traditional institution; denigrating and insulting the revered religious institution; refusing to contribute and partake in counterpart funds that will aid development and abnegating standards in construction.

Examples will do... When the out-gone government of Senator Rochas Okorocha refused to contribute N500m counterpart funding to a World Bank Agency for Urualla community in Ideato North's N10b erosion project to tackle the massive erosion that is sweeping away homes and farmlands, it is destruction. Ironically, Senator Okorocha hails from Ideato. Thankfully, Governor Ihedioha has since promptly paid the N500 million counterpart fund and the World Bank has awarded the N10 billion project, which is currently well under way.

Senator Rochas Okorocha's government shunned Treasury Single Account (TSA) but operated 250 bank accounts as revealed by the Financial Advisory Committee set-up by Governor Emeka Ihedioha. This is destruction because there will be no accountability and it gave ample room for leakages. Governor Ihedioha has since adopted the TSA model to ensure transparency in the management of public funds.

The former governor ignored series of advice from Council for the Registration of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) in construction of bridges and flyovers, all of which have now been closed to traffic because they failed integrity tests. This is destruction.

Arbitrariness - establishing six universities and polytechnics in April 2019, less than one month to handover, with no enabling laws; handing over public institutions such as hospitals to voluntary agencies and churches without enabling laws in the twilight of his administration; and also establishing arms of government that are not known to law such as Community Development Centres, disingenuously tagged the fourth arm of government in the past government's "iberiberism" play book, were all parts of the deliberate dismemberment of Imo State.

There was a deliberate ploy to gradually destroy the state's civil service, the engine room of government, by usurping their duties such as awarding contracts from government house and not through established ministerial procedures; starving them of funds such that the entire state's secretariat with 11 buildings and housing all the ministries had no public water and power supply, while four giant generating sets bought by the Achike Udenwa administration were allowed to rot.

To rebuild therefore is to start all over again... which explains the foundation of the 'Rebuild Imo' mantra of Governor Ihedioha, anchored on: Good Governance; Job and wealth creation; Human capital development; and Integrated infrastructure development.

The above scenario explains why it is critically important to carry all Imo people along to create amity which inevitably will guarantee a ready to act attitude of the people

To rebuild or reconstruct Imo State is not a government task alone.

Beyond the mutilation of government structures, the peoples' social capital were also violated and therefore need to be revitalized by the people, championed by the traditional and religious institutions, to promote community well being through the reinforcement of our cherished community values, beliefs and traditions.

What then will 'Rebuild Imo' project deliver to Ndi Imo; what promises are they holding Governor Ihedioha and his team accountable to; and how will mutual understanding be created between the people and the government?

A snippet of what a transformed Imo State should look like, based on the Governor's four-year action plan include the introduction of due process, openness, transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business, as is already manifest in the actions of the government in suspending local government chairmen and councillors who emerged from a flawed election conducted by the former administration, and constituting an Interim Management Committee that is now independent, and thereby helping to deepen the government's impact on the people living in rural communities; the consultative rapprochement being sought by the Ministry of Justice in resolving the over 150 garnishee orders against the state government amounting to over N32 billion of judgement debts as incurred by the past administration of Senator Rochas Okorocha; the various administrative and judicial committees set up by Governor Ihedioha to ascertain and advise on diverse issues as emergency setting up of new higher institutions in the twilight of the out-gone administration, the award of contracts, and acquisition and allocation of land; the state of Adapalm, rubber and cashew plantations; pensions scheme, amongst others.

Other actionable plans of the Rebuild Imo mantra include the planned establishment of Imo State Education Trust Fund to promote genuine, free and qualitative education; revitalize the health care system in the state, including the provision of free health care for pregnant women, children under five years and senior citizens; reform and increase investment in agriculture for sustainable wealth creation and food security; revamp tourism and entertainment as key contributors to the economy; guarantee the security of lives and properties of citizens and residents; review distortions in the Owerri master plan.

Other structural imperatives include to respect the autonomy of the local government system in the state; ensure strict observance of the principle of separation of powers as it affects the state house of assembly; respect the autonomy of the judiciary in order to promote the rule of law; and reinvigorate and reposition the state public service as a vehicle of service delivery to the people.

Visible actions are already being implemented by the government as evidenced by the Governor's approval for the immediate reconstruction of over 100 primary and secondary schools with facilities such as toilets and water; the convening of a critical stakeholders' summit on education to agree on a roadmap of action before schools resume on September 9; the launch of "Operation Iron Gate" by the Governor and donation of patrol vehicles to all the 27 local government areas of the state for joint patrol operations to effectively provide all-round security of lives and property across the state.

However, in the wake of the unsubstantiated, unwarranted and unguided vituperation of former Governor Okorocha last week, the government needs to quickly upscale the role of effective and comprehensive communication for increase in share of voice that supports the good governance that it is determined to entrench in Imo state. The cacophony that trailed Okorocha's whimper actually played into the ex-governor's plan - to cause distraction and create doubts in peoples' minds.

There should be a planned and deliberate policy to use communication to drive the on-going reforms by influencing opinion, attitude, and behavior change among leaders and policy makers, public officers and civil servants, and the citizens

We all must know where we are coming from, to know how we got to this sorry pass; understand the level of rot; appreciate our roles in the Rebuild Imo project; and manage our expectations, which are expectedly, high

Odibo is a Marketing and Communications Practitioner

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