Mr. Emeka Nwokeke, better known as, Iroko, director general of the Imo Liberation Movement, one of the groups that championed the election of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha as governor of Imo State tells Nseobong Okon-Ekong that the Peoples Democratic Party in Imo is alert and upbeat with the desire that the Supreme Court will reverse the contentious judgment for the sake of Imo electorate.
Would you admit that the wind has been taken out of the sail of the PDP with the defection of legislators elected on its platform to the APC?
I do not admit that assertion. Many things are still hanging. Nothing is certain for now. Anything can still happen. The lawmakers that are purportedly defecting aren't original PDP members. They were joiners into the party by political exigency when His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha was inaugurated as governor. I am aware that core PDP lawmakers are still in PDP. That's to say PDP still maintains the majority in the Imo State House of Assembly. Moreover, politics is practice based on freedom of association. It is important to add that Imo State is a core PDP state since 1998 irrespective of the avoidable incidents that made it lose power in the past. Only defection creates a deficit in the integrity quotient of the politician. For now, though, there's no cause for alarm or worry yet. From what we hear, those defections were not willful.
What is left to common understanding now is that the PDP has to start a rebuilding process, how do you intend to approach that?
The recent development in the state is still hazy and doesn't give enough provision for considering restrategising yet. It's just a little over a week. Senator Uzodinma knows that the circumstances that brought him to power has caused a great deal of embarrassment to our democracy, and so there is a moral burden if I may use that phase. Hon. Ihedioha hasn't settled down. The legislature hasn't settled down. I am sure the judiciary is jolted too. That rubs off on the PDP too. It'll require an assured state and status of things before the party takes stock, determines who is where, and begins to consider how to forge ahead. . Even when in power, the party doesn't neglect the need to continually rebuild where necessary. Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha led PDP to victory even without the kind of money and federal might at the disposal of the contending forces. It tells you how rebranded, rejuvenated and reformed the party is. The party is alert and upbeat with the desire that the Supreme Court will reverse the contentious judgment for the sake of Imo electorate who have been thrown into mourning and importantly, our nascent democracy.
Is there any logic in the reasoning of PDP legislators who defected to APC, saying they made the move to give peace a chance and to support the governor?
I may not be able to answer for the lawmakers that are said to be defecting. And there's freedom of movement and freedom of association. However, I should be able to say that defection hasn't been underscored as a check against breakdown of peace and order. It even often ends up creating more problems than the claim to give peace a chance. As for the allusion to according the governor support, I have my reservations. It doesn't require a lawmaker being in the same party as the governor, to give him support. It's a thing for party ideology, personal ideology, integrity, character and conduct. I feel there's more to defections by lawmakers than to give peace a chance and give the governor support. That prescribes one party system, which presidential system of democracy doesn't support. Nobody will be guilty of not giving peace a chance and not giving the governor support because he advances representation that would be to the greater benefit of his constituency and constituents. The governor may not like it, but the interest of the people should matter most.
Ihedioha did not commission any project in seven months, he seemed to have spent time instituting committees, now he is out with no concrete project to his name
That's not true. The 'Rebuild Imo' administration has been in office for just seven months. There is no informed Nigerian, who did not know that Governor Ihedioha met a state in ruins, such that not one sector was functional. He had to commence the process of laying the foundation afresh for the rebuilding of the state. He started afresh to piece together the fabrics of the state, based on the recommendation of the Dr. Ernest Ebi-led Transition Technical Committee. The gains of the 'Rebuild Imo Agenda', championed by Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, within the seven months are everywhere for anybody to see. There could not have been completed projects in a system where there was nothing to build on. His Excellency awarded direct contracts for over 40 capital projects across the state and had commissioned an Ultra-modern 28-room Administrative Secretariat Complex in Ahiazu Mbaise on December 27, 2019. That's one in the 27 Administrative Secretariat projects in the 27 local government councils in the state. Others are at various levels of completion. You don't forget that 27 mini-stadiums project is also ongoing in the 27 LGAs. Those have reached far stages of completion. The Honourable Minister of Sports paid a working visit to Imo State and after a tour of some of the stadia, said it was unique for sports development in the country. He adopted it as a national sports policy for each local government in Nigeria to establish a mini-stadium. Contracts were awarded for the reconstruction of 25 roads across the state. But work actually commenced in November because of the rains which stretched deep into the last weeks of 2019. Dan Anyiam Stadium is being reconstructed to a world class facility that can host any event. It had reached 70% completion stage. So, timing was an issue. Not so many big projects could be completed by anybody under seven months. Governor Ihedioha believes in high and durable quality. And therefore it takes time just as it takes money. Hence, it's not true that he is out with no concrete project to his name. That'll be unfair to suggest. Hon. Ihedioha left many sustainable legacies than projects. Hon. Ihedioha took audacious steps to enthrone fiscal discipline in government through the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA) that cancelled the 250 accounts ran by Senator Okorocha's government. Hon. Ihedioha met the internally generated revenue at N241M for May 2019 and as at December, 2019 got over N1billion for the month of December 2019. Hon. Ihedioha-led government also revitalized Bureau of Public Procurement and Intelligence and Ease-of-Doing-Business towards instilling due process and transparency in government. The fascinating result was that Imo under Ihedioha's watch was rated as the least corrupt state in Nigeria by the National Bureau of Statistics and relevant international development agencies.
It is important to note also that the mainstay of the administration was sustainable programmes. His use of the committees and commissions is in line with his subscription to rule of law and due process. The committees and commissions were composed of proven intellectuals, technocrats and professionals. The governor couldn't be expected to operate unilaterally and arbitrarily on such matters as looting of the treasury of Imo State, grabbing of thousands of plots of land belonging to both the citizens and the government. He required the Interim Management Committee, for instance, to run the local government system pending when the local government elections would be conducted. And it worked because out of the system, Imo State became the least corrupt state in Nigeria. Imo State became the state with the fastest growing economy. The seven months with Governor Ihedioha began a turning point for the state in the right direction.
Is it true that Ihedioha did not leave any handover note, meaning Uzodinma has to start from the scratch?
I am aware you know the circumstances that gave rise to this unfortunate situation. No sane person envisaged the outcome given the facts of the matter. However, despite the fact the His Excellency has minced no word in expressing his reservations with the judgement, he went ahead to direct all appointees to hand-over forthwith, all government properties in their possession. It is important to note as well that His Excellency ran a very transparent administration and so, a mere look at the books, Senator Uzodimma will see the records even as he has just announced that he will continue from where Ihedioha stopped. That indicates a sense of continuity. That's not quite possible without a handover note. I am aware that was complied with. Governor Ihedioha is only fighting for justice to prevail and not just only for him to be reinstated. He believes in rule of law and due process.
The feeling in some quarters is that Ihedioha was a product of and only appeased the Imo elites, how true is this?
That's not true. Governor Ihedioha is a product of the masses of Imo State. He is the first governor in the history of politics that took his campaigns through the entire 87 clans, 305 electoral wards and 27 LGAs of Imo State. No other party or candidate had done that. Before the election he had become a household name. Imo people, male and female, old and young knew Ihedioha by name and by face. In fact, it's ironical to say that Ihedioha is a product of the elites. That's because the same elites have always fought, even right from his hey days at the National Assembly. His politics is grassroots based. It may interest you to know that virtually all his projects in progress were deliberately designed to be purely people-oriented. The restoration of 100% salaries and pensions from the 70% and 40% he inherited is people-oriented. Pensioners were saved the harrowing experience of chasing their pensions with cheques at various banks. Governor Ihedioha took pity and insisted that the regime of paying senior citizens by cheques was over. They've been receiving bank alerts since after the biometric verification of pensioners in September 2019. That's people-oriented. The loquacious few, who mouth the elitist propaganda also forgot that you do not wish away the input, experience and patriotism of the elites in any society. They are there to be consulted on critical issues for the good of the state. They are the senior citizens who mean well for the state.
In the days ahead, do you see the PDP resistance in Imo gaining strength or fizzling out?
The PDP is the oldest party in Nigeria. It's like the old generation banks. The new generation banks will always try, but till date they haven't succeeded yet in beating the reach of the old generation banks. PDP is the only party that is very much at home in all of the 305 wards in the state. It had been in opposition for about a decade. But it has remained the determinant of the political pace of the state. The 2019 general elections was a loud and clear statement that Imo is a PDP, yesterday, today and tomorrow. So, the question should have been, would PDP sustain its control of the politics of the state in the coming days weeks and months? PDP will certainly sustain its strength. There's no thought of fizzling out. PDP will get even bigger, stronger and more reliable. Experience makes the difference.