Nigeria: A Bouquet for Ihedioha At 56

24 March 2021

Owerri — Austin Uganwa pays tribute to the former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha.

Former Imo Sate Governor and foremost parliamentarian, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, turns 56, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. This is indeed a worthy milestone given Ihedioha's far-reaching footprints in politics, unassailable development-led landmarks and remarkable leadership trajectories. His three decades stints in politics have essentially been trailed by amazing results and profound legacies. These realities underscore the imperative need of celebrating Ihedioha at 56 with pomp and euphoria

At 56, Ihedioha's ascendancy in partisan politics has been meteoric, astronomic and mythical. Since the wake of the Fourth Republic political dispensation in May 29, 1999, Ihedioha has occupied strategic elective positions in the legislative and executive arms of government. The most recent was Imo state governorship position he held for seven months before he was removed by a bizarre January 14, 2020 Supreme Court decision. The ruling trailed by deep controversies was rightly labeled by many as the most fraudulent, unjust and irrational court verdict in global judicial history.

Within the seven months Ihedioha ruled as Imo State Governor, he evidently set inimitable records that impelled the successive regime to struggle to imitate his governance template. At inception of his administration, Ihedioha articulated his vision and mission: "To rebuild, reposition and transform Imo into a modern ecosystem" in the following critical areas of development; education, agriculture, industry, tourism, human capital development, science and technology and a host of other sectors.

Ihedioha took speedy, intensive and veritable steps to accomplish his vision for Imo. In just 100 days of his administration, he mobilized the reconstruction and rehabilitation of 25 intra and intercity roads concurrently, including federal roads in order to grapple with gross infrastructural decay in the state. He restored Otamiri Water Scheme that left Owerri taps dry for eight years and reconnected the state secretariat and other public buildings to the national grid through Imo Power and Rural Electrification Agency he established to tackle dismal power supply.

His administration designed enduring policies and governance structures to scale down large scale corruption in the public sector. First, Ihedioha introduced Treasury Single Account that reduced the 250 government accounts to one. Second, the government revitalized the procurement procedure by ensuring that due process was enthroned in the biddings and awards of contracts. The administration also reinforced the ease of doing business unit that was moribund prior to his administration's dawn.

The benefits from the policies were instant, wide-ranging and penetrating. Accountability and fiscal discipline were instated while colossal leakages in the financial system of the state were accordingly scaled down, boosting the Internally Generated Revenue from N250 to N1.2b, between May 29, 2019 when the administration was inaugurated and December the same year. Consequently, the National Bureau of Statistics and other relevant international development agencies that conducted a survey on corruption among the 36 states during the second half of 2019 placed Imo as the least corrupt state. Imo was recognized as the state with the fastest growing economy by Business Day Newspaper.

Besides, the policies stimulated investors' interest in the state. For instance, the President of African Export and Import Bank, Prof. Benedict Okechukwu Oramah arrived in the state in December, 2019 prepared to invest over N 62b towards boosting the state economy. The investment blueprint has now been sadly withdrawn by the organization, citing poor investment climate.

The dignity of labour and the pensioners was restored under Ihedioha's watch. Workers salary was increased and the payment structure standardized. An enduring biometric verification exercise of pensioners was undertaken and the payment of their monthly entitlements commenced after six years of non-payment. The Ihedioha administration ensured full release of monthly financial allocations to the 27 local councils by guaranteeing regular joint accounts meetings

Three months into the inauguration of the Fourth Republic National Assembly he was appointed media adviser to the then Senate President, Dr Chuba Okadigbo, who was a consummate and vibrant politician imbued with esoteric power of reasoning, exceptional wit and profound power of oratory. Ihedioha won his first election in 2003 to represent Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. Intriguingly, he was elected three uninterrupted times into the parliament. For the 12 years he was a member of the House, he bestrode the National Assembly like a colossus. This was largely instructive in the metaphorical manner he was elected into various principal positions, progressively.

He was chairman of a prime committee, Marine Transport between 2003-2007 and was in November, 2007 elected into the position of Chief Whip. Ihedioha symbolically bloomed higher and further when his colleagues sequentially elected him unopposed as deputy speaker of the House. He later ended the session as speaker. His unbroken chain of elevations on the dais of parliamentary leadership positions within his 12-year-stint in the National Assembly is a rare feat as no Nigerian parliamentarian has seemingly equaled it.

As deputy speaker, Ihedioha accordingly chaired the House Ad hoc on Constitution Review. He instilled credibility, innovation and liberalism in the constitution amendment process by painstakingly involving the civil society groups and broadening the participation base of Nigerians by seeking their inputs in the 360 federal constituencies in the country.

At 56, Ihedioha has remained a consistent and loyal party man. He has been playing a frontline role in nurturing, reshaping and consolidating PDP at national and state levels. He is not only the leader of the party in Imo; he is the party's rallying point and life blood. He has been working harmoniously with the chairman of the party in the state, Engr. Charles Ugwu to reposition the party ahead of future elections.

Dr Uganwa wrote from Owerri

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