By Chidi Nkwopara
The outcome of the 2019 governorship election in Imo State, was not as a result of any magical incantation. The people rose to resist what they perceived as “unconscionable political calculations of Governor Rochas Okorocha” who wanted his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to succeed him.
Chief Emeka Ihedioha’s victory on the platform of the People Democratic Party, PDP, is the result of the majority of the people’s resolve to assert their will on who should govern the state. With the political battle fought and won,the next question is how Ihedioha will meet the people’s expectations. Chief Ihedioha himself, is aware of this, not minding that feelers point towards his going to inherit not just an empty treasury, but also a huge debt profile.
At the last check, Ihedioha realized that the state’s human capital development has been severely stunted in the past eight years. Imo State University, which was ranked first among state owned universities in Nigeria and ninth in overall country ranking by 2005, is currently ranked 16th and 58th respectively, in the 2018 ranking by the National Universities Commission, NUC, and has sadly lost accreditation in Medicine and allied subjects.
The health sector appears to be in total decay, as only the General Hospital, Umuguma, is functional in the entire state. At the last count also, only 54 medical doctors, four consultants in Obstetrics, Gynaecology, Paediatric Surgery and Family Medicine, nine Pharmacists, seven Laboratory Technicians 172 nurses were on the payroll. Imo does not have a Radiographer or Physiotherapist in the entire health system.
Now, compare the above figures with that of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri that parades 120 consultants, 240 Resident Doctors, 50 Pharmacists, seven Radiologists, 14 Physiotherapists and 700 Nurses. Ihedioha’s mission, like he has promised Imo people, “is to reposition and transform Imo into a modern ecosystem for education, agriculture, industry, tourism, culture, sports, entertainment, human capital development, science and technology.”
To realize this mission, it appears that his approach would be holistic and he has repeatedly told the electorate so, in different fora. The experience of Imo people under Okorocha’s eight-year administration, was a plethora of disrespect for the rule of law, transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business. The people are therefore, expecting that all these sad commentaries will change in the new dispensation.
The restoration of the dignity and role of traditional institutions, strict observance of the principle of separation of powers of the three arms of government, are also part of the people’s expectations. Although Okorocha brands himself as the “senior advocate of the masses and the grand master of free education”, the people have not stopped wondering why he destroyed the State Library that was close to the reading public and built a church that was not Catholic, Anglican or Pentecostal, in its place. The people rightly expects Chief Ihedioha to not only return the State Library close to its former glory, but to also massively train, reorient and motivate existing teachers, as well as recruit new ones, especially in the areas of Science and Technology.
A United States of America-based attorney, Mr. Stanley Ozuzu, opined that “if the new administration drastically reduce the teacher/student ratio, provide grant-in-aid to churches, voluntary agencies and private investors, they will help in upgrading educational standards in Imo, like it happened in Anambra State.” Ozuzu lamented that “part of why the education standard in the state has abysmally gone low, is because the outgoing administration did not properly prioritized its policies and programmes in the sector.” He called for adequate subvention to the state owned tertiary institutions, as well as establish new technical and trade schools and equip the old ones.
The outgoing administration promised to build industries and factories, with a view to create jobs and drastically reduce the high level of unemployment in the state. This promise was largely observed in the breach. Ihedioha realizes the enormity of of youths joblessness and its attendant evils.
He therefore plans to empower 15 youths per year, from each of the 305 wards, for specific skills acquisition training that will amount to 4,575 entrepreneurs each year. He also promised to create an ICT Innovation Hub in the state capital, to empower Imo youths and products of schools, to play active roles software and Apps development opportunity space. There is no doubt that if fully realized, Imo youths will be very active players in the digital economy.
Much as these are capable of reducing unemployment in the state, the people no doubt, expect that Ihedioha will aggressively pursue investment drives within and outside the country, to attract industrialists to establish in the 27 local councils that have comparative and competitive advantage.
Roads across the state are death traps. Public water supply also remained comatose in the past eight years. All the solar powered water schemes, which Okorocha inherited from the Chief Ikedi Ohakim administration remained moribund for eight years. All the people interviewed were unanimously of the view that Ihedioha must resuscitate water supply schemes in the state, develop all the strategic roads in the Owerri Master Plan, collaborate with the Federal Government to complete the dualization of the arterial roads linking the capital city of Owerri, as well as collaborate with the Federal Government to fast track the completion of the NIPP Power Generating Plant, Egbema.
The people equally have legitimate demands in agriculture, housing and urban development, public service, peace and security, the vulnerable group, tourism, culture, entertainment, Diaspora initiatives, trade and commerce, spirts and women development, health care and a host of other areas.
How Ihedioha will handle the huge debt profile of the state, is another area of concern to the people. A peep into the Civil Litigations Department of the State Ministry of Justice, leaves mind boggling judgement debts, apparently waiting for Ihedioha to settle. The same is also true about salaries, pensions and contractual obligations. It is sad to note that the Dan Anyiam Stadium Complex and Grasshoppers International Stadium are shadows of their former selves.
While nobody hears about the state’s all-conquering Grasshoppers International Handball Club, the Heartland Football Club, have been forced to play their home matches at Okigwe Stadium The stress and huge loss of revenue to the Club have remained issues to be tackled. Currently, Ihedioha has sent in workers to reshape the Dan Anyiam venue for his inauguration on May 29.