Expectations of better life and good governance high in Imo State asGovernor-elect, Emeka Ihedioha prepares to kick off a ‘green cap regime’ after a disappointing eight years of Okorocha’s ‘mufflerera’.
By Ugonna Anejionu and Victor Ugborgu
Emeka Ihedioha, Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party,PDP in the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Imo state has a date with history. Like others in about 28 other states of the federation, Ihedioha, from Mbutu village in Aboh-Mbaise Local Government, a formerDeputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, will be sworn in as new governor of Imo State,May 29. Having emerged victorious, against others who contested with him, Ihedioha will replace Rochas Okorocha, a vociferous member of the All Progressives Congress, APC,who ruled Imo with iron hand and deception for the past Eight years.
Expectations are high in the state that Ihedioha will usher in an era of better life and good governance attributes of good leadership which has been lacking the state under Okorocha. Okorocha was a demagogue whom many mistook for a messiah when he took over from Ikedi Ohakim in 2011. Okorocha made many promises in the beginning which turned out to be empty,and deceptive, at the twilight of his government.
Unlike Ihedioha who is soft spoken and gentle in outlook, Okorocha can move mountains with words. He coins words , honorific nomenclatures and slogans with ease. Under him, the igbo word, ‘iberibe’ which means stupidity, became a vocabulary for the nation.Okorocha also brain-washed many, especially youths and less privileged to adore and honour him in chorus as ‘my governor, my governor’, each time he beckons on them as audience in any event, with shouts of ‘my people ,my people’. He made servitude to him, a religion and way of life for many.
Okorocha had a unique dressing code for his supporters: a muffler which he wears regularly,in the mould of catholic priests and church wardens. But wearing Okorocha’s muffler was never a guarantee of prolonged good relationship with him. Many who were misled into being promoters of the muffler dressing code ended up in regret. Eze Madumere,the last Deputy Governor in the administration was a classic example. Eze wore the Okorocha muffler for almost seven years, in near servitude to him. As at present, the two are sworn enemies. Eze was a leader in the coalition of forces that led to the fall of Okorocha and his cronies at the march 9 election.
The muffler era will surely go on May 29. The replacement will be the now popular ‘’green cap era’’ which Ihedioha symbolizes.And the people of Imo state will learn to live with the green cap fashion for the next four years in the first instance.
Ihedioha discreetly created the trademark for himself while in public service as Deputy Speaker at the 6th National Assembly.. He has maintained the style over the years to the extent that any reference now to the phrase, “man with the green cap”, nationwide, is a reference to Ihedioha. He uses his green cap to promote andcelebrate Nigeria and Nigerianism. His green cap largely representsa patriotic devotion to the Nigerian project. Colour green is a symbol of life . It was adopted by Nigeria part of the nationalsymbol . It is never associated with anything awful or negative.
Nonetheless, good dressing or any symbol of showmanship, by an occupant of the government house in Owerri many not be of interest to the people of Imo state as much as the quality of leadership and quantum of good governance that will follow. On a scale, many people interviewed by Verbatim magazine believe that the incoming governor, Ihedioha, given his public service experience in administration, while serving, first as Chief Whip and later as Deputy Speaker, in the House of Representatives in Abuja, stands a good chance of making the difference..
Indeed, the way and manner Ihedioha emerged as governor of the state in the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial election, is an indication of wide acceptance by a cross section of the Imo populace. Francis Otunta, Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture in Abia state, who served INEC as the State Returning Officer announced that Ihedioha soared to victory with a total of 273,404 votes cast to defeat other candidates for the election .
The number of registered voters for the election was 2,221,008 and accredited voters were823,743 in number. The total votes cast were 714,355; rejected votes; 251, 30; and then the total votes was 739,485.
By Otunta’s record, the governorship candidate of the Action Alliance,AA, Uche Nwosu, who overtly was backed by Okorocha, got 190,364; while Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress, APC, came third with 96,458 votes. Ifeanyi Araraume of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, 114,676;
and Ikedi Ohakim of Accord party, AP, polled 6,846.
Imo State had the largest number of governorship aspirants for the March 9, election. 70 of them were on display with heavyweight politicians behind them. But Ihedioha triumphed over them. He defeated his closest rival Uche Nwosu with over 83,000 votes in spite of the state government’s overwhelming support.
After the announcement of result by the Independent national electoral Commission, INEC, thousands of Imo people thronged major streets in Owerri, as well as in the rural areas to celebrate Ihedioha’s victory. It was a sight to behold as Ihedioha, together with Gerald Irona, his Deputy and party big wigs drove round Owerri,the state capital in a convoy of vehicles, thankingthe people for their support.
In what he tagged “the journey to rebuild Imo, Ihedioha described the outcome of the election as “victory for Imo people.”His supporters said their happiness was that Imo people have restored the zoning arrangement in the state. Ihedioha is from Owerri zone while his deputy is from Orlu zone.
Before him, two people from Okigwe zone, late Sam Mbakwe and Ikedi Ohakim had been on the seat of power for one term of four years each. Orlu zone where Okorocha comes from had ruled for the longest period of 16 years. Okorocha ruled for two straight terms of four years each, same length of time that Achike Udenwa from the same Orlu zone ruled.
Professor Fabian Osuji, former Minister of Education said Imo people made the right choice in Ihedioha, describing the governor elect as ‘’worthy son of Imo state’’. Osuji who had , many years earlier, narrowly missed becoming governor of the state took a full page in the Sun newspaper to congratulate Ihedioha on his victory.
In his congratulatory message, the former minister who holds the chieftaincy title of ‘Dike Eji Ejemba of Mbaise’ said the victory of Ihedioha was ‘’a loud testament to the unassailable will of Ndi Imo’’ and their desire for change and genuine and inclusive leadership. To Ihedioha, Osuji said: ‘’Your sterling leadership qualities, diligence and commitment to stewardship, have been evident throughout your distinguished public service career…We have noted with pride that as you campaigned for the office of Governor in Imo state, your message to “Rebuild Imo” resonated loudly with Ndi Imo and they responded emphatically by entrusting you with the mantle of leadership. Our hopes are high, and expectations are even higher, but we are equally confident in your ability to steer Imo towards greater heights’’.
Many other people also spoke well about the choice of Ihedioha. “We have been crying that other zones should allow Owerri zone to rule after Orlu zone and Owerri had ruledand by God’s grace, this has been achieved”, Charles Onumajuru, an indigene of Emii,Owerri said in an interview with Verbatim. He described Ihedioha as God sent.
Imo General Assembly, IGA, an association that unites the people of Imo State living in Nnewi, the commercial city of Anambra State described the victory of Ihedioha as the collapse of Okorocha’s political dynasty.
The Imo indigenes living in Nnewi had shortly after the announcement of the Imo governorship election result turned the industrial city to celebration galore, in jubilation for what they called “freeing Imo State from bondage.”
Chinedu Igwe, president of IGA said the governorship election availed the people of Imo state the opportunity to get rid of the incumbent governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his political dynasty that has now collapsed, with Ihedioha’s election victory. He said: “We prayed, worked and hoped for this day of deliverance and God, inhis infinite mercy has answered our prayers and gave us a leader who we expect to take Imo State to a greater height and make Imo occupy her pride of place again in the comity of states.The fall and fall of Owelle Rochas Okorocha’s political dynasty is a lesson to everyone in position of authority that they cannot be more powerful than the people on whose mandate they assumed office.”
In reaction to the outpouring of support and solidarity by the people of the state, Ihedioha has expressed his readiness to change the narrative in Imo state. He said the people of the state will not wait long to witness a responsible and responsive administration, having been subjected to long suffering caused by bad governance over the years by the Okorocha-led
He promised the people of Imo, an administration that would obey the
rule of law and follow due process. “We intend to take off with an inter-denominational service, inaugural lecture and sundry activities specifically designed, taking into consideration the sorry state of affairs of the state and the need to reflect the realities on ground in Imo today.
“We want a sombre ceremony devoid of the usual pomp heralding a new
administration. Of course, the PDP and Imo people are entitled to a little
celebration of a hard-won victory; a victory heralded as liberation of the state from the shackles of bad governance, maladministration, destruction of the structures and institutions of representative government, nepotism and absolute lack of due process in the way governmental business is conducted.
We must, however, not celebrate too much but get ready for the great
and difficult task ahead. Imo State is in a hurry to recover”, Ihedioha said.
As a demonstration of his readiness for the task ahead indeed, Ihedioha gave insight on what is to come ,first, on march 27th when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC issued certificates of return to the governor elect and also to members elect of the state assembly. Imo indigenes trooped to the premises of INEC in thousands, to witness the presentation of the certificate to the governor elect. Manyothers also lined up the road between the INEC office, and theCatholic Archdiocese in Owerri, waiting to catch a glimpse of Ihedioha’s convoy .
Before moving past the church, the governor elect and his entourage stopped over to receive blessings from the Catholic Arch Bishop, Anthony Obinna .They later moved to the PDP state secretariat on Okigwe road where Ihedioha was formally received by the party. The crowd was marmot and the ovation and cheering was deafening.
Addressing party members and others during the event, Charles Babatunde Ezekwem, state chairman of PDP said he is highly elated to have been the instrument used to return Imo to the PDP which he said the state belongs to. He appreciated the people of the state for their support to the party which led to the landslide victory the party recorded in the state and promised that PDP will wipe their tears.
Ezekwem assured the governor elect of the party’s support at all times emphasizing that the party will always take his bullets. He however enjoined the governor elect to be wary of sycophants and expressed optimism that the Orlu senatorial zone which Governor Okorocha allegedly threatened and forced the returning officer, Prof Ibeawuchi to declare him winner will soon be resolved as Jones Onyeriri, the party’s candidate in the election will be named winner and issued with his certificate of return.
While speaking at the event, the governor elect, Ihedioha thanked the people of the state and party loyalists for their steadfastness and commitment to the party promising to run an all-inclusive, responsible and respectable government where accountability and probity will be prominent. He assured that he can never be distracted or misled by sycophants as he has eagle eyes to see when there is danger and advised anyone with negative intentions to decline any office he offers. Speaking amidst loud ovation, Ihedioha said he shoots straight and is courageous enough to correct people when they are wrong just as he corrects himself and promised to take the state to the desired promised land by running a god fearing and responsive government where the judiciary and legislator will be given free hand and liberty to function effectively.
On Wednesday, April 4th, Ihedioha inaugurated a transition technical committee which he set up, at the Rockview hotel in Owerri. The committee which is made up of about 12 sub committees ,is led by Dr Ernest Ebi, a former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Deputy Governor. He is deputized by Kema Chikwe, a former minister of aviation. Members of these committees are will form the think tank, preparatory to the inauguration of his administration on May 29th.
Members of the committees include Emma Iheanacho, a former governorship candidate in Imo, Julius Nwagwu, a retired of the Nigeria Customs Service, Stanley Amuchie, financial controller, Zenith bank and also a guber candidate in the state under APGA, Chuka Odom, a former minister of state in FCT Abuja, Ano Anyanwu, former executive director, Mainstreet bank, Kanu Nwankwo , an ex-international professional footballer and Humphrey Anumudu, also a governorship candidate in the state.
Others include Paschal Madu, Casmir Anyanwu, Prof Ndi Okereke Onyiuke, former Director General, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Frank Nneji, Chairman of ABC transport company . Mike Okiro, former Inspector General of Police, Prof Viola Onwuliri, a former Minister for External Affairs, Prof Ukachukwu Awuzie, former Vice Chancellor, Imo state university and former ASUU chairman and others are also members of the committees.
The composition of the committees has been applauded as a stepin the right direction. Ernest Ebi, Chairman of the committee said they were mandated to come up with a positive blueprint for the takeoff of the new government. The committees were given six weeks to submit their reports.
Madu, a legal luminary and member of the projects review subcommittee told verbatim during a chat in his country home that the composition of the Transition Technical committee, TTC is a step by the governor elects to bring out the best from some Imo sons and daughters devoid of political, social and religious affiliation. Madu who was the PDP campaign council chairman of Ahiazu Mbaise said that the TTC is an assembly of great Imo minds and intellectuals with a track record of competence and integrity who will contribute to the advancement of a liberated Imo state.
He added that the committee is expected to advance a navigable roadmap for the smooth take off of the new government and also redirect the socio political restructuring of the state.
Madu said he is convinced the team will deliver as it is made up of technocrats of global repute with sound integrity and pedigree adding that they are not to be remunerated as the assignment is their own contribution to liberating the state.
He described the governor elect as man of great capacity in terms of vision, character, industry, forthrightness, candor, experience, humility and the fear of God and also as a man that is endowed with plenty ,who is roaring to give back to the society and also leave his marks on the sands of time.
Soon after Ihedioha was declared governor elect, five socio-political organizations under the umbrella of Imo Salvation Forum, ISF, have concluded plans to submit a comprehensive 10-point document known as Imo Salvation Charter to the new government. The groups said the document contains some of the major demands of Imo people from his administration in the next four years, which begins from 29 May, 2019.
In their communiqué, the five organisations said their first line charge
in the document is a probe of the out-going Governor.The national coordinator
of the Forum, Finbar Chidubem , who is also the President General of Imo Prosperity
Network, IPN, read the communiqué and said that with the emergence of Ihedioha
as Governor, Imo has been liberated from Okorocha and his misrule. “Having
succeeded in overthrowing the evil rule, it is now time to take stock of what
happened in the state in the past eight years which led to the brutalization of
our people physically, mentally and psychologically”, He said.
Eze Cletus Illomuanya, the traditional ruler of Obinugwu Kingdom in
Orlu Local Government Area of the State urged Ihedioha to clean
up the polity. He appreciated Imo people for a bold step taken in voting Ihedioha into power, saying that the state has been rescued.
The royal father also urged Ihedioha to look into the traditional
institution in the state, with a view to redefining the way and manner it
carries out its activities. “Imo is in dire need of an administrator of Ihedioha’s pedigree, and we are glad he is taking over mantle of leadership on May 29, 2019”, Ilomuanya said.