In a brief meeting recently, the former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, gave an insight into his administration between 2007 and 2011, stating that he is in the current governorship race to complete what he started. Ohakim said his administration was a period to thank God for all His mercies, as the state withstood grave political distractions, including two assassination attempts on his life and 29 court cases. The former governor spoke further, in this interview with Chuks Okocha. Excerpts:
On the conduct of council elections and political reforms.
On August 7, 2011, we conducted what has remained the most credible local government election. This feat must be appreciated against the background that for 10 years before then no LGA election had taken place in Imo State. Surprisingly, since then, no other local government election has taken place, in spite of promises by Governor Okorocha. On October 15, 2010, we hosted President Jonathan to a two-day working visit to Imo State. This was the fourth presidential visit our administration hosted. On November, 1, we conducted the most peaceful state PDP congress. It is worthy also to note that our great party had not conducted any congress due to political wrangling between ‘onongono’ and. ‘Abuja’. Congress was one of those ordered by INEC. The representative of 1NEC, who monitored the congress, described it was a model congress.
On mounting challenges.
As you would recall, between 2008/2010, the global economic meltdown had an adverse effect on our economy. The demand of our crude oil, our main source of foreign exchange receipts, fell. The price of crude in the international market also fell as low as US$38 per barrel. To make our matter worse, Nigeria was not even meeting its OPEC production quota of 1.4 million barrels per day due to violent militancy in the Niger Delta. Nigeria’s production fell to as low as 700,000 barrel a day. This meant that states were receiving less money from the federal allocation. This fact is very imperative. Upon assumption of office in 2007, we met on ground the following: a state capital with serious environmental challenges.
Absence of key urban physical infrastructure, many roads requiring maintenance, coupled with dysfunctional water schemes, demoralised and aging civil service with average age of 50 years. There was over 70 per cent of unemployment of our employable graduates, a chaotic transport system in our capital territory dominated by ‘inago, and over 127 Autonomous Communities at war with themselves. This scared away the youth from coming home, stalled community development, made elders to lose control over the young ones and, therefore, gave room to criminality and underdevelopment.
On the 14-point agenda of his administration.
Sequel to this scenario, a 164-member committee from all walks of life and different parts of Imo State and beyond were assembled under the chairmanship of the late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC, to critically evaluate the situation with a view to proffering solutions to chat the way forward.
The “164 Wise Men” came up with a solutions document called ‘’Imo Strategic Pathway” from which the 14-point agenda of my administration emerged. At a plenary of Imo stakeholders, the 14-Point agenda was adopted by the Imo State citizens for a 10-year development plan and consequently, my administration adopted it as our barometer. If and where my administration is benchmarked, it must be on this demand-driven and bottom-up agenda set by the Imo people themselves.
This document is in the public domain. Our idea of Imo State and development was also embedded in this same document called the Strategic Pathway. Every ministry, department and agencies [MDAs) of government was assigned one thematic area or the other where the vision, the mission, the policy thrusts, the targets, the strategies and the resources required for the implementation were handed over to them. Thus, in every office in the state one would see boldly written the policy thrust of each ministry, department and agency and the assignments required of them.
Further, the Imo State Elders Forum was constituted in the wake of the administration. The essence was to harness from our elders from all the LGAs and communities in Imo State ideas and contributions towards sustainable development. Invariably, we pursued the programme of the people. By the first 100 days in office, the implementation was already on a test-run, where model school blocks were constructed in every local government area, transformers hitherto lying fallow were energised, and broken down water schemes were rehabilitated.
On his legacies.
At the end of my four years in office, “The Legacies that Speak” is a scorecard compiled by Team Ohakim to put an end to the lie that destroyed a state that was being carefully and methodically piloted to growth and development. In June 2009, we crossed the hurdle for the N40 billion bond issuance from which the state had drawn down N18.5 billion in 2010 to tackle deficiency in critically needed road and water infrastructure and to invest in the Imo Wonder Lake Resort and Conference Centre project. It is worthy to note that as at April 2011, Imo Stale had serviced her obligation to investors for the first trencher of the bond to the tune of N10.1 billion (principal + Interest). In collaboration with Imo State Investment Promotion Agency (ISIPA), the Ministry of Finance developed a financing strategy for the N187.3 billion required to hind the 2010 – 2015 Development Plan that cuts across various sectors, such as roads, education, tourism and hospitality, water supply, housing, agriculture, commerce and industry, and aviation.
On the integrated palm project.
The state established a 9-hectare oil palm multiplication and nursery centre at Nekede, which raised over 1,000,000 transplantable oil palm seedlings.
On fishery project.
My government created enabling environment to encourage private sector investment. Over 500 fish ponds and 20 million hatcheries operated in the state. Local production of fish grew rapidly.
On the N2 billion Imo farmers loans scheme.
In the efforts of the Imo State Government to make micro-credit available to farmers for increased food production in the state and to ensure food security, we secured N2b agile loan for disbursement to farmers and farmer-groups at a single digit interest rate of 7 per cent and maximum tenure of four (4) years, as against the bank interest rate of between 20 per cent to 26 per cent. The farmers in Imo State have never received such loan from any administration in the state for the past 20 years. AGRONOVA was committed to developing large-scale commercial farming in Imo State. The state government partnered with commercial farmers from South Africa under the Public Private Partnership model to launch Agra Nova, Imo State. The project established over 500 fish ponds in various places in the 27 LGAs, which included a fish farm at Umuna Okigwe, a fish pond at Obowo, Ngor-Okpala and Oguta among others. The project hit the market with produce within just one year of operation.
On commerce and industry.
Other major projects, which were at different stages of completion that were sure to transform the industrial landscape of Imo included the facilitation of establishment of one new industry in each of the 27 LGAs of the state under ‘Project 27’ —a project jointly developed by Imo State Investment Promotion Agency, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. The project was on track to deliver up to N4 billion in private sector-led small and medium scale investments across our 27 LGAs.
Other efforts included the development and construction of the Central Market/Motor Park, New Owerri; development of the Trade Fair Complex in New Owerri; re-negotiation of the Imo Trade Zone, Ngor-Okpalo; development of the Imo International Market, Orlu (Phases I & 2); development of the International Market, Okigwe; establishment of three Enterprise Zones in Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe; development and construction of the Timber Market/Enterprise Centre, Naze; development of the Technology Incubation Centre, Naze; and development of the Onitsha Road Industrial Layout.
On Making Imo Green project.
Attracting, retaining and growing investments in the state’s economy were key developmental objectives of the administration. For this reason, the Imo State Investment Promotion Agency (ISIPA) was constituted and empowered by law to perform a number of important functions, including serving the needs of investors, advocating business-friendly policies, and cultivating and projecting a favourable image of the state as a destination of choice for investment. Since inception in 2010, ISIPA worked on attracting investments worth over N7 billion from investors in agriculture and allied services, oil and gas, construction, hospitality and diversified manufacturing, and rendered advice that saved the IMSG over N1.6 billion in certain projects and programmes.
In addition, the agency executed several projects and programmes, including coordinating the first ever Imo Investment Summit in 2010, establishing a world-class office with IT infrastructure and robust online presence, conducting five investment forums with SMEs, cooperatives, NACCIMA and industrialists, facilitating three SME development workshops zonally for all 27 LGA chairmen, identifying partner banks for our investment facilitation projects (Project 27 and Project Enterprise), registering over 100 small-scale industries, and providing them with free investment and business incubation advice, providing incubation support to Imo Wonder Lake Development Company, coordinating the induction training for 10,000 job new recruits as its contribution to boosting labour and productivity.
On works and transport.
Under the integrated development programme of my administration, the Ministry of Works commenced a massive construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges. The Imo Road Maintenance Agency (IROMA) was established to ensure that rural roads in all the 27 LGAs were maintained.
Over 300 kilometres of asphalt roads were completed while 232 kilometres more were under construction. In addition, hundreds of kilometres of rural roads were paved by the ministry and IROMA. Some of the roads that had been completed included Afor Umuaka – Amazano- Nkulu road, Anara – Eziama – Abbe road, Dikendfai Isiekenesi – Umuogo- Umuobom – Osina road, Nkume- Amucha – Etama – Obire road, Umuneke – Umueme – Umundoche – Obile Ndashi road, Mbieri T-Junction/Orji/Uratta/Naze Ring road, Shoes Industry- Umuodu- Mbieri – Egbeada road, etc.
We met Imo State with a total of 2,389 public schools, out of which 805 were Early Child Care, 1,271 were primary schools, and 313 secondary schools. We constructed additional 35 model classroom blocks and rehabilitated over 1,500 primary and secondary schools in the 304 political wards in the state. Of the 313 secondary schools, my administration returned 44 secondary schools to the missions to promote discipline, high morals and greater commitment to excellence.
In addition to these, we have offered 2, 600 scholarships to deserving citizens of the state and offered bursary to each student of Imo in the Law Schools. We also recruited 5, 000 new teachers under the 10, 000.