There is an evolving notion that Imo State politics is unpredictable politics. As unpredictable as Imo State political terrain has become over the recent years, the landscape is shaping to be more subsumed by uncertainties in the coming years as the majority of Imo people publicly express their disdain for stifling hardship across all population groups in the state.
Most of the political activists and crusaders of Imo origin who worked assiduously to change the political landscape in 2011 and 2015 did so because of their genuine love for their state which culminated in the enthronement of our current executive governor, Chief Rochas Anayo Okorocha. What endeared some of the activists and mobilisers to Okorocha included his pre-politics philanthropic and populist ideology, his scarce sense of inclusiveness, political sagacity and his mantra of coming in to transform Imo State with the collective resources of Imo people. Former governor Ikedi Ohakim, who is now on a self-imposed sabbatical leave from politics, did not lose that election because of an overall abysmal performance, but largely because Imo people felt betrayed in a lot of fronts as the government paid more emphasis on pleasing godfathers within the highest political echelon than bringing genuine development to Imo grassroots.
Chief Okorocha’s first term of office may not have witnessed a very glowing tribute, but some of his ardent supporters and political faithfuls stayed the course and once again worked hard to ensure that the governor had an extended opportunity to demonstrate his unflinching commitment to the development of Imo State and enthronement of a better future for Imo people and generations unborn. The battle for the 2015 was unequivocally at knife edge but by dint of hard work by the governor and his supporters, divine providence prevailed. Our governor was consequently returned to Douglas house for another 4 years. The return of the governor under the APC umbrella brought about an avalanche of new sympathisers, most of whom had betrayed and left PDP as well as other parties in search of “stomach infrastructure” and not necessarily to help the governor build a better Imo State. These elements have nothing to offer and have done more harm than good to Okorocha’s government. One cannot offer what he or she doesn’t have, and many of these people are political liabilities that have nothing to offer the state. It is indeed paradoxical that the governor has deemed it a political imperative to recruit into his fold men of questionable character, with a cloud of suspicion hanging over a member of the state executive council for the suspected ritual killing of his niece years ago. As time inches away and many of our governor’s supporters are immersed in the dark as to the worsening state of Imo State, I remain cautiously optimistic that the governor is not oblivious to this reality and the consequence this portends for Imo APC in 2019.
Many agree that development is a continuing enterprise, and the governor would not be expected to magically transform a state that had been neglected by all post Sam Mbakwe administrations, but he is expected to, at a minimum, lay a solid foundation on which a new Imo State could be built. While the government has made some strides, or at least attempted to make some strides in the areas of human capacity development, infrastructural and community development, public health and state security, a lot more need to be done to entrench accountability and good governance that has perennially eluded the state.
The governor has unprecedentedly bloated the government with duplication of roles and offices which, from a political prism, appear to be symbolic gestures that have no added value to good governance and frugal management of public resources. There are more aides to the governor than ever and there is an unrestrained appointment of more and more assistants and aides that defy political logic, especially under the current economic climate. There is a very docile state legislative arm, and legislators who have unapologetic loyalty to the governor may portend great danger to the independence of the legislators in affecting the necessary checks and balances needed to foster transparency in government.
Our state has one of the highest recurrent budgetary expenditures which pale in comparison to the state’s capital expenditure. No wonder the opposition has repeatedly accused the governor of extra-budgetary excesses and gross mismanagement of public funds. Our schools are supposedly free but the quality of education has progressively declined. Teachers are not properly trained, often incompetent and distracted with deteriorating educational outcomes. Our degrees worth less than papers they are written on, and for the poor, contemplating on choice is as good as a mirage.
Our communities need development, and functional local governments as well as local community development councils would complement each other. To this end, conducting a free and fair local government election in Imo State in 2017 is a sine qua non. Many state roads across Imo State are death traps during rainy season yet many of these roads are in the books as having been partially or fully rehabilitated and paid for with our collective resources. There is poor access to clean water and poor sanitation remains a major health concern for the poorest of the poor. As a physician, I am increasingly appalled that many of our people have died or are dying due to commonly preventable illnesses; there are inadequate number of doctors and nurses in our state hospitals because many are burnt out, not paid or not committed to the cause; equipment used are non-functional and obsolete, or in many cases, these hospitals are not accessible or the costs are not affordable.
There is no scarcity of quack doctors parading themselves as physicians in all our localities yet no one is addressing these hazards. Women are dying in their numbers during child birth because our doctors and midwives are either under-resourced or not well trained to handle obstetric emergencies. Our rural “chemist” shop owners have metamorphosed into doctors dispensing dangerous drugs that have resulted in rising morbidity and mortality. Our governor needs to take public health more seriously and focus less on rhetoric, and he must through the health ministry ensure that our people have access to vaccines; hospitals and government health centres must be provided with the human and material resources needed to screen for and manage common tropical diseases, and the state’s health ministry must embrace their regulatory oversight, raise awareness on the need for lifestyle modification as being inevitably linked with preventing many chronic illnesses. Many cancers are preventable through modification of some risk factors, early screening and public health education at the grassroots; girls and women should have free access to the vaccine that prevent cervical cancer, PAP smear should be made free for young girls and women and free age appropriate screening for colorectal cancer should be initiated by the state health ministry.
The governor has been given an average mark by many for marginal improvement in the state of our state security, but the governor as our chief security officer needs to consolidate his efforts in uprooting the remaining criminal enterprises across the state. This, he could do, by ensuring that community vigilante groups are properly incentivised and provided with the resources they need to fight criminal activities. The police should also extend their tentacles to the communities and should work with the local communities in gathering intelligence that would help keep our communities safe and ultimately stifle the potency of these hoodlums with merciless ferocity.
Our governor should know that the majority of Imo people, even those who are currently in opposition parties want the good of Imo State and no singular aspiration of a man or a collection of men or women should take pre-eminence over the development of our state, even under the current hostile economic climate. We all pray for an Imo State of equal opportunities, a state where every indigene would stand a chance of reaching his or her greatest human potential.
The governor has exemplified his progressive ideology by making some difficult and unpopular decisions, including the relocation of Eke Ukwu market which I am confident is in the best interest of Imo people because Imo state unarguably doesn’t end around Owerri periphery. It is my view that more government owned enterprises and bureaucracies should be decentralised as this would help attract public infrastructure to isolated and deprived localities.
The fate of Imo APC in 2019 will depend largely on whether or not the governor is able to consolidate his raft of projects and deliver on the promises made to ndi Imo in job creation, industrialisation, infrastructure, education, health, and state security among others. Should the reverse become the case, APC may in 2019 suffer the catastrophic consequence of our governor’s breach of his social contract with “my people, my people.”
Dr. Pedus C Eweama is an activist physician and political commentator of Imo State extraction.