Austin Uganwa pays tribute to the former governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, at age 55

Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha, a foremost lawmaker who recently stepped down as Imo State Governor is 55, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. In all ramifications, it is a worthy and fulfilled milestone and should therefore be commemorated with pomp and wide-ranging jubilations. The reasons are instructive. Ihedioha’s three decades stint in politics has been trailed by amazing footprints and profound legacies which have largely boosted Imo and national development frontiers and hugely beneficial to humanity.

Unlike many politicians of our time, at 55, Ihedioha exudes uncommon attributes including visionary leadership, character, honesty, discipline and forthrightness which are inextricably linked to his vast but rare political accomplishments. These values manifested fundamentally during his seven-month rule as Imo State Governor. The proficient application of his well-articulated Imo Rebuild Vision infused with desirable discipline and dedication resonate on the state transformative and revitalized trajectories within a short time

Although his tenure as Imo Governor was painfully cut too short via the unjust and dubious decision of the apex court January 14, 2020, Ihedioha’s unassailable excellent record in Imo resulted essentially from the efficient, accountable, transparent and participatory fashion he ran the government tinged with visionary leadership dexterity. It’s strongly believed that at 55 Ihedioha’s leadership skills have close similarities with those of the globally acclaimed visionary leaders such as Deng Xiaoping, former Chinese President, who in 1980s took the country through market-driven economic reforms that transformed its economy to be second to none on the global economic curve. There is also former United States President, Bill Clinton who inherited a disoriented economy from George Bush senior and was able to turn it around within a short time frame through pragmatic visionary leadership inputs and realistic reforms.

Akin to Clinton, Ihedioha took over a state in total ruins with deplorable infrastructural base. Ihedioha at inception of his government defined his vision and mission for the state. His vision although ambitious was to enthrone strategic reforms capable of making Imo one of the top three most developed state economies in Nigeria by year 2025 and to rank within Afrca’s top 10 economies by year 2030. His mission was clear, laudable and feasible: “To rebuild, reposition and transform Imo into a modern ecosystem for education, agriculture, industry, tourism, culture, sports, human capital development, science and technology”. By the time he was brazenly and arrogantly forced to step down, he not only set the enumerated sectors on a veritable path of recovery, he had actually transformed many of them

Specifically, verifiable and incontrovertible instances are wont to suffice here. Ihedioha- led administration 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. Under his watch, Imo security architecture was reinforced by establishing a joint task force code-named Operation Iron Gate. Smart agricultural development was facilitated through the launching of sustainable agro road map. Ihedioha administration commenced multi-billion Naira upgrade, rehabilitation and equipping of technical colleges and set up visitation panels to identify the challenges of the higher institutions in Imo towards improving the standard of education at that level.

The government launched health insurance scheme, anti-retroviral therapy and established Health Insurance Agency to liberalize and to reduce the cost of health services. The dignity of labour and the pensioners was restored. 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. Ihedioha administration ensured full release of monthly financial allocations to the 27 local councils and introduced Treasury Single Account, revitalized the procurement process, reinforced ease of doing desk.

The outcomes were fascinating and far-reaching. The Internally Generated Revenue scaled up from N250m to N1.2b as at January with prospects of skyrocketing. 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.

These are just a tip of an iceberg as there were several other inimitable accomplishments. His vision is so practical, result-oriented and therefore infectious that the successive government is struggling to copy it. At 55, Ihedioha is a good party leader. He has been a consistent party member since 1998 and remains a unifying factor in Imo PDP. When the Supreme Court was fraudulently misled by Senator Hope Uzodinma to cancel his election, he met the large-scale injustice with patient optimism and civility. He re-engaged the apex court, in so doing, established the nullity of the earlier decision through the preeminent minority judgment of Justice Centus Nweze.

At 55, Ihedioha remains the first federal lawmaker to ascend through the circuitous political ranks of the House of Representatives to the highest stratum. He played a leading role in the redefinition of the House legislative agenda which significantly transformed the institution. This made Ihedioha to be likened to the two United States lawmakers – Robert Wagner and Arthur Vandenberg- who in 2004 were recognized as among the five most outstanding lawmakers in US history because of their exceptional legislative inputs.

Born into family of Pa Green Ihedioha in sprawling Mbutu, Aboh Mbaise Local Council in Imo State, Ihedioha commenced his political career during the short lived third republic when he worked with the then Deputy Senate President, Senator Albert Legogie of the blessed memory as a press officer.
Dr Uganwa wrote from Owerri