By Kenneth Amaeshi
Recently, a friend asked me if Imo State was cursed. I was puzzled by the question and asked him why he asked it; in the typical Nigerian way of answering questions with other questions. He said the State had always been ‘blessed’ with bad governors. I hesitated a bit but struggled to disagree with him. To be fair, he is probably correct, depending on how one looks at it.
Imo, like many other states in Nigeria, has over the years been sub-optimal in terms of governance. It is an open secret that the State has been plagued by soft and hard infrastructure that are substandard. A State that was once the bastion of quality human capital through good investments in education is now a very poor shadow of itself. A State that many times received recognition as the cleanest State in Nigeria in terms of waste management in the ’80s, is now an eyesore in many parts. Salaries and pensions are not regular. Grand corruption, insecurity, and greed have become the order of the day. These and many more, are the pressing challenges that Imo State needs to address.
Reflecting on the condition of Imo State in an article prior to the 2019 election, I argued that:
“Imolites want someone who can restore the glory of Imo State, with emphasis on good education; one who will firmly integrate Imo with her neighbours and geopolitical zone, as the eastern heartland; and reposition it in Nigeria and Africa, as a land of opportunities.”
One believes that in order to achieve this, Imo State needs a One State governor – a governor who is fervently interested in the State as a whole and not someone who sees the State as fragmented parts to be carted away mercilessly. A governor who will make every part of Imo State experience positive impacts. Arguably, the last time Imo State experienced this was almost 40 years ago during the time of Sam Mbakwe. As such, I argued that Imolites do not need anything short of this. In short, Ndi Imo need another Mbakwe, if not a better Mbakwe.
The elections came and passed. Emeka Ihedioha was declared the winner. I wrote another article titled, What Does Emeka Ihedioha Need? In that piece I contended that perhaps, Ihedioha might be this better Mbakwe. However, for Ihedioha to play this role and rise above the ugly politics of zoning, I argued that he needed a formidable opposition. Yes, a solid opposition.
All considered, it seems Emeka Ihedioha did well within his very short stay of seven months – especially against the backdrop of his valedictory speech. He appeared to have laid a good foundation for future development. I may not be wrong to argue that his success was partly because of the perceived threats of opposition political actors – including the uncertainty of the outcomes of the cases against him before the election tribunal. He obviously took a good advantage of this threat and increased his social capital.
The number of demonstrations across the country and social media comments trailing his ousting speaks volumes about the goodwill he has acquired so far. This shows that democracy can thrive, if properly calibrated.
Democracy is not a harmonious and homogenous exercise. Unsurprisingly, it thrives in competitions, contestations, and oppositions. Such competitions are meant to deliver good outcomes to the citizens, who should be the ultimate beneficiaries of democratic dividends. Opposition should be seen as good for democracy. There is no point asking everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet. It is actually undemocratic to make such suggestions.
Those who stood with Emeka Ihedioha should continue to stand with and by him, if they still share the same ideologies and views about good governance and society. Now Hope Uzodinma is in charge, they should also provide a solid and robust opposition to keep Uzodinma firm on the proverbial narrow but good path.
On the part of Hope Uzodinma, he should do his best not to stifle opposition. Good enough, his party, All Progressives Congress (APC), is not well represented in the State House of Assembly. This is a good arrangement for constructive engagement that will benefit Imo State. As typical of Nigerian politicians, some of the members of Imo State House of Assembly – especially those who strongly believe in Any Government in Power (AGIP) – may want to shift and align with the government in power. This bizarre approach to politics should be thoroughly scrutinised and discouraged. Hope Uzodinma can champion this new thinking, as his contribution to good politics and good governance.
Emeka Ihedioha spent the last eight to ten months putting together a strategic roadmap for Imo State. He engaged some of the best hands and brains in Imo State. If I were Hope Uzodinma, there would be no point reinventing the wheel. I would simply look at Ihedioha’s plan, review it, and run with the best I can find in it. After all, the plan is the property of Imo State Government and governance is about progressive continuity.
Nonetheless, I agree Uzodinma may not like all the ideas in Ihedioha’s agenda, but the fundamental problems of Imo State are still what they are. The solutions might be different, and that is where Uzodinma needs to be more creative, innovative, and strategic.
In line with this creative thinking and governance, I wrote another op-ed sometime in 2009 titled, What is in a name? The case of Goodluck and Patience. I concluded that piece with these words:
“President Yar’adua’s regime has gone with its uniqueness. This is a new beginning for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his wife, and a golden opportunity for them to either write their names feebly on sand or firmly in history. What would be immensely disappointing is just to see their regime gone as an ill-fated product of luck, which will be an unfortunate sharp contrast to the wise saying that: luck meets the prepared! I pray they are adequately prepared; and time shall tell this”.
I will say the same thing to Hope Uzodinma. His emergence has been confronted by many mixed reactions – even to the point of public demonstrations against his nascent administration. It seems that expectations are really very low for him. This could either be a curse or a blessing, depending on how he looks at it.
From where I stand, Hope Uzodinma has a very rare opportunity to write his name in gold through good governance, if he can turn Imo State around in this tenure. If he does so, he might become the prophetic corner stone. The case of Imo State is dire; very dire. Hope should truly mean hope and should be fulfilled. Otherwise, an unfulfilled hope is rather hopeless. And Imo State cannot afford to be hopeless!
Uzodinma can definitely take advantage of this scenario or miss it forever. The ball now is in his court. That is the much I can say because “a word”, they say, “is enough for the wise!”
Kenneth Amaeshi, a public philosopher and professor of business and sustainable development at the University of Edinburgh, can be reached through: [email protected] (email) and @kenamaeshi (twitter).