IHEDIOHA @ 56: SALUTE TO THE FASTIDIOUS ONE
By Steve Osuji
WHERE’S YOUR LGA?: How would you rate your governor? In fact, how do we rate governors in these parts? Million dollar question. But my answer is that since 1999, I am yet to find a governor in Nigeria deserving to be rated 50 percent in terms of performance.
First, I ought to know because I have served governors. Equally important, I have also watched and reported governors closely as a senior journalist in Nigeria’s current civilian dispensation.
But the more germane question would be, by what parameters do you rate the performance of a governor?
My methods, which I have devised over the
years, both as a participant and a participant are quite simple:
First, show me a performing governor and I will lead you round a moribund 3rd tier sub-government in his domain.
This simple matter of getting our LGAs to work has occupied my mind nearly all my three and half decades of journalism career that I often seek opportunities to engage governors on it.
For instance, Babatunde Fashola, Peter Obi and to some extent, Kayode Fayemi are for me, clearly among the stars as far as picking up sticks and laying them straight goes.
I had asked them in separate interviews why they were stumped on matters concerning LGAs. And I aggregate their responses to mean that that tier is a lost cause as far as Nigeria’s political structure and firmament go.
One of them actually retorted that it’s ‘job for the boys.’
These are among our brightest since 1999 and if they couldn’t rev up that critical segment, who could.
But it’s a no-brainer that if the local authorities are comatose, at least half of the country would remain in limbo. You don’t need to he smart to see the dire connections between our lost LGAs and the catastrophic consequences of what we term unmanned territories.
Isn’t it laughable that it’s only in Nigeria that sovereign territories within our enclaves and under various LGAs are described as unmanned!
If every LGA is up and running, they would man their various territories – there would be hardly bandits or terrorists or kidnappers. Hardly.
As Special Adviser, Media to Governor Emeka Ihedioha from May 29, 2019 to January 14, 2020, his management of his LGAs was the best I have observed since 1999. Of course it could have been better with a properly elected and constituted governance at that level with the full complement of departments and budgets. But that’s obviously making an utopia of a fallen kingdom!
What exactly did he do? Ihedioha promptly appointed interim management committees in the LGAs. Addressing the Exco, Ihedioha made it known that under his watch, Imo LGAs would enjoy some level of autonomy. Thereupon, two similar capital projects per LGA were agreed upon, budgeted for and execution commenced immediately.
A modern purpose-built, two-storey work office and a mini Stadium were being constructed simultaneously in each LGA in Imo. There was so much competition that in less that four months, some of these were near complete.
The immediate results were that for the first time in a long while, enormous rural infrastructure revamp was taking place. Jobs, numerous rural jobs were created in a burst on the hinterland. It was a novelty designed to reinvigorate the LGAs and bring them back to blossom. Over a 4-year period, at least a dozen rural infrastructure per LGA was envisaged.
Sadly, these projects have been abandoned since the coming of the current government. It is said that the Joint Account Allocation Committee (JAAC) hasn’t met and salaries are hardly paid in the LGAs since Ihedioha was deposed. All the LGAs in Imo have been comatose once again in Imo. No employment, poverty is the order yet federal allocation streams in every month into our LGAs.
YOUR TEAM IS EVERYTHING: Most Nigerian governors don’t function because they either didn’t pick their team and when they do, they do all the wrong picks. The party, the campaign mob, godfathers, godmothers, financiers, transition committee members, and just anyone who has any influence on the new man on the saddle would seek to influence his appointments as a first test of their mettle. So there’s always a siege situation around a new governor in these climes.
But Governor Ihedioha managed to defy these pressures to pick his team – by himself. Or at least, largely so. He reaches for the best – the very best he could find anywhere; young, old, serving, retired, home or abroad.
Yours truly is an example. I didn’t quite have a relationship with Governor Ihedioha before his victory at the 2019 polls. I wasn’t in the campaign grind. But at the critical juncture all he wanted was the best hand he could find to head his media. He consulted endlessly to the point of it becoming a pester. Comfort Obi, Sam Omatseye and Segun Adeniyi are a few of my respected colleagues he sounded out over and over again. Such was his fastidiousness in picking most of his special aides and advisers.
It’s also about the vision thing – when you have a clear idea about the outcomes you crave in a sector, you want a perfect fit for the job.
To appease the party aparachik, appointments at the commissioner levels were ceded to them, it seemed. But at that, he still ensured that prime ministries like Justice and Finance were carefully head-hunted.
STATECRAFT, STAGECRAFT AND ALL THAT: Statecraft by my description would simply mean a leader at work. Ihedioha was maniacal at work. I work 18 hours, he would say and I don’t expect anyone to put in less. And by jove he did. In three months he had bags under his eyes and some of us were afraid for him. Slave driver is an understatement.
The Executive Council Meeting was sacrosanct. I don’t remember one lost Wednesday in seven months and missing out could bring the volcano in him. That he has a volcanic temper is common knowledge to many but it’s usually in pursuit of results.
He loves debate and to be debated, often yielding to superior logic.
He is truly passionate about laying grand markers in Imo. The results secured by his Exco in seven months would be difficult for some governors in four years. He emphasized rule of law and due process; he engaged development agencies extensively for benign capital. UN, WHO, WORLD BANK, DFID, etc who had fled Imo in the dark era of Rochas were back. Today, they seem to have left again.
Just one illustration: 24 highly strategic road projects were procured state wide. But it took a process of debates over about three months and 12 Exco meetings to achieve. The roads were awarded, advance payments were made with carefully agreed guarantees and contractors mobilized to all the sites. When Julius Berger proved unaffordable for Imo, he insisted on contractors with pedigree. That was why about three well known Chinese contractors were among those mobilized.
There’s so much to say about the style and substance of Governor Ihedioha, whom Imo people voted for in 2019.
He is imbued with much courage (Dutch courage sometimes, if you like), he is brave, rigorous, fastidious and passionate.
Love him or hate him (he and I didn’t jell for much of the time) but you cannot deny or ignore the fact that he is a born leader, the type for this time and age.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY YOUR EXCELLENCY; IT’S MORNING YET…