Ihedioha, Imo and good governance
SOME months back, I was invited to a dinner by an Imo professional body in Lagos to interact with the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha. The programme was meant to start about 6 p.m. but he was delayed. Apparently, President Goodluck Jonathan was visiting Imo State that same day and Ihedioha himself, as expected, was part of those hosting him. He eventually came in about 8 p.m. When he entered the gathering his interpersonal skills were on display, as he acquainted freely and easily with almost everyone in the gathering. He apologised for the delay and explained why. Then, he asked if we even knew that the President was visiting Imo and if we watched it live on television. The audience was speechless. One or two people mumbled something about watching their favourite English football club play as it was a Saturday. But he quipped that he too had his own favourite football club. Even when he travelled abroad, he would always find a pub to view his team play. But that nothing comes between himself and the affairs of his state. He harped on the need for us to stop showing apathy towards governance. That it is when we show interest and are part of the conversation on governance, can we have the moral rights to question our leaders.
According to Ihedioha, he does not have any other profession, but politics. He does not chase contracts. His is about consensus and bridge building. He showed devotion to his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and truly understands its dynamics. In this season of cross-carpeting, it is hard to picture him in another party. Well, I guess unless PDP loses its ideals.
Questions were asked and he took his time to answer them. The meeting did not end until the early hours of the following day. Still, he was ready to go on and on. He showed no fatigue. But one thing he said that very day that struck a chord was his message and mission to “spread the wealth.”
Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa, yet there is widespread poverty and inequality. Its wealth does not trickle down to the people who desperately need it. It is like a country the Nobel economics laureate, Joseph E. Stieglitz, described as “of the 1 per cent, by the 1 per cent, and for the 1 per cent.”
Poverty and inequality lead to health and social problems. They are the root of insurgency and insecurity in the land. It is only when politicians make poverty reduction their top priority, among their many competing priorities, that it can be dealt with. The nation’s wealth should not be for a select few. It is refreshing to see a politician espouse this. It is fitting that he chaired the Constitution Review Committee where it made a significant proposal to make certain socio-economic rights fundamental and enforceable and incorporating them into Chapter IV, the justiciable part of the Constitution, “the rights to education, right to favourable environment, right to free primary and maternal health care services, and the right to basic housing.” But only good governance can ensure all this.
Noel Keough calls good governance “the gift that keeps on giving.” The Economist called it “the secret weapon of Nordic success in the global economy.” But the greatest threats to good governance, according to the United Nations, come from “corruption, violence and poverty, all of which undermine transparency, security, participation and fundamental freedoms.” Electoral promises are broken and secret pacts are made. The people become cynical about their leaders.
Imo people and the Nigerian people in general yearn for good governance. They want equity, participation, transparency and accountability. They want a land where no one shall be too poor, where no one shall have no work to do. A land filled with opportunities, not for the favoured few, a land where all may live in sufficiency and convenience.
Ihedioha won the Peoples Democratic Party ticket for the governorship election in Imo State. I believe Ihedioha, like any leader who has a mission, must have questioned himself first. You cannot deliver the goods to the people if there is no inner conviction. Effective leadership comes from an inner core of integrity and yet it is not rigid. It is this that makes the leader open to the thoughtful influence of those whom he or she leads. There should be made room for responsible criticism. Partnerships can be built as basic units to accomplish work that will impact on the people.
Countries that promote good governance are always trying more meaningful ways to deliver public service, from schools to health care. The openness to change and experimentation stems from high level of trust.
A people will buy into a leader when they see him championing policies that will touch their lives. Again, leaders we trust are aware that they cannot possess all the answers, they are eager to hear responsible critique and to work with it. Differences of opinion, perspective and world view are essential part of life and learning. Leaders, who can be trusted, value differences, not only as a critical imperative and a way of respecting others, but also as an alternate source for direction. In any system, the ideas from outside often hold the encased wisdom which enrich our mind and keep us away from self-delusion.
When we buy into our leaders’ philosophy, it is easy to trust them. And when trust comes in we create communities which function as sustaining circles of trust and closeness. It is these communities that make leadership a collective effort.
Ihedioha shows an exceptional ability to win fervent support even from those who disagree with him! Am not surprised he won the PDP ticket.
He used his position and person to facilitate more than 140 projects in his constituency. Among the ones I can mention here are reactivation and rehabilitation of Uvuru Amawo Water Project, and the Aronta Mbutu Water project, provision of 100pcs classmate computer and V-Sat based internet access with generator in Mbaise Secondary School and Okpala School, construction of Nigerian Immigration Service centre in Aboh Mbaise, completion of Mbutu electricity project. Others are 132 KVA/33 Substation in Aboh Mbaise, 15 MVA Substation 1 x 15 MVA-33/11 KV, erection of 70 poles solar powered street lights in Enyiogugu Airport junction, and at Nwko Mbutu market square, as well as at Okpala junction. He also rehabilitated road projects in Chokoneze-Mbutu-Logara road, Umuopara-Ibeku-Umuhu-Uvuru road, Ogbor-Uvuru-Amuzu-Lorji-Ife road, and many more roads construction and equipping of primary healthcare centres. The Nigerian Television Authority, Owerri, felt his touch, and so did Heartland FM Owerri.
Imo State can do with a governor who is politically savvy, a critical thinker who brims with confidence, an interface of the people, someone who can function effectively and efficiently for the benefit of the people.
• Odoemena is medical practitioner, Lagos.