The task of marketing Hon. Emeka Ihedioha to the Imo State electorate is a very easy one because it is a classic case of the maxim: ”A good wine needs no bush”. As a political product, Ihedioha has a powerful unique selling proposition (USP) or a niche which makes him very competitive to grab a giant portion of market share. In choosing the best candidate for the PDP governorship ticket, I worked with a marking scheme which makes it possible for every aspirant to be given a free and fair chance in the race. Some of the factors used in picking the best candidate include academic qualification, top positions held in the political arena, party loyalty/consistency, financial empowerment of party, integrity and dependability, interpersonal relationship, rule of law/due process, criminal records and others. Others include the constituency/empowerment projects, records of performance and contributions in the legislature (i.e. for those who are legislators) and others.
The Green-capped legislator has an impressive academic background as an alumnus of the prestigious University of Lagos where he bagged a degree in Food Technology. In the area of party loyalty and dependability, Hon. Ihedioha came out tops. Since the PDP lost the governorship slot in 2007 election, he is one of the few PDP members who have provided much needed funds and logistics to keep the party alive today. Even as we speak, he remains one of the biggest financiers of the party. In the just concluded fund raising of the PDP in Imo State, he was the highest donor with a whopping sum of N22million. He must have spent more than this amount in financing the PDP since 2007. In the course of this analysis, a cross section of the PDP members I interviewed were unanimous in the fact that Hon. Emeka Ihedioha has been providing financial assistance to bail out the party from financial distress since the last eight years. At a time when some of the governorship aspirants abandoned the party and defected to other political parties in search of greener pasture, the like of Hon. Ihedioha and several others remained loyal to the PDP. In keeping with the maxim, “a patient dog eats the fattest bone,” those who remained loyal to the party in times of distress must be allowed to eat the good of the party. In normal and saner societies, the likes of Emeka Ihedioha who have remained faithful to PDP would simply be given the governorship ticket by acclamation or the right of first choice. It is only in the PDP that prodigal sons who return to the family after a riotous and profligate living, insist that the loyal siblings must bow to them. This contrasts sharply with what happened in the Bible where the prodigal son remained remorseful and penitent. He was just asking his father to allow him a place where he would have a roof over his head, provided he would eat the crumbs from the table. The Biblical Prodigal son was neither proud nor arrogant ; he showed remorse , humility and penitence and did not ask to be restored to his order of seniority.
In terms of lawmaking, representation and oversight functions, I do not have space to discuss Hon Emeka Ihedioha’s superlative performance. But I will try to scratch the surface. He was first elected to the House of Representatives (HoR) in 2003 to represent Aboh Mbaise/Ngor-Okpala Federal Constituency. In spite of the fact that he was not a ranking member, he served as the Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport (2003-2007) and in 2007, served as Chairman House Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa. He was elected Chief Whip of the House in November 2007 where he served till June 2011. On June 6th, 2011, he was unanimously elected Deputy Speaker by his colleagues in the House of Representatives. That was the first time members of the House of Representatives elected their own principal officers without any external manipulations. It was a paradigm shift from the past when principal officers of the House were imposed. The courage of the members of the Green Chamber House to elect her principal officers without any external intervention was applauded by right thinking members of the society. It would have been foolhardy/ naive for Hon. Ihedioha to reject such a high office which was given to him on a platter of gold. If he had chickened out, right thinking members of Imo State would have denounced him as a saboteur, a fifth columnist in the family. However, any of us who does not understand what happened then should be given a small lecture so that he can be carried along.
His Chairmanship of the prestigious House Committee on Marine Transport, even when he was a green horn/neophyte in the House is traceable to the fact that long before he joined the HoR in 2003, he was already versed in the business of politics and legislative tutelage. He started his political career from the grass roots when he served as media aide to top politicians like Senate President (1992-1993), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Senate President (1999-2000) the Late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, the former Vice President, (1999-2007), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and others. Unlike most politicians who have no personal discipline to start their political career from little beginnings, Hon. Ihedioha spent over twelve years learning the ropes as lawmaker and aide to top politicians before getting to the Reps. After serving twelve years in the Green Chamber and rising to the position of Deputy Speaker and No 6 person in the Order of Protocol in Nigeria, I doubt if there can be a better choice for Imo State Governor in the next political dispensation. Having acquitted himself creditably in the Green House, the only place to go is the Red Chamber zone which is composed of the Presidency, the Senate and the Governorship. But he desires to start from the Governorship as a first step in his journey to the Red Chamber s. After all, it’s often said that the reward for good work is more work. A good study of Emeka Ihedioha’s political strides reveals that he is a man that has a date with history in the political ambience in Nigeria.
Hon Emeka Ihedioha’s feat in the area of constituency projects is both record shattering and record setting. Unfortunately, some of his constituents in Aboh Mbaise/Ngor-Okpala Federal Constituency are oblivious of what they have in Hon Ihedioha. I come from a senatorial zone where a particular senator served for over 12 years, but, today, there is no modicum of constituency project (not even a one – room project) that stands as a memento to the period of his miserable and pathetic reign as senator. This contrasts sharply with Hon Ihedioha whose constituency projects are not only earmarked, they are also eyemarked in his immediate Federal Constituency and even across the various LGAs in Imo State. He has severally explained in many fora that constituency projects of National Assembly (NASS) members are federal projects attracted by legislators but funded by the federal government; they are not funded with the individual legislator’s money.
In terms of empowerment and human capacity development, Hon. Ihedioha has done marvellously. In partnership with the National Directorate of Employment(NDE), he organised an “Empowerment of Imo Women and Youths Skill Acquisition Training” for 500 beneficiaries drawn from the three zones of the state. Each of the beneficiaries was given a full complement of start-up kit to facilitate effective take-off. Another batch of trainees had their own empowerment training at Metallurgical Training Institute(MTI) Onitsha .The beneficiaries were drawn from the three senatorial zones of the State. They were also provided with a full complement of kits. Another empowerment programme for the youths drawn from across the state took place at the Entrepreneurial Complex of Federal University of Technology (FUTO), Owerri. In the same vein, in collaboration with the National Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike, Umuahia in Abia state, he organised a three day intensive programme for about 700 beneficiaries from the 305 Electoral wards of the state. There are several of such empowerment programmes for the Women and Youths and beneficiaries were drawn from the 27 Local Government Areas of the State. The Green-Cap lawmaker has also built federal Skills acquisition centres in some communities in his constituency. The list here is a tip of the iceberg.
Hon. Ihedioha has also done fantastically well in terms of attracting physical infrastructure projects to his constituency and the entire Imo State. Some of these projects include the construction of Isinweke-Onicha-Uboma road in Ihitte-Uboma LGA in Okigwe zone; it’s an NDDC project. Although Imo state is not a coastal zone, he was able to use his position as Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Transport to build Wharf/Jetty at Imo River Okpala. In December 2011, I was one of the pressmen who went on a facility tour of his constituency to verify his constituency projects. I was overwhelmed at the massive projects which confronted us. Some of the projects include the 132 KVA and 33 KVA transformers installed at Mbutu and Nguru communities. The 33KVA substation at Mbutu was commissioned on December 24th,2011 by the then Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji. According to the Project Engineer, the 132 KVA on completion would supply electricity to more than 50 communities and decongest the Egbu sub – station. Through the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), he facilitated the project for the dualisation of the 35km interstate Owerri-Elele road. The Deputy Speaker has assured that adequate funding for the NDDC project will be achieved. Other projects include the 17 KM Okpala- Igwurita road linking Imo and Rivers State. Also is the Chokoneze-Mbutu-Logara road, Chokoneze-Ife Road and Chokoneze-Lorji-Amuzu road. The rehabilitation of Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, construction of Nigeria Immigration Service Centre at Aboh Mbaise Council Headquarters. The phase one of the Mbaise Ring road was flagged off in May, 2013. The road which is estimated to cost about N6.2billion will cut across 25 communities in the three Local Government Areas of Mbaise nation. When completed, the road will have a length of 59 km. It is a project of the Ministry of Niger Delta. He has extended his constituency projects to Radio Nigeria, Owerri and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where he donated computer sets, digital recorders, split air conditioners and even staff buses and various items of media ware to enhance their performance. His constituency projects on capital intensive projects are too numerous to be discussed here.
Hon Emeka Ihedioha in his capacity as deputy speaker is Chairman, House Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review. On the 18th April, 2013, he received a tumultuous applause from Nigerians when he presented the collated results of the People’s Public Sessions (PPS) on the review of the 1999 Constitution. That was the first time the Green Chamber in Nigeria was handling a task of such magnitude. He parades an intimidating Curriculum Vitae(CV) which may not be fully listed in the small space available. A Knight of the Order of St. Christopher of the Anglican Communion, Ihedioha has bagged several religious awards in recognition of his contributions to the advancement of Christianity. These recognitions and honours point to a general acknowledgement of his community leadership position and religious piety.
On the strength of the snippets of facts listed here, I am convinced that Hon. Emeka Ihedioha is a fit and proper person to emerge as the best foot or choice of the PDP in its forthcoming governorship primaries. Ceteris Paribus, he has all it takes to overwhelm the candidates of the other parties in the Governorship election in February 2015. All in all, I am convinced that Hon Emeka Ihedioha has exhibited a stellar performance in the core duties of a legislator which include law making, representation and oversight. His performance is a paradigm shift from what we see around here since 1999.Aperson with such a strong background in political engineering should have a head start in the titanic battle for Imo Governor in 2015.
–– Mgbe writes from Orlu, Imo State