NIGERIA: Ihedioha and the PDP Imo Guber Ticket

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 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

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