By Collins Ughalaa KSC
On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodimma took the mantle of leadership in Imo State. The Supreme Court had recognized Uzodimma’s votes from 388 polling units scattered across the state, which were earlier not entered into the form EC8B. These votes, in what has become history, upturned Ihedioha’s victory and ushered in the Uzodimma administration. Imo people were to expect new leadership module with attendant dividends. Consequently, on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, exactly one week after the Supreme Court declared him the Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma addressed the people of the state via a state-wide radio broadcast. As a new government, Imo people needed to know what was in the bag for them. In most places where a new government is elected, economic, social and political activities seem to be slow until the Governor speaks to the people and shows them the direction his government would be going.
Apart from coming timely, the Governor’s maiden broadcast came with candour, originality and new opportunities. It presents practical solutions to some of the challenges confronting the state.
With the breakdown in governance structures and rising corruption in government offices over the years, the Governor presented a paradigm shift, a new Imo State anchored on Shared Prosperity, where the “common will of the people” is cardinal, where “equity, justice, freedom, and the rule of law prevail over impunity and executive recklessness”. Imo State had been adjudged a very poor state since 2011, with the terrifying poverty rate of 19%. This reality reinforces the need to urgently
address the menace of poverty in the state and usher in prosperity. With no functional governance structures and no sector of the economy working, resources concentrated in few hands and economic opportunities diverted to the privileged few, poverty was therefore expected. But that was the old Imo.
The Governor’s Shared Prosperity espouses the core values of social justice, freedom and happiness, upon which his government revolves. It is also at the core of the provisions of Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended. The Constitution in Chapter 2, Section 16 (b) provides that the government will control the economy “in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity”. In paragraph 14 (2b), the Constitution expressly provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
Poverty is not a toy people play with and no citizen is happy when he suffers injustice. No one is happy when opportunities elude him as a result of religion, gender, clan, age or social status. The rife among the people and the unhealthy competition among them derive largely from lack, or loss, of opportunities, especially the failure of government to provide and distribute such opportunities without clannish considerations. The Governor’s prosperous new Imo, therefore, seeks to end the menace of poverty by eliminating the culture of diverting public resources and opportunities to a privileged few, and ushering in prosperity for everyone irrespective of age, clan, gender and social status.
The Governor’s Shared Prosperity vision is different from his 3R policy and it does not mean that the Government would become Father Christmas, sharing money along the streets of Owerri. It is not akin to “share the money”. Shared Prosperity is the philosophy of the government. It is the guiding principle of the government which shows the overall aim and attitude of the government. It means that whatever the government is doing, it is guided by the principle of public interest, ensuring that whatever it does is good for the public. It means that the government is not self-serving but doing the right thing for the right reasons and for the benefit of the many. Shared Prosperity is synonymous with equitable distribution of public wealth, deploying the wealth of the people to serve their interests only. It is the opposite of “Familiocracy” and connotes stopping “a gluttonous greedy few from institutionalizing Aristocracy and or Familocracy as the system of government in the state”.
There are good reasons to believe in the Shared Prosperity vision of the Governor. Since January when he was sworn-in, he has lived true to his Shared Prosperity vision. His rejection of clannish wiring in the operations of the state government and her relationship with the populace is commendable. We have been assured that during the Shared Prosperity era, resources and opportunities will be well distributed and not influenced by mundane attachments. In the past, and as noted by the Governor, Imo State witnessed a slow, steady but devastating loss of her core values, enthroning lawlessness and neo-feudalism in the body politick.
It is regrettable that neo-feudalism or new feudalism, a theory of modern-day resurgence of policies of governance, economy, and public life reminiscent of those in many feudal societies, such as unequal rights and legal protections for common people and nobility, a system that enthrones class stratification has crept into our systems. As practiced between the 9th and 15th centuries, feudalism, broadly speaking, was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour. It enthrones nepotism, favouritism as against social justice, or merit and equal rights. These are the evils we had suffered over the years, where government patronage was influenced by relationships.
It is therefore reassuring that Governor Uzodimma nails all forms of neo-feudalism to the coffin and enthrone social justice, equal rights and opportunities. “The New Imo State offers a new paradigm to redress the ripples of those years of maladministration, inexperience and outright inefficiency in public administration”, said the Governor, adding that he is committed to protecting the fundamental rights of the people, including the right to own property and do business.
In ensuring a shared prosperous Imo, the Governor is evolving a new trajectory of efficiency in service delivery. This makes the Governor’s 3R of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Recovery of key economic and political institutions imperative, because without an efficient and transparent system of service delivery, the new prosperous Imo would be a mirage. For example, to create prosperity, the Governor seeks to address the problem of low disposable income among the people by enhancing the capacity of the people through the creation of opportunities and programmes that would enhance their earnings.
To enhance the disposable income capacity of the people, the Governor ensuring the overhauling and repositioning of the institutions of the bureaucracy for optimal efficiency and service delivery, so as to guarantee the prompt payment of salaries, pensions and other statutory obligations. The government needs an efficient and transparent system of service delivery to run programmes in Agriculture, Education, Health, Security and Tourism, Road Construction, etc. Agriculture, on its own, can transform the people and enhance their income earning capacity. Apart from the fact that Imo people enjoy the comparative advantage in Agriculture, especially in cassava, Agriculture is a low-hanging fruit a government that seeks to create prosperity can harness.
Of course, Health, Education and Security are crucial to achieve the Prosperous Imo envisaged by the Governor, because a healthy, educated and secured man is a wealthy man. Enhancing the income earning capacity of the people by opening up opportunities that will make them earn more will not only make them self-reliant, the Internally Generated Revenue of the state will witness a boom also. With enhanced income, the people will also be able to afford healthcare, education, food, shelter, etc, and in the long run free a lot of funds for the government to channel into areas they cannot delve into as individuals, such as providing the needed infrastructures and services needed.
The government will also have the time to focus on readdressing our value system. For example, the era of dependency on crime, especially kidnapping, child trafficking, armed robbery and internet fraud as means of earning disposable income will end.