By Austin Uganwa
Imo State governor-elect, Emeka Ihedioha, will on May 29, 2019, be sworn in as the sixth civilian governor of the state since its inception in 1976.
This constitutional event that reoccurs every four years will not only take place in Imo State but also 29 other states in the federation, where governorship elections were held last March.
In Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari will take oath of office for a second term the same day.
Already, preparations are crystallising and manifesting in Imo for the epochal event necessary to herald a new government. Accordingly, Ihedioha has, in the past one month, set up two committees, namely, Transition and Inauguration, made up of reputable and eminent sons and daughters of the state.
While the former was mandated to liaise with the officials of the out-going government of Governor Rochas Okorocha, to provide a working framework for the incoming government’s commencement, the later has the onerous duty of ensuring seamless weeklong ceremonies on power transfer.
In the face of the sweeping, statewide excitement, Ihedioha is philosophically and rationally calm and perceptive.
His mien is understandable, given the awful nature of the ruins and burdens the out-going Governor Okorocha is handing down to him on May 29.
He has to confront the towering burdens within the next four years with resolve and intensity, if he must accomplish the much-desired Imo renaissance by breaking away from the revolting past.
The burdens are worryingly vast, extending to virtually all the critical sectors of the state.
In the education sector, for instance, with just a few weeks to the end of his tenure, Okorocha is zealously setting up six mushroom universities, four polytechnics and two colleges of education, appointing in an offensive and unbridled manner vice-chancellors, rectors and governing boards to the institutions without recourse to the provisions of the law.
On April 17, less than six weeks to go, he set up the Prof. Chima Iwuchukwu Implementation Committee to oversee the prompt takeoff of the institutions.
Similarly, on April 26, less than five weeks to the end of his tenure, he announced the upgrading of Imo Polytechnic in Umuagwo to Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, ordering the polytechnic staff and students to relocate immediately to Ehime Mbano.
The students and the indigenes of Umuagwo have expectedly rebelled against the decision, resulting in tension in the area.
If Okorocha’s mania for universities in the twilight of his term is allowed to stand, Imo will enter the Guinness Book of Records as a state in a federation that owns the greatest number of universities in the world.
The deceptive theory intrinsic in this is underscored by Okorocha’s inability to fund, for eight years, the only university owned by the state, which he has always hinged on low revenue base, as he advised the school authorities to device means of depending less on government subventions.
Curiously, he is currently rushing through the establishment of five new ones and five other higher institutions for his successor to inherent so as to be destabilised and weighed down financially.
It is incontrovertible that education is the lifeblood of Imo, however, Ihedioha will have to face the burden of boosting the education standard evidenced in the available records that show that the 500 secondary schools in Imo boast of only 15 qualified mathematics teachers, 30 English teachers and 40 science teachers, with low motivation.
Ihedioha will have to recruit many more teachers, retrain the existing and new ones and design and implement motivation packages amid provision of basic facilities to shore up the dwindled education sector.
Apart from the education sector, the burdens also prevail heavily in the civil service, health service delivery, infrastructural development, fiscal policy thrust, local government administration, rule of law, judicial system and a host of others.
While the civil service is in a shambles and requires urgent reform, the civil servants, for some years now, have been earning about 70 per cent of their salary, besides the irregular nature of the payment.
Pensioners have been left unpaid, resulting in mounting salary and pension arrears for the incoming government.
Ihedioha will also embrace a debt overhang of over N100 billion, up from N26 billion in 2011.
He will as well be confronted with low internally revenue generation base, fiscal abnormalities and public infrastructure that is in utmost state of decay, especially in major towns and communities in the state.
However, with only one functional general hospital in the state, located in Umuguma that boasts of only 54 medical doctors and four consultants, Ihedioha will have an arduous task of rehabilitating, expanding and reinvigorating the state’s health sector. Moreover, Ihedioha’s huge challenge will include the enthronement and intensification of a virile judicial system, efficient and self-governing local government administration and rule-based state, fundamental ciphers of democracy and development that have evidently been non-existent in the past eight years of Okorocha’s administration.
The colossal nature of the challenge before Ihedioha makes it imperative for Imo people to work mutually with him in his journey towards remaking Imo.
The voyage, justifiably, may be long-drawn but as Ihedioha has stressed on a number of occasions, he has outlined his plans to rebuild the state.
•Dr. Uganwa writes from Owerri