One of the main weaknesses of most people that are now angling for the governorship of Imo State is their neglect, or even discouragement, of a critical appraisal of the Imo situation. In a bid to evade a phenomenon which they feign to understand, most political office seekers take to vapid sloganeering and grandiloquent declarations which obfuscate instead of explicate the issue.
Some say they want to redeem Imo State and liberate the people without first understanding the factors that characterize their enslavement and the conditions necessary for their liberation. How can an Araraume or an Ihedioha or an Uzodinma talk about bringing a difference to the governance of Imo? These are career politicians of sinister intentions whose commitment to ameliorating the economic misery in the State is more apparent than real. They are the old, retrogressive and patently inept elements that must be dispensed with.
Indeed, the basic questions now in Imo are: Why are nearly a million young and healthy persons in the state unemployed? What has plunged the State into debt slavery? Why has quality infrastructure eluded Imo people? Why are virtually all the industries comatose? Why is the healthcare system in a shambles? Why has poverty become almost endemic in an entity as richly endowed as Imo? Why has education taken a nosedive? Why can’t our arable land yield bountifully again?
To be sure, everyone readily agrees that the trouble with Imo State is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. However, much that it is important to problematize leadership, it is also very instructive to define the features of the leadership which Imo desires. This is where the real issue lies, and this is why Okey Ezeh, the architect of the Imo Marshal Plan (I-MAP), which is an integrated development blueprint for the rebirth of Imo State, stands out.
A very important feature of this blueprint is its grasp of the Imo economic question. In short, the initiative itself accords primacy to material conditions, particularly economic factors, in explaining the Imo problematique and the solution thereof. The justification for giving such primacy to economic factors is in order here.
Economic need is man’s most fundamental need. Unless man is able to meet this need he cannot exist in the first place. Man must eat before he can do anything else. The fact that one is not constantly preoccupied with, and motivated by, economic needs shows that the needs are being met; it does not show that they are not of primary importance. It is true that man does not live by bread alone, but it is a more fundamental truth that man cannot live without bread. As economic need is his primary need, economic activity is man’s primary activity. The primacy of work, defined as economic productivity, is the corollary of the primacy of economic need. Man must eat to live but he must work to eat. This fact is reflected in the popular consciousness, for people always identify themselves in terms of their economic roles: “I’m a trader but Ben is a farmer”.
The overriding implication of this for the policymaker is that he must pay particular attention to the economic structure of society and use it as a point of departure in addressing its many challenges. The assumption here is not really that the economic structure is autonomous and strictly determines the other structures. To be sure, all the social structures are interdependent and interact in complex ways. But it is the economic structure which provides the axis around which all the movement takes place, and imparts certain orderliness to the interaction. Therefore, once the material assets and constraints of a society are understood, with a visionary and credible leader, political governance becomes simplified and overall development attained.
Aware of the above, Okey Ezeh, the SDP Governorship Candidate, ab initio holistically studied and understood the Imo economic dilemma and articulated its panacea in the Imo Marshal Plan (I-MAP). Conversely, most people that want to govern Imo in 2019 still nurture the retrogressive idea of collecting monthly allocations from Abuja and disbursing them, or even stealing them. It is perplexing beyond imagination that, virtually, they have no agenda to rejig and rev up the local economy. Okey Ezeh, however, is concerned about the future of Imo State and the economic prosperity of the people, having discovered that the monthly allocations which many are vying to collect will soon stop coming in view of the technological innovations which have made crude oil increasingly irrelevant. A true leader thinks about the next generation!
According to Okey Ezeh, “The tragedy that is waiting to befall us as people is that in the next five years oil will no longer be relevant to anybody. Nobody will be buying oil anymore. And all over the world progressive people are beginning to plan accordingly. There is a company called Volvo. Volvo is a Swedish car maker. A couple of months ago they announced that from 2019 they would no longer be producing cars that run on petrol or gas. So, we will not see any Volvo car from 2019 that runs on petrol or gas. All their cars will run on electricity. India has said that by 2030, there will be no longer be the importation of automobiles that run on petrol or gas into their country.
“Around the world, all the countries that used to buy our oil are now checking out. America used to be the number one purchaser of oil in Nigeria, but not anymore, because they are strategic in thinking. They looked into the future and found out that in about five years nobody would need oil any longer. So they decided to open up their oil reserves.”
Ezeh lamented that, “What we have not done in this part of the world is to allow our passion to meet creativity. We have had leaders who see themselves as contractors, as tax collectors, as taskmasters. We have not had people who have had to dig into their wealth of knowledge, who have had to manage the resources of our people in a transparent manner, in a sustainable manner and in a creative manner. And it is not because our state lacks the resources. It is not because our people do not have what it takes to deliver value.”
He went ahead to show the way forward: “Agriculture will be revolutionized by training young school leavers as ‘agripreneurs’ to take advantage of any aspect of the agricultural value chain, setting up processing facilities, tractors, in-farm housing units in each of the three senatorial districts and creation of special unit for packaging for export in order to earn foreign exchange.
“Agriculture is supposed to be the mainstay of the economy of our state, but the governments have only paid lip-service to it because of the cheap money coming from oil. The I-MAP will take Imo back to the basics, which is to reinvent the state agriculturally. Imo is blessed. We have over four thousand hectares of oil palm in Adapalm. But these hectares are almost obsolete. The I-MAP will intervene and resuscitate them through the introduction of modern technologies and the use of improved, high-yielding and pest-resistant palm seedlings.
“Today, palm oil is far more valuable and lucrative in the international market than crude oil, because when you extract petro-chemicals, it comes at a cost. If you sell a barrel of crude oil at sixty dollars, that will be the gross price. To extract one barrel of crude oil, you will spend between twenty-two and twenty-five dollars, in addition to its collateral damage to the environment.
“So, it is infinitely better to focus on agriculture, because it has a future, it has sustainability. We have limitless ability to produce palm oil and we have comparative advantage in its production. And if you looked at the ECOWAS sub-Region, for instance, the demand for palm oil and palm oil-derived products outstrips the supply. Yet we have done nothing about that.
“We can permanently keep the unemployment wolf out of Imo State by making simple investments in the production of particle board. Sawdust and woodshavings are the main raw materials required for the production of particle board. It involves mixing sawdust and woodshavings with resins and running it through a hotpress. This is the main input for 80% of global office and hotel furniture. Yet, at the Timber Dealers, Saw Millers and Allied Business Market at Naze traders are charged for collection of sawdust and wood shavings which are gathered into a landfill and burnt! What an irony!
“The I-MAP will vigorously pursue the up-skilling and building of human capacity and improvement of all aspects of financing and access to finance by SMEs through deliberative actions and interventions. A key priority will be to unleash the energy of the entrepreneurial spirit of Imo people who are known to be great innovators.
“The LGA structure in Imo State as presently constituted is not accountable as it is structured for rent-collection. The culture of transition in perpetuity must be discarded for the state to make progress and alleviate the pains of the grassroots. A properly constituted LGA structure is one that is elected through the ballot. Once people have to face the electorate, they become mindful of scorecards to brandish. A reformed state administration as conceptualized in the I-MAP will energize the LGA structure and create performance metrics that will guide operators of the system and revolutionize development in the remotest of our communities.
“Imo shall establish Forest Reserves and re-introduce Forest Guards to control logging and tree felling activities. Urban renewal will be redefined from the current concrete jungle mindset to the more environmentally-friendly tree-lined boulevard concept, more aesthetically pleasing and far less expensive.
“Imo can create jobs through State Capitalism which means that the state acts as an investor by creating new State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that operate according to private sector mechanisms, and are based on sound business plans and are entirely independent of government.
“The State’s infrastructural challenge can be used to create jobs by engaging 100% homegrown talents from among the pool of unemployed graduates and artisans. Imo will reticulate her capital within her own territory and at the same time engage local skills and in the process build long-term capacity,” Ezeh said.
It is now clear that Imo is not fated to doom. Greatness is our heritage. We have a great opportunity to reinvent the state and harness our vast natural and human resources to the benefit of all. We desperately need a leader that will run a transparent, accountable and value-for-money administration with zero tolerance for corruption, ineptitude and cronyism. This alone will free up huge resources that will be applied to harnessing our virtually limitless economic potentials. This is why a Governor Okey Ezeh is needed with the urgency of now! Imo Rebirth Is Now!
Okey Is Really Okay!
By Collins Opurozor