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2019: The Choice Before Imo People ~ By Chudi Muokwe

It must now be obvious to Imo people that all politics is local and that there is really nothing spectacular about aligning with the government at the center. The most important thing in politics is that a state gets it right with its leadership.

This simply means that every state of the Nigerian federation stands alone in defining how it pursues its development and how it interprets its desires. This has nothing to do with how the government at the center expresses its obligations.

For the Imolite therefore, 2019 offers another opportunity to get it right and define the leadership that will explore the potentials of the state and transform it using same.

I guess many in Imo state now realize that the state has since 1999 been on the wrong leadership pedestal. I also hope that the people now do realize that the comfort they had shown with leadership, at all levels, with persons of questionable character, has done the state more harm than good.

It is hoped that the realization of this will spur action towards correcting mistakes of the past with the 2019 general election. This, therefore, means that Imo people must rise beyond the demands of the immediate and begin to think of their state in future tenses.

Being futuristic ought to make the people sit back and evaluate what they have been through in the hands of those they empower to administer the fortunes of the state including House of Assembly members, House of Representatives members, and members of the Senate.

It also means that the people must begin to envision a state where integrity and vision are more cherished values than financial worth.

Sadly, the last has been the bane of leadership in the heartland state. Many will prefer to deal with the moneybag who promises transformation without questioning the sources of wealth. Our preference for such has brought the state to where it is today.

Imo once noted for hard work and integrity, sadly took a dive into a pool where hard work and integrity are no longer essentials for leadership. We forgot that in the labour maxim which says that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys for workers lies a truth that if you worship cash, you get a Robin Hood, or Dillinger, for a leader.

Those who have followed leadership evolution of Imo state since 1999 will realize that our decent started immediately we allowed persons of questionable wealth to return to hijack our traditional institution.

They became our traditional rulers not an account of inheritance or merit, but on account of the fact of how much they threw around bastardizing the traditional leadership system in the process.

Having successfully hijacked the traditional institution while our youths clapped after working as foot soldiers, they embarked on a conquest process whereby likes were enthroned as red caps dominating the traditional cabinet and community leadership. Such characters eventually took over town union leadership. The conquest was total.

With this gradual erosion of traditional ethos and values, we began a descent into the system whereby our worse became our best. We, therefore, valued financial worth to cerebral worth. Our academics thus meant nothing to us because they did not have the cash to throw around.

Those with technical know-how were derided because they did not have the millions to announce at community luncheon.

Men of value and integrity took the back seat because our communities no longer valued them on account of their lean pockets. And without saying much, we told our children that it was better to come back with deep wallets than a bag of certificates.

Those we supported to conquer our traditional institutions because of their cash, soon realized that the local level was not the place to be. They branched out and made attempts at political representation.

It was for this reason that our political leadership space is dominated by persons whose integrity had huge questions marks. This was possible because we allowed a political recruitment system that honoured money above integrity.

We seemed comfortable with the fact that they used political leadership to launder themselves. They became Governors, Senators, Representatives, Assemblymen etc., but with serious integrity deficits that made it difficult for them to speak truth to power.

Many were always reminded of their past each time they attempted to question policies that worked against those they represent. For this reason, we were left with a dump of leaders who feared their past more than they like their future.

But with deep pockets, they still retain their political leadership positions because they understand that we value how much they shared during elections.

Note that this is not peculiar to Imo state. However, there is nowhere this is more pronounced than in Imo state.

For this reason, Ndi Imo has had to settle not for their cerebral bests as political leaders, but for persons who ought to have nothing to do with the leadership of a people noted for scholarship and learning.

If we look at the history of Imo state since creation, we will see that those who actually gave the state a name and image, were persons of great learning and industry; academics and professionals whose names opened gates for Imo state.

Compare that to what we have today and see where the decent had dropped us. As 2019 governorship election draws near, the names of hopefuls that make noise impact are those of shadowy characters and wealth, not those of professionals and persons who worked themselves through the public service ladder.

The reason this is so is that we have educated our children to value wealth much more than the names they bear. Whatever happens along the way in the quest to make such wealth, does not necessarily matter because we are told that the end justifies the means.

That phrase –the end justifies the means- has contributed greatly in leaving Imo where it is today on the human development ladder. Imo now has a horde of moneybags who can’t defend the names they bear.

Imo state is now left with political leaders who do not understand critical development issues neither can they articulate, argue nor defend issues of the environment and ecology and their impacts on human development.

Simply put, Imo is left with political leaders who view leadership from the prism of how much every government venture delivers to their private pockets than how well society becomes through strategic investments in education, health, and infrastructure.

Take a look backward. Imagine how much Imo state has made from IGR and intervention funds alone. Is there a suggestion that it is impossible for the state to build and equip just one world-class medical institution that is strategically placed to also attract medical tourism into the state?

This is not an impossible task but because the leadership we have had preferred to stumble through without vision and tact.

Our incumbent went on masturbatory feel with the construction of what he said were general hospitals in each of the 27 council areas of the state none of which is completed more than seven years into his leadership of the state.

Imagine that all the money wasted on the 27 buildings were sunk in building a world-class pediatric and maternal care hospital, or even on improving facilities at the Imo State University Teaching Hospital.

For our love for flowery characters, Imo state is dotted with abandoned projects. For the same reason, Imo is landmarked by failed projects which have left the initiators richer than the state.

In our leadership quest, therefore, we allow our political leadership system to be infested with persons whose sole aim is to become richer. This is why Imo state is suffering such that despite its monthly take home from the federation account, it still has a huge debt burden that weighs negatively on its per capita income.

This is reason Imolites must now sit up and work for the enthronement of a political leadership system that respects integrity and character.

In 2019 therefore, the character of people we elect as governor, senator, representatives, assemblyman etc., must count. Imo people must begin to realize that likes attract likes.

If you insist on empowering questionable characters with your votes, you would have ended up empowering him to surround himself with persons he is comfortable with and such persons cannot be upright characters.

If you give a banana to a monkey, it is expected that other monkeys will join him in the feast. I do not expect a dove to dine with hyenas. We must begin to look at peoples past records to establish what they had accomplished as private citizens before we trust them with political office.

It is trite that no man who has failed in managing private business and resources will make a success in managing public resources.

It is time for the Imolite to review the character quotient of those that seek to lead him and vote in those whose past records won’t stop from questioning issues that affect them.

*Muokwe writes from Owerri, Imo state

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