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One issue that gave Imo people sleepless nights, after Gov Emeka Ihedioha won the 2019 election, was how he will rebuild the state.
His predecessor Sen.Rochas Okorocha literally skinned the state and left it on the brink of collapse. Of course, those who knew the extent of damage he left behind knew Gov Ihedioha will walk a tight rope on assumption of office. In fact, there was palpable fear he may not be able to fix the state after Okorocha’s tsunami . Having dragged the state to the tipping point of the precipice, many felt only a super human can stop the drop. Sure, the new helmsman held promises, but he was no super human, Imolites had reasoned.
They were right. Gov Ihedioha is no super human and never pretended to be one. This is unlike his predecessor who wore false messianic air like priests wear cassock. From the outset of his campaign, Rt Hon Ihedioha tabled his cards on the table for the people to judge him by themselves and at no point did he claim magic powers. But, then, he made it clear that he had what is needed to stop the looming descent.
Now, looking back five months, we can safely conclude that the governor was sure of himself. He has not only banished the dark, ominous clouds hovering over the state five months back, but also restored hope and smiles on the faces of the citizens. More importantly, citizens now trust and have confidence in government
Gov Ihedioha hit the ground running because he has capacity. But, more importantly, he is committed and passionate to govern right. He has been able to bring every single sector broken down by Sen Okorocha back to life. Due process, rule of law, accountability and transparency are back; public service has been revived with civil servants as engine of government again; massive road construction and rehabilitation worth over 40B is afoot across the three zones, plus operation zero porthole in Owerri; the intractable pension gridlock has been innovatively addressed; local government adminstration is back and better with full financial autonomy after eight years looting; The list keeps growing by the day!
However, it is his energetic push to restore education which is the foremost symbol of identification and pride of Imo that has gladdened me most.
Before 2011 education was the biggest and largest industry and selling point of the State. Imo bestrode the sector like a colossus, and set the pace in all fronts. In every public examination like JAMB, WAEC, NECO and even Nigeria Law School examination, the state was a dominant force in quality performance.
Suddenly everything came crashing down under the self styled grand commander of free education. Okorocha claimed he loves education but, instead of taking it higher, he dragged it into oblivion. Like Williams Shakespeare said he made a lot of empty noise but, in the final analysis it was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!
Imagine a governor claiming to love education when we had only seven Mathematics and less than thirty English Language under him. Imo lost its traditional first position in academics nationally and crashed to as low as seventh position, below states like Anambra State which, hitherto, was way below in academic performance and ranking. Truth is the sector was in coma before Gov Ihedioha came in.
So you can say he met an emergency situation. However, being prepared he has been tackling the myriad of oddities on ground.
He is leaving no stone unturned in the sector. He recently addressed a key challenge that has dogged the sector for many years, talking of abject lack of teachers, with an order for employment of a whooping four thousand new teachers into the system. Paucity of teachers was a serious setback which plagued education under the former governor. And it took a toll on effective teaching and learning which are the foundation for academic success. Then across the three zones but more particularly in the rural areas, hundreds of primary and secondary schools lacked teachers in core subjects like Mathematics, English and Sciences.
In my local government Ngor Okpala for instance, almost all secondary schools lacked teachers in these areas.
Doubtless, the shortage would have been tolerable if the regime periodically engaged teachers. For eight years, it only recruited two thousand teachers. That figure was grossly inadequate, and this was compounded by retirement from service by teachers who reached the mandatory thirty years or, sixty years whichever comes first as stipulated by law.
Therefore, the move to employ four thousand new teachers is a step in the right direction. Apart from bridging the existing deficit, it will address problem of effective teaching and learning too. We are not singing uhuru yet for the sector but, that action is fully and wholly a sign of commitment to restore the lost integrity and glory of education.
Apart from addressing the human capacity need, it is good to hear too
that government is to embark on comprehensive and massive schools construction and rehabilitation. Similarly, in partnership with federal government, plans for the construction of model primary schools are also reportedly on with a pilot scheme billed for Ngor Okpala.
Beyond these ambitious agenda, the move to revamp hitherto abandoned technical education is another good omen for education. It is an open secret that technical education has been in the backwaters in the state since the advent of the fourth republic. In the eighties and seventies this specialized education received adequate attention because of the important role it plays in societal growth and development.
The idea behind technical education is the production of middle level manpower with practical skills in technical and technological areas. With their skills technical graduates could either become self employed or, take up jobs in public service. When they choose the former option which is often the case, it helped greatly in cutting down youth unemployment because those graduates not only become self reliant, they soon become employers of labour. I know at least four people today who fit into this picture who graduated from Government Technical Colleges in Owerri and Ahiara in those good old days.
Technical education is also the incubation hub for future inventors and innovators. There is no innovative or inventive nation in the world today that does not invest heavily in technical education and without solid technical education infrastructure. In United States there even technical universities like the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In view of the many positives that technical education can bring to a society like ours which is desirous of tackling youth unemployment, and developing technologically, the incumbent regimes attempt to revamp it is not only laudable but, deserving of massive support and encouragement. It is a visionary stride toward repositioning education.
Imo state has a lot of comparative advantage in education and this no doubt is why it is officially its largest industry. Unfortunately, vision less leadership has prevented the state from reaping bountifully from this advantage even when common economics teaches that societies that prosper are the ones that maximize God given talents.
I wish Gov Ihedioha can go the whole hog on this journey. If he can revolutionize our education, it can become a huge source of foreign exchange earning. Some countries and even private entities have successfully been able to transform their education industries into high revenue and foreign exchange earners and with concerted efforts backed by well articulated blueprint this can be done in our lifetime. At least most us have heard or read how Ghana, our next door neighbours engineered their education revolution. We have thousands of Imo people who are studying in Ghanian schools today. The millions they and students from other countries are pumping are helping to make education a big revenue earner and contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
Imo people are looking forward to seeing the governor take his unfolding good works in this sector to next level by transforming it to the level found in places like Ghana. The United Nations Children and Education Fund, UNICEF, has helped us in drawing the roadmap to achieving this lofty goal, by its stipulation that governments should allocate 29% of their annual budget to education. No single government at the federal and state level has heeded this strategic advise in the country. Hopefully our governor will set the pace here.
And setting the pace means he will bequeath a worthy legacy, just like iconic Dee Sam Mbakwe did. And hear the conclusion of this matter: if Gov Ihedioha restores education as our number pride and makes it the state’s major tourism market with attendant foreign exchange, then he will have etched his name in gold and for centuries it will live on.
“Gov Ihedioha hit the ground running because he has capacity. But, more importantly, he is committed and passionate to govern right. He has been able to bring every single sector broken down by Sen Okorocha back to life. Due process, rule of law, accountability and transparency are back; public service has been revived with civil servants as engine of government again; massive road construction and rehabilitation worth over 40B is afoot across the three zones, plus operation zero porthole in Owerri; the intractable pension gridlock has been innovatively addressed; local government administration is back and better with full financial autonomy after eight years looting; The list keeps growing by the day! “