Concern has been expressed over the lack of viable industries and factories in Imo State. Most of the industries in the State have gone comatose or ceased to function.
Efforts by successive administrations in the state to revive such industries have remained futile.
This has led to an increase in unemployment, mainly among the youth of the state.
In 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated in its report that Imo State had the highest percentage of unemployed people in Nigeria in the fourth quarter of 2020, retaining a position it had also occupied in the second quarter of 2020.
Imo was followed by Adamawa and Cross River States, which, at that time, recorded 56.6 percent, 54.9 percent, and 53.7 percent unemployment rates, respectively.
Pastor Frank Ekwebelem, an Owerri based public policy analyst, said the unemployment status of the state should be heaped on the doorsteps of previous administrations, which, he said, failed to arrest the trend.
He said the inability to revive ailing industries or attract investors to build new ones is chiefly responsible for the high rate of unemployment in the state.
“There are no functional industries in the state; the only ‘industry’ that is working in Imo State is politics,” he said.
Ekwebelem said politics in Imo State is the “only leveler in the state”.
“And because our youths are not properly engaged or employed, they have become thugs for politicians.
“Those who are decently engaged by these politicians serve as social media rats, who are paid pittance to go to social media to blackmail political opponents.”
“Our men, women, and youths sell their votes for a fee during elections. Politicians buy their votes. You can see that politics is the thriving industry in the State” he said.
He explained that because politics is the only viable “industry” in the state, “everyone is interested in one political office or another”
“Public office has become so attractive because of the benefits and monetary gains, affluence, and opulence that go with it.Everyone is interested in holding or occupying political office.
“Those who should invest in the state by creating job opportunities for jobless youths prefer to join politics or run for public office, not necessarily to come and render service but to amass public wealth.
Hon. Ignatius Amadi, an indigene of Imo State and Executive Director, Centre for Advanced and Strategic Development, Abuja, told INNONEWS, that there is no concerted effort to stem the tide of unemployment in the state.
He also expressed worry why both politicians and non-politicians prefer to converge on the political space in the state, an anomaly, he said has “fueled” unemployment.
“It is a pitiable trend. When you calculate the enormous funds expended on politics by public office seekers, not only in Imo State, it is mind-blowing.
“In our State, most of our elites are politicians, and it is very worrisome. They prefer to spend so much in their quest to get into public office, especially the governorship.
“When you calculate the amount of money they spend on electioneering in one election season alone, it is capable of reviving five industries and build new ones.
“There is no class distinction in the state anymore. Homegrown investors have all gone into politics in Imo State” he said.
“In some states in the country, we have those in the business class, we have the political class, we have the elite class, and we have the philanthropists. In Imo State, do we have such classes of people anymore? Everyone has gone into politics, and the attraction, is to get into public office” Amadi concluded.
“This is why the state is grappling with unemployment, insecurity, and poverty,” Amadi said.
Bernard Olemgbe, a rights activist, contends, that politics became the only thriving sector in the state because of insecurity and a lack of conducive environment to encourage well-to-do Imolites, at home and abroad, to come home and invest.
“How do you invest or create employment opportunities when there is insecurity in the state?
“Development breeds employment, and when you have a secure state, investors will come”.
“Because there is no total security, politics seems to be more attractive for most of our elites,” he said.