Imo: Thinking Out Of The Box. BY HENRY EKPE

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Imo State was created in 1976, and since then Abia and some parts of Ebonyi States have been carved out of the State.

As presently constituted, Imo is divided into three Senatorial Zones of Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri.

Since 1999 the present Democratic dispensation birthed, the State has produced five elected Civilian Governors namely; His Excellencies Chief Achike Udenwa, Dr Ikedi Ohakim, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha and Senator Hope Uzodinma, in that order.

Imo as one of the Thirty Six States of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is situated in the Southeast axis of the country.

Imo has some independence and control over some of her Natural Resources.

And the State is endowed with abundant Human resources, with over 80% of the Citizens enlightened,and can read and write.

The State has over three million people. This means that Imo is larger than so many countries, and richer both in men and means.

With the present harsh condition bedeviling Nigeria today many parents are planning how to survive and take care of their families.

Certainly, if families are thinking in that line to come out of the present Economic quagmire, what about States?

This is where the issue of “Imo State Thinking out of the Box” becomes a serious debate.

The President Ahmed Tinubu’s Economic Policies have really shaken Nigeria to her foundation. But the situation could also change things for good for those who believe in Necessity being the Mother of Invention.

Much as Nigeria could be said to operate a Unitary system of Government, and calling it a Federation, yet States that have vision and are proactive are not on the same pedestal with others.

Even in the Unitary type of Government we practice, which puts everything in the hands of the Federal Government, some States devised means of survival, in case the water from the centre dries up any time.

This is the reason some States are not under Economic suffocation no matter how the Federal Government applies its policies.

Although some States are richer than others in terms of humongous Federal Allocations but prioritizing needs based on ones income helps your Economic plans

If you go to States like Akwa Ibom, you will discover how backward Imo is in terms of provision of infrastructure.

For instance in Akwa Ibom which was created by Abacha decades after Imo, virtually all the roads in the entire LGAs are tarred, making movement of men and goods easy, boosting the Economy.Yes, Akwa Ibom is Oil Producing State. But give them kudos for using their funds well.

In Uyo the State capital, despite the heavy population and influx of Visitors, a three bedroom flat costs cheaper there than in Owerri.

Still there are factories, Oil companies and Big Federal Government Agencies with their Staff yet landlords don’t hike their rents.
Now, you ask, why are rents in Owerri that don’t have Factories and Oil Companies higher than that of Uyo?

With the delay in constituting his new State Executive Council by Governor Hope Uzodinma, it has become clear now that the entire Imo population depends on the State Government to survive.

From Orlu to Okigwe, Owerri to Oguta, there is no single factory manufacturing anything in the State.
Under this situation, how do all the graduates churned out annually from over Ten Higher Institutions based in the State gain Employment?

Imo State is simply a Civil Service State, where its population depends solely on Government Employment as Civil Servants or Political Appointees.

Therefore, this is a dangerous situation that poses much challenge to Imo State Governor(s) presently, and in the future.

By right States are not supposed to wholly depend on monthly Federal Allocations coming in from Abuja. And even when it comes in, the States Thinking Out of the Box ought to ploughed some of it into income generating ventures that will bring returns to the State before the next largesse from Abuja arrives.

It is quite unfortunate that States are also run like Political Parties, where every kobo that comes into the Account must be spent with out delay.

The present hunger in Nigeria should serve as a lesson to State Chief Executives.

In Imo State, there are Oil and Gas, products which placed Rivers, Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom States where they are today in massive infrastructural development.

I can remember that there was this Oil Refinery in Oguta, which the Ikedi Ohakim Government started and was nearing completion before that Administration left office.

What has happened to that Refinery? Cant other Administrations complete it for the good of Imo State?
A State like Imo that has Oil reserves has no need to beg to Abuja every month, but rather should develop the Sector and enjoy what comes out of it.
Imo also can produce Palm Oil at industrial quantity.
Hardly any Southeast State can compare with Imo in the number of Hotels in the State. Hotels serve as home to Tourists and Visitors, even as it also reduces Unemployment . Some countries live on only incomes from Tourism.

Imo State has many
Tourist Sites that can lure Tourists and Investors into the State.

We have Oguta Blue Lake, Okigwe Rolling Hills, Otamiri Sanctuary Egbu, Monkey Colony, Abadaba Lake, and other Tourists Sites that can be discovered and developed. This will increase Imo’s Internally Generated Revenue.
But it is quite unfortunate that the only Zoo the State has is no more.
No one knows exactly what happened to it as its former location has been converted to residential quarters.

Another Area that can generate employment and Funds for the State is Agriculture.

The large expanse of lands in Ngor Okpala, Ohaji/Egbema and Owerri West LGAs are wasting and begging for attention.

That dangerous Herdsmen are now gradually taking over these bushes and Forests is simply because they find them empty, lonely and abandoned.

If Imo Government puts enough interest in Mechanized Farming by constructing low cost Houses inside such farms, locate Security posts around them, and enroll our youths that read Agriculture and other related courses into the project, before one year, Imo would have not only engaged a large size of her youth population, but also feed herself.

When we were young, the ADC Nekede used to produce enough meat and Vegetables for many families in Owerri then.

Even the Udenwa Songhai Farm also replicated the same thing. So, how has the Mighty Fallen?

A conscious development of the Sports Sector also will bring peace, stability and development in Imo State. That Sector harbours the most energetic, restless, productive, active and largest population of the State.

Before now, States from other parts of Nigeria come to Imo State to poach our budding Athletes to represent them in various Sports.

Then there was the annual Imo State Sports Festival, where all the LGAs participate in various sporting activities. That was how the likes of Chidi Imo, Eregbu, Chioma Ajunwa etc were fished out.
What of School Inter House Sports?

Even then Imo State Government owned more than one Football club. There was Spartans, Trojans etc.

Private Individuals and Ministries were also encouraged to own clubs like Elemats of Ubomiri, Comets FC, Ministry of Works(where Kanu Nwankwo once played), NITEL/ PNT football club etc all in Imo.

Today Sports is, if not, one of the highest paying sectors in the world. It will not only keep our youths busy, but put foods on the Table.

Unfortunately Government usually spend Billions of Naira on things that have no value and impact on the populace.
Any wonder Government can spend five hundred million naira to inaugurate a Committee to investigate a one million naira theft or fraud!

The present situation in Nigeria is a clarion call for both Governments, Groups and individuals to Think and prioritize their needs through effective scale of preference.

Imo State, even after Uzodinma, should begin to think how it can survive without running to Abuja every end of the month like a Beggar. Imo is sophisticated with high number of educated people. We can set the pace for others to follow.

Whatever is generated in Imo will compliment what comes in from Abuja and make the State more economically viable,Financially stable and Independent, productive and buoyant.

After all, without Abuja, can’t we survive as a people? Let us think and Plan now.

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