Enough has been said about a supposed jinx of how popular aspirants do not always win the governorship elections in Imo State. But the narrative will be markedly different for Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives come 2015. A combination of genuine popularity, performance record, integrity and political experience will ensure this as the divine hand of God surely leads. And this is why the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and indeed, the people of Imo State will go for him as their choice for party flag bearer and governor respectively.
Incidentally, it is for lack of answers to this intimidating credential that some political rivals and opponents have resorted to shadow boxing instead of marketing themselves to the electorate. Like drowning mortals clutching to straws, these individuals have attempted to elevate inanities to the front burner of the Imo gubernatorial discourse using faceless groups and anonymous appendages. Sadly for them, the darts have not only failed to reach intended target but are now backfiring like ricochets. However, this article is not about these distractions. Rather, our dear readers are requested to note and appreciate the enduring aura of the Emeka Ihedioha persona built and sustained over time by performance, integrity, loyalty and experience.
But before we explore these further, it is imperative to detail the popularity of the green cap man. Emeka Ihedioha is a name that resonates deeply with Imolites. Beyond that, many who have related personally with him or have had one form of interface or the other can attest to the fact of his accessible personality. Beneath the officialdom and paraphernalia of the office he holds, the deputy speaker can pass for the man next door who is socially responsible and responsive, humane and certainly urbane. And in spite of the restrictions of official protocol around him, he often breaks loose to mingle with all and sundry, celebrating with the joyous and consoling with those that mourn. Despite his busy schedules in Abuja as deputy speaker, he makes it a point of duty to visit home every other weekend to attend one ceremony or the other or just simply to consult and confer with his constituents and Imolites in general.
Even before becoming deputy speaker, his last eight years in the National Assembly had witnessed a consistent and regular interface with his constituents. His annual constituency briefing which holds every December is an unrivalled paradigm of constituency engagement and feedback mechanism that have always produced tangible results in terms of attraction of quality projects and programmes that have direct benefit on the lives and living conditions of his people. It is therefore not surprising that his statewide consultations for the governorship which began some weeks ago have witnessed a very positive buy-in from the people of Imo. Besides the political value of the consultations, the average Imolite on the street have had a chance to mingle and relate with the deputy speaker at close range. The accessibility, affability and warmth of his personality have been reinforced by these meetings as children, women, youths and the elderly – ordinary everyday folks experienced him at close range as he shook hands and embraced them indiscriminately. Folks who had been made to believe otherwise about Ihedioha have seen a completely different picture of the man whom they have come to love.
Make no mistake about it. Among the elite, Ihedioha is received and respected as a political brand that has paid his dues and made a mark on the political terrain of not just Imo State but in Nigeria as a whole. He cuts across elite circles with ease with visits to top politicians in their homes to consult and confer in a manner that depicts respect and regard for leaders and elders. It is therefore not surprising that the deputy speaker is amassing support and even open endorsements for his gubernatorial bid. All these confirm the fact that Emeka Ihedioha has become the issue in the Imo guber contest and that is why misguided missiles being thrown from disgruntled quarters only help to strengthen the man and his governorship ambition.
But Emeka Ihedioha did not attain popularity overnight or by being an emergency philanthropist. His bond with the people of Imo is closely linked to his performance record as a legislator who has been serving the interest of his people for over a decade. He has attracted numerous infrastructural and community projects that eyes can see and hands can touch not like the ‘paper mentions’ of some whose claim to performance is questionable. Till date, Ihedioha has attracted well over 150 physical infrastructure projects (both completed and ongoing) to his primary constituency of Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala and beyond to the entire Imo State some of which run into billions of naira like the Elele-Port Harcourt road, the Mbaise ring road amongst others. In terms of empowerment programmes, thousands of youths, women and unemployed have been trained, retrained and empowered in skills and vocations that have helped to uplift homes and livelihoods and various communities. These are no bogus claims neither are they mere propaganda- the records and reports are there for all to see.
To the uninformed (and perhaps mischievous) who peddle the argument that the landmark donations of state-of-the-art science equipment donated by the deputy speaker to secondary schools across Imo State recently is but a campaign gimmick simply miss the point. Ihedioha could not possibly have been benefitting lives and communities with projects and programmes since ten years ago just because he wants to become governor of Imo State in 2015. To him, politics is all about service to the people and that is the philosophy that has always defined his intervention in public life which dates back to two decades.
And this is where political experience is a key qualifying factor for Ihedioha’s bid for the Imo Government House in 2015. In fact, it is one major reason why Imolites want him to be their governor. His presence in Nigeria’s political infrastructure and power matrix dates back to the aborted Third Republic and since the beginning of this Fourth Republic where he learnt the ropes from the likes of former presidents of the senate, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, arguably one of Nigeria’s foremost philosopher-king. Finding himself in the corridors of power early in life, Ihedioha did not take the opportunity with kid gloves as he served faithfully, conscientiously and efficiently to the delight of those who engaged him. Little wonder one assignment recommended him for the next in a manner that defined his steady but meteoric rise to the upper echelon of Nigeria’s political firmament.
In a characteristic upward trajectory, he moved from being an aide in the beginning to being a deft political player (as reflected for instance in the significant role he played in the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM) and then becoming the boss at some point. But what is clear from this rise is the integrity, loyalty and clear presence of mind that has always been a guiding principle of the deputy speaker. Till date, there is no one whom he worked for or related with as contemporary in the past that will not attest to this quality in Ihedioha. And same thing goes for his political home – the PDP. From the days of the PDM, Ihedioha has remained a constant feature in the party serving with loyalty and commitment even at times when the going gets rough.
This is why he has continued to consolidate on the wide network of contacts and connections built since the time he first emerged on the public scene. His election into the House of Representatives first in 2003 and in the last two consecutive times have also offered Ihedioha a broad vista of experience and exposed him to a horizon of contacts in business and foreign relations for example. His service as Chairman of the House Committee on Marine Transport positioned him to contribute meaningfully in the marine sector of the economy. His landmark legislative touch in this wise include passage of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Act of 2007 and the Merchant Shipping Act of 2005. When he became Chief Whip of the House of Representatives in 2007, his responsibilities exposed him to various international fora and organizations that activated several useful contacts across the length and breadth of the world.
Imolites are not unmindful of how useful such towering political experience and international exposure can be in improving their lot and making the state a better place. The people of Imo desire a governor with wide reach nationally and beyond and in the deputy speaker they see this qualification amply met. They desire a governor whose track record of service is impeccable; one who has served and is still serving with integrity and no dent to his name. They desire a governor who has got political grit strong enough to overwhelm retrogressive forces that wandered into positions of authority and reclaim Imo State for posterity. They desire a governor whose commitment to party politics is not in doubt and one whose loyalty to the PDP speaks volumes in his favour. That is why they want Ihedioha. For them, the towering political profile, integrity, popularity and cross-cutting acceptability of the deputy speaker is potent enough to break any jinx that is said to affect front runners for Imo governorship. Indeed the people themselves are ready to de-mystify any such myth. And the PDP is surely ready to flow in the direction of the people.