IS YOUR GOVERNOR BETTER THAN ROCHAS?

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Imo state has had its unfair share of bad politicians. I know. I am from the state! From 1999 till date, the state has been captured by the worst breed of politicians whose past included 419, fraud, robbery. Name it. This gang has risen to the top including the senate, the house of representatives, government house and state assemblies. Most are not suited to the job but are most times using their positions to deprive the state of development and economic growth. In an era of decreasing government revenue, they will prefer to loot the little the state has instead of creating avenues to increase the state’s wealth. While smart states like Anambra, Lagos and Kebbi are growing their economies Imo State had Governors with little understanding of the economics of running a state and building its economy. Each has ended up worse than the one before him.

When the former government was kicked out in 2011, the state thought it had had the worst and looked forward to a better governance. But today the state is in the news for the wrong reasons. The Government in the state has made a caricature of governance and has driven the economy of the state to the ground.  The government’s preoccupation seems to be decorating the state capital, building statues and gates and putting up Christmas lights. The state has no framework for investors to come into the state and build industries and create employment for the state indigenes. The only economy in the state seems to be the state government.

This is sad. Because the Governor, Rochas Okorocha rode on the back of populism to the government house. His first election in 2011 was to remove a bad Governor who the state electorate got rid of only after one term. He came as savior and said the right things, did the right deals and convinced people to vote him into government house. Today, even his former hardcore supporters agree that the state is in big trouble. Evidence of the trouble ahead are everywhere.

How does a state recover from a hurricane like Rochas? With a shattered economy, high unemployment and increasing poverty and crime, how does the state ensure that the next person who get to the government house understands the enormity of work required to re-engineer the state on the path of economic growth?

Despite the hard times Nigeria has experienced in recent past, there are signs that states with serious and knowledgeable Chief Executives are turning their states around and attracting investment that will eventually help the states grow. Some have been lucky that since 1999, they have had more than an average quality of governance. Example is Lagos state which has had the fortune of being run key professionals who have had career and managed institutions before becoming chief executives. Only few state have had this fortune and some have had ups and downs in their choice of chief executives with the right experience. Cross River had in in Donald Duke. Edo State has it in their current chief Executive. Same for Kaduna. Anambra had Peter Obi and the jury is out on its current Chief executive.

There is a correlation therefore between the quality of people states elect as chief executives and the quality of governance the state gets, As Nigeria moves away from oil, states like Imo state that keep electing poorly educated and unqualified chief executives will keep sliding down the economic ladder and will become laggards in every aspect of human development.

It is almost like hoping for a miracle to elect someone who has not managed anything serious in his professional life to suddenly inherit a big institution like a state and manage it well. It is not for want of trying that some of the governors in Nigeria are unable to run their states properly and leave them worse than they met them. Its simply that they have no capacity, capability and experience in managing a system as complex as a state.

I will pose a simple question. Would you invest in a public company your state governor is running? If your state governor suddenly became the Chief Executive of a Guaranty Trust Bank or Nigerian Breweries today, would you buy the shares? If you can, good luck to you. If you can’t, then you should not be surprised at the quality of governance you get. I know politics does not compare strictly with private enterprise. But a state Governor is a Chief Executive of a complex organization. And requires some experience and background in running a formal organization.

For those from Imo state, my advice is simple. There is little you can do to turn back the clock. You have had it so bad since 1999. And despite efforts to make a change in 2011, you jumped from frying pan to fire. But be aware. It can get worse. Unless the state tries to define what, it wants from its Governors. And for that matter its leaders in general. Most of those who are gearing up to take over from the current occupant are either as bad or worse. And there is a chance that he can inflict on the state a successor that will make his era look like Christmas. This must not happen.

The state is not lacking in qualified f professionals who can turn its fortunes around. But to make progress the state must stop playing politics for its sake. Everything in the state is politics. And its not the politics of development. It is the politics of servitude. People are happy to bow to emergency power grabbers. Fly a plane from Owerri, everyone is an honorable or his Excellency. If you mention to your friend that you want to run for election, you automatically become an excellency and you start carrying yourself as one. No questions asked!

This must change. Imo state professionals who reside outside the state must bandy together and decide how to change the conversation of governance in the state, and perhaps get involved in one form or the other in helping create an entrepreneurship and investment ecosystem that can allow the state grown out of politics. Every dealing with the state must not be about running for elective office or becoming a politician. We need less politics and better governance. And a state that has an economy that can support its populations. Otherwise, in the near future, the state will only breed poverty, unemployment and crime. No one will be able to go home and sleep with eyes open.

Collins ONUEGBU

How does a state recover from a hurricane like Rochas? With a shattered economy, high unemployment and increasing poverty and crime, how does the state ensure that the next person who get to the government house understands the enormity of work required to re-engineer the state on the path of economic growth?

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