Elusive Infrastructural Development: Why Always Imo? By Harry Awurumibe

Drainage, one of the 'strategic projects' commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in Owerri, Imo State capital.

For the uninformed, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari paid a “One-day Working Visit” to Imo state, one of the most populous states in the South East geopolitical zone on Thursday, September 9, 201.

This is what the authorities wanted the public to know but in reality, Mr. President only visited Owerri, the Imo state capital to commission what the state government again called “strategic projects”.

Amongst the “strategic projects” are, wait for it: Naze-Poly Nekede Road, Balloon Technology Drainage Tunnel at Dick Tiger, Amakohia -Egbeada bypass and the New Government House Executive Chambers.

The issue here is not if the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria (Buhari) visited Imo state, the bone of contention is that some of the above “strategic projects” are either not completed or were initiated and contractors paid before the present administration assumed power.

The uncompleted “strategic projects” are the Naze- Federal Polytechnic  – Nekede Town road in Owerri West which stopped right at the school and not beyond it.

 In the same vein, the Amakohia-Egbeada Bypass which was actually conceptualized and started by the government of ex-Governor Ikedi Ohakim (200-2011)  but was abandoned for eight years by former Governor Rochas Okorocha was rehabilitated by the short-lived regime of ex-Governor Emeka Ihedioha (2019-2020). 

As a Nigerian citizen of Imo state extraction and a proud member of the Fourth Estate (fourth power), I owe the public the sacred duty to inform and educate them on the happenings around them.

This is even when one cannot  compare the “strategic projects” commissioned in Imo state to the type of infrastructural projects being  commissioned in the neighbouring states of Rivers, Anambra and Delta states in the same period. 

In fact, comparing the type of infrastructural projects being commissioned in Rivers state to that in Imo state is like comparing Chicken Pox to ordinary  ‘koro-koro’ or skin rash. The massive infrastructural going on in Rivers, Delta and Anambra as well as other Southern part of Nigeria cannot be found in Imo state. 

In Rivers state, the present administration of Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, has turned the state to a ‘Massive Construction Site’ with several kilometres of solidly built new roads and bridges across the state including the very difficult riverine areas like Opobo Ancient Kingdom. 

Reputable German construction giants are busy in Rivers state building quality flyover,  bridges and roads while in Imo state little or nothing is happening here.

Truth be told, the inactivity of Imo government did not start with Governor Hope Uzodinma’s administration which is barely one year and few months in office, Imo state has not been lucky with selfless Chief Executive Officers (Governors) with genuine intentions to leave lasting  legacies for posterity to see.

The scorecards of past leaders are out there for the public to see that those who have been opportune to govern the state popularly called ‘Heartland State’ in Igboland, have always derailed except the late 1st Civilian Governor of old Imo state, (including Abia and Ebonyi states),  Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe (1979-1983).

It was during the four and half years reign of Dee Sam Mbakwe that the  Sam Mbakwe International Cargo  Airport was conceived, developed, constructed and delivered through the Imo ‘We Can Do-It’ spirit.

Need I list the Five-star Imo Concorde Hotel and Suites; Imo State University; Imo State College of Agriculture, Umuagwo; and the three-layer Owerri Storm Water Underground Channels now called “Balloon  Technology Drainage Tunnel”.

Others are Imo Shoe and Leather Industry, Owerri; Imo Almuminium Manufacturing Industry, Inyi-shi; Imo Poultry and Hatchery Limited, Avutu; Imo Newspapers Limited; Okigwe Clay and Ceramic Industry and Amaraku-PDS Rural  Power  Station in Isiala Mbano, among others. 

The above listed projects and more were set up by a visionary leader within one term of office and he could have turned Imo state to an El Dorado but for the military coup d’etat of 1983 which toppled the civilian government of President Shehu Aliyu Shagari thus ending the democratically elected  progressive governments in Nigeria. 

It will not be an overstatement to say that Imo state after Dee Sam Mbakwe’s regime has been lacking good leadership as all those who have ruled the state after him, whether civilians or military administrators, have not lived up to the expectations of Imolites. 

In fact, the period under review can be called the “Years of the Locusts”. They include the period of January 1984 when Major General Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu replaced Mbakwe at Douglas House Owerri to the present. 

Things got worse in the same Imo state in the 8 years of ex- Governor Okorocha (2011-2019), a period that witnessed massive  infrastructural decay as  deteriorating infrastructure starred every Imolite in the face.

Construction, maintenance and repairs of critical infrastructure were awarded to unqualified cronies of the head of the regime hence the jobs were either not delivered or poorly done to the disappointment of Ndi Imo. 

Regrettably, two years after that ugly experience by Imolites, the situation has not changed which makes one to ask the pertinent question: Why Always Imo State ?

With no fewer than  27 large Local Government Areas and several Local Government Development Councils, including Isiala Mbano LGA which lacks state and federal government presence, Imo remains underdeveloped. 

Concentration of  the so-called “Strategic Projects” within Owerri Municipal, Owerri West and Owerri North LGAs is  detrimental to the even development of Imo state; and the earlier the present regime and further administration  understand this the better for Ndi Imo. 

Why has the “Dividend of Democracy” continue to elude Imolites. Why Always Imo.

Harry Awurumibe is a Public Affairs Commentator

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