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Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha recently lends his voice on the economic hardship bedeviling the entire country and that of Imo State in particular.
The former federal lawmaker who contested the 2015 Imo guber on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the current system of government being provided in Imo State under Governor Rochas Okorocha as machinery put in place to stifle economic growth. He stated that the autonomy of the local government councils in Nigeria was clearly enshrined in the nation's constitution therefore ought not to have been tampered by any state government. Hon. Ihedioha also bared his mind on the recent call for the country's restructuring as well as the ongoing agitations over injustice in the South-East.
Below is the full interview:

Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha recently lends his voice on the economic hardship bedeviling the entire country and that of Imo State in particular.
The former federal lawmaker who contested the 2015 Imo guber on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) described the current system of government being provided in Imo State under Governor Rochas Okorocha as machinery put in place to stifle economic growth. He stated that the autonomy of the local government councils in Nigeria was clearly enshrined in the nation's constitution therefore ought not to have been tampered by any state government. Hon. Ihedioha also bared his mind on the recent call for the country's restructuring as well as the ongoing agitations over injustice in the South-East.
Below is the full interview:


Your Excellency sir, the idea of restructuring Nigeria's system of governance recently became a burning issue. As a stakeholder and legislature could you please tell us where you stand?
From a legislative point of view, I've always believe that while ideas may be wonderful, we should always be able to articulate those ideas in a written form, and subject it to due processes that would culminate eventually to actionable legislation. I can imagine that what the proponents of restructuring are doing right now is to create a national awareness for some level of direction in such a manner that would move towards a proper direction. What I always look at is a possibility of coming out with a framework in form of a bill in the National Assembly. This for sure requires constitutional amendment. And I think constitutional amendment is a fairly rigorous process that requires the support of the majority of the elected members of the National Assembly before they can take the matter to various states of the federation.
Hon, considering that some state governments abuse the right of autonomy of the local government, does it in anyway mean that the constitutional stipulation is no longer sacrosanct?   
In the last national Assembly which I served as the deputy Speaker and also chairman of the House on Constitution Review, we dealt extensively on this issue of local government autonomy, and we came up with a recommendation. In that recommendation, overwhelmingly and positively we voted the separation of administration among the three tiers of governments. And I'm sure by that time we made public everything agreed by the committee. So for the question to be properly answered, I think what the media should do now is to go back and source for those recommendations which unfortunately were not signed by the then president. It would also be interesting if you ask the current House something like, please honourable members, is it not good you dust those documents which the 7th House worked on. As a matter of fact, to arrive at those documents was not a joke. We got more than 24 state executives and their Houses of Assembly members for endorsement. And indeed in those documents there were reasons for us to amend ways, means, and processes of ratification of national amendment. And we were of the view that ones the national assembly with the endorsement of the states fulfilled all the requirements of the constitution, the President's assent becomes a no issue. This feeling was maybe misinterpreted or misrepresented, and somehow we ended up not having a constitutional framework we had diligently worked upon. In these days of modern technology, I would therefore challenge you to go and access those documents. If you can see them you would discover that the local government autonomy was provided therein.
Currently, there is a new bill in the National Assembly; I want to believe that Rules and Business Committee of the House would also refer the proponents of such bill to the work that had extensively been done. Their job now is to begin from where we stopped because it is also within the rules of the House to provide ways and means of dealing with such processes which has almost got to a completion stage. There is no doubt that the local government must be autonomous and I have always lent my support to that effect. I keep saying that a situation where the local government remains at the aprons of the state governors is wrong. The status of autonomy in the constitution should be very clear to all and sundry because the arrangement for a three-tier administration is well stipulated in the constitution without prejudice. So today in Imo state we are practicing two tiers  the state and federal. This is a breach of our constitution, and fundamentally responsible for the underdevelopment we have in the state. Take for instance; allocation is given to all the 27 LGAs on monthly bases from the share of federation fund. Have you asked yourself who have been taken responsibilities for the monies accruing in the LGAs of the state? If you say that caretaker committees or transitional committees are functioning, for how long would they continue to function? Are they elected to represent the people? Do they receive these funds? I came home to discover that efforts are been made to create roads here and there, though hogwash, but I asked myself from which monthly allocation. Obviously, there is no LGA that receives less than N30million per month from the federation account. Then you ask again where has been the backlog of funds received by the state? All these definitely show that we are not in tuned with the functionalities of the Nigerian constitution. Our people are happy to be docile, and happy to leave their faith to the whims of a dictator in a civilian gab. That's not how it should be!
Hon, don't you think that part of the reasons why things are moving in such direction is because some of you who we feel would galvanize the masses have gone on leave, and your party, which suppose to be a strong opposition is not doing enough in terms of action?
 My brother, it is very wrong for anyone to assume that I have taken a leave because I keep shuttling from Abuja to Imo on regular bases. And again I'm very regular on functions and events that demand my attention. So I can't be on sabbatical. In fact I have never hidden my intention that am still active in politics. You see, I like making informed comments on key issues, but I have a problem with this government. This government appears to take every step wrong; this government appears to be one very uncomfortable with the rule of law which the governor has consistently expressed through his style of governance. So when you see things done from a negative perspective, in ways and manners I'm not used to, I feel so sad. I wouldn't like to arrogate knowledge to myself, because I know we have significant percentage of well educated people, some quite knowledgeable than myself. So I don't think that my responsibility would be to be the whistleblower. I have a responsibility to be a responsible citizen and I make informed criticism of certain positions and actions of government which I think require interventions. On daily bases it is not right for me to condemn every action, but I'm getting really sick of the wrong steps at every point in time. At this juncture, I feel that Imo people should pray so that the life of this government and its protégées would come to an end as quick as possible so that we can begin to see a new tomorrow, a government that can be run in a way it should be run. Having said that, it is also instructive to let you know the following message:  do you know that Imo state children of about eight years may not understand the meaning of three-tier government? They wouldn't understand that the Nigerian constitution provides for a functional local government with elected functionaries. In my view, this government has deliberately killed the local government council, and I'm challenging the people to see it themselves and be able to ask questions. They should see that some people have been retrenched. The local government councils have not employed in the recent time. The civil service is not employing, neither the state government creating jobs.  It's only making noise with agriculture, yet nobody understands agricultural policies of the state. We saddle ourselves on how to provide food, but no one talks how we can make Imo agricultural friendly and competitive. The other time, the governor talked about three working days for civil servant; I don't really know whether that was a direction, policy or legislation. I'm certain in my conviction that the system of governance provided by Governor Rochas Okorocha is antithetical to growth.  I'm also convinced that there is no place in the world that can make progress with it. Christmas is again at the corner and the state has again gone on a three-week holiday vacation. What that means is that in three weeks you will be shutting down the windows against Imo sons and daughters, including possible investors who would like to use the Christmas window in doing one business or another in the state. Do you know how much the state would be losing in terms of revenue? This is quite abysmal and aberration of the way things should be done. It's unimaginable for a responsible government to declare three-week Christmas public holiday for a state that should be productive. Then, how can we be competitive with this kind of environment. Is this a pathway to development, survival, liberation? Is this the type of Imo we had in the days of Dee Sam Mbakwe? I think it's time we prick our consciousness and acknowledge that everything is wrong with our state. In this case, I also want to believe that Imo people are sensible enough to begin a search for a new way forward.
Hon, looking aback one notices that the youths are always at the back seat in every government policy. Assuming you're at the helm of affairs in the state, how would your agricultural policy affect them?  
Agreed, there is great level of hopelessness in the state because of the large scale of dishonesty in the system. Imo people do not believe in the government of the day and that has led to hopelessness. I'm sad and worry for the youth because their useful and most important time in life is been wasted. But if you ask me they should agitate more to make sure solutions are found. It is my thinking that the present government of Imo state is unable and incapable of giving what it does not have. This basic lack of understanding in the way government should be run is something we must feel sad about. We must understand that the youths are very important in the society and they must be kept activated. How do you keep them busy? You must identify with them and show them a roadmap of survival. It is always said that Imo people are gifted with the spirit of hard work, trade and skills. Then what policies does the government have to improve on these various dimensions of people? We have a problem because the government is functioning on a foundationless program. So the youths need to agitate more to usher in a government they would trust.       
Hon, Civil servants, and particularly pensioners in the state are on and off the streets protesting for their salaries and arrears. How do you feel about this development?
I think it should be a worry for everyone including you asking the question. Remember the other day, the governor appeared on Channels TV saying that no worker in Imo State is been owed salaries. Then I ask you as newsmen whether he is telling the truth. If your answer is no you should go ahead and tell him please governor stop deceiving your people. On a personal note I don't think that a governor should be lying to his people. Government is sacred. People invest in government, and people give you mandate. And while they do this, they expect a very basic honesty. And for a governor to come before a national TV to deceive the people of the country and say, Oh there is no problem in Imo, this means any Imo indigene that has a problem cannot even get a helping hand from those outside the state. I challenge those involved to own up and say - No our governor, you owe us. When this happens we can therefore come in to caution the governor. So the only way forward is when people hear the alternative views of those concerned. I believe that a governor who sworn an oath with the Bible should be able to tell his people that I'm responsible. Some other states are telling their people - Yes we owe. But Imo is the only state saying the contrary, yet its people are being owed. So what I'm I supposed to do?
Hon, the idea of removing from the constitution the immunity clause granted to state governors recently became another national debate. What's your take?
Has it been legislated upon? As a legislature, I would not like to be discussing issues that have not been legislated upon. I have a legislative background, so when matters like this are being said, I don't think it is right and fair for me to begin to comment on them. I will take the matter very seriously when it is presented at the National Assembly.
Hon, the South-East region is currently agitating over a seeming injustice. Do you feel balancing the equation in terms of state creation would put rest to this unjust feelings?
Is the state creation our fundamental problem? I think our problems now rest on bad governance. The state of education is in utter decay, and the state of health is in a sorry situation. Now I want to tell you that I strongly believe that the South-East should have an additional state, but when I was the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and I met with the governors of the South-East. I suggested to them on the formula that I think would make it a lot easier to have a balance. But because the South-East has the least number of legislatures in the National Assembly, I pointed out to the governors the need for them to support a small team of very respectable persons from the region that would give us one common recommendation of one state. At that time President Jonathan was supportive but we needed to package our ideas well. Just like I said earlier, I was the chairman of the House on Constitution Review, so with Senator Ekweremadu and we could not be the advocates. After all said and done, I felt they would get back to us but unfortunately they couldn't. I don't think our people are taking the right steps. I offer this suggestion to every quarter that matter, and I will always give my support. That's how I think we can begin to approach the government of the day, because you need the consensus of the 2/3 majority of the National Assembly. What we are talking about here is a fundamental constitutional amendment. Do not forget that the constitution recognizes the number of state in the country. The constitution is very detailed and specific on issues like this. I'm not saying that the constitution allotted the South East the number of state we have, rather I'm saying that the constitutions defines and provides 36 states and the National Territory. Therefore, for anyone to come up with additional state, you should amend that portion of the constitution. So that's why is important when delving into a matter like this it also requires dealing with people with experience, understanding and exposure.
Hon Sir, to round up this discussion, could you please tell us what we shall be looking forward to in 2017?
I believe that 2017 would be active politics. I'm urging Imo people to wake up from their slumber. Like I said there is wholesome deceit and when the first rains would come, the cosmetics China patches across the state would give way for the realities of the day. Then Imo State would get back to where it was and for the Christmas trees they would be off the streets and the realities would dawn on our people. People would again face the issues of the day, and begin to think of how to pay fees and rents. By the special grace of God, next year would be active, and I think it would be obvious for an Imo person that Rochas Okorocha's APC led administration has once again failed them. That time they should be committed and ready to prepare their minds to receive an alternative. My prayer for the state in 2017 is for God to show us the light and for this to happen; we must all have to work hard to bring in a responsible government.

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