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Ihedioha: On a rescue mission

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Chris Okeke

One of the remarkable fallouts of the just concluded governorship and house of assembly elections in Imo state is the surprising emergence of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, on the saddle of Imo state 2019-2023. His emergence as governor-elect is a total triumph for democracy and political scientists are bound to beat a path to Mbaise to interrogate the phenomenon that he represents, not only as an archetypal policy executor and embodiment of quality representation, but also as the mesmerising midfield maestro, Jay Jay Okocha, the great footballer that is exemplified in his role world of politics.

It is no longer news that Ihedioha, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, won in 11 of the 27 local government areas (LGAs), polling a total of 273,404 votes to defeat his closest contender, Mr Uche Nwosu, (outgoing Governor Rochas) Okorocha’s son-in-law of the Action Alliance (AA) who won in 10 LGAs and scored 190, 364 votes. Other participants in the 70-man Imo gubernatorial contest include Ifeanyi Araraume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), a former senator who had 114,676 votes, winning in four LGAs. APC’s Hope Uzodinma, a serving senator representing Imo West Senatorial district, garnered 96,458 votes and won in two LGAs to take the fourth position. A former governor of the state, Mr Ikedi Ohakim of the Accord Party, polled 6,846 votes to trail, alongside other also rans did not win in any of the council areas. A total of 739,474 votes were cast with 25,130 of them rejected and 714,344 valid.

Without mincing words, Hon. Ihedioha is that rare thing that has dropped in Imo state – a genuine unsung hero, and for long he would be.

His victory shocked political pundits who had classified him an underdog. Yes, he was an outstanding underdog in the gubernatorial elections of last weekend who turned up unexpectedly thrashing his opponents to emerge the preferred candidate of Imo people. The joy of the people knew no bounds as billboards of other defeated opponents were ostensibly bruised and thorn down within minutes of his victory in what looked like an inexplicable explosion of bottled-up anger against perceived enemies.

The term ‘unsung hero’ has become something of a misnomer over the years. In politics, at least, it is usually used to describe less a politician who doesn’t get much recognition or who, to only the most casual observer, is anything but very much sung.

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The overwhelming euphoria that greeted his victory was not unexpected. Under the administration of the incumbent governor, the people of Imo state were undoubtedly held hostage and, therefore, considered the emergence of Ihedioha as a huge relief. The state is now agog because, under Okorocha, the people prayed for divine intervention. His emergence was, therefore, a divine intervention and a reversal of man’s intelligence and substitution with God’s. Okorocha, in his whimsical imagination, wanted to install his son-in-law to succeed him as governor of the state. Like the days of Abacha and the third-term-seeking president, all those machinations came to naught and Imo citizens would, in the next four years, enjoy a new lease of life in the undisputed victory of Ihedioha.

But who is Emeka Ihedioha?  His profile says a lot about him. He was born on the 24th of March, 1965 in Aboh Mbaise local government areaof Imo state where he also had his early primary education.

The Harvard and Stanford University graduate in Financial Management, attended the Town School, Mbutu and proceeded to the SDA Primary School in Abule Oja, Yaba Lagos where he completed his primary education in 1976 from where he proceeded to St. Ephraim’s Secondary School, Owerrinta (in present Abia state).

After his secondary school education, Ihedioha returned to Lagos for a bachelor’s degree in Food Science Technology from the University of Lagos, Akoka.

He had a successful political career which transcended his first appointment as the press officer to Iyorchia Ayu, the then senate president in 1992. In 1993, a year after, he was appointed the chief press secretary to the deputy senate president.

In November 1993, following the military incursion into the polity, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha returned to his former job as the CEO of First Page Communications and, in 1998, became the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) director of publicity. This was the famed political structure of the time which had late Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua as arrowhead. This also helped in his political career as the People’s Democratic Movement was to become the purveyor of the present PDP which was to hold sway in the country’s politics in the post-military democracy 1999 till date.

Emeka Ihedioha, in July 1999, became special assistant (SA) to the presidential adviser on Utilities in November 1999. He also became the special assistant on media and publicity and, in September 2001, was elevated to the position of special assistant to the then vice president on political matters.

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In 2003, Emeka Ihedioha contested for a seat into the House of Representatives and won. He represented his constituency Aboh-Mbasie-Ngor Okpala Federal Constituency of Imo state. He served as the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015 and then stepped down to run as the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party.

Aside politics, Emeka Ihedioha is also into real estate and has investments in a lot of hotels and the oil industry. He also partakes in industrial farming with a lot of other businesses. He is happily married to Mrs. Ebere Ihedioha and the marriage is blessed with four children, Emeka (jnr.) Ihedioha, Ezinwa Ihedioha, Nkem Ihedioha and Kamsi Ihedioha.

Emeka Ihedioha has won several awards in Imo state and beyond. Some of them include: Most Outstanding Maritime Legislator by the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria, Distinguished Service Award from the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and recently as one of Nigeria’s top 50 Most Outstanding Legislators • Knight of the Order of St. Christopher of the Anglican Communion and has also received a lot of chieftaincy titles.

Having bestowed their trust on him Imo people demand nothing but good governance from Ihedioha. They have expressed this loudly and clearly in various forms. They urge him to resist parochialism and put the needs of the state first. They urged him to ensure he fulfills his campaign promises, especially those affecting the women and youth of the state.

In the words of one of the respondents, “Ihedioha should remember that he has been elected to serve the people and not to see the position as an avenue to amass wealth or become a tyrant.” Some others want the governor-elect to prioritise the payment of pensions, fixing of drains and roads, provision of better health facilities, education and transportation systems and, generally, making Imo more habitable for residents.

For many, it is expected that since providence has carved out a niche for Ihedioha, and despite enormous challenges, he should reciprocate the people’s gesture by working hard to leave an enduring legacy worthy of emulation, leaving Imo state better than he met it should be his untiring aspiration.

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