Every leader grapples with the big question of the time. Success, therefore, is determined by the extent to which he addresses it. An oratorical leader – a Cicero – is very much unnecessary to a people at war, just as a peaceful society should have no business electing the Hobbesian Leviathan whose calling is fulfilled only in a chaotic atmosphere where life is nasty, brutish, solitary, poor and short.
The Machiavellian Prince became a necessity when Italy sorely lacked leaders with ingenuity in statecraft. In South Africa, Albert Luthuli, a local chief, was confronted with the big question of Apartheid which wrought humiliations upon his people, and his answer became: “Let My People Go!”
Jomo Kenyatta’s “Facing the Mount Kenya”, Kenneth Kaunda’s “Zambia Shall Be Free”, NnamdiAzikiwe’s “Renascent Africa” and Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth” were all bold attempts to grapple with the question of colonial imperialism and the agenda for healing its injuries.
What is the big question now in Imo State? It is heartrending that nearly a million young persons in the State, healthy, skilled and semi-skilled, are totally unemployed. Through years of mismanagement and looting spree, the State has now found itself in a debt crisis to the tune of N120b. Officials of the State keep frittering away the State’s internally generated revenues, declaring anything between N430m and N450m, which is the poorest in the entire South East.
Industries have collapsed completely, and in terms of viability and ease of doing business, Imo now swaps places with some insurgency-infested states of the North East. Health prospects are getting poorer, crime escalating and the infrastructural miasma unabated in Imo State. The State occupies the top places in all indices of economic misery. The big question in Imo is simply and squarely economic!
It is only an appreciation of the Imo situation that will aid informed political decisions. It will form a prism that makes an assessment of those aspiring to govern the State easy. It will make for a deeper awareness about the suitability, capabilities and competencies of Mr. OkeyEzeh, a core technocrat with proven mettle in value creation, to lead Imo State now.
In all honesty, of all those that have shown interest in leading Imo State come 2019, it is only Mr. OkeyEzeh that has sat down to do a thorough study of the Imo situation and has written down its panacea. His formulation of the Imo Marshal Plan (I-MAP) has earned him the title of “The Architect of the Imo Marshal Plan”. It is a development plan that engages the Imo economic question in a feasible, practical, objective and sustainable manner.
Imo doesn’t need another governor that sits in Douglas House making disbursements and awaiting allocations. Given the advancements in technology, the crude oil money being disbursed will very soon stop coming. In view of that, Mr. OkeyEzeh asserts: “We need to go back to the basics, which is to reinvent ourselves agriculturally. What we have in Imo, especially Owerri, is a hotel-driven economy, which is not sustainable. Tourism is when you make money from some real productive sector, then it becomes a receptacle for the flows coming from that angle. But if there is no real economic activity that is driving production, then the disposable income will not be there to patronize hotels and leisure activities.
“So we have a veritable chance to look at palm oil. Imo is blessed. We have over four thousand hectares of oil palm in Adapalm. But these hectares are almost obsolete, because they were planted many decades ago. A lot has changed between the sixties when they were planted and now. We now have improved, high-yielding, pest-resistant seedlings, and this is the variant that countries like Malaysia and Singapore are using. But we have not been able to add value.
“Today, palm oil is far more valuable and lucrative in the international market than crude oil, because when you extract petro-chemicals, it comes at a cost. If you sell a barrel of crude oil at sixty dollars, that will be the gross price. To extract one barrel of crude oil, you will spend between twenty-two and twenty-five dollars, in addition to its collateral damage to the environment. So it is infinitely better to focus on agriculture because it has a future; it has sustainability. We have limitless ability to produce palm oil and we have comparative advantage in its production. And if you look at the ECOWAS sub-Region, for instance, the demand for palm oil and palm oil-derived products outstrips the supply. Yet we have done nothing about that. Agriculture is our today, it is our tomorrow, it is our everything.
“We have huge potentials in cassava. With the latest technology in cassava production and improved cassava stems, you can actually produce thirty tons per hectare. Now, if you look at our state with our land mass and arable farmlands, and we are able to invest in improved cassava stems, for instance, and a hectare gives you thirty tons, you will realize that it is a fortune waiting to be harvested. And there are so many things you can do from cassava apart from the food security aspect. Ethanol, which is a very valuable biodiesel, is produced from cassava.”
Imo needs a creative governor that depicts profundity of thinking. Listen to Mr. OkeyEzeh: “I happened to have recently witnessed the disgrace going on at the Timber Dealers, Saw Millers and Allied Business Market at Naze where traders are charged for collection of sawdust and wood shavings that is gathered into a landfill and burnt!
“Sawdust and woodshavings are the main raw materials required for the production of particle board which is the main input for 80% of global office and hotel furniture. The technology to produce particle board has been in existence since 1848 in Brehmen Germany and involves mixing sawdust and woodshavings with resins and running it through a hotpress.
“A standard hotpress assembled in China costs less than $750,000.00 to acquire and install and each can provide 250 direct jobs and 750 indirect jobs. The global market for sawdust, woodshavings and resins is worth a whopping $12b annually and China accounts for a quarter of this. Yet we burn our own raw materials and in the process create a human carcinogen (direct cancer causing agent) created from smog formed when sawdust is incinerated. What an irony!”
Imo needs a governor that is humanistic. Hear Mr. Ezeh: “It is unbecoming that our senior citizens who contributed their youthfulness and human capital to the development of the state are unjustifiably rewarded with starvation. The pains of the pensioners in Imo State can only be imagined than explained. They are tossed back and forth by a government which sensitivity to their plight is patently dubious. They are subjected to fruitless and endless screening and verification exercises. They are in the end left disappointed, left to die with their hearts broken. Allowing this situation to continue is obviously a stain on our collective conscience. We must rise to the occasion and return life and happiness back to them.”
Ndi Imo, economic prosperity is in our minds and the blueprint of Mr. OkeyEzeh has addressed it. We now have a great opportunity to make Imo work again. Okey is Okay!