This Essay was submitted by Okoh Onyeka Raymond.
Could any man be more humbled than I am today? My great people of Imo state, let it be known to you all on this day that, I count it an immense privilege to address this auspicious Convention in the flag-off of my campaign for the Gubernatorial race of our State. This is a particular honour for me, because if the odds of my background were anything to go by, I would not be anywhere near here today. My father, as most of you are aware of, was a taxi driver; born and bred in a small village in Eziama where he grew up tending his father’s farm. He didn’t get any education until he was 10; and even that too, stopped abruptly when he turned 16. Yet, by the sheer strength of will characteristic of an ever-determined Igbo spirit, this man struggled to ensure I got to school, in what was to my then easily impressionable mind, the most beautiful city in the world. Owerri, the Capital of our beloved Imo state.
Reminiscing about my school days in this city, in those early years of mine, cannot but compel in me some nostalgia. I still remember the fondness I used to carry in my tender heart while taking a brisk walk around the Assumpta Cathedral, under the caressing ambience of the eventide of those days. The warmth of promise the streets glowed with. The low hum of engines in beautiful symphony with the whistling east wind. And oh, the mesmerizing feeling that I was one with my homeland and my homeland was one with me! But just like the proverbial falling apart of things for which cause the center can no longer hold, a lot has fallen apart in our dear State. Today, in 2023, my smiles have been upturned in dismay, as I behold my beloved motherland submerged in agony and wanton waste. The streets that once beamed with promise and hope are now filled with despair and poverty; and, the lush vegetation that once was a proud landmark is now a deserted land, replete with waste and contaminated spills. I watch as the System that
once nurtured the dreams of its sons now lies writhing in agony. And I weep, I weep for Imo, the only home I’ve ever known.
The epoch-making Martin Luther King Jnr. once said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” It is precisely for this reason that I, Ekeoha Michael, will not be silent and watch the land of my fathers’ dreams go to ruins. The beauty of our State lies not in the wealth of its resources, but in the diversity and strength of character of its people; their wealth of mind and their unlimited capacity to collectively work together, to ensure that they bring about the change they hope to see. To this end, my first mandate as Governor would be to tap into the wealth of human resources our State has to offer. 1Imo state as at 2016, had a projected population of about 5.41 million people, with the youth between the ages of 15 to 64 forming 59.6% of this population. This means that we have immense potential and manpower for great industrial revolution and economic restructuring. Now, more than ever, policies to encourage human resource development are needed, and my first step as Governor would be to initiate a system where the people of our State are empowered and reincorporated in the affairs of the State. I plan to set up a Trust Fund from our State’s reserve, to fund small and medium scale enterprises; entrepreneurship; and medium and large scale farming on the abundant land our State boasts of, via loans and short term contract awards. Alongside this initiative, the people of our State will be reoriented, to ensure improved compliance; it will not be government as usual! The returns from the industrial investments will be reinvested, thus making the initiative self-sustaining and enduring, till the glory and wealth of our people becomes what it once was.
1 NATIONAL POPULATION COUNCIL OF NIGERIA 2016
A normal day at the grossly understaffed Federal Medical Center Owerri involves an influx of at least 1200 patients, with 2statistics of about 200 patients per Consultant and a mean maternal mortality ratio of about 1985/100000 deliveries. These deaths are linked to causes that, assuming basic standards are maintained, are actually easily preventable. As a trained medical doctor, I understand more than most, the popular axiom that “Health is Wealth”. People are only as healthy as the standard and availability of quality healthcare that they receive. Hence, it is imperative that Healthcare reforms will be the next concern I should focus on. Studies have shown that there exists a vital relationship between 3economic reforms and the healthcare system, and so I plan to ensure that the 5.4 million indigenes in this state have access to the best healthcare system available. In line with the model put forth by the 474th General assembly of the United Nations, the 27 local governments of Imo state will be provided with 10 Primary Healthcare Centers each, 5 General Hospitals and a Teaching (tertiary) Hospital. This would ensure a decentralized yet integrated system of healthcare, while reducing the general burden on healthcare facilities and also ensuring that the grassroots have access to quality healthcare service systems. A State Holistic Health Insurance Scheme (SHIS) will be implemented and will be funded by a collaboration of the Government and the multinational companies interested in the rich oil reserves of our State, in line with the 5National Health Insurance Act. It is time to give back to the people!
“The Government’s first duty and Highest obligation is public safety”, are the word of Arnold Schwarzenger, famous actor and politician, that ring clearly in my head till this
day. That is why I plan to ensure that the good people of Imo state never have to sleep with one eye open. I’ve watched in dismay how the security infraction in the state has torn our people apart, destroyed whole communities and left countless children orphans. Our porous security will be a thing of the past as I plan to implement a Special Task Force (STF) saddled with the task of ensuring these criminals are brought to book. Stringent laws on criminal prosecution will also be put in place with clauses for criminal rehabilitation, so we don’t “throw away the baby with the bathwater”. Imo state will rise from the ashes and menace of killings, feuds and kidnappings like a phoenix.
I remember fondly the days of my primary education here in the heart of the State. Free and quality education was accessible; teachers were passionate; classrooms were bright and filled with love; and all I needed to metamorphose into the confident, dream- filled individual that stands here before you today, I received from an education system that worked. I stand here now and countless sons and daughters of this land roam the streets, their dreams and ambitions clouded by suffering and haltered by an education system that is inaccessible and failing, to say the least. This is why I plan to implement a standard public education system where these young ones can acquire the necessary academic skills pertinent to success. My Administration shall set up an Independent Teachers Compensation Plan (ITCP), which will be instituted to ensure adequate welfare provision for Educational Instructors at all levels in the State. By this design, all backlog of salaries will be paid off, and an adequate pension plan will be set up to ensure the teacher’s reward is not just in heaven but here on earth too. Of course, an educated State is a progressive State!
My fellow compatriots, I have long discovered that investing in people is more important
than building monuments and structures of stone and sand. Unlike the former, the latter is an endeavor that is feeble and will wear and tear in time. So while I am passionate about building roads and cities, you my brothers and sisters matter more than all of those. And if given the opportunity to serve you as Governor, I will devote life and limb to ensure that the glory of our motherland shines once again like the first rays of sunlight after a storm. I seek not fame or fortune, but the prosperity of my home and its people.