Kudos, kicks and knocks on Governor Ihedioha’s 2/22 Imo State Executive Council By Prof  Nnamdi Obiaraeri

Kudos, kicks and knocks on Governor Ihedioha’s 2/22 Imo State Executive Council By Prof Nnamdi Obiaraeri

Just few days after the swearing in of the commissioners in Imo state on Wednesday, August 7, 2019 a professor of law and past Commissioner for Information in the state, Professor Nnamdi Obiaraeri has congratulated the Commissioners as well as the Governor for their appointments but frowns at the low number of women that made the list and call on Governor Emeka Ihedioha to add more to the number in other not to marginalize them.

Prof Obiaraeri writes:

It is no longer rumour or “Kepu Kepu” news about who made or did not make the much awaited Commissioners’ List in Imo State. The list is now in the public domain.

With the official swearing in of the appointees, Governor Ihedioha has performed one key constitutional role- the composition of the Executive Council of Imo State.

This is good although it was getting late.

Notwithstanding that there are many pending Election Petition Tribunal cases challenging Ihedioha’s continued stay in office as dejure Governor of Imo State, the legal reality is that even as defacto Governor, he has done the needful.

The Excutive Council of a State (called “EXCO” for short) is a very important and powerful organ for decision making and good governance. It is the highest decision making body in State.

By the pyramid of power erected in the Constitution, the Governor is the Chief Executive of the State as designated in section 176(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

However, the selfsame Constitution in section 193 expressly provides that the Governor may assign responsibilities to the Deputy Governor and Commissioners lest the Governor becomes an absolutist.

Under the law, it is indubitable that the Governor has absolute discretion to create any number of Ministries, designate them any how he wants or appoint Commissioners and assign them responsibilities the way he wants provided always it is for good cause.

The Governor can also do by himself whatever he has assigned any aide to do and the buck stops at the Governor’s table.

The only Office in the EXCO of a State expressly created by the 1999 Constitution is the Office of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, hence he is regarded as the number one Commissioner.

Section 195(1) of the Constitution provides that “There shall be an Attorney-General for each State who shall be the Chief Law Officer of the State and Commissioner for Justice of the Government of that State.”

No Governor can function well without that office and Governor Ihedioha did well to recognise this by quickly appointing a substantive Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the person of the respected Nnawuchi SAN while stating that rule of law shall be the mantra of his administration.

Holy Spirit must have revealed to Governor Ihedioha the all important need to be rule of law compliant in the discharge of the powers of his office.

As an aside, by the next outing, we shall be evaluating the Government of the day on the “Rule of Law Scale” and deliverables.

It is not enough to parrot rule of law, it is everything to follow due process and respect the rights and freedoms of others in keeping with rule of law. Mob rule or lynch mentality has no place in a rule of law compliant government. First 100 days beckons!

In composing his cabinet, Governor Ihedioha has created seventeen Ministries as well as appointed seventeen persons to man these Ministries as Honourable Commissioners.

Sadly, this will go down in history as a lopsided “2/22 EXCO” and the worst in the marginalization of women in the annals of Imo State.

What is 2/22?

That is the ratio of women in the entire Imo EXCO under Governor Ihedioha.

This means in practical terms that in an Imo State EXCO meeting of 22 persons made up of the Governor, Deputy Governor, 18 Commissioners (add the Attorney-General), SGI plus COS (both of whom are usually in attendance and not necessarily members of the EXCO vide section 190(5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended), only two women will be there and the rest twenty will be men.

This is ridiculous, unbelievable and a total disregard of the preachments and ideals of GOAL 5 of the SDG on Gender Equality.

With this last move, Governor Ihedioha has made the charge of misogyny and anti-women posture usually levelled against him and his party the PDP to refuse to go away.

This discriminatory posture of Governor Ihedioha against Imo women in the Imo EXCO will score him very low marks on the Rule of Law Scale whenever and wherever his administration is evaluated by knowledgeable people and men and women of enlightened consciences.

Respect for women’s rights and inclusion of all sexes in equal proportion in the political and governance process is part and parcel of rule of law and the main thrust of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other anti-women rights legislations.

Imo State can not be regressing on gender equality issues in this day and age.

Governor Ihedioha can do better as he has eroded the gains Imo Women garnered under the outgone Rescue Mission government of Governor Rochas Okorocha now Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when women occupied top positions in their large number.

Why did Governor Ihedioha create only eighteen Ministries, it may be asked?

The simple and truthful answer is that this is his prerogative as this is the number of Ministries he wants to create and how he wants to navigate his government.

This is in sync with the law in section 192(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended authorising a Governor to establish such Offices of Commissioner as he deems fit.

Much as it conceded that the discretion as to the number of Commissioner to be appointed is absolutely his, it is noted with concern that the creation of only eighteen Ministries and appointing only eighteen Commissioners in Imo State of 27 Local Government Areas now leaves some Local Government Areas unrepresented in the all important EXCO of Imo State.

This no doubt runs against the requirement of promotion of unity and inclusiveness embedded in the letter and spirit of the provisions of section 14(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Out of abundant caution, let us guide our contention that no part of the State should be excluded in the EXCO with an amplification of the functions of the EXCO of a State.

Section 192 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides that “The Governor of a State shall hold regular meetings with the Deputy Governor and all Commissioners of the Government of the State for the purposes of-

(a) determining the general direction of the policies of the Government of the State;

(b) co-ordinating the activities of the Governor, the Deputy Governor and the Commissioners of the Government of the State in the discharge of their executive responsibilities; and

(c) advising the Governor generally in the discharge of his executive functions, other than those functions with respect to which he is required by this Constitution to seek the advice or act on the recommendation of any other person or body.

By way of analogy, at the federal level, under section 147(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, each State of the Federation must have a Minister in the EXCO of the Federation.

With only eighteen Commissioners, the cry of marginalization has returned in Imo State as it is already ringing high in the polity from the excluded Local Government Areas.

It is not too much for every Local Government Area forming part of the State to be represented in the EXCO because we run a democracy that must be both representative and participatory.

The Governor will have to see what to do to assuage these injured feelings because to deny a Local Government representation and participation in the highest decision making body of a State being the EXCO because it is viewed that the said Local Government has produced either a Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly is not logical.

The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly are not members of the State EXCO as they belong to a different arm of Government being the legislature and every Local Government Area in Imo State has a State Constituency member representing it in the 27 Member Imo House of Assembly.

Even if you take away the Local Government Areas from where the present ofiicials hail from like the Governor (Aboh Mbaise), the Deputy Governor (Oguta), the SGI (Owerri West) and Chief of Staff (Obowo), it still means that with only eighteen Commissioners, a whopping five Local Government Areas have no representation in the Imo State EXCO.

Is that fair to all concerned?

By way of inevitable contrast, Governor Rochas created thirty one Ministries and appointed at least a Commissioner from each of the 27 LGAs of the State.

That was practical political equity and justice at work in line with section 14(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which provides that “The composition of the Government of a State…shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people” of the State.

It is erroneous to dismiss the Rescue Mission government EXCO as unwieldy as it promoted inclusion and geopolitical balance and took away the perennial cry of marginalization which has now resurfaced.

Another lacuna or grey area noticed in the assignment of portfolios is that there are no express Ministries on key and traditional areas or spheres like Sports, Local Government and Chieftaincy which means they are now subsumed.

The Governor knows why he did it like that and cannot be questioned as to his discretion but he must never allow these core areas to go under the table.

It is however noted with delight that Governor Ihedioha retained the all embracing novel nomenclature “Ministry of Gender” introduced by his predecessor Governor Okorocha.

This multi-purpose “Ministry of Gender and Vulnerable Groups used to be designated only as Ministry of Women Affairs and it created dichotomy in the sexes. The Ministry of “Gender Affairs and Vulnerable Groups” is contempory in outlook and will cater for the disabled, women, children and the elderly to name a few.

Another welcome point is that novel Ministry of ICT first created by Governor Rochas was also retained although renamed Ministry of Technology Development. This is good as the importance of ICT in this day and age of intellectual rigour cannot be overemphasized.

Certainly, the retention of some

of the novel Ministries created by Governor Rochas puts paid to the gibberish in certain misguided and pedestrian quarters that all that Rochas did as Governor are not durable and well thought out and must be demolished and rebuilt.

Moving forward, we think the quality of persons appointed as Commissioners by Governor Ihedioha is also commendable as Imo State does not lack men and women of capacity and experience although we expected to see more youths in the pack.

Members of the EXCO must as a matter of compulsive obligation keep advising the helmsman on what is best for Imo State and whether the Governor takes the advise or not is a different kettle of fish.

It will be to the credit of the Governor to listen to the Commissioners and allow them the latitude to deliver on their assignments.

Needless to say that the quality of governance and service delivery in a State is dependent on the exposure, world view and lifestyle of the man at the helm of affairs and can only improve if the Governor is willing to crossfertilize ideas with his appointees.

An absolutist never makes a good leader.

It remains to congratulate each and every one of those appointed Honourable Commissioner and member of the Executive Council of our dear State.

I have always maintained that congratulations is better than sorry.

All the appointees are very well known to me in diverse capacities, private or public, ranging from political, academic, social and cultural.

Some are my either my academic or professional colleagues including my former undergraduate law students like Barr Chijioke Nzekwe (we call him Strongman) at then IMSU now ABSU and Barr Emma Ohakpugwu Nwogu (we call him Ishipamba) at IMSU.

Most of the Commissioners are politically mobile like me too and in course of time, we have served together in Government from Governor Udenwa’s Redemption 98 to Governor Ohakim’s New Face administrations. These include great people like Dr Udokwu, Rt. Hon Chuma Nnaji, Engr Ben Ekwueme, Barr Mrs Nkiru Ibekwe, Chief the The Rt. Hon Tony Okere, Chief Nick Amaefule, Chief Bon Unachukwu, Reggy Ihebuzor and Barr Emeka Ebiliekwe. The surnames of Commissioners Umez Eronini and Mgbenwelu give them away as chips off the old block.

This is not forgetting the biggest and most controversial apppointee Prof Viola Onwuliri who is my academic colleague and wife of our highly respected late Prof Onwuliri who was in his lifetime a one time Honourable Commissioner in the Ministry of Youth and Sports like yours truly.

Madam Prof, I throway special salute as I am with you on this outing. Don’t mind those who tried to shake you off this job. You ignored them because you reckon that if they were privileged to be appointed in your plce, they would have wasted no time accepting the appointment.

I know you will do well in your new assignment as Commissioner for Education and I trust you will continue to remember the poor by not agreeing that the Free Education at all levels introduced by Rochas be scrapped on the altar of political expediency.

The children of the less privileged will look up to you for their free and qualitative University and Tertiary education as you have always been there for the downtrodden. Let posterity not record that it was in your time that education was priced out of the reach of the less privileged in Imo State.

No matter what jesters and hecklers say, Rochas got the free education at all levels policy right because education is a fundamental right and the legion of beneficiaries of his free education programme are coming from the rear to speak speak for him.

If the issue is with the quality of the Free Education policy, let me quickly say that there is always room for improvement and this is most welcome now under you as Commissioner for Education.

I specially herald on board Engr Sly Enwerem who is my Okigwe LGA townsman. The death of UKWUOSE is our collective loss but GOD knows why. We shall take heart. May his soul RIP.

Let me say straightaway that anyone who feels too big serving Imo people or bigger than his appointor the Governor is at liberty to take a walk now or be bound later by the dogma of collective responsibility.

On a more serious note, this appointment and formal constitution of the Executive Council of Imo State means that government must gain traction, control, direction and altitude.

It signposts that henceforth, no more excuses as Imo people want action.

Every Commissioner must stand prepared to serve Imo people with humility and candour. Altruism should be the watchword. No more Champagne and elitist parties characteristic of “PDP Share The Money” politics.

No one is elected to give excuses. Ihedioha was not elected Governor to witchhunt anyone or regale in blame game.

The appointees should not bring more political enemies to the Governor because politics is goodwill business.

A Governor is elected to find solutions to bad or appalling situations and fix things and not to swim in the ocean of endless excuses.

With the State EXCO in place, there is no more room for foot dragging or shopping for legitimacy by wasting all the time pointing out what Governor Rochas and his Commissioners did not do well or do at all.

If anything is bad, the Governor and his executive are there to fix it. That was why the Governor was elected.

Time is running subject again to what the Court will finally decide when the appeals on the pending election petition cases are disposed of.

Imo is truly pregnant and on tenterhooks but before then, governance must go on.

Government is a continuum and government must at all times be responsible and responsive.

Let us reveal from the benefit of hindsight and wealth of experience that with the Executive Council in place, the moratorium period or honey moon is over.

Imo people want action, action, action and no more revisionism or blame game.

Tongues have started wagging already about slow coach approach to issues, vindictiveness and oppression but there is time to make amends going forward.

Every appointee must ask what are the quick wins and what are the legacy projects based on the Governor’s campaign promises and how these can be met based on realities on the ground?

How soon will the pensions be paid and how soon will the Imo workforce receive the 100 percent salary they were promised during campaigns to no avail?

The Governor’s word should be his bond but Imo pensioners and workers are yet to confirm that and they are now distraught.

Politicians seldom get a second chance to make a first impression.

Commissioner for Finance, my brother of Okigwe Zone extraction, Prof Uwaleke, over to you. Receive your first baptism of fire while accepting my congratulations.

Angry commuters want to see what the Commissioner for Works can do in the immediate to the impassable Ekemele Akabo road which has become a metaphor of failed leadership.

Showing them what Rochas did not well angers Imolites the more because the talk in town is that a passable “China road” is better than an impasable road.

What the incumbent Governor is able to do in the interim to make the hell holes called roads passable is what everyone is interested in.

Imo people no go chop excuse as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Imo House of Assembly must go home to Isiala Mbano and Mbaitoli respectively passing that death trap of Ekemele road.

My good friend, Hon Uche Ogbuagu, member representing Ikeduru State Constituency must be wondering now why the weight of leadership is radically different from the phantom of the opera house because that man-made indignity called “Lake Ekemele” is right in his Akabo home.

What can Uche Ogbuagu as a legislator do to make an impassable Ekemele road passable? Ask me not! Uche over to you!

The average road user wants to see what the bubbly Commissioner for Works can do in the immediate to the impassable Shoporite to Egbu to Emekuku to Aboh Mbaise road. This stretch of road pasing through Ahiara junction up to Obowo is another metaphor of failed leadership plus corruption in our public life.

Imolites don’t want to brook no excuses on why this road is impassable please. That monumental disgrace of a road must be fixed as Governor Ihedioha must go home via that road for Iriji Mbaise in a couple of days from now and I want to attend too like many other dignitaries from outside.

Lest we forget, as the Imo First Lady embarks on her maiden state wide August Meeting visitations, we wish her well.

No doubt she will hear a lot about marginalization of her fellow Imo women under her husband’s nascent Government and party the PDP but the fear is that the planned August visits in this month of August may not happen in some areas because of dilapidated roads.

The First Lady’s vehicles will not drive in the air but on roads that require immediate remedial attention. Something must give!

Was I surprised that the Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment created by the outgone Governor and now Senator Rochas was not retained by Governor Ihedioha?

What can I say as a “Rochas man” that will not be misunderstood?

Who else was surprised?

Haaahaahaa…Trouble dey sleep, Inyanga go wakeam.

How can you expect Governor Ihedioha to retain that Ministry when everything about Rochas and the Rescue Mission government must be destroyed, so it seems?

Let me advisedly restrain myself now because violently shaking a two-legged broken glass table can lead to many things including an early morning visit or late night raid by the much loved Recovery of Immovable Property Task Force….Rule of law indeed!

Who say men no dey? Who say Prof no dey fear?

Abegooo I no talk anythingooo…Politics without bitterness please!

Truth be told, the primary purpose of Government is security and welfare of the people. The essence of all our daily hustle and bustle is to be happy and fulfilled in life.

Any policy of government that does not promote happiness of all or that of the greater majority is unwelcome.

In the absence of this Ministry of Happiness, Governor Ihedioha must consciously ensure that every Ministry, Department or Agency of government must strive towards the promotion of happiness and purpose fulfilment of the Imo citizen.

Bottom line is that Imo Must Be Better.

Anything short of this is iberiberism as found in Page one of Chapter one of the Rochas Dictionary.

A new normal is possible…Biko gwazie ndi yard unu inugo!

Prof Obiaraeri is my name, the ☆☆☆☆☆ 5-Star Civilian General etc.,

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