CHARACTER AND THE LEADERSHIP QUESTION: THE IHEDIOHA PARADIGM
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt.
Emeka Ihedioha, CON, can be spotted easily in a sea of heads.
His trademark green cap ensures that.
But it is not the colour of his cap that has made him unique.
The peculiarity of his personality as embedded in his strength of character, legacy of achievements and vision in public office is what has set him apart.
He has etched indelible footprints on the sands of time since emerging on the public scene over two decades ago.
This is a statement of fact.
Yes verifiable facts as different from opinion or mere posturing.
But where is Ihedioha's strength of character? Before I address this question let me put the question broadly: wherein is the politician's strength of character in a country where the political stage is seen to be fouled by the antics of the players themselves? So if the broad perception of the average Nigerian politician by the general public is swathed in mud and dubious accolades at best, where then is the strength of character being attributed to Ihedioha who is by every means a politician? Except it is accepted that there are exceptions to the rule, this line of reasoning is permissible within the prism of the fallacy of generalization and the reflex mentality of the mob.
There are politicians who have stood out from the crowd.
And it is not because they were devoid of foibles nor had careers lacking in setbacks.
In the First Republic, national heroes like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, all of blessed memories among others readily come to mind.
In the Second Republic, governors like late Chief Sam Mbakwe, Chief Lateef Jakande, and late Chief Solomon Lar, among others are icons of that epoch.
From the Third and Fourth Republic through contemporary times, we have had fine politicians of heroic acclaim across the length and breadth of the country.
We have had those who came, saw, and conquered.
This is not an attempt to canonize Ihedioha.
Rather, it is an effort to open our eyes to the rising star that the deputy speaker is and strengthen the optimism that because of politicians like him, the political space can be perceived in a positive light.
Now back to the question.
Wherein lay Ihedioha's strength of character? To answer this question, there is need to examine the content of his character.
And this will be done with empirical evidence to buttress my earlier assertion that the deputy speaker has etched indelible footprints on the sands of time.
In terms of courage and tenacity of purpose as worthy character traits, Ihedioha is not to be found wanting.
Since 1992 when he first got appointment as a Press Officer to the Senate President through to when he worked as Special Assistant to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in 2001, he has maintained streaks of diligence and purpose.
As a man determined to get to the top by dint of hard work, commitment and loyalty, he served his principals conscientiously and in so doing, positioned himself for higher calling.
His elevation in the ladder of public service obviously bred in him a vision of politics as a service to the people.
Within this period, Ihedioha also cultivated traits of political activism as he played in terrains strewn with landmines in the heady days of military dictatorships.
Remarkably, he joined forces with progressive elements in the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) to fight for and eventually achieve civilian democracy for Nigeria.
Thus by the time he contested and won election into the House of Representatives in 2003 to represent Aboh Mbaise/Ngor Okpala federal constituency of Imo State, he was already thorough-bred in the art of politics and had fully formed a vision of public service as a vehicle to improve the lot of the people.
With a clear vision propelled by political experience and combined with a sound knowledge of the needs and demands of his people, Ihedioha quickly moved to address the developmental challenges of his constituency.
But before I address this, it is needful to note his trajectory in the House of Representatives since his first term till date.
As a first time member of the House, he landed the chairmanship of Marine Transport, a committee usually reserved for ranking members.
This on its own attests to the political dexterity of Ihedioha who had garnered wide contacts and network throughout the country in the preceding period of his political career.
The political brinkmanship and sagacity of this Mbaise-born politician was further attested to by his emergence as Chief Whip of the House during his second term as well as being able to in spite of several odds, become the Deputy Speaker of the House.
Being in such prominent positions in the federal legislature and being able to leverage on contacts and goodwill among colleagues contributed in placing him in some vantage position to cater to the needs of the electorate who gave him successive mandate.
And he did not fail to take advantage of this for their benefit.
Projects like solar electricity, roads construction and resurfacing, schools renovation and water works are some of the results of his intervention in the constituency and throughout Imo State.
There have also been empowerment/skills acquisition programmes for the unemployed, indigent and vulnerable segment of the population.
Thus from his first term (2003-2007) through his second and current term in the House of Representatives, Ihedioha has recorded meaningful and measurable impact on the lives and living conditions of his constituents and Imolites generally.
He has facilitated hundreds of projects and programmes that touch their lives directly.
For instance, he has attracted no fewer than 16 water projects to the constituency; over 20 completed and ongoing road constructions, rehabilitation and resurfacing projects spread across the entire Imo State, some of which run into billions of naira including the Owerri-Umuahia road, Chokoneze-Mbutu-Logara road, and the Okpala-Igirita road, among others; electricity projects including installation of 132 KVA/33 sub-station at Aboh Mbaise, 15 MVA/33KVA at Mbutu, and 1x15 MVA 33/11 KV transformer and injection sub-station at Umuneke, Ngor Okpala, and distribution of transformers to several communities, among others.
I can go on and on but suffice to say that the point intended here is the fact that for Ihedioha, public office is a call to render service to the people.
On this, he has creditably demonstrated a defining strength of character.
Another area where the deputy speaker has shown strength of character relates to integrity in public office.
A terrain such as the federal legislature that is littered with the proverbial banana peel is one that can test a politician's integrity and sense of tact to the full.
To be in the House of Representatives for over ten years and occupy sensitive positions including his current office as deputy speaker without a stain on his name is certainly no mean feat.
Especially so when his deputy speakership places onerous responsibilities on him like the task of coordinating the constitution amendment by the House of Representatives.
As Chairman of the Ad-hoc committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, the deputy speaker bears the heavy burden of ensuring that the House comes up with credible and germane amendment proposals that resonate with the yearnings and aspirations of the generality of Nigerians.
The level of success recorded in discharging this burden must be measured by and mirrored against the process and product of the amendment exercise piloted by Ihedioha.
And the consensus out there is that the constitution amendment outcomes achieved by the current 7th House of Representatives are courageous, noble, far-reaching, and incisive such that they present a viable template to get Nigeria out of the woods if eventually adopted by the Senate and State Houses of Assemblies in concluding processes of the amendment.
A total of 71 clauses were successfully amended covering several nagging issues that have clogged the wheel of national progress.
These include granting of full financial, administrative, executive and legislative autonomy to local government councils in the country; making the following rights- right to free basic education, right to a favourable environment, right to free primary and maternal healthcare services and right to basic housing- listed under the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy justiciable; removal of immunity for the president, vice president, governors and deputy governors against prosecution in criminal cases; resolving indigene/settler dichotomy; and plugging loopholes in government expenditures; budgetary reforms among other salutary amendments.
These amendments have resonated very well with Nigerians as many stakeholders have been pouring profuse praises on the House of Representatives.
This was achieved because the process adopted by the Ihedioha committee placed premium on Nigerians as owners of the constitution and offered them the opportunity to dictate the changes they want in the constitution through the peoples public sessions mechanism whereby the Ihedioha committee organized quasi-townhall meetings in all nooks and crannies of the country to allow for grassroots inputs.
This resulted in a transparent, accountable and inclusive process ever recorded in the history of constitution making in the country.
In effect, Nigerians themselves dictated the changes they want in the amended constitution and the House simply kept faith with their wishes.
To pull this kind of mammoth and slippery exercise through requires courage, integrity and persistence, all traits of a strong character possessed by the deputy speaker and brought to bear on the work of the committee.
From the foregoing, it is incontrovertible that Ihedioha has shown strength of character over time.
He has recorded solid achievements in public service.
As he turns 49 years today, he is still available to do more in the public interest.
Like Albert Einstein said, he has tried not just to become a man of success but rather, a man of value.
Happy birthday Mr.
Deputy Speaker sir! Written By Oke Epia