The calibre of people appointed into the cabinet of Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State has set tongues wagging. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP-led administration is already being criticised over what observers termed the recycling of old politicians.
The preponderance of opinion in the state is that rather than recycle old politicians, who have served in various capacities, both at state and federal levels, the governor should have appointed young and upward mobile men and women with fresh ideas and brain to drive his result-oriented administration to achieve its set objectives.
The criticism was aggravated by the recent inauguration of the newly appointed 17 commissioners by the administration. Some of the appointees had served at the same level before while the list also had a former minister, with the rest being technocrats.
The Nigerian Xpress learnt that some persons approached by the governor to serve in his government rejected the offer because they had served in that capacity before and could not see themselves in that position once again. For instance, a former commissioner for finance, who served some 20 years ago, rejected the call by the governor to come on board his government.
Some of the former office holders in the current cabinet include Dr. Don Udokwu, who was sworn in as the Commissioner for Health, the same position that he occupied during the administration of former Governor Achike Udenwa. Hon. Chuma Nnaji, who is the Commissioner for Public Utilities served as the deputy speaker of the state House of Assembly during the administration of the same Udenwa. He was later appointed commissioner for information in the same government.
There is also the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Chief Emma Nwogu, who was a former chairman, Ngor Okpala Local Government Area. He was later appointed as the National Population Commissioner for Imo State. There is. also Hon. Tony Okere; he was a former member of the House of Representatives, representing Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Oru West Federal Constituency.
The new Commissioner for Education in the state, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, was a former Minister of State for Education and later Foreign Affairs Minister in the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
New commissioners in the team include Prof. Uche Uwaleke (Finance), Mr. Meekam Mgbenwelu (Technology Development), Sir Bon Unachukwu (Lands, Survey and Physical Planning), Mr. Benjamin Ekwueme (Works), Mr. John Okeahialam (Commerce, Industry and Entrepreneurship), Chief Mrs. Nkeiru Ibekwe (Gender and Vulnerable Groups Affairs), Reginald Ihebuzor (Budget and Economic Planning), Mr. Chijioke Nzekwe (Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture), Mr. Sly Enwerem (Transport), Mr. Okey Umez-Eronini (Youth and Social Development), Mr. Nicholas Anayo (Housing) and Mr. Felix Ebiliekwe (Information and Orientation).
However, political analysts said that the present PDP administration since it came on board on May 29 in the state has engaged itself in recognising old and spent forces in the political landscape.
Mention has been made of the governor’s Transition and Handover Committee, set up to ensure smooth assumption of office. Those committees were populated by old politicians with little consideration for younger elements.
Reactions to the development varied. While some, who spoke to The Nigerian Xpress, acknowledged the fact that the calibre of men and women appointed as commissioners by the governor are good hands, others questioned why a lot of old politicians made the list. According to this line of reasoning, it amounts to recycling the old brigade, thereby blocking the chances of the young and capable hands.
A social crusader and Programme Director, Development Dynamics, Dr. Jude Ohanele, regretted that some old hands were brought back as commissioners, years after they served in the same capacity. According to him, some of them did not perform in their last assignment and, as such, nothing tangible should be expected of them. He pointed out, however, that even the new ones are not familiar with the people of the state.
He noted that there is the need for young people to be appointed as commissioners, considering the present jet age that offers them an opportunity to be fast in doing things. He, however, expressed the hope that there could be cross fertilisation of ideas between the young and the old in order to move forward.
Also reacting, the Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the state, Dr. Henry Okafor, said that there should have been a balance in the appointment of commissioners.
Okafor, who was the House of Representatives candidate for Ohaji/Egbema/Oguta/Oru West Federal Constituency of the party in the last election, said that the governor should have made his cabinet to be 60 per cent for the youth and 40 per cent for the old politicians or the other way as the case may be. He said that even though he himself is in the younger age bracket, he would not subscribe to giving 100 per cent appointment to the youth. According to him, a situation where cabinet members are all old politicians is not good because it would amount to blocking the chances of the younger ones being appointed into government.
He said that all the persons appointed as commissioners by the government are capable commissioners, who have contributed enormously in one way or another to the growth and development of the state.
Another prominent Imo indigene, Dr. Onyeka Oluaka, vehemently criticised what he called returning of the old soldiers as commissioner where there are younger politicians, who have even fought for the success story of the present government.
He expressed regret that by appointing old men as commissioners, the young ones have been shoved aside in this government.
But a scholar and frontline politician in the state, Dr. James Okoroma, said the government of Emeka Ihedioha had chosen the best hands, who would help him transform the state and bring her back to her old glory.
According to him, the people in the list are experts, who have distinguished themselves and have many ideas to offer in the smooth running of the state. He said the new commissioners are capable of assisting government to move forward. He added that what they actually need from the people is support.
A member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, Prince Ugochukwu Nwokoma, said that the choice lies on the governor because of what he wants to achieve and not on age. He said that choice of the youth as commissioners may not save the state.
Capt. David Mbamala of Accord Party commended the governor for assembling such calibre of competent hands who would help him rebuild the state.
He said that the old politicians are the right people that would assist the governor to recover Imo from the shackles of backwardness bequeathed to the people by the previous administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha
The governor himself has dismissed the criticisms against his appointment. He said that it is not true that his government is recycling old politicians.
He said that majority of those appointed as Special Advisers, Senior Special Advisers, Special Assistants, among others are purely the youths.
Aome old hands were brought back as commissioners, years after they served in the same capacity. According to him, some of them did not perform in their last assignment and, as such, nothing tangible should be expected of them. He pointed out however, that even the new ones are not familiar with the people of the state.