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Emuchay’s aspiration and Abia governance

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Daily Sun published a wide-ranging interview with Okey Emuchay on pages 39 and 40 of its issue of September 10, 2014. The publication was titled “How I Will Govern Abia”.

In a country where interviews are a regular feature of newspapers, the one with Emuchay, a former Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa and currently an aspiring candidate for election as Governor of Abia State, should probably not elicit much interest, let alone be the subject of a comment such as this. Not until you relate it to an event that emerged from the state recently. By making that connection the interview acquires a new significance, like a refreshing break with the past.

That event was the claim by a former Governor of the state suggesting that the current Governor owes his position as Governor to him. The former Governor was actually reported as having said that he regretted making the incumbent Governor.

Ordinarily, in a democracy, a system of governance in which ascendency to power should be determined by franchise, in which power should belong to the people, the oddity of anyone claiming or suggesting that a sitting Governor owes his office to him should be clear to everyone. For the claim negates the very idea of democracy. And whoever makes it suggests that he is equivalent or superior to the people and probably holds them in such contempt that he usurped their right to choose their leader as they should in a democracy. Such a claimant invariably hints at a scenario, implicating a confusion of values, in which the sitting Governor should rather feel accountable to him rather than the people since he owes his mandate to him and not the people, assuming his claim of having made him Governor is true. And how could the claim be true in a democracy?      

First, it is for the manner in which the Emuchay interview clears this confusion of values that I find it particularly interesting. For here is an interview in which he essentially presents himself to the people of Abia State as an aspiring Governor, making known his credentials and programme of service for which he wishes them to consider voting him as their Governor, thereby making potentially unlikely any possible repeat of that undemocratic boast of “I made him Governor”.

Implied here is Emuchay’s intention to reject or dissociate himself with the radioactive baggage of godfatherism – and, some might add, godmotherism – which the incumbent Governor has blamed for the difficulty he allegedly had with performance especially during his first term when certain forces seeking to control him at the expense of the Abia people and good governance bore down on him and his administration like an incubus. And I believe the current Governor would not find it hard to see my drift – that if he found the baggage of godfatherism unhealthy to his tenure, then one would expect him to see Emuchay’s apparent desire not to be associated with it, as implied in the interview, as a positive sign.

In the interview, Emuchay addresses such critical issues as enhancing education, industrialisation, security, infrastructural development, accessibility to the governed, etc., in Abia State.

For Aba, the city that is most representative of the state, which could sometimes seem like the filth capital of the world, the issue of waste management is especially important. But as with his solution to other issues addressed in the interview, Emuchay has a creative and very modern perception of waste management. “…But waste is now wealth…. Businesses have been established around waste,” he says in response to the question of what policies he would use to drive waste management which, as his interviewer rightly noted, “is seen as a problem in Aba”. Then he elaborates: “… I want to say that waste can create wealth. It can also generate power and you can build a new industry from it. You have to bring the new technology, and also teach the people how to use them, so as to turn waste to wealth”.

Indeed, if as a Governor he could create wealth from waste, it can only be imagined what he might do with the non-waste resources, human and otherwise, with which our state, Abia, is richly blessed. His kind of visionary and progressive ideas, exemplified by this concept of turning waste to wealth, is too seductive not to yield to, what with the urbanity with which he expressed them.   

With a career as a diplomat that lasted thirty-one years, I believe Emuchay has the necessary exposure and international connections that would be critical to attracting foreign investors and the complementary international expertise to help develop the state in all the areas addressed in the interview. The slumbering cottage industries in Aba can be awakened with the injection of foreign investment and patronage (for their products) from across Africa and beyond, which I believe can be secured with Emuchay’s international exposure. Of course, with the Aba economy booming as a result of such infusion of new investment and expertise, the rest of the state would be impacted by the positive change, since Aba is the undisputed cosmopolitan hub of the state. 

No less interesting, however, is the fact that Emuchay does not see development as something that should focus on one sector or locality. His is rather a holistic view of what it would mean to develop the state as Governor. For instance, asked to prioritise between enhancing the state’s economic opportunities and access to education for the people, he replied: “… government is a basket of demands, a basket of issues. You can’t take one and leave the rest. There has to be a way you address all of them. Education is as important as health; it is as important as providing roads; it is as important as providing water; it is as important as providing the right environment for business. It is as important as the other factors of development. You can’t hold down one for the other.”   

Here, I think, is a promise of the type of all-round development Abia State needs for its resurgence, a promise too hard to ignore, and for which I believe every indigene of the state will be appreciative of its delivery.

IKEOGU OKE