Imo state is one of the states created under the military dispensation in 1976. It has grossed 44 years of existence. When this period is juxtaposed with its level of development in relation to other states it would not be out of place to conclude that there is still a lot to do. Whenever the word development is used people focus their understanding on the physical structures that they can see. Development goes beyond that.
However it is seen Imo State remains one of the under developed state in Nigeria within the context of Nigeria as an underdeveloped country. Imo is a creation of the military and they set the foundation for its growth through the ﬁrst military administrator then, Commander Ndubuisi Kanu. The military administration though considered as an aberration is believed to have fared well in its development agenda compared to what we have now.
Mbakwe, three years after, took the mantle of leadership in the state and took the state to an all time high in development whose record has remained a reference point and remains unequalled by any administration, civilian or military. Mbakwe’s regime recognized all parts of the state interms of development as he spread industries to all corner. As a reminder we need to mention that the ﬁrst independent power station most of us got to know about especially in the South East was done by Mbakwe. It was located at Amaraku in Mbano local government, Imo State and was used for rural electriﬁcation.
All of those lofty ventures are now history because subsequent administration lacked similar vision and could not sustain the development strides of visionary Dee Sam Mbakwe. Development as deﬁned interms of location of physical structures and infrastructural facilities if any appears concentrated in one part of the state and that is the capital city of Owerri. To ensure even development of the state in Mbakwe’s time, the three zones of Okigwe, Owerri and Orlu beneﬁted from the industrial policies of the government with the state capital having a slight advantage.
Thus we had for instance Avutu Poultry project at Okigwe, Resin Paints at Mbaise (Owerri) and the Packaging Industry at Owerre Ebiri-Orlu, that is as per the present Imo State. The present Ebonyi and Abia states also beneﬁted in the eﬀorts. If the government had lasted, the present Imo would have been better developed.
News Echo notes with dissatisfaction that it is the lopsided development which favours Owerri as the capital city that has made Imo today a one city state. It is unfortunate that even the civilian government populated by politicians who were drawn from all the zones could not see the need to take a cue from other states or regions to develop the entire state.
Thus they have perpetuated the old song that mocks Okigwe and Orluas remaining underdeveloped when others are making giant strides.
The one city state of Imo has implications for development. It has concentrated activities at Owerri. It has encouraged mass urban migration to Owerri which is lacking in social infrastructure like housing, electricity, water etc to accommodate the surging population, thus the challenges of urbanization. It has left the rural areas quite under developed.
It has on the positive encouraged real estate development in Owerri. Property value has ﬁrmed up and keeps hitting the sky and turning a nouveau rich of Owerri land owners and its suburbs. The cost of land around Owerri is quite unaﬀordable by any civil servant who lives genuinely on his income. Sadly, government housing programs for civil servants is zero. Largely the Imo Diasporas and few home based business people are appropriating the lands.
The factors that have made other states to grow more than one city are here in the state as well. What may be lacking is the political will and consciousness to break out of the status quo. Delta state has Warri, and Asaba. Rivers has Port Harcourt, Omoku and Bonny. Anambra has Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha. Abia has Umuahia and Aba. Ebonyi has Abakaliki and Aﬁkpo. Enugu has Enugu and Nsukka etc. Why would Imo not be able to develop other states like the above highlighted.
NewsEcho is convinced that immense beneﬁts abound if the government can deliberately focus on growing these areas because they have potentials in terms of human and natural resources to develop the places. Aside from creating employment opportunities, there will be internally generated revenue derivable from economic activities among others. We call on the government to take a giant step in this regard.