Imo State: Why Hope Uzodimma must display his leadership qualities now!

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The whole world knows how Senator Hope Uzodimma, the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) party governor of Imo State got into office. Therefore, I will not waste anybody’s time navigating through that distasteful storyline again. It is stale. It is also common knowledge how the deposed former governor, Hon. Emeka Ihadioha, former Deputy Speaker of the federal House of Representatives who won the governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was torpedoed out of office by Nigeria’s Supreme Court. Again, it is too late please, allow me to flip the page too.

What is evidential from one end of the state to the other is that the last APC administration of the immediate past government of Chief Rochas Okorocha (now a serving Senator of the Federal Republic) totally misruled, mismanaged, and destroyed the very developmental infrastructure of Imo State. It was so bad to the extent that it became obvious that any administration that succeeds him will be confronted with grave challenges. It is a shame that after eight years of Okorocha in office, Imo State, which used to pride itself as the cleanest city in the whole of the South-East was unbelievably bastardised.

To put it mildly, former Rochas had no class and showed either empathy or sympathy to the good people of Imo State. Aside the fact that he resorted to paying civil servants in the state incomplete salaries, he never paid them as at when due. Aided by his son-in-law, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu who he tried to foist on the people during the last governorship election in the state, that regrettable administration made sure there were no people-oriented developmental projects in the state. Roads in Imo State were summarily dilapidated and some of the worst not just in the South-East, but in the country. During his tenure, the cliché “China Roads” was added into Imo State lexicon because Rochas Okorocha and his construction companies will “complete and commission” a road project say on Monday and by Saturday, the same road will be calling for repairs. It was that bad.

Rochas never paid attention to the plight of pensioners in the State. In the eight years of his administration, one can count on fingertips how many times he paid pensioners (if he did). He never paid attention to the healthcare sector. Rochas cared less about the future of the teaming youth of Imo State by improving education just as he never cared about the market women. Imo State under Rochas, pipe borne water or rural electrification suffered, just as insecurity of lives and property never bothered him. Kidnappers were on rampage among other vices.

Yet, Rochas and his family members (who formed his kitchen cabinet) became some of the richest in the state with eye-popping estates and projects all over to the detriment of the state. Upon that, the state borrowed endlessly. I recall media reports that Imo State borrowed the sum of N52.6 billion between January and June 2019 alone. The media also reported that the state during his time in office ranked 7th with the biggest overall debt stock across all the states in the country. And as Senator Rochas was leaving office, the debt burden of Imo State piled up in several billions.

For a ‘poor small civil service state like Imo,’ which makes so little income in the form of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) with no federal presence or manufacturing companies, one did not need a secondary school certificate to understand that whosoever that succeeds Rochas will struggle to rebuild Imo State. That was why Emeka Ihedioha appeared to have started slowly – because there was nowhere to start from in the first place. He inherited a people that have lost all forms of trust in government and governance and civil servants that were dehumanised and left disillusioned and so lacked the zeal to operate. But, as a man who arrived with a plan and an idea of what to do, Ihedioha hit the ground running. First, he reclaimed the trust of the people in the government and started poeople-oriented projects and initiatives. Aside from that, he started paying pensioners and restored full payment of salaries of civil servants in the state.

Within his short period, he reawakened the consciousness of the youth with the sport festival and made them believe again in themselves. He also paid priority attention to the reconstruction of so many of the roads that became impassable during the Okorocha and APC government era. Ihedioha within the seven months he stayed in the office before he was booted out by the Supreme Court under frivolous circumstances, restored People/Government trust and made Imolites believe again that the state has returned to the path of growth and development. It is for that reason that Imo State indigenes both at home and in the diaspora will never forgive the Supreme Court for their decision on Imo election and the removal of Emeka Ihedioha as governor. But that is a story for another day.

Imo State citizens never wanted Hope Uzodimma as their governor and they said that much indeed and in action during the governorship election. That unity of purpose of who they want to rule them was established when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the results of all the candidates in the state. Ihedioha came first but, Hope Uzodimma was not amongst the top three in the hierarchy of the total number of votes polled by each of the candidates. The decision was unanimous, Ihedioha was the people’s choice and they said so loudly, which was why when he was ‘violently’ removed from office, a lot of pundits remembered the unguarded utterance of the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole during the campaigns. Oshiomhole had boasted that no matter the sins of any politician in Nigeria, once they decamp from their party to the APC, their sins would be forgiven. Shameful statement from a supposed leader if you ask me. And of course, the likes of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Godswill Akpabio who were facing allegations of fund mismanagement in their states before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) among others dumped the PDP and crossed over. The rest of the story as they say is history.

However, I am not really concerned by all of these, I am worried that Hope Uzodimma, who is fully aware of the crooked road he followed to become Imo State governor after the disreputable verdict of the Supreme Court appears not to be aware of his environment. Rather than place his feet firmly on the throttle of the car, which his “enemy” Emeka Ihedioha has already kickstarted, which will ultimately endear him to the people of Imo State, he has spent most of the months he has been in office trying to find fault with Emeka Ihedioha’s seven months stint as governor of Imo State. Some of us that are stakeholders as indigenes of Imo State believe that Hope may have started on the wrong foot. Rather than provide quality leadership, Uzodimma and his administration have busied themselves with the so-called probe of Emeka Ihedioha. And like lions that are ready for park-hunting, they attack any critical voice that does not join them in tarnishing the name of Ihedioha. I think that should actually be the least of Uzodimma’s headaches.

For sure, the governor’s attack dogs will also come after me once they read this candid observation. They will tag me Ihedioha’s team member, which is why I must put the records straight before I continue. Emeka Ihediaoha does not know me, in my entire life, apart from seeing him on television, we have met only once when he first ran for office as Imo State governor against Rochas Okorocha. He lost. On the other hand, I have only met Hope Uzodimma once and in order not to give so much away, I will not say where, when and how we met in Abuja. So, both Uzodimma and Ehedioha are people who I have nothing in common with, the only thing we have in common is that we all come from Imo State. Unapologetically, I am passionate about the development of the state, which is why I strongly suggest that Senator Hope Uzodimma should forget the “battle against Ihedioha” and pay attention to the deluge of problems that are begging for solution in the state.

It is unbelievable that in a 21st century Nigeria some communities in Imo State still do not have electricity, access roads. In some other communities where they have electricity, they do not experience light for as long as six months or even more. Imo State has no presence of federal government, no industries, no proper internet penetration. The state is riddled with dilapidated schools, insecurity of lives and property, kidnapping, armed robbery and so on. These are the things that should worry Uzodimma and his administration – not Ihedioha because the former Deputy Speaker has moved on.

The countenance of Ihedioha since the “robbery” of his mandate by the APC and the Supreme Court showed that he has moved on. As a matter of fact, the way he accepted the Supreme Court final verdict on his mandate is something that should be emulated by politicians in Nigeria. He has also refused to join issues with both the APC and Uzodimma administration even as the Uzodimma squad including (shamefully) the state House of Assembly have been chanting “probe Ihedioha, Probe Ihedioha.” But the attitude of the state assembly is a matter I would visit in the future because they have been distastefully disgraceful. Any serious House of Assembly in Imo State that wants to carry out a thorough probe in Imo State cannot start with the seven months of Ihedioha in office. That will amount to holding a venomous mountain python in the middle.

Ihedioha’s stint in office as Imo State governor is not the problem of the state. The real problem is that Rochas Okorocha’s eight years in office retarded development so badly. Having seen and enjoyed liberation within the seven months of Ihedioha before the Supreme Court struck, Imo State people are convinced that they have been thrown back into those dark days of Okorocha and the APC except of course, Uzodimma stops chasing shadows and engage in projects that will make the people warm up to him.

Harassing people not to rememberl the vehicle that dropped you as Imo State governor is never the way to go, just as going to the roof top to call Ihedioha names such as Onye oshi, Ole or Barawo will not help his administration. Ndi Imo have a deep knowledge of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the governor they elected to superintend over their affairs, and they totally understand the personality of Senator Hope Uzodimma, the governor that was foisted on them by Nigeria’s Supreme Court. Going about trying to convince the people to hate Ihedioha is not helping matters, it is akin to preaching to Nigerians to embrace Boko Haram as a non-governmental organization that promotes peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. I strongly think Uzodimma must start to provide quality leadership and hope it helps his case as Imo State governor because 2023 is around the corner when the people will make another wise decision. Trust me, the Supreme Court will not have another say. I rest my case for now.

Nwauzor, who resides in Abuja, is a communication expert

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