By Tony Wakiki
Between the assumption of office as Governor of Imo State in January 2020 and January 2023, Governor Hope Uzodinma has continued to make impressionable footprints in Imo State in spite of the various battles he had had to confront.
First was the battle of nomination as the flag bearer of All Progressives Congress which was heavily resisted by the then incumbent governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Okorocha was said to be so powerful that for the eight years he held sway in Imo State, he boasted of having retired all prominent politicians like Ararume, Izunaso, Uzodinma, Udenwa, Ihedioha, and Ohakim who literally went into political exile in Abuja and elsewhere.
Okorocha bestrode Imo political landscape like a colosus and would not consult with any godfather or elder statesmen, shutting down all possible voices of reason including even the clergy. The likes of elder statesman, Engineer Iwuanyanwu and Archbishop Obinna were completely relegated and disregarded by the leadership style of the Emperor from Ogboko.
It was against this backdrop that Uzodinma crossed over to the APC from the PDP having himself been sidetracked by the Ihedioha group during those days of the Modu Sherif versus Ahmed Makarfi struggle for the soul of PDP across the country by the two groups.
Nigerians especially or Imolites couldn’t have forgotten in a hurry how Senator Okorocha who was the then incumbent governor of Imo State and leader of the APC in the state at that time, blocked his brother Uzodinma from joining the Imo APC family even after he had been welcomed with red carpet by the then Adams Oshiomhole led national headquarters of the ruling party. The contempt was so loud and overt that even the APC chairman in his native Omuma ward who dared to register Senator Uzodinma into the party at the ward level, was beaten blue black by the dare devil agents of the powers that be then.
Against all hostilities, Uzodinma went ahead to secure the mandate of the APC to fly their flag in the 2019 governorships elections. Of course, the sitting governor then went bananas having been blindfolded by the trappings of power, to believe that nobody in the entire length and breadth of Imo state had the balls or resources to stop his anointed son in-law and chief of staff, Uche Nwosu from succeeding him as governor.
Uzodinma’s emergence as APC gubernatorial candidate was greeted with wild jubilation akin to the jubilation amongst Nigerians about the “obidient movement”. Not a few Imo citizens had lost hope about the dismantling of the Rochas dynasty, until suddenly like a thunderbolt from the skies, Uzodimma came calling to redeem their hope again. The jubilation and acceptance of an Uzodinma emergence was arguably, more because he had seemingly liberated the people from a self-acclaimed political czar who boasted of sending all his contemporaries to exile in Abuja.
Uzodinma was therefore expectedly the toast of the political firmament in Imo, when juxtaposed with his other contestants like Ifeanyi Ararume who still had a credibility issue from the Obasanjo days or an Uche Nwosu who still carried the infamous tag of an Okorocha’s glorified house boy.
Ihedioha had presented the image of an untainted citizen perhaps because his covert escapades in Abuja as a three-time federal representative could not be easily scrutinized by the ordinary Imolites.
Be that as it may, governor Uzodinma has never lost focus for one second in his avowed commitment to God and Imo people to deliver quality governance to all and sundry. The distractions since Uzodinma mounted the saddle are legion, both natural and man-made. In 2020 the governor had barely settled down when he was sworn in when COVID struck. The whole world was put on hold by the pandemic and Imo state was not left out by the lockdown which lasted till around October. The state also got her fair share of the destabilisation caused by the public uproar against the brutality of the Nigeria police, popularly called ENDSARS.
Fast forward to Easter of 2021 when the infamous unknown gunmen saga happened upon the state with the twin suicide attacks of both the Owerri central correctional center and the state police command. Over 2000 criminals were let loose on Imo soil in one fell swoop. From that fateful Easter Monday to the end of 2021 and for the better part of 2022, both the governor, his security apparatus and indeed the bandits themselves have not known any peace, even though the governor has successfully fought the bandits to a standstill.
In point of fact, most Imolites have continued to wonder how the governor was still able to deliver on the several achievements which are visible even in the midst of all the distractions and violence. The 34 kilometer stretch from Owerri to Orlu as well as the 45 kilometers from Owerri to Okigwe were delivered in this unstable period with a level of quality finishing that has been attested to even by Uzodinma’s strongest critics. Even the 27 kilometers road that goes from Owerri to Umuahia passing through Mbaise, Ihedioha’s hometown is currently under massive construction by Uzodinma. This brand of politics without bitterness is unprecedented.
On other fronts, Uzodinma has continued to advance the development of the state with uncommon vigor and determination in spite of the huge distractions. Since 2020 till date, all the civil servants in Imo state have enjoyed free rides to and from work. The governor also provided brand new vehicles for all the security agencies in the state, ditto for permanent secretaries, judges and most recently traditional rulers.
Uzodinma’s prudence with public funds have continued to shock his friends and associates who had looked forward to a regime of merry making given his well-known life of charity and philanthropy. He has left no one in doubt as to his avowed determination to use every kobo of Imo people’s money for their welfare and development. For the second Christmas running, the governor paid all Imo workers the 13th month salary as Christmas bonus, a feat that has made their counterparts from neighboring states jealous of Imo public servants. It is also on record that after the initial verification of salaries and pensions, no single Imo civil servant or pensioner is being owed. The few workers who are yet to be properly cleared are undergoing verification processes prior to receiving their arrears owed. Needless to mention that the government had saved billions of naira from all the hitherto leaking conduit pipes through which ghost workers and dead pensioners were being paid for years.
Little wonder Uzodinma has continued to garner both local and international endorsements including from reputable organisations like The Sun Newspaper, WorldBank, UNICEF, USAID, just to mention these few.
Hopefully, with the successful decimation of the criminals pretending to be freedom fighters and with the gradual return of peace to Imo State, and also given the realisation and support by most communities and persons including even the genuine freedom fighters that Uzodinma was under a politically motivated guerilla warfare, it is our prayer of imo citizens that the remaining 12 months left for Uzodinma’s first tenure will witness an acceleration of human and infrastructural development.
We hope to see more inter and intra rural roads arrested especially within the Orlu and Okigwe townships and their environs. It is hoped that the governor will open up recruitment programmes in the state civil service to absorb the thousands of young graduates in the state while growing the other programmed aimed at creating a robust small and medium scale enterprises sector which is the real catalyst for development. When this is done, perhaps Uzodinma can now genuinely present himself to his people for a possible second term, which will avail him the chance to truly deliver his vision of a rebuilt, rehabilitated and recovered Imo. Indeed, Imo will rise again!