By Declan Emelumba
The recent visit to Imo State by President Muhammadu Buhari has gone into history as a salutary watershed in the development of the state. President Buhari came, he saw and he trounced the rampant cynicism of a few opposition elements who threatened fire and brimstone against a simple but epoch-making public occasion. Their brazen ploy to scare away well-meaning visitors fell flat on its monstrous face.
At the end of the day, Governor Hope Uzodimma and the good people of the state earned praise for the glad outcome of the presidential visit. After inaugurating the strategic projects, the President raised Gov. Uzodimma’s hand in sheer appreciation and commendation of his sterling developmental efforts. It was clear to all and sundry that the President approved of the visionary strides of the Imo State governor.
It was interesting to observe that those who accused Uzodinma of non-performance did everything to prevent the world from witnessing, first-hand, the sincere efforts of the governor to positively rewrite the history of the state, infrastructure-wise. As the President inaugurated the Naze/Ihiagwa/Nekede/Obinze link road, which had been abandoned for more than two decades, it dawned on people that this governor actually meant business. It is instructive that this particular road leads to two foremost tertiary institutions in the state, namely, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, and Federal Polytechnic, Nekede. It also links four large communities spanning two local government areas. The realisation of this particular project is a dream come true for the communities, staff and students of these institutions who had suffered greatly before now.
After beholding the 2.5km underground balloon-driven tunnel at Dick Tiger Road, which will significantly check flooding in Owerri, and after inspecting the Egbeada Bypass road, President Buhari shook his head in wonderment. Not that he never believed that Uzodinma was a performing governor but the fact that he chose those projects carefully to impact positively on the state’s economy was the instructive chord. An obviously impressed President declared, “I am here to see what the governor is doing and, from what I have seen, he has been working very hard. I believe in what he has been doing because his vision is in tandem with my own vision, which is to provide infrastructure and safe environment for economic development.”
President Buhari was visibly impressed by the road project and the 2.5km-long, 1.8m diameter and 0.9-11.5m-deep tunnel built by the Uzodimma administration to check flooding on the Dick Tiger-Chukwuma Nwoha-Ihechiowa-Aladimma-Relief Market roads, into Otanmiri River, which he also commissioned. Evidently, Uzodimma had embarked on the projects for utmost impact on the state’s economy. A second tunnel to discharge floodwaters from the Akwakuma-Egbeada-Alvan Ikoku axis into the Nworie River is also on the way. The idea is to rid Owerri of perennial flooding, which adversely affects commerce and real estate.
A retrospective reflection of the state of infrastructure in the state before the birth of the Uzodimma administration will perhaps make it easier to appreciate the efforts of this action-driven government of Uzodimma to ensure that the infrastructural deficit it met on ground is urgently reversed. How else can this be captured than to recall the weighty words of a former close ally of former Governor Rochas Okorocha, Prince Eze Madumere, who rose from the position of chief of staff to Okorocha to become the deputy governor? Madumere had early in 2019, in an interview with Premiumtimes, warned that the damage Okorocha inflicted on the socio-economic fabric of Imo State was “unimaginable.” He said it would take over 30 years for the administration coming after the Okorocha to fix the monumental damage.
Perhaps this explains why President Buhari was impressed by the spirited efforts of the Uzodimma administration to reverse the extensive damage the previous administration inflicted on the state. And it also says why the people of the state are overjoyed with the frenzied developmental strides of the state government.
The third project launched by the President was the Egbeada Bypass Road, which diverts traffic away from the capital city for travellers going to Orlu area from Onitsha axis. The Chukwuma Nwoha Road, also built by Uzodimma’s administration, performs the same service for commuters from Umuahia going to Mbaitoli and Ikeduru local government areas. These are among the 46 roads built by Uzodimma’s administration in less than two years.
President Buhari also inaugurated a brand new, state-of-the-art Executive Council chambers to replace a 40-year-old dilapidated and outdated one that was devoid of modern facilities.
Expectedly, Uzodimma used the opportunity of the visit to thank the President for his swift response to the recent security breaches in the state, which he described as “politically contrived.”
The governor also did not miss the opportunity of the auspicious presidential visit to harp on his macro worldview of Nigeria. Said he: “The aim of my administration is to build a mini-Nigeria in Imo State in which all citizens have a sense of not only belonging but of unfettered accommodation.”
According to him, the APC government in Imo State is providing equal opportunities for all Imo people and residents alike.
Indeed President Buhari’s trip to Imo State afforded Uzodimma the opportunity of killing the proverbial two birds with a single stone. The President used the occasion to meet with the cream of leaders from the South East, including Igbo traditional rulers, led by the Obi of Onitsha, chieftains of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, retired military officers and captains of commerce and industry, serving ministers and National Assembly members. The calibre of the stake holders present spoke eloquently of the readiness of opinion leaders of the South East to engage the federal administration on the feelings of the people of the region on economic development and mutual co-existence.
Expressing happiness on the visit, Professor George Obiozor, president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, opined that the visit would mark a new chapter of dialogue, cooperation and understanding between Ndigbo and the Buhari administration.
The significance of this, he said, will form a new foundation for meaningful dialogue on critical issues of concern to the Igbo nation.
President Buhari responded by acknowledging the contributions of Ndigbo to the development of Nigeria. It is unthinkable he added that any Igbo person will consider himself not to be part of Nigeria. It is clear, he said, that the Igbos are in charge of the Nigerian economy.
Indeed, the President’s visit has catalysed a new dawn as evidenced in the visit to Owerri, a few days later, by the Minister for Water Resources who came to examine the potential of using the Otamiri River, where the floodwater from the underground tunnel empties, to build a hydro power station.
Following on his heels came the Minister of Environment to consult with stakeholders on federal government assistance on erosion control in the state. Add to this the impending visit of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to the Eastern Heartland to launch the federal government trader-moni empowerment programme. From all these, it is clear that Gov. Uzodimma has done his homework rather well and Imo State is poised to reap a glowing harvest from his spectacular leadership.
Yes, indeed, Gov. Uzodimma has started well on the difficult task of undoing the damage done to Imo State by the Okorocha administration and, sooner than later, even his worst critics will begin to appreciate and applaud him.
• Emelumba is commissioner for information and strategy, Imo State