Imo state has never known the type of insecurity currently making life hellish for the residents. And, all eyes are on the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma. Everyone expects him to do something, whatever it is, to stem the drift. The expectation on him is understandable. He is the governor of the state and also, its Chief Security officer. So, whatever the buck is, it stops at his table. Therefore, he comes into focus as to how he manages to take the state through a development that is alien to it. However, no matter how alien the development is, the people of Imo expect immediate actions to address the situation and restore their confidence in their state, once noted to be among the most peaceful states in Nigeria.
Uzodimma, I suspect, is not sleeping well. He wears a very painful shoe at this moment. The fate of Imo is right before him and as such, no one needs to pity him because he asked to lead the state. Leading a state and a people means leading them through rough and smooth paths. Now, it is rough and tough for the people. This is where his genius as a leader is expected to show. Does he have the necessary leadership credentials that will enable him creatively take the state through a militarized path? May be, maybe not. But it would depend on how he sees, and interprets, the reality before him at the moment.
Imo has become a heavily militarized environment. The people don’t like this. No one does. But that is the consequence of misbehavior. Every action begets a reaction, Bob Marley told us. The affront on peace and introduction of terror on Police operatives and their formations, which sometimes was welcome by the people as a show of superiority against the state, was a subtle invitation for retaliation. And that retaliation had to come heavy. Lack of tact in giving expression to youthful pro-Biafra actions, created a window of opportunity for the reframing of the narrative and use same to push for one that supports deployment of military to the state. The window it created was a missed opportunity for the governor to give hope to residents of the state. As they say, nature abhors vacuum. So, the vacuum had to be seized by the federal government.
One had expected that the government of Sen. Uzodimma would have creatively walked the state through this problem by initiating dialogue and listening to whichever group that was responsible for turning Imo into a front for the military to test its human extermination skills.
By pointing fingers at IPOB/ESN as being responsible for the attacks on Police formations, and later withdrawing same and then, facing the unknown gun man, the government in Imo state helped to put Imo youth on the line of fire because as it is now, youths seen to be wearing ripped jeans trousers and t-shirts, especially black colours, and also wearing dreadlocks on their heads –mere fashion expressions- are instantly profiled and isolated as IPOB/ESN “terrorists” and therefore marked for very decisive action. It is worst if such youths are found at gatherings of young people irrespective of the reasons for same.
This new reality has forced Imo people to live in more fear than they did while the questionable unknown gun man ransacked and burnt police stations as well as killed officials of state whose only offence seem to be to adorn the uniform of the Nigerian Police. This is where the people now expect the governor to show leadership. He is now expected to lead from the front and help create an atmosphere that reassures the people that their lives are secure and will remain so. It is imperative that we all understand, as Nigeria’s constitution says, that the security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government. That security, to my mind, is from state sponsored terrorism as well. While government works to secure the people from terror brought upon them by armed non-state actors, it must equally secure them from terror by armed state actors.
This is why the people now expect their state governor to be more active on the plough and intervene in the reign of terror being brought upon them by armed state actors.
He has to creatively find a way to ensure that youths in the state are not instantly exterminated or arrested and hauled into detention facilities on mere suspicion of belong to IPOB/ESN with the only evidence being the wearing of black ripped jeans and t-shirts or even hooded shirts.
If this reality is not properly managed with some level of creativity expected of the leadership, the state runs the risk of a further degeneration of the security situation with armed non-state and state actors hunting themselves in open confrontation which turns the people into foreseen but unavoidable consequences.
Gov. Uzodimma must therefore move fast to seek ways to mop-up youths who could easily become tools for restive action by keeping them busy at work. I reckon that the State House of Assembly recently approved an executive bill for the creation of the Imo State Security Organization. I do not know if this is an organ different from Ebubeagu, or a mechanism to give life to Ebubeagu. Whatever the governor intends it to be, he must work fast to set up the necessary structures that would make the organization a reality. Bringing the group into reality means employment for a category of youths, and others, who may be forced by crushing poverty and lack of means to satisfy needs, to make themselves available to renegade groups that promise them very little and also put them in the psychological state where they argue in favour of dying in battle rather than living without hope for the next day.
Creatively walking Imo through the present rough path also means creating social security infrastructures that gives both the old and the young hope to live for the next day. Situations where the people, including the working class, the retirees, the aged and the sick and the vulnerable young, live at the mercy of time, forces people into desperations which make them readily available to groups that promise them good life in the future.
A desperate man is dangerous to public order and peace. He thinks less about the consequences of his action. This is why the leadership in Imo ought to begin to think seriously about working out a social security infrastructure for the people, assuming it is had not done so and also, not currently doing so.
I also expect Gov., Uzodimma to tap into the knowledge pool of the traditional institution in the state. Working with the traditional institution including traditional rulers and President-Generals of the numerous autonomous communities in the state, his government may be able to stem the tide of restiveness, win the youths back to himself, their families and the state, not to morgues or behind bars. This way, it becomes possible to isolate Imo youths from insecurity and create the opportunity for the Police to unmask the unknown gun man.