Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The General Manager of Owerri Capital Development Authority (OCDA), Innocent Ikpamezie, has said that the people of Imo State were not surprised with the January 14, 2020, judgment of the Supreme Court which declared Senator Hope Uzodinma as the duly elected governor of the state.
Ikpamezie in a chat with news in Abuja maintained that the people of Imo saw the judgment coming, saying with the arrival of Uzodinma, it is a new dawn in the state.
The court judgment declaring your principal, Governor Hope Uzodinma as the duly elected governor of Imo State was greeted with mixed reactions. How did you view the reactions?
Well, such reaction is expected from the camp of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). You know it was very obvious that they wanted to hold unto power by whatever means. However, the greater Imolites who are the main voters saw the judgment that restored the mandate of His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodinma coming.
Former Governor Emeka Ihedioha asked the Supreme Court for a review of the judgment which again went in favour of Governor Uzodinma. Was there panic in your camp during that period?
Our camp, from the onset, had the conviction that the declaration of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha was a clear case of a stolen mandate. So, the application for review, apart from being an aberration, was also a deliberate ploy to ridicule the apex court. However, like we all know, these are erudite jurists whom you cannot possibly perturb with such frivolous application and that is why the application didn’t see the light of the day.
Even though Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka had prophesied about his assumption of office, were you confident that Governor Uzodinma’s aspiration would ever be realised?
I am a staunch Catholic and a Knight of St. John International. I believe in prophecies, especially when such is coming from a highly respected priest like Fr. Ejike Mbaka. Apart from the issue of prophecy, I was very much confident that His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodimma will win the election as he did, even though his mandate was temporarily delayed. If you had followed the happenings from the congresses, even in other political parties, there were no such jubilations in the state like when the governor was declared as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The people at that point knew he was the only messiah and candidate that had such charisma and experience to help realise the vision and expectations of Imolites, having been in denial of the basic dividends of democracy for more than eight years.
How is the current political mood in Imo State?
Imolites are very brilliant, technical and smart people. Imolites have already keyed into a non-vindictive, but shared prosperity government led by Uzodimma himself anchored on the three big R’s: Recovery, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation. If you have been to Imo State since the 14th day of January 2020, when the Supreme court judgment was delivered, you will invariably agree with me that the political environment we have in the state now is that of total acceptance of a governor who has come to work, who has a well-defined vision and mission for the Imolites. A governor who is a go-getter and has priority for high quality standards, respect for rule of law and dignity of Imolites. We now have a very peaceful political environment that will definitely give way to rapid development and total overhaul and revamping of the long years of decayed infrastructure in the state.
The governor’s political foes believe he won’t do well. What is your take on the government’s ability to deliver on its mandate?
Political foes you said. Why are they only speaking from a political point of view? It is because they are yet to align with the fact that their principal had lost the battle and their strongest rival emerged victorious at the apex court of Nigeria. However, we aren’t perturbed by these political assertions and permutations based on grief and hatred. They are baseless and cannot hold water. His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodinma’s style of leadership is very exceptional and can’t be found anywhere. If you take your time in going through his appointments, you would agree with me that he has appointed young, vibrant professionals and technocrats who have the technical-know-how in their respective areas of jurisdiction. Uzodinma is toeing the right path. He is already doing well and he will continue to do well. And I have no doubt that he will exceed the expectations of Imolites.
Your appointment as the General Manager of OCDA has generated concerns, particularly in the media. What is your take on it?
It is only a fruitful tree that people throw stones and sticks at. Ever since I was appointed the GM, OCDA, some political enemies have been aggrieved. But what can I say? Power belongs to God, He directs and orders my steps. It has pleased Him and my boss that I serve in this capacity at this time and I will make the best of it. We have passed the stage of gossip and side talk. All political gimmicks have come and gone with the elections. Whatever thing you may have seen on the media was a mere distraction and cannot deter me from doing my job. Only Almighty God and the court of law stand to determine the actions and inactions of any human being. My name is Innocent, my native name is Ikechukwu, and my chieftaincy title is Nwachinemere. These names will forever speak for me.
Where did you meet OCDA and where are you taking it to, particularly as an engineer?
Today, you will agree with me that OCDA as presently constituted does not represent a model for a modern development control agency. As an engineer, I have added advantage and my team and I are already coming up with a blue print on how to totally reform OCDA both in operations, management and its core functions of development control. We are putting in our best to see that OCDA is immediately repositioned to take its rightful place in the scheme of affairs and in line with the mantra of Senator Uzodinma. I am a mechanical engineer registered with COREN. So, I am a round peg in a round hole. I can’t be more qualified for the position. I am presently working closely with my legal team to overhaul the establishment law and building regulations which is the basic foundation of our existence. And once that is done, other things will fall in place. As I speak to you, OCDA is still operating a decree in a 21st Century and this is not good for the development and eventual realization of the master plan. We will embark on the review of the master plan if need be because we have the powers under the law to so do.
OCDA’s main focus is to ensure a beautiful and functional capital city of Owerri. Is this huge task realisable?
I believe that with good plans, the achievement of realising the Owerri Capital Territory Master Plan is realisable. All hands must be on deck and with the kind and usual support of the governor, we will achieve our dream to make OCDA great.
From available records, OCDA was established in 1978. After over 40 years of existence, why is Owerri the way it is without meaningful development?
I will not be in a haste to agree with you. Talking about the current state of OCDA, you don’t have to isolate OCDA because it is the effect of several years of neglect by successive governments. But I will assure you that the present government has a holistic approach and programmes to systematically address these ugly trend we have found ourselves over the years. At several times, especially in the past eight years, the Owerri Capital Development Authority has been largely managed by persons who are non-professionals and may not understand what the job entails. Hopefully, those mistakes will be corrected.