By Declan Emelumba
Since Governor Hope Uzodimma assumed office as the duly elected governor of Imo State in 2020, the state’s chapter of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has always found a way to engage in a vile, baseless and relentless propaganda to whittle down his achievements. This is all in the pursuit of their predetermined motive to make him unpopular among the people. It is unfortunate that this outdated approach to political opposition is still here with us. As sore losers, the anger and sense of loss felt by the Imo chapter of PDP is understandable, considering that Uzodimma’s victory simply dashed their dreams and plans to have their own slice of the so-called national cake. This can be likened to a reaction you expect when you forcefully yank a hungry baby off the mother’s breast.
However, a period of two years is long enough for them to stop living in denial and delusion. The time has come for them to acknowledge and submit that there is a new sheriff in town. After sounding repeatedly like a broken record by derogatorily referring to Uzodimma as a Supreme Court Governor, it seems they have changed tactics. After failing woefully in their attempt to change the facts, PDP has now resorted to barefaced lies, intimidation and even violence to diminish the monumental achievements recorded by Uzodimma in so short a time. When, in 2020, key officials of PDP and their collaborators threatened that they would make the state ungovernable for Uzodimma, many thought it was an empty threat. The subsequent violence unleashed on the state has confirmed that they meant business, even if it meant spilling the blood of the innocent.
Indeed, the game plan was to distract the governor from focussing on governance and the task of developing the state. Part of their strategy must have been to keep him distracted with insecurity, while other sectors suffered neglect. Their ultimate ambition is to dampen his desire and truncate his plans to transform the state. Simply put, they feared that these achievements would raise Uzodimma’s profile and endear him to the hearts of the long-suffering people of Imo State, thereby turning him into a formidable opponent when the time comes. But they did not reckon they were dealing with an experienced, resourceful and determined governor who had been a crisis manager all his life. To the consternation of his transducers, Uzodimma weathered the storm and came out with a stunning performance in his first year in office. As he was preparing to publicly showcase these achievements to the world, PDP and their fellow detractors and collaborators struck. Large numbers of convicted criminals were illegally released after a jailbreak at the Owerri Prisons and let loose on the state. Expectedly, this singular act heightened the feeling of insecurity in the state.
Did this succeed in deterring Uzodimma from performing to the point of impressing the objective and unbiased observers, such as The Sun newspapers? Not at all. On the contrary, the implementation of his prosperity agenda, anchored on the 3Rs of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery was put in the speed gear. By early 2021, when President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice – President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and other high profile Nigerians came to Imo State to commission various projects, they were impressed and amazed that Uzodinma could achieve so much amidst such daunting challenges, especially the complicated challenge of politically contrived insecurity. Of course, the media, including the Sun Newspapers, the reputed and most widely read newspaper in the country with journalists across the country were observing.
But, because a leopard never really sheds its spots, nobody was surprised when the PDP recently sprang to its lame feet to condemn the “GOVERNOR OF THE YEAR AWARD” bestowed on the Governor of Imo State by The Sun Newspapera. They did not consider the fact that Sun Newspapers has been bestowing these awards for the past 19 years, and these awards are based on clearly determined criteria. In their typical desperation to not accept anything good about Governor Uzodimma, the party’s Director of New Media, still picked holes with the award. Such idiocy could not have been dignified with a response, but for the fallacies and outright falsehoods which the party attempted to pass off as facts.
It is reprehensible when a party which has clearly squandered its goodwill among the people vainly tries to tarnish the reputation of the sitting Government by appealing to the emotions of those it had betrayed and deceived for decades. PDP, through Collins Opuruzor, claimed that Uzodimma’s flagship roads of Owerri to Okigwe and Owerri to Orlu were being built at a cost of over N86b which he claimed was above a phantom figure which he ascribed to the World Bank. First of all, it is not true that the Governor is yet to tell Imo people the exact value of the contracts for the roads. At the flagoff ceremony for the constructionofthetworoads, the Governor announced to the whole world that the projects would cost N58b. It was never a secret. But, what PDP failed to mention is the fact that the two roads are dual carriageways and not single carriageways. They also conveniently failed to advertise their own failures to wit that the roads had been unattended to for 25 years, during which period PDP was in charge for 13 years. But, Uzodimma did the roads within two years of assumption of office. In their selective amnesia, they forgot to state that both roads are “federal roads” and the total cost of construction would be refunded by the Federal Government. They also failed to highlight the immense social and economic benefits of these dual carriageways which cut across the three senatorial zones and about 12 Local Government Areas of the state.
Again, PDP demonstrated irreversible amnesia when it failed to inform the world that the PDP administration led by Emeka Ihedioha could not rehabilitate even one major road in the eight months that it illegally occupied the seat of government in Imo State. The lazy and predictable excuse was that they were waiting for the end of the raining season. But, Uzodimma has worked assiduously through rain and sun to deliver more than 70 roads in the last two years. PDP will also not advertise its incompetence in the inability to find a lasting solution to the perennial problem of flooding in parts of the state, especially the capital city.
In contrast, Uzodimma has deftly solved the flooding problem by deploying the novel balloon technology, which has now recovered and saved more than N50b of real estate investments of Imo people along Trans – Egbu and Chukwuma Nwoha axis of the state capital. A similar project at Amakohia Junction has reached 70 percent completion and would have a similar impact on adjoining roads and properties. As the saying goes, PDP would need to first remove the log in its eyes to be able see the speck in Uzodimma’s eyes.
When PDP talks glibly about Uzodimma having no plans about industrialization in the state, one wonders whether the authors of such ignorant verses actually reside in the state. PDP ran down Adapalm Nigeria Limited, which was one of the industries set up by the government of the old Eastern Region . Within one year in office, Uzodimma has brought the multiple million naira factory back to life. It is now producing at near optimal capacity with thousands of Imo people earning their living from it through direct and indirect employment and businesses. Again, Imo Shoe Factory was destroyed under the watch of PDP. The loan that was supposed to be injected into reviving the factory was shared by PDP officials. The result was the closure of the company for many years. Uzodimma has paid off the loan to AMCON, preparatory to resumption of operations of the company. Similar strategies are being devised to achieve the reactivation of other industries, including Avutu Poultry Farm in Obowo. In addition, Hope Uzodimma is engaging with various industrialists and investors in a bid to attract investments and new industries to the state. If PDP had done one tenth of what Uzodimma and APC are doing, Imo would not have been in the sorry state that Uzodimma met it.
Is it not laughable that PDP is talking of rising unemployment when it did not lift a finger to remedy the situation when it had the chance to do so? While waiting for PDP to disclose to the world where it got the statistics of unemployment in Imo State jumping from 74 to 83 percent, let it be known that Uzodimma in the last two years has done more than the previous governments combined since 1999 to yank Imo youths off the employment market. Apart from those who have been gainfully employed with the reactivation of Adapalm Nigeria Limited, Uzodimma has trained and empowered more than 15,000 youths who have established various forms of businesses of their own. Notably, some of these youths are now helping to employ others.
It is regrettable that PDP admitted that it has been recruiting those who still remain unemployed to destabilize the state through insecurity. While the Government of Hope Uzodimma will continue to try its best to offer empower, create opportunities and employment to the best of its capacity, it will never exploit their situation to make them willing tools in a proxy war that has cost the state enormously in terms of human lives and other resources. By inferring that unemployed youths in the state are being engaged for violent acts in the state, PDP has confirmed what we already knew that they were behind the insecurity in the state as patrons of the misguided youths. When the government recently pointed out that no PDP member has been a victim of the violent activities in the state, some people doubted it. But the statement by PDP’s Director of New Media has confirmed it.
But what he could not confirm is the source of claim that Imo is behind Lagos and Kaduna States in the indices and table of ease of doing business among the states in Nigeria. Contrary to the wild and unsubstantiated claim by the PDP, Imo is ranked eleventh in the ease of doing business in the country – ahead of Lagos and Kaduna States, which are ranked 20th and 13th, respectively. As for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), where was PDP when Imo was named as one of the 6 states to benefit from the highly sought after Agro-Industrial Processing Zone project of the African Development Bank valued at USD540 million? That should not surprise anyone because of their inclination to selective perception. Besides, if they are truly concerned about attracting FDI to Imo State, why are they working to make the state ungovernable through violence?
But, what should really baffle any discerning mind is the fabrication by the PDP that Uzodimma is responsible for the huge debt profile of the state. First, how did PDP arrive at the figure they are brandishing? What was the debt profile of the state when PDP left power in January 2020? What was debt profile when Rochas Okorocha left office in 2019? This would reveal how much Uzodimma has borrowed since he assumed office two years ago. A more interesting inquiry should actually seek to determine what the different governments have to show for the various loans they took. Contrary to the submission of PDP, Uzodimma is running an open, accountable and transparent administration as against the opaque and corrupt one practised by PDP. As one of his initiatives to achieve transparency, Uzodimma interfaces regularly with stakeholders during which he shares the programmes of government, and receives inputs and feedbacks on the priorities of the people. The allegation of misuse of local government funds does not arise, because the records are there for everyone to see.
So, PDP’s dismissal of the award presented to Uzodimma as undeserving is simply a case of sour grapes. Obviously, PDP is still hurting from the loss of power in the state and their reaction can be described as a combination of cheap display of ignorance and petulant childishness. Sadly, the new media, especially the social media, has made it easy for people like Mr Opuruzor to record and distribute all sorts of falsehood driven audio and video files to large numbers of unsuspecting citizens, who often do not have access to the facts. However, people are learning not to take some of these recordings seriously.
Sun Newspapers cited the areas of Infrastructure Development and Recovery efforts of Uzodinma as the reason for his recognition and award. What more does PDP want to see outside the road revolution in the state, resuscitation of Otamiri Water Works, the building of 305 Health Centres, and numerous projects scattered across the 27 Local Government Areas of the state? In terms of recovery efforts of the Government, does PDP not know that the K.O. Mbadiwe University was recovered from Rochas Okorocha, who ironically is now their new bride in their desperation to diminish the achievements of Hope Uzodimma. Well, you can fool some of the people sometimes, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Is PDP’ not aware that the Shell Camp Estate has also been recovered from the same Okorocha and his cohorts and returned to the lawful owners? The processes are still on-going to recover all stolen assets of the state, including those pilfered by some PDP officials. This audacious act of the governor being implemented without fear or favour is one of the things that attracted the award to the governor. Just like the sun, the Sun Newspaper is everywhere. And, just like the judgement of the Supreme Court that recovered his mandate from PDP, the Governor OF THE YEAR AWARD presented to Senator Hope Uzodinma by Sun Newspapers – the voice of the nation – has come to stay, notwithstanding the tantrum of PDP.
• Emelumba is the commissioner for information and strategy, Imo State