Prince Eze Madumere was a ‘son’ to Rochas Okorocha and ‘served’ him for a very long time like a servant before a lord. They were together long before Okorocha descended on Imo as governor. Somehow, and against expectations, he became Okorocha’s deputy after the man had his way against Jude Agbaso, albeit crudely. Madumere ‘enjoyed’ his office as deputy governor at Okorocha’s pleasure. He remained loyal till the centre started falling apart. As the centre fell apart, Madumere was forced by circumstances to seek to keep his name, and fingers, away from the sort of governance Okorocha visited his beloved state of Imo with. In one of his moments of reclusive introspection, Madumere regretted the day Okorocha happened to Imo. He must have gone down in penitent genuflection before his conscience, his wife and his extended royal family.
Coming out of his hermitage after a moment of reclusive hibernation like a 10th century Carthusian monk, Madumere said: “It is not going to be a bed of roses for the next governor of Imo State. What Okorocha has done to the socio-economic status of the state, quote me, it will take 25 to 30 years for the state to recover from the damage done to it. The level of damage is simply unimaginable.” (See Premiumtimes, March 5, 2019).
What Prince Madumere stated above is the summary of Okorocha’s eight years as ruler over Imo State. Don’t forget, Madumere was an active participant in that government and knows much more than the majority of the Imo people. However, the reality of life is that it is the task of the present to fix mistakes of the past. To fix Imo and restore it to its glory is now Hope Uzodimma’s headache. Some think he is not on the right track. Most believe he is. These are matters of democratic opinion. But if we understand, and accept, the reality of where Imo is coming from, we will better appreciate the efforts that Uzodimma has made, and is still making, to restore hope to Imo.
Let me highlight just two situations. First, I have read commentaries insinuating that President Muhammadu Buhari visited Imo State to commission a ‘gutter.’ Some called it flood control drains. Whatever we call it is immaterial to the fact that the construction, as executed, has solved a problem that seemed unsolvable. Prior to the coming of Hope, many residents of estates bordering Chukwuma Nwoha Street (named after a 1985 U-17 FIFA World Cup gold medalist) in the Federal Housing area, off Egbu Road in Owerri, regretted living in that part of town. It was flood-prone. They knew no peace. Many abandoned their homes and sought refuge in other parts of town. Some sold theirs at ridiculously low rates. Roads in the area were not passable. Many residents lost hope of ever getting government attention towards solving the problem. All palliative efforts of previous governments and residents’ associations could not solve the problem and it lingered. But Uzodimma arrived with his team and a solution was found.
From my last inquiry, residents of the area no longer complain about unoccupied or abandoned houses. Instead, they now complain that rent in the area has increased. I am told that the value of property in that part of Owerri has also skyrocketed.
“People are relocating from that place now no longer because of flood but because rents have increased,” an estate management agent told me.
I believe that this is a positive indication that whatever Uzodimma did in that part of Owerri was good enough to restore the hope of residents, property owners and road users in the area. For me, this is a positive indicator. His response has increased socio-economic activities in that part of town and restored confidence in government. So, ‘gutter’ or ‘balloon tech flood control’ is immaterial to the fact that a lingering problem was resolved.
Secondly, I was skeptical when Uzodimma announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the expansion and rehabilitation of the Owerri-Okigwe road. I had told myself that a politician would always be one. However, I was in Imo State last August for mum’s burial and shuttled several times between Dikenafai and Owerri. I had issues with the Owerri-Okigwe road up to Amaraku. The problem I had was about congestion at some points. But the good news is that the traffic at those points were not caused by the sort of gullies we often call potholes or by car crashes. They were actually caused by construction work. The contractors worked on the expansion and reconstruction of the road, adding drainage systems was necessary. I saw them. T
hey worked even in the rain. By the time I left Imo, work on that stretch of road had progressed beyond Amaraku. This is a report of what I saw and experienced. Prior to travelling to Dikenafai, I had thought that the governor was play-acting with the MoU.
Those who know Imo State very well know that the state capital has five entry and exit points: Owerri-Okigwe, Owerri-Umuahia, Owerri-Aba, Owerri-Port Harcourt and Owerri-Onitsha. Save for Owerri-Onitsha, which is relatively good, the others need serious attention, especially given that the state capital has no rail link. Therefore, the easiest assessment one could make of an Imo governor’s performance on road infrastructure is to measure his/her effort in fixing those roads because of their strategic importance to the economy of the state without ignoring urban and rural roads. Though I make no excuses for Gov. Uzodimma, I, however, do not expect him to have, within 19 months of taking office, fixed a problem that Prince Madumere assessed and said will take “25 to 30 years” to fix. Doing so would be to have created the eighth wonder of the world and it would be deserving of entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.
I know, like many Imolites do, that the state was broken before Gov. Uzodimma happened. I guess this was the basic reason Imo people thwarted every effort by the erstwhile governor to plant his surrogate as successor. Imo people asked for a new direction and got Hope. This, however, does not mean that the governor should sleep on the duty he freely offered to undertake. Like a goldfish, Hope Uzodimma has no hiding place. However, those hitting at him now should remember that, in 2015, they told us that it would take a very long time for Buhari to fix the rot of the “16 years of PDP.” If that be logical, why expect Hope to restore the hope of Imolites in their state and solve all the problems of the state just after 19 months in office? Like Madumere said, “it is not going to be a bed or roses” for Gov. Uzodimma, but he seems right on track to restore hope to Imo. He may not have pleased everyone, because different people have different expectations. But, truth be told, he has shown competence in the management of resources of the state and deploying them to good and valuable use.