His admirers called him the hope of Imo. Even the miraculous way he emerged as governor appeared to give credence to that. The Supreme Court had given an incredulous judgement, pronouncing him governor from his fourth position in the state’s governorship contest. People mumbled some protests. But it was to no effect. Today, ironically, Hope Uzodimma is gradually killing any iota of hope left in Imo State.
Literally, that state is on fire. In the Orlu area, Nigerian military is on the rampage. Its Mi-35 Combat Helicopter and ground troops have been very busy. They are seriously pounding Orlu in a special operation to capture or eliminate the suspected Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militia called Eastern Security Network (ESN). Their actions have melted the hearts of the people of the area with fear and confusion.
Unfortunately, it was the number one citizen of the state who invited the military. Hear him: “Our government decided to invite military to flush out IPOB and their so-called ESN.” The questions are: does the situation in Orlu warrant inviting the military? Couldn’t the mobile police have handled whatever the problem was? With the recent crisis in Oyo and some parts of the South-West, did any of their governors invite the military to come and flush out their people?
South-East, not just Imo, has serious leadership deficit. Most of the current characters parading the corridors of power are hopeless. Governor Uzodimma manifested that hopelessness with the way he has handled some affairs of the state, especially the current Orlu debacle. Otherwise, why will he be the first to crucify his people through the military over actions of a few people?
This is the same way some leaders of the South-East led by Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State went to Rivers State to condemn IPOB after the Oyigbo crisis that trailed the EndSARS protests of last year. Military intervention in the crisis had caused the death of scores of people. But to the Umahi-led Igbo leaders, it was IPOB members that caused the crisis in Oyigbo. There were similar attempts to heap the blame of the EndSARS crisis in Lekki, Lagos, on Igbo youths. But for the quick intervention of some concerned stakeholders, innocent Igbo youth would have suffered for what they knew nothing about.
Contrarily, security agents in Oyo State, the other day, made some moves to arrest Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo also known as Sunday Igboho. They did not succeed because his people are solidly behind him. Not even the South-West governors have called for his arrest. He still moves about without qualms.
Besides, of all the atrocities criminal herdsmen commit across the country, most northern leaders have not called for their arrest. Nor have they invited the military to storm the forests with fighter jets and deal with sundry bandits kidnapping innocent travellers and school kids. They rationalise their actions and try to protect them in different ways.
Or, is it not curious that Governor Bala Mohammed tried to justify the open parade of AK-47 rifle by herdsmen? Is it not perfidious that Islamic Scholar Sheikh Mahmoud Gumi has been moving about some northern forests, hobnobbing with bandits and demanding negotiation with and amnesty for them? Is it not puzzling that these criminals are planning to acquire more sophisticated weapons like anti-aircraft missiles and we have moved on as if everything is normal?
It is pertinent to note that the emergence of the ESN is a direct result of failure of leadership on the part of the South-East Governors. They promised to float a regional security outfit like the South-West did. But so far, nothing much has happened in that direction. There is no unanimity of purpose. They all do their individual thing and are not bothered about the general interest of the region. But be it known to them that ESN came to fill the security vacuum which they failed to fill.
The times we are in demand that everyone should be alert. There is danger everywhere. In the North, kidnapping of students has been added to the spate of insecurity in the country. The latest incident was the abduction of 317 schoolgirls from their hostel in Zamfara State. In the South, criminal herdsmen have made life unbearable. Travelling on Benin-Ore Expressway, for instance, is always a nightmare. You could see efforts by the South-West leaders to tackle insecurity in the region. A few weeks ago, Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, ordered unregistered herdsmen to leave Ondo forests. Together, the South-West governors floated Operation Amotekun. It’s all in a bid to provide protection for their people.
In the South-East, there is no central force that could galvanise action among the governors. Yes, Umahi is the Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum. But when you compare what is happening now under his leadership with the state of affairs when former governor Peter Obi of Anambra was in charge of that forum, you will see a clear difference.
All you see now in the region is clash of ego and interests. Last January, Governor Uzodimma led a delegation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) South-East Reconciliation Committee to Anambra State. He harped on the importance of returning Anambra to national politics by ensuring that APC was the dominant party in the state.
Hear him: “What Igbos need at this moment is APC. It is sad that Anambra State that should have been championing that noble cause is still in a sinking opposition. The APC must be ready to seize the initiative to win the state in the November 2021 governorship election…We need a victory in the Anambra governorship election to reconnect the state to the national grid. Victory in the governorship election will also serve as a catalyst for fast tracking the entire southeast to mainstream national politics, where we can obtain the justice we seek”
It may interest Uzodimma to know that the national grid he talked about has collapsed. And that is why there is near anarchy and darkness in the country. Special Adviser on Media to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State (an APC State), Salihu Tanko Yakasai, put it succinctly when he noted last week that the APC government at all levels had failed. He urged the Buhari regime to secure Nigerians or resign. Though the man was sacked last Saturday, his submission remains apt.
Uzodimma and his co-travellers should know that the justice Igbo seek is not joining a collapsing national grid. It is not winning election by any foul means possible. It is not sending troops to kill their people at any slightest excuse. It is taking the war to the kidnappers’ den to flush them out of the region’s forests and farmlands. It is building roads and bridges where they are needed. It is showing equity and fairness in appointments into federal institutions. It is letting the powers that be know by any means possible that the civil war ended over 50 years ago.