When the Supreme Court gave the landmark verdict that moved Senator Hope Uzodinma from the fourth position to the first in the 2019 gubernatorial election in Imo State, it was evident, in spite of the dust the judgment raised, there may have been a greater power that sanctioned his emergence as governor. In an appeal, which people waited for with bated breath, except for one dissenting voice, the apex court ruled that the senator remained governor because, if the court reversed itself, it move would open a window for all sorts of calls for the court to overrule itself.
If the court had made an endless avenue for litigants to bombard it with calls for reversal, a move that diminishes the finality of error, it were better the state lived with it than issue an open cheque for it to continually review its verdicts. There must be something beyond the ordinary that has sustained that verdict, and many have attributed it to divine intervention. In my intervention on the matter, I had stated that the governor would need to apply the instrumentality of good performance to win the people. There are clear indications that the governor may, in spite of his route to office, actually portend hope for Imo State. He seems to have the audacity to tread where others have dreaded.
Truly, all odds worked against him in his ascendancy to office but the unseen hand, largely said to be divine, wanted him there. It would have been unthinkable that a state where people from one zone had virtually produced the governor since the return of democracy in 1999, but for a four-year break, would have a governor from the same zone following after his brother, as it were. But the law debars sentiments and has no respect for such political creations as zoning.
We have moved beyond the foregoing, and have faced the reality of having Hope Uzodinma in the saddle. He has come on board at a rather difficult time, when resources are dwindling, yet the person in office must meet the developmental needs of the people. Political office holders are elected to perform well against all odds, not to give excuses.
Those to whom the people have surrendered their right to govern them must think out of the box and devise means of protecting life and property, and meeting infrastructural needs of their people. In the case of Uzodinma, he went for the hard decision of addressing something that began in Lagos State, and has now become the norm everywhere, to wit, payment of millions of state funds as pensions and other perks of office to ex-governors, deputy governors, and, in some cases, speakers, who have left office. This matter began in Lagos, a fairly rich state, went to Akwa Ibom, and has virtually spread to all parts of the country. In some instances, the governors had their cars changed every year or bi-annually, houses were built or maintained and sundry other perks, as though the person were still in office. In the dying days of his reign as governor, Senotor Rochas Okorocha also fulfilled the contents of the law to his predecessors. He ensured media coverage of his handing cars and houses to his predecessors, in accordance with the law as passed by the state House of Assembly.
Uzodinma had the audacity to challenge the legality of the matter, insisting that only people who have been in public service for 10 years and above are entitled to pensions. He took a bill to the House of Assembly, insisting that the law was antithetical to the 1999 Constitution. The law as it was in Imo gave the privilege of pension and allowances to former governors, deputy governors, speakers and deputy speakers, wherein the state would spend millions on people who already live in affluence, some of who hold other offices where they are also remunerated.
Uzodinma took the bull by the horns. He acted as a politician whose godfather was himself. Some of the drawbacks of political godfatherism is that such political godsons do not have the guts to take decisions that may hurt those who put them in office. Uzodinma also hit himself, given that he would bow out of office someday and join the league of former governors, a situation that would have put him in good stead to enjoy pension and other perks. He was dispassionate in seeking to repeal the law. The speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly deserves accolades too because he led the house to repeal a law meant to fill his pockets in the future with state funds. Both leaders deserve a pat in the back.
Uzodinma looked into the crystal ball and saw that, if the situation remained unchecked, the state would expend one-third of its resources in maintaining past leaders. I do not believe, as some critics do, that the governor made the move to get at some perceived political enemies. No one cuts his nose just to spite his face, he would not be in office forever, which is why genuine patriotism can be imputed in the action. He wants to find money to meet the genuine needs of the people.
The move distinguishes him from those who rode into office on the wings of godfathers, where they cannot but revert to the godfather in all their moves. Such moves cannot be contemplated in some states because the governor would begin to count his days in office the moment he repeals such a law.