Hope Uzodimma happened to Imo State with a mission. He summarized his mission in three words: rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery. He speaks of these as a “government of shared prosperity” for the Imo people. His expression of these has so far seen him focus on rehabilitating, reconstructing and recovery of public infrastructure and assets. And that’s the reason for this.
Recently, the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) announced that the Imo State governor had settled a N1.6 billion debt for which a footwear manufacturing company in the state, Standard Shoes, owned by the Imo State government, went into receivership. The payment of the debt effectively returned the company to Imo State. Following that, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) also announced its readiness to return to Imo State to continue from where it left off. These are two significant developments that positively impact the development trajectory of the state, and stand in line with the administration’s mantra of recovery and rehabilitation.
For emphasis, the shoe company was incorporated in May 1974 and had played a huge role in job and wealth creation in the state, until it was mismanaged and pushed into debt. The company shut its production lines in 2009 due to a lack of working capital with accumulated debt leading to AMCON’s take over in 2011. Imo governments before Uzodimma showed a lack of will to offset the debt and bring the company back. The bad fate suffered by the company impacted negatively on the states. It costs the state a lot in jobs, earnings, and taxes losses. A previous government in the state had, rather than seek to rehabilitate the company and make it serve its purpose, even when the focus had shifted into manufacturing for local consumption and export, with high demand for Nigerian footwear brands in the West African market, sought, instead, to completely erase the company and convert its headquarters in Owerri, into a private estate. A public outcry saved it.
Following that feat, Governor Uzodimma further indicated that SPDC has agreed to return to Imo state. SPDC left Imo state in 2019 due to insecurity. At the time, it was working on a multi-billion naira oil and gas project listed as the Assa North/Ohaji South Gas Development Project which has a potential of 300 million standard cubic feet of gas per day with about 950 direct jobs and over 2500 sub-contracting and ancillary jobs which value was in excess of N1.6 billion. The Assa North/Ohaji South Gas Development Project is also said to be one of the largest domestic gas projects in Nigeria. But, it was abandoned for reasons of insecurity after SPDC workers suffered several attacks on site. The project was estimated for completion in 2023. After four years of absence, it simply means that the completion date will be pushed forward by four years, or more.
The implication of the absence of SPDC from Imo state is huge. Beyond impacting negatively on the economy of the state and community development through loss of direct and ancillary jobs and revenue, the vacuum it created also led to the rise in illegal oil exploration activities which were the major cause of the oil pipeline fire that killed over 100 people at Abaezi last April. I am told that such illegal oil exploration activities also led to the creation of cult gangs, sponsored by some political actors, which violently engaged each other for control of illegal oil wells and illegal refining platforms.
Recovering the company from AMCON, Gov. Uzodimma said: “…I assure you that we are going to revive the industry by employing our young men and women to stimulate industrialization in the State. The people will be happy to see the industry come back to life.” Imo people trust Uzodimma to do just that. He has proven that it can be done. It is about his promise to recover and rehabilitate. It is also about his mission to reconstruct and rebuild Imo state.
Before these, Uzodimma has shown seriousness in road recovery and rehabilitation. He has dutifully recovered the Owerri-Okigwe road which is about 59 kilometers (massive work is still ongoing) as well as the Owerri-Orlu road which measures about 24 kilometers (nearing completion). He has also begun recovery and reconstruction of the Owerri-Mbaise-Umuahia road which measures 46 kilometers and the Orlu-Mgbee-Akokwa road measuring 22.1 kilometers. Both roads, according to the governor will be reconstructed to become dual-carriage expressways with drainage systems and street lights. This is besides other major road infrastructure scattered across the state, which the governor had recovered and either rehabilitated or reconstructed.
While I agree that good governance is not only about roads and bridges, I also agree that roads and bridges are about very significant physical deliverables that the people relate to because they have a direct bearing on their economic activities by way of facilitating commerce and trade. However, security is also a very significant outcome of good governance -t has been a challenge in Imo state. But, the biggest statement about the improvement of security in the state is the decision by SPDC to return to Imo. Whatever the governor did to achieve the return by Shell, is a very significant step forward for the security of the state. It also aligns with Uzodimma’s governance thrust of rehabilitating public infrastructure that would add great value to the economic growth of Imo state and improve the economic wellbeing and living conditions of the people. These include strategically focused action on de-flooding Owerri and adding value to properties in flood-prone areas like Works Layout and Chukwuma Nwoha Street. It also includes rehabilitating the Owerri Water Works and ensuring that residents of the town served by the facility have clean drinking water. This also affects the upgrading and re-tooling of primary healthcare centers across the state.
The fact here is that Uzodimma is focused on delivering on his mandate irrespective of how anyone views it. He has shown competence in the governance and management of the state. It is, therefore, immaterial that someone does not like his face or skin colour, or height. It is also immaterial that some persons do not love him or the circumstances of the development of his political career. Those have nothing, whatsoever, to do with his competent management of the state and its resources. In reality, Imo people do not need to like him. Liking him or not liking him has nothing to do with the fact that he is competently delivering on the recovery and rehabilitation of public infrastructure. Imo people also do not need to love Uzodimma; he is not contesting for the most loved governor award. All they need to do, and should do, is to support him to deliver a new state for the good of all Imo people irrespective of political leaning. Such support has become necessary given the tendency of some persons, who, for whatever reason or gain, criminally force residents of some parts of the state to live in perpetual fear. In the end, we ought to understand that all politics is local. Uzodimma will not be governor perpetually. But, he has to serve his time in peace and for the good of the state.
So far, he has shown that the activities of criminals in some parts of the state have been ineffective in stopping his programme of action in the delivery of quality infrastructure. If, therefore, he has remained focused and unstoppable, why wouldn’t those, who seek to make life difficult for others not have a rethink and help Imo state to develop peacefully? The constant bloodshed in Imo, like in many other states of Nigeria, robs off negatively on economic growth and social developments. Those making Orlu zone, especially, unsafe for everyone, ought to begin to recover and rehabilitate themselves as well as reconstruct their mindsets for the good of all.