From his assumption of office as the executive governor of Imo state in January 2020 to January 2023, Governor Hope Uzodinma has continued to make impressionable footprints in Imo state in spite of the various battles he had had to confront.
First was the battle of nomination as the flag bearer of All Progressive Congress, which was heavily resisted by the then incumbent governor Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha. Okorocha was said to be so powerful that for the eight years he held sway in Imo state, he boasted of having retired all prominent politicians in Imo like Ararume, Izunaso, Uzodinma, Udenwa, Ihedioha, and Ohakim.
Okorocha bestrode Imo political landscape like a colossus and would not consult with any godfather or elder statesmen, shutting down all possible voices of reason, including even the clergy. The likes of elder statesman Engineer Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and Archbishop Anthony Obinna were completely relegated and disregarded by the leadership style of Okorocha.
It was against this backdrop that Senator Uzodinma crossed over to the APC from the PDP having himself been sidetracked by the Ihedioha group during those days of the Modu Sherif versus Ahmed Makarfi struggle for the soul of PDP.
Nigerians, especially Imolites, couldn’t have forgotten in a hurry how Senator Okorocha who was the then incumbent governor of Imo state and leader of the APC in the state, blocked his brother Uzodinma from joining the Imo APC family even after he had been welcomed with red carpet by the then Adams Oshiomhole-led leadership of the ruling party. The contempt was so loud and overt that even the APC chairman in his native Omuma ward who dared to register Senator Uzodinma into the party at the ward level, was beaten black and blue by the daredevil agents of Okorocha’s government.
Against all hostilities, Uzodinma went ahead to secure the mandate of the APC to contest the 2019 governorship election. Of course the sitting governor could not believe that anybody in the entire length and breadth of Imo state had the balls or resources to stop his anointed son in-law and Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu, from succeeding him as governor.
Uzodinma’s emergence as APC gubernatorial candidate erupted wild jubilation amongst Imolites both old and young almost akin to the jubilation amongst Nigerians about the “Obidient movement.” Not a few Imo citizens had lost hope about the dismantling of the Rochas political dynasty, until suddenly like a thunderbolt from the skies, Uzodimma came calling to restore their hope again. The jubilation and acceptance of Uzodinma emergence was arguably more because he had seemingly liberated the people from a self-acclaimed political czar who boasted of sending all his contemporaries to exile.
Uzodinma was, therefore, expectedly the toast of the political firmament in Imo, when juxtaposed with his other contestants like Ifeanyi Ararume or Uche Nwosu, the son-in-law of Rochas Okorocha. The 2019 election in Imo then became a straight battle between Emeka Ihedioha and Hope Uzodinma. Ihedioha set out from the sound of the whistle to scheme Uzodinma out of the race and use whatever contacts he had to push him far from any possible rerun. It’s a bit surprising that nobody is asking why would the same person Imo people were celebrating for saving them from the stranglehold of the Okorocha political dynasty suddenly came 4th in a free and fair election? The rest of the story is now history in favour of Uzodinma.
Be that as it may, Governor Uzodinma has never lost focus for one second in his avowed commitment to God and Imo people to deliver quality governance to all and sundry. The distractions since Uzodinma mounted the saddle are a legion, both natural and man-made. After assumption of office in January 2020, the governor had barely settled down when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The whole world was put on hold by the pandemic and Imo state was not left out by the lockdown, which lasted till around October. The state also got her fair share of the destabilization caused by the public uproar against the brutality of the Nigeria police, popularly called EndSARS.
Fast-forward to Easter of 2021 when the infamous unknown gunmen saga happened upon the state with the twin suicide attacks of both the Owerri Central Prison and the State Police Command. Over 2000 criminals were let loose on Imo soil in one fell swoop. From that fateful Easter Monday to the end of 2021 and for the better part of 2022, both the governor, his security apparatus and indeed the bandits themselves have not known any peace, even though the governor has successfully fought the bandits to a standstill.
Most Imolites have continued to wonder how the governor was still able to deliver on the several achievements, which are visible even in the midst of all the distractions and violence. The 34 kilometer road from Owerri to Orlu as well as the 45 kilometer road from Owerri to Okigwe were delivered in this unstable period with a level of quality finishing that has been attested to even by Uzodinma’s strongest critics. Even the 27 kilometers road that goes from Owerri to Umuahia passing through Mbaise is currently under massive construction by Uzodinma. His brand of politics without bitterness is unprecedented.
On other fronts, Uzodinma has continued to advance the development of the state with uncommon vigor and determination in spite of the huge distractions. Since 2020 till date, all the civil servants in Imo state have enjoyed free rides to and from work. The governor also provided brand new vehicles for all the security agencies in the state, ditto for permanent secretaries, judges and most recently traditional rulers.
Uzodinma’s prudence with public funds have continued to shock his friends and associates who had looked forward to a regime of merry making given his well known life of charity and philanthropy. He has left no one in doubt as to his avowed determination to use every kobo of Imo people’s money for their welfare and development. For the second Christmas running, the governor paid all Imo workers the13th month salary as Christmas bonus, a feat that has made their counterparts from neighboring states jealous of Imo public servants.
It is also on record that after the initial verification of salaries and pensions, no single Imo civil servant or pensioner is being owed. The few workers who are yet to be properly cleared are undergoing verification processes prior to receiving their arrears owed. Needless to mention that the government had saved billions of naira from all the hitherto leaking conduit pipes through which ghost workers and dead pensioners were being paid for years.
Little wonder Uzodinma has continued to garner both local and international endorsements including from reputable organizations like The Sun Newspaper, World Bank, UNICEF, USAID, just to mention these few.
Hopefully, with the successful decimation of the criminals pretending to be freedom fighters and with the gradual return of peace to Imo state, and also given the realization and support by most communities and persons including even the genuine freedom fighters that Uzodinma was under a politically motivated guerilla warfare, it is our the prayer of Imo citizens that the remaining 12 months left for Uzodinma’s first tenure will witness an acceleration of human and infrastructural development. We hope to see more inter and intra rural roads arrested especially within the Orlu and Okigwe townships and their environs. It is hoped that the governor will open up recruitment programs in the state civil service to absorb the thousands of young graduates in the state while growing the other programmed aimed at creating a robust small and medium scale enterprises sector which is the real catalyst for development. When this is done, perhaps Uzodinma can now genuinely present himself to his people for a possible second term, which will avail him the chance to truly deliver his vision of a rebuilt, rehabilitated and recovered Imo. Indeed, Imo will rise again!
• Wakiki writes from Owerri