Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji, was the Global Coordinator of the Buhari International Group (BIG) in 2019 and conceptualized the seminal GoBigNigeria.com campaign for President Buhari’s reelection.
He is also the Executive Director of the US-based African Writers Endowment (AWE). In this interview, Dr. Ugorji spoke on various issues including the recent judgement by the Nigerian Supreme Court that awarded the 2019 governorship election to APC’s Hope Uzodinma.
How do you feel about the recent judgement by the Supreme Court wherein Senator Hope Uzodinma of your party was declared the real winner of the 2019 governorship election?
At this stage in my life I make efforts to be authentic in my reactions and views about events that concern all of us. Like many Nigerians and Imolites, I was shocked about the Supreme Court ruling. As a democrat and a rule of law kind of guy, I defer to the wisdom of the Justices. The chances of judicial removal of a man or woman who has been sworn in as governor in Nigeria is very slim, hence the shock. However, the possibility of this happening could not have been lost on the political players in the state. You never know for sure what will happen in court and that’s why ethical lawyers cannot give you any guarantees. If anyone was at slumber regarding the possibilities, Rev. Ejike Mbaka woke us all up ahead of the judgement.
After the shock, what do you see as the implications of the ruling?
In this case, there are several dimensions to my reaction.There are the personal, the parochial, the partisan, and the public policy and governance aspects. On the personal and parochial dimensions, full disclosure demands that I remind you that I am from Mbaise in Imo East Senatorial Zone of Imo State. The history of governance in Imo State suggests that quite a number of highly qualified men and women from Imo East who had ran for governor of the state over the years, lost out due to one intrigue or another. So, to see another Mbaise politician lose out again raises mixed emotions. On the partisan dimension, I am a committed and loyal APC member and Senator Hope Uzodinma was indeed my governorship candidate. After the presidential election in 2019, I came down from Abuja to work with Uzodinma in Imo for two weeks. I attended events with him, including attending Mass with him in his town in Orlu the Sunday before the governorship election. So, of course, I am thrilled that my party is back in the saddle in Imo State, but I am also human. While I whole-heartedly congratulate the now Governor Uzodinma, I feel the pain and disappointment of Emeka Ihedioha and my Mbaise people.
What are the public policy and governance implications you alluded to?
In public policy and statecraft, it is important who the governor of a state is, but what is more important is the actual governance of the state and the policies and values that drive a particular government. The Supreme Court has spoken. What is important now is what Governor Uzodinma does with his opportunity to govern. And statecraft demands that we all do what Ihedioha admonished us to do – give to Uzodinma the same support and cooperation he (Ihedioha) had enjoyed in the seven months he was on the seat. It is already difficult to govern a highly sophisticated state such as Imo State. Governor Uzodinma will face a particularly difficult term because of how he emerged. Most important to the Imo person, however, is the quality of governance. Governor Uzodinma has an opportunity to diffuse the hard feelings surrounding his emergence by how quickly, how inclusively, and how transparently he moves to deliver on key indices of good governance. The quality of his appointees will matter – the team he puts together and how quickly he puts it together – will send either the right signals or worrisome signals. The beleaguered fabulous people of Imo deserve not just good governance, we deserve great governance.
What are the areas you think he must address quickly?
The team is job number one. There can be no overstating that point. Politics is a team sport and Uzodinma comes across as strong willed, and yet as someone comfortable with competent people around him. The very structure of government is another issue of great importance. Frankly, the last APC government in Imo State appeared to deliberately disband or diminish all institutional structures of governance in the state. There can’t be any meaningful governance without revitalizing these institutions and structures, including the civil service cadre of the state. The roads are another – Owerri and Imo State have become shadows of themselves in roads and environmental upkeep. Governor Uzodinma should, as quickly as possible, enable continuity of governance by allowing the current road contracts to proceed, even as reviews of the contracts he has ordered are taking place. Further, the security of lives and property in the region must be addressed. Education, which is perhaps our greatest thing of pride in Imo State, must be rejuvenated with dispatch. In a campaign billboard that Hope Uzodinma put up in Owerri back in 2003 (or was it 2007) when he first ran for governor, he said “Every worker deserves his pay.” It’s time for him to deliver. And above all, Governor Uzodinma should be the “Jobs Governor” for the brilliant and vigorous youth of Imo. Every creative measure must be explored to provide dignified job and entrepreneurial opportunities for our young men and women.
What should the APC do with respect to the party’s presidential ticket in 2023?
That question is an important one. Those of us at Go-Big-Nigeria plan to unveil a project I tentatively refer to as the Initiative for Justice and Equity (IJE) for the presidency in 2023. I believe that 2023, after President Buhari’s deserved second term, will give us the clearest opportunity to heal the amputated spirit of the country. The question is whether the nation will rise to the occasion or squander another opportunity for a great leap forward. Incidentally, the emergence of Hope Uzodinma as the only APC governor in the East will have a great impact in the IJE push for the presidency within the APC. We hope the same push takes place in the PDP, UPP and other parties in the country.