For a lily-livered politician, the debilitating incidents of insecurity in the entire South East geo-political zone in the past couple of years would have sent any administration packing.
The alarming levels of banditry, kidnapping, including wanton killing and destruction of innocent lives and property by unknown gunmen had sent shivers down the spines of many citizens of the states – Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo – that make up the zone.
In most cases, the attackers frequently targeted innocent people, politicians, security services, government officials and facilities.
At the height of the killings in Igboland, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, cried out saying “My heart bleeds at the sad events in Igboland where Igbos are killing fellow Igbos. I am very distressed by the rate at which the Nigerian security operatives are killed not only in Igboland but all over the country. Worse still is the suspected reprisal attack where innocent Igbo sons and daughters from Mbano in Imo State have found their lives and means of livelihood completely destroyed.”
Indeed, the orgy of violent killings was spectacular in Imo State, once known as “Center of peace and land of hope” before it was changed to the “Eastern heartland.” The state literally became a theatre of war, with countless unresolved assassinations and high profile murders. There were accusations and counter-accusations of who was responsible for these heinous crimes against humanity in the state.
While opposition political parties pointed fingers at the state government, the Imo State Government on its part has insisted that the activities of unknown gunmen were largely sponsored by politicians who were opposed to the government of the day.
For instance, the State’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, dismissed all the allegations against the State government. He blamed the opposition party for the security breaches, noting that the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, was still bitter that it lost the 2019 governorship election in the State.
But in all of these, one man, Hope Uzodimma, the executive governor of Imo State, has remained resolute in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people since he mounted the saddle in 2019. And now, four years down the line, it is time to acknowledge a man who stood like the proverbial Rock of Gibraltar.
As the state inches towards the epic date: November 11, 2023, not a few Imolites, as the state citizens are often referred to, believe that the historic achievements of the incumbent Governor seeking for renewal of his mandate should form the validating criteria in the eyes of the electorate. Kezie Ogaziechi, Honourable Commissioner for Power and Rural Electrification, is one of millions of people in this school of thought.
“If ambitions are not self-serving or for ego trips, Governor Hope Uzodimma deserves a second term to consolidate on his very impressive development record even in the face of very distractive security challenges that would have unsettled many Governors. That could have been an alibi but he refused to allow the inferno to stand in his way in delivering on the 3R social contract with IMO people,” he argued.
The legal practitioner-turned-politician told this paper that in spite of the debilitating insecurity in the state occasioned by critics, the All Progressives Congress, APC, governor has remained undaunted. His words: “The governor has kept his eyes on the ball in interpreting the vision of the 3R DEVELOPMENT AGENDA, posting surprising milestones and verifiable achievements with all the bubbles of security challenges and the inherent distractions.
“He jumped across the huddles with dexterity and showed capacity for service delivery to the chagrin and consternation of naysayers. The composure in placing his hands steadily on the plough has remained his greatest tactic. Assuming he succumbed to distractions, critics would have run riot in condemnation.”
Undoubtedly, since he assumed office in 2019, Governor Uzodimma has not only succeeded in restoring democracy in the State but also ran a government founded on the democratic principles of open, transparent, accountable, and inclusive governance.
At a recent stakeholders meeting, which was chaired by Mr. Leo Stan Eke, Chairman Zenox Group and drew massive attendance from across the State, the governor recalled that in the past, the governance process of Imo State was shrouded in secrecy. Not only did Imo people not know how their State was governed, there was in fact a big wedge between the people and the government.
His words: “So wide was the wedge that those who attempted to cross it to know what was happening in government got marooned in it. I challenge anyone to produce one single document of the previous administration where it showcased its report card to the people of the State.
“It was this regrettable state of affairs that informed my resolve to run an open, transparent, accountable and inclusive government. I can proudly declare at this point that with your support we have restored democracy to Imo State, because we have restored the process of open, accountable and inclusive governance. We have banished the dark ages of government by necromancy and replaced it with the government of the people, for the people and by the people. Congratulations to all of us.”
Barely 15 months in office, key stakeholders in Imo gathered for what was dubbed a mid-term report in early 2022. Among those who graced the event were Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim, former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro, President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor, retired banker and member of the Imo Economic Summit Group, Dr. CNC Nwachukwu, Chief Greg Mbadiwe, Onyeka Onwenu and a host of others. They all commended Governor Uzodimma for an outstanding performance within a short period in office and collectively sued for peace for the government to do more.
Governor Uzodimma used the occasion to list his accomplishments across 16 broad sectors including Road Infrastructure, Security, Local Government Administration, Revenue generation, Agriculture, Tourism Health, Land Administration, Commerce and Industry and Education, among others. In the education sector, he recovered the K. O. Mbadiwe University for Imo people, an institution built and furnished with about N40 billion of tax-payers’ money.
On Commerce and Industry, the Governor said his administration had commenced moves to revamp all moribund industries in the State.
The administration has paid off debts owed to Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) by successive administrations in the State in respect of the Imo Standard Shoe Industry. The sum of N1.3 billion was negotiated down and full and final payment made.
On infrastructural development, no fewer than 90 roads have either been completed or about to be completed across the State. According to Governor Uzodimma, the infrastructural projects cut across urban and rural areas within the three senatorial zones of the state with an urban renewal program that has given Owerri the State capital a facelift.
On health, the Governor made giant strides through the provision of basic medical services in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Health sectors. The administration rehabilitated 305 health centres across the State to enable Imo people live healthier lives.
Based on the above accomplishments, the stakeholders of Imo State passed a vote of confidence passed on the Governor. The motion for a vote of confidence was moved by Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, National Chairman of Zenith Labour Party. Chief Nwanyanwu, before moving the motion said: “I want to say that our state has been good since the governor came on board. I am not an APC member. I am not a PDP person. I have been in opposition since 1999 and I have never shifted, but when you see something that is good, you need not to pretend as if it’s not good.
“I am known in the country because I speak the truth and I’m never afraid to say so. I can see that the state is working. All we have to do is to pray for those who have eyes and have refused to see. I have not come to Imo State for the past five years, but I am happy with what I am seeing. We should call our people to come home. I want to thank you for the recovery you have made. That is the thing that has attracted me the most. I have spoken about it publicly and if that is the only thing you do for Imo people, Imo people will be grateful to you because it has never been done before.
“You have rolled out the constructions; some are completed and those that are ongoing. They are not voodoo projects. They exist. Those of us in opposition see it and we should not be afraid to speak the truth.
“We as a people need to stop what we are doing; painting a bad image of our state. Why are we not speaking out? Why are we keeping quiet? I will not run away. We should not. We did so for eight years. That is why things went wrong; because we kept quiet and we did nothing. We did not interrogate the man at the helm of affairs.
“But we have a governor now who is calling us from time to time to listen to him, that is what we call transparency, leadership and engagement. So as we leave here today, it behooves us to talk about the things our governor is doing because we believe that our state should grow. We must play our own part.
“For me, this is the midterm results of this government, even though it’s not up to two years. Because you must remove nine months of COVID-19, so this government has worked for 1 year and 3 months. I think I’m satisfied and I hereby move that this house pass a vote of confidence on the Government.”
Dr. Mrs. Dorathy Nnaji, Chairman of Imo State Chapter of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) seconded the motion with the overwhelming support of all Stakeholders.
When he clocked 40 months in office, members of the Imo Council of Elders last January showered encomium on the Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma as he reeled out numerous remarkable achievements of the Shared Prosperity Government in Imo.
Professor Maurice Iwu commended the Governor for reviving the old Igbo tradition which is Oha na Eze, where issues of the State are communally deliberated. He said that the Governor has done a great job preparing Imolites for the new world and advised him to set up an academy to re-train the citizens in digital skills.
Chief Dan Anyanwu applauded the Governor for the visible achievements in the streets of Imo State. “You have satisfied some of us who were afraid if you will deliver and you have delivered beyond our satisfaction. The internet tigers have been subdued by your performances,” he said.
The Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province Communion, His Grace Archbishop Onuoha commended the Governor for sponsoring 1000 Imo people to the Holy Land with other numerous remarkable achievements in the State after more than ten years of the state not participating in pilgrimage.
While highlighting the achievements of the Shared Prosperity Government, Governor Uzodimma announced the recruitment and training of 10,000 Primary school teachers in the State. He reiterated that the Imo State Charter of Equity has come to stay and he will ensure that his administration religiously adheres to the laid down principles.
Uzodimma’s achievements have continued to unfold even as his first term inches towards its end and a second term beckons. On September 27, 2023, the Governor graduated 15,000 Cohort 2 Skill-Up Imo Project students with a promise that the Cohort 3 will soon start the training of 40,000 youths on different digital skills. At the Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri, venue of the graduation ceremony, each of the 15,000 graduates was given a new HP laptop to enable them put what they have learnt into practice. The total number of youths so far trained under the Skill-Up Imo Project is 20,000.
Mr. Leo- Stan Ekeh, Chairman of Zinox Technologies Ltd., challenged the 15,000 youths to take advantage of the training they have acquired to be what God says they should be. He said that “nobody has done what Governor Hope Uzodimma is doing” in Imo State, in obvious reference to the huge investment he has made on Imo youths to turn around their fortune. Eke noted that with the Skill-Up Imo project, billionaires would emerge soon from among the graduates who have embraced technological innovations.
In what was a direct endorsement of a second term, Ekeh told the families of the lucky graduates to commit Governor Uzodimma in their prayers so that God will continue to use him to improve the lives of the people. “I am not a politician. But I can tell you this is not politics. I come from here, from one remote community here in Imo State. If I was given an opportunity like this many years ago, I would have been one of the five richest men in the world. Nobody has done what Governor Hope Uzodimma is doing in Imo,” he said.
Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, gave a thumbs up for Uzodimma and congratulated him for taking such a bold step to impact on the lives of the youths. He said given what he has seen, Imo State will emerge as the digital headquarters of Nigeria. He said that the Governor can conveniently be referred to as a Professor in digital affairs.
The Minister enjoined the graduates not to misuse the opportunity the governor gave them. He thereafter promised that his ministry will partner with the Governor and government on all areas that concern the welfare and upliftment of the youths.
In the early days of the administration, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry had led to white paper recommendations and gazettes meant to sanitize land administrations in the State. Based on the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of inquiry, Governor Uzodinma embarked on the courageous task of revoking all properties which were unjustly appropriated by members of previous administrations and returned them to their rightful owners. A total of 200 of such properties were thus recovered and returned to their rightful owners.
The judicial commission also recommended the restoration of the masterplan of the capital city. Following from this, the administration also sealed the Royal Palm Estate, which was built on a green verge with tax payers’ money. The Shell Camp Quarters containing almost 50 plots of land which were illegally seized from the rightful owners and sold or given to cronies have also been recovered and returned to the rightful owners.
Aside from security, nothing else is more sensitive in Igboland than land matters. Oguwike Nwachuku, Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to the Governor, once said that “Land matters are very sensitive and it is even more so in Igboland because our people have a sacred and ancestral attachment to land.”
Thus, in the last four years, Governor Uzodimma has paid special attention to these two areas. For a more holistic approach, on May 17, 2021, the Governor signed into law two executive bills passed by the Imo State House of Assembly. These were: “A bill for a Law to Establish Imo State Security Organisation to assist in maintaining Law and Order in the State and Related Matters therein and “A Bill for a Law Establishing Imo State Land Administration and Geographic Information Service for the purpose of regulating land administration in Imo State and other related matters therein.”
He pointed out that the two laws could not have come at a more auspicious time given the security challenges of Imo State and Nigeria presently as characterized by militancy, politically influenced violence, assassinations, attacks on police and police formations, kidnapping and other crimes. He said that the law would address the aforementioned challenges, which made the government decided to send the all-important Imo Security Organization Bill to the House of Assembly for consideration and passage.
As he explained, the objectives of the security law were “to assist the law enforcement agencies in the maintenance of law and order and to ensure that the security of lives and property in Imo State is protected” and “equally assist in preventing unauthorised persons from being in possession of firearms and also collect intelligence that will assist security agencies in Imo State to go into action and do their work better.”
Uzodimma said that the Imo State Land Administration and Geographic Information Service Law was meant to address the hydra-headed petitions and complaints about the illegal land acquisition by individuals and past administration. The agency established under the law, according to the Governor, “will be in charge of the automation of land and property information in the State with the main objective of identifying land ownership, in providing customer care experience as well as a platform for data aggregation that will enhance smart, effective and efficient governance in land administration.”
In addition to the above, Governor Uzodimma highlighted that the law would ensure a robust policy framework for effective land and property management which would bring about value to the land and property value chain. “With the signing of the bill into law, Imo State will experience a new and improved land administration,” he promised.
On June 24, 2022, Uzodimma inaugurated the Imo Land Use Allocation Committee of 11 members to oversee the processes of allocation of land in the State. He charged members of the body to discharge their duties with “utmost caution, fear of God, fairness and equity.” The Committee is headed by Barr. Innocent Oguajudike.
Other members of the Committee are Livy Oguike, Hon. Chief Hogan Achigbu, Chief Livinus Onwumere, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Survey & Physical Planning, Chief Ejike Obioma, Dr. Benneth Uwakwem, Mrs. Nnenna Iwueze, Barr. Arthur Uzoigwe, Chief Uju Okoro and Mrs. Dorothy Nwaorji.
For probity, Uzodimma told the Committee that he was not looking for any personal land for himself. He then warned: “Given our recent unsavoury history where one family took advantage of their position of authority and attempted to appropriate most of the choice properties in the state, this Committee must endeavour to restore confidence in the process of land allocation in Imo State.”
He mandated the Committee to ensure clinical execution of the recovery agenda of the 3-R Government, highlighting that the Land Use and Allocation Committee was established under the Land Use Act of 1978 and incorporated democratically into the 1999 Constitution as amended which vested the administration of all lands in the State on the Governor who “in turn performs this function through the instrumentality of the Land Use and Allocation Committee.”
The Governor enjoined the Committee to work closely with the Imo Geographic Information Science (IGIS) to ensure that allocation and acquisition of land in the State follow laid down rules and in line with the State’s master plan.
Given these achievements under serious security threats, Uzodimma is confident of victory in the forthcoming governorship polls. On Sunday, August 27, 2023, at the second edition of the Orlu Zone Development Forum Summit held at the Nkwerre Local Government Area of the State, the Governor declared that his achievements in the last three and a half years will secure his re-election ambition on November 11.
The forum, an apolitical and non-partisan organisation of stakeholders and leaders of Imo West Senatorial District extraction, also known as Orlu zone, seeks to address issues that affect the development, progress, peace and unity of Orlu zone. The governor boasted that his administration in the last three years has fulfilled and even surpassed all its campaign promises and if given the opportunity to lead the state for a second term, he will do better and exceed the expectations of Imo Indigenes.
Participants at the summit who included Chairman of the Imo Elders Council, Cletus Iluomuanya, and former National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain, Ralph Obiora, adopted and endorsed Uzodimma, candidate of the APC, as their sole candidate for the November 11 governorship election.
Kezie Ogaziechi believes that whereas Governor Hope Uzodimma has fully delivered democracy dividends to justify renewal of his mandate, those struggling to enthrone a change of baton do not have anything to offer. “We are yet to know what they intend to bring to the table. Rather, the environment is suffused with all manner of mud, bile, conjectures, name dropping, blackmail, rumour,” he said.
And he asked: Which sensible electorate would waste votes on a contestant that has failed to enter into a social contract through the instrumentality of a manifesto that explains what to expect and how those expectations would be met?
He said, on a note of finality, that “for all he has done within such a short time, Hope Uzodimma deserves a second term.”
Indeed, Uzodimma’s one good turn, deserves another.