By Martin Okorowu,
It was Harold Geneen who told us that; it is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises-but only performance is reality. And I for one agree with him because feelings and perception cannot be measured. They are not metric. That you feel in a certain way about Mr. A and have a perception about Mr. B does not in anyway give a clear lead as to whether their individual performances on a venture portends progress, growth or retrogression. You have to use numbers, data and statistics.
The unemployment rate of Imo State – Nigeria according to the NBS stood at 48.7% as at the second quarter of 2020, and is by far the highest when compared to any other state in the country. Imo State is largely a civil service town and has been unlucky with state governors over the last 20 years. Private sector jobs are hard to come by in the serene state with most industries setting up show in nearby cities like Aba, Port Harcourt, and Onitsha. According to the data, 75.1% of the total employable people in the state are either underemployed or unemployed.
How did Imo get here?
Those who clearly understand where we are coming and is very sincere about what is currently ongoing in Imo will agree with me that Gov. Hope Uzodimma had conducted a deep research and study on the anatomy and physiology of our economic woes as a people, and has drawn up a road map to rekindle hope for us prosper. He has made sure Imo is admitted into a health care facility and taken to the theatre and he is gradually operating on her.
Some Imolites may suffer amnesia, but I know for sure that we are coming from times our fathers and mothers were coerced to sign undertakings never to demand for their pension arrears, had their salaries and pensions slashed for 40% and at times 70% with distorted payments, over 2 years pensions unpaid, no death benefits (gratuity), no promotions, issuance of dud cheques, covet of public facilities for private use, disobedience of numerous court orders, china roads and substandard projects littered all over, no industry, no enterprise, award of fictitious contracts to companies situated at Ugbelle street and the likes with huge financial attachments, misappropriation of bail out funds and other Federal Government intervention largesse, lip service to Agriculture, non payment of counterparts for donor agency projects, neglect of health care, over N199Bn debt profile amongst others. For a state that respires on civil service to pass through this, it was complete state of hopelessness. I clearly understood it.
We were coming from a condition of hopelessness and despair till the 14th day of January, 2020 then came that judgement that signposted the rejuvenation of hope and prosperity for Ndị Imo. After the melodramatic Supreme Court review episode championed by the PDP, Uzodimma quickly picked up the surgical blade, he sliced open the belly of our civil service system, confronted headlong the decades of payroll fraud, blocked the loopholes and introduced the automation system for payments of wages, salaries and pensions heralded by the Imo State Data Management Centre, commenced trainings for our civil servants, provided coaster buses to aid their transit for better service delivery, purchased brand new officials vehicles for permanent secretaries and Judges, commenced payment of the new minimum wage with level 1-7 officers. He also with the input of the House of Assembly abolished the huge benefits for former governors, deputy governors and speakers. While at this and in recognition of the glaring fact that there was no good or passable road in the metropolis except for two or three roads at the time he took over power. How shameful?
Hope Uzodimma commenced reconstruction and rehabilitation works on the roads in Owerri, tackling flooding with reckless abandon evident in the desilting of our man holes, lake Nwaebere and introduction of the balloon technology around MCC, Dick Tiger, Chukwuma Nwoha axis, one can boldly say today that street flooding in Owerri is now a thing of the past. Then came the pandemic – COVID-19, it sure did strangulate our economy, but Nigeria was quick to recover even to the surprise of the entire globe. Most of the internal ring roads in Owerri municipality were delivered during the lock down even with Internally Generated Revenue just averagely in the neighborhood of 1Bn per month. I saw hunger for results in him and eagerness to succeed.
Uzodimma’s road revolution in Imo became very visible to the blind and audible to the deaf and metamorphosized into myriad of acceptance, accolades and commendation from different corners of the Country. President Muhammadu Buhari virtually commissioned some roads, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was in Owerri to commission road projects and participated in the Thanksgiving Day Celebration of his one year in office. The President of the 9th Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governor’s forum were also in Imo on different occasions to celebrate the transformation ongoing in the state. The ovation was high and Uzodimma remained resilient, then came the ‘unknown gunmen’.
The activities of secessionist group of IPOB/ESN in the state gradually heightened. Attacks witnessed in Imo could be traced back to the brutal operations of these criminal elements from the killing of a young man popularly referred to as Soludo, to murder of the elder brother of the state’s Accountant General and countless molestation of individuals riding in government official vehicles in and around Okporo, Umutanze both in Orlu Local Government Area from November 2020 till early 2021. Indeed, the EndSars protest birthed ‘unknown gunmen’ and dropped the morale of our Forces. Going forward, activities of these hoodlums resulted to Military invasions in Orlu and adjoining areas. We witnessed aerial surveillance and destruction of camps of these criminals elements. The attacks persisted, INEC offices, police stations, courts, houses of government appointees were razed down and the climax being attrack on the Police Headquarters in Owerri and Correctional facilities, where over 1800 inmate were released into the streets on Easter Monday, not forgetting the gruesome murder of Ahmed Gulak, a close political ally and associate of Uzodimma which probably was intended to incite tribal crises. The series these last events surfaced the moment the state government released a White Paper on Lands and related matters that exposed the desruption of the Owerri Masterplan and conversion of public properties for private use and also the coveting reallocation of private properties to other individuals.
It was obvious that some political monsters were behind most these attacks and that it was not just about agitation for secession as preliminary investigations revealed. Imo was flaming hot, but Uzodimma had his head high to calm nerves and restore sanity. Security of lives and property remains number one priority of Government and the Governor rose to the occasion even as projects remained ongoing while he went ahead with consultations, signed into law a bill for establishing a vigilante or local security apparatus, provided more logistics support for our security agencies and of course they could not have failed us and today, calm has returned. Nightlife have since resumed. One with God is always the majority and it will gladden my heart the most that those behind all of these attacks that kept us restless and unsettle are exposed and made to face full weight of the law. Meanwhile, mop up operations are ongoing with intelligence and there are no jokes at all as to the approach of our Forces to combat crime and violence.
The importance of infrastructure cannot be over flogged in a society like ours. While unemployment has direct effect on crime rate, infrastructure has direct relationship with job creation and ease of doing business. The government cannot absorb everybody into her agencies, that is why a populous nation like ours must continue to invest in infrastructure. Our farmers must transport goods and services, our businessmen and women must ply our roads, rails and water to transact. Our hospitality industry and entrepreneurs in Imo cannot thrive on broken roads and bridges, our public service system must function appropriately and workers deserve their pay.
On education, he has recovered K.O Mbadiwe University, long commenced the construction of Imo State Polytechnic, Omuma in Oru East, almost concluded execution of the take off of Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Science in Umuagwo et AL and just last week, he implemented fully the financial autonomy for the state legislature.
On Human Capital Development, he set up a Ministry of Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship that trained the 15 000 young people in Imo in various vocations in collaboration with Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Office of his Special Adviser on Youth Affairs and just yesterday, the 15 000 beneficiaries of the Youth Empowerment Program have started receiving a startup seed capital of N250 000 each as part of government’s social intervention measures to flatten the curve of the negative effects the pandemic on MSEs and also is a good jump off point for startups in the state. This sort has never happened in Imo before and there are no doubts as to the positive multiplier effects this gesture with trigger in the coming months.
Uzodimma does not appear to have come to grow or become richer than the state, what I see is an experienced political surgeon who has identified need to fix basic infrastructure and has a burning desire to bequeath solid and quality projects to Ndị Imo that will benefit generations to come and better our socioeconomic circumstance, so that our land can be safe heaven for investments and wealth creation.
Hope is performing creditably well.
Odii has put on his white overall crested with the 3R agenda of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery and he also has his gloves on. He has long entered the theatre to operate on the eastern heartland and we all have to be his Nurses now by joining him in the theatre to assist him. Its either you get us cotton wool or you help dispose used ones. This is not the time to romance with mischief, fake news and blackmail, Hope means business. If you can’t provide any surgical equipments nor stay close to observe the operation for our economic prosperity, just make sure you not outside the premises of the hospital because from all indications it shall be a successful operation. Ụzọ anyị adịwala mma.
Imo is on the path to progress and prosperity.