By Simon Ebegbulem
January 15, 2021, is a remarkable day in Imo State. It is a day that Senator Hope Uzodinma (Onwa Oyoko) will be one year in the saddle as the democratically-elected Governor of the state. From the very moment he took his oath of office, it has no doubt been a most impactful first year in office. The coming of Uzodinma is seen as timely and divine, following the decayed infrastructure, underdevelopment and the bastardisation of the civil service by Rochas Okorocha’s eight-year administration in the state. The structure of an emperor was being laid in the state by the Okorocha-led administration and no wonder there was wild jubilation in the state after the Supreme Court ousted Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP and restored the mandate stolen from the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Senator Uzodinma.
In retrospect, January 15, 2020, will go down in the history of the state, known as the Heartland of the South-East, as the beginning of a new dawn in socio-political and economic crusading and development, as events of the last 365 days confirmed Governor Uzodimma as a leader who walks his talk. He marches on unwaveringly in fulfilment of the dreams of a greater Imo under his administration’s 3Rs mantra of Recovery, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. Uzodimma, who is from the royal family of Omuma clan, was prepared from the outset for this Herculean task; and, therefore, had a clear-cut appreciation of the challenges facing the state and how to tackle them.
Recall his campaign promise of making Imo the Dubai of Africa and turning it into an industrial hub, and, doing a dispassionate assessment of what we have going on in Imo State today, you will agree that the march to our glorious days are here. Brushing off idle distractions from the not-so-unexpected quarters, Senator Uzodimma has, of course, rolled up his sleeves in ensuring he delivers on the dividends of democracy to Ndi Imo and, by extension widening the scope of acceptability of the ruling APC in the South East. For those that fail to see the larger picture, time will tell. However, following the bitter battle in the APC between him and then Governor Okorocha and later Ihedioha, people thought Uzodimma was going to embark on political vendetta against his adversaries. But he disappointed them. He focused on revamping the economy of the state instead and declared that time to play politics was over, urging all his lieutenants to focus on development.
Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, elder statesman, opposition PDP stalwart and chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in a most recent interview: “Imo Politics, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Quest for Power Shift,” published in The Nation newspaper, gave what can be considered a most sincere, unbiased and honest verdict, one year on in the administration of Governor Uzodinma, among other issues he touched on. He said: “Today, the Imo State Government, led by His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodinma, has given political appointment to many men and women from Owerri zone. So far, in his development efforts, he has not discriminated against Owerri zone (nor any zone at that). I, therefore, appeal to him to discountenance all the attacks these groups made against him in the social and print media and face his governance of Imo State.
“These few people should change their ways and know that a governor of a state has got executive powers; he takes decision on economic and social issues pertaining to the state. I have observed that His Excellency, Hope Uzodinma, has been fair to the three zones in the state, Okigwe, Owerri and Orlu, in allocation of resources. He did not take the part of narrow-minded politicians who always try to victimise those who did not support or vote for them.”
Need we add more to the position of the respected Chief, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu? Yet, there are the unscrupulous ones, whose avowed interest remains in feathering their own nests as against serving the interest of the larger people and those of the ordinary Imolites. Even to his detractors, the achievements of Senator Hope Uzodinma in the last one year remain outstanding, including but not limited to infrastructure and economic development, manpower development, rural and agricultural expansion, and financial probity. For over eight years, our roads, both in the capital and its suburbs, degenerated and became eyesores. Or, how else would the mess met on the ground on his assumption of office have developed, if indeed Owelle Rochas Okorocha or his successor had made any efforts in meeting the needs of the people of the state? Instead, they indulged in self-aggrandisement as their hubris.
As God would have it, Senator Uzodinma is not the crying baby type. Rather than apportion blame, he took up the gauntlet and went to work, hitting the ground running. Under one year, the contract for the rehabilitation of a number of roads, including Douglas Road, Oparanozie/Edede/Amaigbo street roads, Thomas More, JP Ajaelu and Gozie Nwachukwu road, Assumpta-Owerri/Port Harcourt road/Ibari Ogwa (4.5km dual carriage way, completed), Archdeacon Dennis Road, Aladinma, Lake Nwaebere-Aladinma Ring Roads were awarded. Today, work is ongoing on the MCC/Urratta road, Dick Tiger Road, Relief Market Road and Dick Tiger balloon technology drainage site and many other roads scattered across the state.
Flowing from the cries of the people plying the Owerri-Orlu, Owerri-Okigwe roads, His Excellency decided to award the contract for the construction of that major road to the tune of over N55 billion. Those roads were death traps over the years but the Uzodinma administration had waded in to fix the dilapidated road. Aside from these are the massive youth empowerment programmes embarked on by the Ministry of Entrepreneurship. At the last count, no fewer that 20,000 unemployed youths had benefitted from the youth empowerment programmes.
In the area of economic expansion, standardisation work on the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport section began in earnest, notwithstanding the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the cry of Owerri people due to the destruction of their ancestral Eku Ukwu market by the then administration of Governor Okorocha, which led to the death of a little boy known as Somto, Uzodinma’s administration decided to build a modern market at Eku Ukwu, which would house over 3,500 shops, parking lots and other facilities obtainable in any other modern market around the world.
As we speak, work is ongoing in the project being constructed by the Amanda Group.
Politically, Uzodinma has not only made the APC a household party in the state but has taken up the challenge to turn the entire South-East to a one-party state. Several top leaders of the PDP in Imo have dumped the party for the APC and truncated the plan by the Okorocha-led administration to turn the Office of the Governor of Imo State into a family hegemony. As he earlier predicted, APC now has two governors in the South-East zone with the dumping of the PDP by Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State. Uzodinma demystified the office of the governor and handed over the party to the masses in the state. And to ensure the people of the South-East zone speak with one voice as regards the politics of the nation, Uzodinma successfully hosted the recent election of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, where renowned diplomat, Prof. George Obiozor, emerged as the new President-General. One thing that is going for him as governor of Imo is that he has not fought for his selfish interest as many people will accuse his predecessor. But he fights for issues that will benefit the masses of the state and that of the South-East in general. According to him, “the people of the South-East must key into the development strides of the President Muhammadu Buhari presidency, so we can reap from it. PDP has marginalised Ndigbo over the years; so the PDP is never an option to Ndigbo. I have spoken to most of these my brother governors in the South-East, and I am glad that they have shown interest in joining the ruling party for the sake of our people.”
Despite the fact that Uzodinma never received any handover note from former Governor Emeka Ihedioha, he has reformed the state civil where he discovered huge fraud in the salary sector, amounting to billions of naira. He has refocused the sector making it more productive. Road projects are scattered round the state while indigenes of the state are now being gainfully employed whether they have a godfather or not. Today, all the ailing industries built by the late Sam Mbakwe, such as the Shoe industry, Clay Industry, the Avutu poultry are all gaining attention. And in politics he has proved to be the generalissimo of the state politics after he led the people to fight injustice, deprivation, greedy politicians and under development in the state. So far, he has proved that Ndi Imo has gotten a man eager to surpass the records of our late governor and elder states, Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe.