Imo State governor, Senator Hope Odidika Uzodimma clocked two years on the saddle on January 15, 2022 having assumed office as the seventh democratically-elected governor on January 15, 2020.
His predecessors were Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe, Chief Evan Enwerem, Chief Achike Udenwa, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
The emergence of Senator Uzodimma as governor is a reality that is more frightening than nightmare.
Truly, not many expected Senator Uzodimma to emerge as governor at the time he did. Yes, he contested the March 19, 2019 governorship poll which meant he could win. But placing fourth in the election after Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Uche Nwosu of the Action alliance (AA) and Ifeanyi Araraume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) gave him no chance of ever emerging the winner of the poll.
And with the apex court earlier disqualifying Uche Nwosu over his double nomination by both Action Alliance (AA) and All Progressives Congress (APC) for the poll, many thought it was all over as that verdict was calculated to mean that the APC fielded no candidate.
But against all calculations, the Supreme Court declared Uzodimma winner after computing and adding the results of poll from some 366 units in which he (Uzodimma) garnered all the votes cast and others candidates scored zero votes.
The protest rallies that ensued immediately in Abuja and Owerri were indications that the people were greatly alarmed and dismayed. At least no fewer than four rallies were held in Owerri and one in Abuja by supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to show indignation at Uzodimma’s emergence as winner of the poll from the fourth position.
As the court judgement-induced protests were ebbing down, came ENDSARS. Though the ENDSARS protest was nationwide, Imo State was not spared of its devastating effects. And as if the devastation and destruction of property witnessed during the protest against police brutality were not enough, the global pandemic, COVID-19 also hit the state.
When it seemed Gov. Uzodimma was beginning to heave a sigh of relief, unknown gunmen entered the arena and announced their armed struggle against the state in a most spectacular manner.
They bombed the Imo State Police Command headquarters and Nigeria Correctional Service Centre headquarters in Owerri simultaneously. The unidentified blood hounds chose Easter Monday of last year precisely April 5 to announce their unwelcome presence in the state.
To compound the situation, they also freed some 1800 inmates of the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre. That set the stage for heightened insecurity in the state.
There have been several attacks on the properties of individuals including the governor, his aides and government facilities in the state. Many police stations have been razed or torched. Police stations in Njaba, Aboh Mbaise, Ehime Mbano, Ihitte Uboma, Owerri North and Isiala Mbano local government areas of the state have tasted the anger of the urchins.
Security operatives drafted to quell the disturbances in the state have also extracted some pounds of flesh. Noel Chigbu, Divine Nwaneri and Oguchi Daniel Unachukwu are some of the citizens said to have been dispatched to the great beyond by security operatives drafted by the government to halt security breaches in the state.
There was also the assassination of ex-presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak on May 30, 2021 while on his way to the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport Owerri. Same day, the police killed 10 youths it claimed murdered Gulak.
Don’t forget the killing of traditional rulers namely Eze Anayo Durueburuo of Okwudor Autonomous Community, Eze Samspon Osunwa of Ihebinowere Autonomous Community, Eze Edwin Ezike of Atta Community in Njaba Local Government Area and Eze Paul Ogbu of Ihitte Ihube Autonomous Community.
Clearly, the two years of the Uzodimma administration in Imo State witnessed unprecedented bloodbath. Never in the annals of the state have her citizens been slaughtered like they were in the last two years.
Imo State used to be a sleepy even sedate enclave. It was not until recently flashpoint.
The hotspots of the South East region of the country used to be Aba in Abia State and Onitsha in Anambra State. Imo State is never known to be afire, but that is what it has become of recent.
Gov. Uzodimma has consistently been blaming the disturbances on political opponents and the citizens have been waiting with bated breath to know those who are masterminding the killings and maiming. The governor promised to name the sponsors of insecurity on January 4, this year at the stakeholders’ meeting in Owerri. But on the fateful day, he reneged on his promise to the disenchantment of many.
But before January 4, his Chief Press Secretary, Oguwike Nwachuku had issued a statement in which he alleged that some miscreants in the custody of security agencies had adduced evidence that incriminated a former governor, Rochas Okorocha and his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as financiers of the insecurity in the state.
That might have ignited the ire of Okorocha who on January 5 alleged during a news conference at his residence in Owerri that the governor was rather the mastermind of the killings in the state. According to Okorocha, the governor runs a killer-squad which is domiciled at Government House, Owerri and is made up of personnel of the Army, Air Force, Police and Ebubeagu security outfit. Okorocha claimed that the hierarchies of the army, air force and police are not privy to the use of their personnel are being deployed by the governor. Okorocha equally requested the people to demand to know from Governor Uzodimma who murdered Gulak and the traditional rulers.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba had since denied the allegation. According to Emelumba, if there was any person who wanted Gulak dead, it would be Okorocha, who still regrets the manner Gulak conducted the last governorship primary poll of the APC in the state that deprived his son-in-law the ticket of the party to contest the 2019 poll.
Though the governor and his aides say the administration has dealt with the issue of insecurity, but the kidnappings that occurred in the state on January 8 and 9, this year point to the fact that it is not yet uhuru.
A former speaker of the state legislature, Lawman Duruji and a businessman popularly known as Ezzybee were kidnapped on those fateful days. There has also been attack on Ideato South Police Headquarters. And on January 14, there was another attack on Mgbidi Police Station during which a police inspector was killed by hoodlums.
Clearly, many would have buckled in face of challenges confronting the Uzodimma administration. Well, it is to the credit of the governor that he has not buckled. His never-say-die spirit is commendable. Equally, recording some achievements in the face of the challenges is attracting commendation to the governor.
Hear Barrister Kezie Ogaziechi, the state Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Physical Planning; “In two years, you have shown extraordinary commitment to service delivery. The challenges huge and enormous but a steady hand on the plough measured and reassuring. Imo is on course to greatness.”
Ogaziechi’s counterpart in the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chief Ford Ozumba said the two years of the governor was dotted with meaningful dividends of democracy. According to Ozumba, the successes are remarkable when viewed from the prism of seemingly unending battles and sabotage from enemies of the state.
The state chapter of the APC led by Macdonald Ebere listed the achievements of Uzodimma in the last two years to include laying a solid foundation for economic development of the state, recovery of looted public assets, rehabilitation of moribund facilities like Standard Shoe Factory, Acharaubo Farm settlement, Emekuku and reconstruction of decayed infrastructure.
It is to the credit of Uzodimma that the state-owned Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe University, Ideato South Local Government Area valued at N40billion was recovered from Okorocha. Okorocha had after building the university with tax-payer’s money allotted 90 percent equity to his Rochas Foundation and 10 percent to the state government.
The APC also lauded Uzodimma for remodeling roundabouts in Owerri metropolis thereby easing traffic in the city. It is also under Uzodimma that the Imo State University College of Medicine Orlu regained accreditation and eventually graduated more than 50 doctors for the first time in 10 years.
Under Uzodimma, the following is also taking place; the dualization and rehabilitation of Owerri-Orlu Road and the dualization and rehabilitation of Owerri- Okigwe Road. The contract for the two roads is valued at N55billion.
The administration had undertaken the reconstruction of Akachi road, the reconstruction of Control Post-Ibari Ogwa Junction, rehabilitation of Dick Tiger, reconstruction of Chukwuma Nwoha road, Rehabilitation of Relief Market/Ihechiuwa road, reconstruction of Nekede Polytechnic-Ihiagwa road, Oparanozie-Amaigbo Edede Street, Imo State University Teaching Hospital Road and construction of Omuma- Eleh.
However, the opposition PDP believes the achievements recorded by the administration are pale in significance compared to the amount of money that it has accessed. According to the PDP, Uzodimma had borrowed N59billion, collected N208billion as local government and state allocations, made N24billion from Internally Generated Revenue and N10billion as 13 percent oil derivation.
The party in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary in the state, Emenike Nmeregini said it is heartbreaking that the Uzodimma administration has nothing to show for these monies. According to the PDP, the state has collapsed due to the governor’s misrule.
Obviously, the mid-term report of the administration cannot be said to be superlative or scintillating. The challenges it is facing are truly enormous. The unknown gunmen and their sponsors will do the state a world of good by sheathing their swords so that the administration could use the remaining years to provide a truly impactful governance to the people.
On the other hand, security agencies should prosecute the masterminds of insecurity in the state. If at this juncture, the agencies do not have in their kitty, enough evidence to successfully prosecute the sponsors of insecurity then, the problem of the state is insurmountable.