Apparently realising, on assumption of office, the challenge of acceptance he faces among ‘Imolites’ and his ability to deliver the dividend of democracy anchored on the rule of law, the new governor of the state, Senator Hope Odidika Uzodinma, would appear to have gone to proverbial political drawing board to come up with unique ways of tackling the problem of perception and misinterpretation among the populace. His thinking cap appears to be sitting firmly on where it should be.
The reason for the perception challenge at the first instance arose from what transpired at the Supreme Court leading to the sack of Emeka Ihedioha. Imolites had just begun to appreciate his brief stay due to the strides he’d begun to make in the seven months and two weeks he was on the saddle as governor.
One of the fiery critics of Uzodinma’s ascension and Bishop of Enugu Anglican Diocese, Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma, said to have spoken the minds of clerics of his class, in a statement credited to him, castigated the Supreme Court’s judgment which ousted Ihedioha. In the statement, he was quoted as saying: “I am speaking the minds of most of the bishops of the Anglican Church that we are very much discontented and very much in disagreement with the kangaroo judgment of the Supreme Court on what has happened in Imo State.
“We sincerely feel disappointed with the Chief Justice of Nigeria who has not got his facts correct and we feel that that judgment is wicked and corrupt.
“We call for immediate resignation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammed. He is not qualified to head the nation’s judiciary.”
But while disagreeing with Chukwuma’s submission, another cleric from Okigwe Catholic Diocese, Rev. (Fr.) Charles Osuji, in a statement credited to him, countered the bishop’s claim, advising him to go through the facts of the judgment.
He was quoted as saying: “The coming of our governor is an act of God. Bishop Chukwuma should follow the course of making Imo people happy to justify God’s intervention in the affairs of men and make his government open to all, both Catholics and non-Catholics.”
According to him, Uzodinma has come to liberate the people of the state irrespective of creed, accusing Ihedioha of concentrating on one side of denomination at the expense of others. As the scenario was playing out, a known vocal cleric, the Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastic Catholic Province, Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, in a homily described the Supreme Court’s judgment on Imo as putting the state in confusion. He also described the Imo Assembly defecting members as ‘colourless.’
But, in realigning to show that he was prepared to restore confidence in the people politically, economically, psychologically, and socially, Uzodinma unveiled his packages about a week after he took over the reigns of administration of the 27 local government areas. He has assured that his administration would bring prosperity to the state, and solicited for a chance to actualise it.
In a maiden broadcast on Tuesday, January 21, the former two-term senator said he was determined to start on a clean slate and bring back the lost glory of the state, by building strong institutions, reforming the civil service, bringing hope to the traditional institutions, provision of basic infrastructure and amenities among others. He vowed that he should be held accountable after one year of assessment of performance.
He also backed his pledge with the assurances he gave to the delegation of organised Labour, led by the state chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Austin Chilakpu. The same occurred when monarchs, covering the representatives of the Councils of Traditional Rulers of the 27 LGAs in the state, led by its chairman, Eze Sam Agunwa Ohiri.
Uzodinma gave his word that he would pay workers N30,000 new minimum wage as soon as the committee handling it turned in its report. In order to show more commitment, the governor directed the committee to quickly liaise with the new Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Cosmas Iwu, to enhance the process and urged the work force to, in the same vein, to complement the gesture with productivity and output.
On the part of the monarchs, it was a symbiotic deal. He promised to bring honour as never before to the traditional institution provided they foster peace, unity, order and crime-free situation in the 645 autonomous communities in the state. In the security architecture, Uzodinma also directed Town Union Presidents-General in the communities to work in tandem with the monarchs to achieve peace and crime-free communities.
Uzodinma had been criticised for resolving to probe his predecessors from May 2010 till date. According to him, his directive to the accountant-general and permanent secretaries to furnish his office with comprehensive records of the award of contracts and payments made was misconstrued by a section of the media that interpreted it to mean probing the governors who served within the period (Ikedi Ohakim, Rochas Okorocha, and Ihedioha).
He was forced to clarify, saying: “When I asked for a status report from all the ministries, many people misunderstood it or assumed that the purpose of calling for that information is because I want to probe. I never said that I was going to probe anybody.
“The business of governance involves probing if need be. So, I needed that information because there is no official handover from anybody, and for me to start the work, I need to know what is on ground.”
He said since there’s been no proper handover from Ihedioha, if during an investigation and for proper accountability, there’s need to call on anyone for questioning as it deems fit, government would not hesitate to do so, but assured he hadn’t made any pronouncement to probe anyone. He appealed to the media to always obtain accurate facts and statements before publishing for credibility.
According to him: “We will start and in the course of doing our business, if there are things that require investigation, we will subject them to an investigation. My business here is to govern the people, and in the process, if there is any need for any particular issue to be investigated or probed I will do that, but let nobody begin to speak for me, because I have not said that yet.”
Dissatisfied by the state of infrastructure in the seat of power, Uzodinma stated that renovation would commence as soon as possible to enable the business of governance run without hindrance.
During his maiden broadcast, Uzodinma, reeled out his vision: “I deem it necessary at this point to address you, my dear good people of Imo State, to assure you of my commitment, totally and unreservedly, to your wellbeing and security and to acquaint you with my vision for a new Imo State where equality and the rule of law shall reign supreme.”
He recalled that the vision was uncovered last year, stressing: “About a year ago, precisely on January 11, 2019, I unveiled a manifesto of my developmental ambitions for our dear Imo State to a gathering of eminent persons. Addressing that audience, I told them that the occasion marked the beginning of a new partnership between key stakeholders and a governorship candidate. Indeed, it was the first occasion of its kind in which the governorship candidate of a political party involved real stakeholders of Imo State in sharing a common vision of where we stand in the geo-political map of our nation and where we ought to be.
“That said, I urge every true man, woman and youth of Imo State to put the past behind us, without throwing away the lessons learnt, as we forge ahead in the great task of building a New Imo State defined by the common will of the people, in which equity, justice, freedom, and rule of law prevail over impunity and executive recklessness.
This is the essence of good governance and it is my firm belief that democracy without good governance is nothing but a mirage.
“I believe that every man, woman, youth and child of Imo State is a stakeholder in my vision of a New Imo State. I therefore invite all of you to join me as partners in this new vision of a New Imo State for all Imo people, where everyone is recognized and respected as an Imo person, not on the basis of creed, gender or origin but because of his or her inalienable right as an Imo son or daughter. I strongly believe that our concept of governance, which derives power from the people, shall leverage your collective support as partners to deliver the great dividends of democracy and good governance to our people.
“My good people of Imo State, my vision of a New Imo State is predicated on freedom, security, and shared prosperity welded into good governance. The evidence on ground indicates that Imo State requires fundamental reform to forge a new trajectory.
Uzodinma recalled and regretted the devastating political and economic turmoil witnessed by the people of the state, promising to right the wrong: “We have witnessed, over 10 years now, a slow, steady but devastating loss of the core values that had defined our dear, adorable Imo State. In place of those cherished ideals, an insipid culture of lawlessness and neo-feudalism had crept into the body fabric of our state.
“The time is now to take action and free our state and her people from the stranglehold of the false religion of executive lawlessness, exclusive governance and total disregard to due process. I challenge every Imo man, woman, youth and child to hold us by the same standards and the same scales by which we judge past administrations.
“The New Imo State offers a new paradigm to redress the ripples of those years of maladministration, inexperience and outright inefficiency in public administration. The New Imo State will prove to our good people that government is not instituted to deride the people, but instead to protect citizens’ fundamental rights. Our New Imo State will restore financial discipline, entrench due process and conduct government business in the most transparent fashion. The New Imo State incorporates a new development trajectory that will harness the critical role of local government councils in downstream value-chain creation.
“In line with the provisions of the constitution, we shall urgently restore the autonomy and integrity of local government administration. Thank God therefore for the objective effort of the administration of President Mohammadu Buhari in uncoupling the local government finances from the meddlesome interests of state officials. The dynamic LG system of our New Imo State will guarantee the steady trickle down of democracy dividends to the atomized hamlets and clans of our rural communities. To actualize this, credible local government elections will be held soon.”
Uzodinma appears bent on living up to his words. This week, he handed over 18 official vehicles to the 18 permanent secretaries. The vehicles were purchased from Nnewi-based Innoson Motors. He also visited Imo State Secretariat, where he promised to do more to motivate the civil servants.