Given the circumstances surrounding his emergence as the new helmsman in Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodinma has been making policy statements to reassure major stakeholders, including labour unions, party members, supporters and the people that he is going to run an inclusive administration that will cater for the interests of all.
TUESDAY, January 14, 2020, was not a good day for Emeka Ihedioha. It was a day he had wished never came to pass
At about 6 pm on that fateful day, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka’s prophecy was fulfilled, as the Supreme Court delivered a judgment voiding the declaration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate as the winner of March 9, 2019 governorship poll in Imo State.
The court declared Senator Hope Uzodinma, who represented Imo West senatorial district at the National Assembly from 2011 to 2019, as the duly elected governor of the state.
As at the time of the historic judgment, Ihedioha had only spent seven months and two weeks in office. Ironically, this was at a time he was gradually gaining acceptance among the people of Imo.
So, the news of his removal from office came as a rude shock, particularly to Ihedioha. The former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives confirmed this in his reaction to the judgment.
He said: “No doubt, yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict came to us as a rude shock and surprise, considering the facts on the ground, legal precedence and clear verdict of Imo people on March 9, 2019, that returned me as governor with the highest valid votes of 273,404.”
But, in all naturalness, the sad news in Ihedioha’s camp was a joyous one in Uzodinma’s party. In the morning of Wednesday, Uzodinma’s supporters erupted in joy on hearing the Supreme Court verdict. In less than an hour, the road to the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport was jammed with commuters, as supporters of the APC trooped out en-mass to the airport, to welcome the man they described as Obu agu (killer of the lion).
The Heroes Square, where the swearing-in ceremony was scheduled to hold on the same day, was also filled to the brim. As the people waited, anxiety amounted following the delay on the part of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in issuing Uzodinma his Certificate of Return as the validly-elected governor.
Thus, people began to express doubts whether the certificate would actually be issued to their candidate; this was the expectation of Ihedioha’s group because they wanted a miracle that would have reversed the hand of the clock.
As soon as the certificate was issued to Uzodinma and that of Ihedioha withdrawn, it dawned on them that the judgment was actually true.
A mammoth crowd welcomed Uzodinma at the Sam Mbakwe Airport. Accompanied by party chieftains, including the National Chairman Comrade Adams Oshiomole, he made a triumphant entry into the state.
He was greeted in thunderous ovation by supporters shouting Onwa Oyoko, as he is popularly called by his admirers.
At Heroes Square, addressing the multitude that had waited patiently for him from 8 am to the time the swearing-in that took place at about 7.21 pm, Uzodinma pledged that the rule of law and the independence of the three arms of government would be adhered to by his administration.
Uzodinma who was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) also promised that his administration would be anchored on the five cardinal policies and programmes of three ‘Rs’ – reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery.
He also directed the accountant-general of the state and the permanent secretaries to forward to his office details of contracts awarded and the payment pattern since May 29, 2010, to him for perusal and necessary action.
He added: “My government shall be a faithful covenant between the people and the government. I shall execute, with utmost diligence and fidelity, the five cardinal programmes of my administration anchored on the three ‘Rs’ of reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery to ensure prosperity for everyone.”
The evidence on the ground indicates that Imo State requires fundamental reform to forge a new trajectory. Uzodinma needs action that will endear him to the people.
To this end, Uzodinma has started well with his first key appointments: that of the Secretary to the Government, Cosmas Iwu; Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, COC Akaorisa; Chief of Staff, Nnamdi Anyaehie; and Chief Press Secretary, Oguike Nwachukwu.
Also of note is the decision of the governor to continue with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of about 25 critical roads Ihedioha started, including five federal roads.
Ihedioha said he has spent about N40 billion on the roads. It is a wise decision to continue with the ongoing road construction project across the state.
Apart from electricity, roads have been a major problem in the state and any administration that focuses on the construction and maintenance of roads will definitely win the hearts of the people in the shortest possible time.
The governor’s decision to establish an Economic, Development and Rehabilitation Council (SEDARC) to provide a remedial framework and templates to redress the chronic fiscal and infrastructural deficits militating against the state was also seen as a welcome development.
He said: “SEDARC shall address key economic challenges of the state, including abandoned roads in Owerri, Orlu, and Okigwe metropolis, the collapsing bridges, the abandoned Otamiri water scheme, etc.”
The governor’s meeting with organized labour and his promise to partner with them was equally applauded as an indication that the administration will continue with the biometric database installed in the 27 local government areas to capture all the retirees for the purpose of ensuring regular payment of their pensions. Uzodinma who received labour unions at the Government House Owerri recently assured them that he will promptly pay salaries and pensions and that he will make the new minimum wage a top priority.
The governor solicited for a partnership with labour, assuring the delegates that he has come to serve the people with utmost sincerity.
He also directed the committee set up for the new minimum wage to liaise with the Secretary to the Government and come up with their report for quick implementation.
He said: “I am not going to joke with payment of salaries and pensions, by the 26th and the 27th of every month, salaries must be paid completely. The era of unnecessary deductions is over; we must return the civil service to function and create the necessary checks and balances.
“If in the next one year, the narratives have not changed, people can now talk but you must give me a chance. I know I will not fail.” These are assurances people of the state need now.
But analysts say the governor should also exercise some caution so that he would promise only what he can deliver. “Once a promise is made, he must ensure that it is kept, as it can easily change people’s perception of the person who made the promise,” one of such analysts said.
Observers also caution the governor to avoid the pitfalls which Ihedioha fell into during his brief stay in office. Ihedioha reportedly dumped some of those who fought for him during the governorship election and in their stead appointed spent politicians.
The thinking in some quarters, however, was that he wanted to use the old brigands to build grassroots structures, in readiness for a re-run election, in the anticipation, that the court would order for one. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not follow that permutation.
Some political pundits also advised the new governor to commence the process of reconciliation within the ruling APC, so as rebuild the damaged relationship in the party.
It was such tendency gave the governorship seat to the PDP in the first place. Ordinarily, the APC could have easily won the governorship with the popularity of the former Governor Rochas Okorocha, who is now a senator representing Imo West district.
Everybody wanted to control the party out of selfish interest. Uzodinma has a serious challenge to bring all aggrieved factions together. He needs to forge a new partnership with key stakeholders to get the majority he needs in the House of Assembly and commence the great task of building a new Imo State.
His policies should be defined by the common will of the people, in which equity, justice, freedom and the rule of law would prevail over impunity and executive recklessness.
This is the essence of good governance because democracy without good governance is nothing but a mirage.
During his maiden broadcast, the governor said he believes that every man, woman, youth and child of Imo State is a stakeholder in his vision of a new Imo State.
His words: “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.”
On the governor’s recovery policy, he said SEDARC shall fully identify, locate and recover all missing public assets, as well as coordinate a forensic investigation into the state finances and determine the veracity of the huge public debts estimated at over N200 billion, as well establish the net-worth/balance sheet of the state government as of January 13, 2020.
He added: “SEDARC shall also recover all illegally acquired private lands, estates by government or its agents and return them to their rightful owners.”
In addition, he said his administration will abolish all forms of unconscionable, “Imperial” taxes, levies, and fees other than that established by law which its applications shall not impoverish the citizens. The masses are waiting anxiously to see the implementation of the enunciated policies.