With a controversial antecedent, is Senator Hope Uzodinma the change Imo seeks? Amby Uneze asks
Imo People were somewhat disorganised as soon as they heard the news from the Supreme Court in Abuja, sacking Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of the state and declaring the immediate swearing-in of Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the 2019 governorship election in the state.
The people were taken aback, because there was no inclination to enthrone a new governor as at January 14, 2020 since the people were already enjoying the foundation for good governance from Ihedioha, who was sworn in on May 29, 2019 that was targeted at rebuilding the state.
Uzodinma as the beneficiary of what people now refer to as “Abuja Connection” based on the Apex Court ruling is not new in both politics and court matters over time. He is a politician, who was elected Senator for the Orlu (Imo West) constituency of Imo State, in the April 2011 federal elections.
He ran on the PDP platform. His election was challenged on the grounds that he was not the valid PDP candidate, but on 5th May 2011, the Supreme Court declared that his election was valid.
On Tuesday 14th January 2020, Nigeria’s Supreme Court had also declared him winner of the April 2019 Gubernatorial elections in Imo State, thereby sacking the incumbent governor, Ihedioha, who had been in office for over 7 months.
Uzodimma had gone to court to challenge the election of Ihedioha and asked that they make him the duly elected governor despite coming 4th in the elections with azero assembly member, citing irregularities and the unlawful cancellation of his votes from several polling units that came from areas considered his stronghold.
But the State election tribunal ruled in favour of Ihedioha, prompting him to head to the appeal court, which in turn upheld the decision of the tribunal. Not deterred, he headed to the apex court, which gave the judgment that has since generated a heated debate, both in the news and on the social media.
The controversy nature of the judgment derived form the fact that he came a distant 4th position in the elections, behind Ihedioha of the PDP, Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) and Ifeanyi Araraume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
It suffices to say Uzodinma’s political journey became prominent in the early 2000s as a PDP member. In 2003, he ran for governor of the state on the ticket of Alliance for Democracy (AD) but did not win.
He returned to the PDP and in 2006, sought the ticket of the party to contest the governorship election but also lost at the primary poll to Araraume. Uzodinma, who was later appointed a PDP board of trustees (BoT) member, was first elected into the senate in 2011. He was re-elected in 2015.
Before 2000, Uzodinma was the youth leader of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Imo in the Second Republic. He was also a prominent member of the now defunct United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP).
He obtained his secondary school certificate from Mgbidi Secondary School, Oru West in 1982. Uzodinma claimed he has a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a diploma in transport studies. He is also a recipient of honorary doctorate from the Imo State University.
Uzodinma, while unveiling his five-point agenda ahead of the governorship election in 2019 in Owerri, accused Okorocha of bastardising the economy of the state.
He said as governor, his administration would be committed to the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the state.
“Today, I presented my manifesto to the good people of Imo State. I thank every person, who made an effort to join. The manifesto highlights my 5-point blueprint agenda for the economic survival in our dear state.
“Under my leadership as governor, our administration shall be purpose-driven and anchored on the following 3 Rs – Recovery, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation.
“In a democracy, power belongs to the people and not the other way round. Government is not instituted to deride the people but to protect their fundamental rights. I pledge that we shall be responsible and accountable to the people of Imo State,” he said.
Uzodinma is seen by his numerous admirers as a gifted leader and humble, with passion for the development of Orlu zone in particular and Imo State in general.
In all of his activities and interactions with the public, he has proved himself a person to be admired, imbued with wisdom and knowledge and in touch with the political dynamics of the country. His romance with the powers-that-be in the nation makes it easy for him to be part of the national politics.
He is knowledgeable and insightful, not only by virtue of his education, but because of his natural disposition. The ‘Onwa Oyoko’, as fondly referred to by his admirers, has endeared him to the Imo people and the people of Orlu zone in particular through his generous disposition to his fellow men.
A humanitarian to the core, Uzodinma derives joy in helping those who are in need, be they rich or poor, and does not discriminate against anyone on reason of class or creed. But whether or not he is the change that Imo truly seeks is in the belly of time.