WHY IS UZODINMA MARKING HIS FIRST YEAR AGAIN?

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Boniface Umunna argues that the governor is merely appealing to emotions of the public

Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State just rolled out an unplanned celebration in the state. We are told that he is marking his one year in office. If you have been a watcher of developments in Imo since Uzodinma assumed the reins of governance, you cannot but wonder why. The governor celebrated his first year in office in January. He rolled out the drums then. He is rolling out the drums again two months after. What has changed? Why the repeat of an old tale? How many times will Uzodinma mark his first year in office? These are some of the questions on the lips of those who have been monitoring developments in the state.

Observers have since situated the reason for Uzodinma’s action. His manner of ascendancy to the office of the governor of Imo State is the issue here. At every turn, Uzodinma is watching his back. He seems to be afraid that the crookedness that defined his declaration as governor will go bust. He does not want to be taken unawares. So, if it means repeating roles, he will not mind doing that. If it means singing the same song over and over again, he will be all for it provided it will appeal to the ears of his listeners. But the cacophony, indeed the noise that is Uzodinma’s second celebration of his one year in office is deafening. It is sending jarring notes to the ears.

As I noted earlier, the governor celebrated one year in office in January, having been sworn in on January 14, 2020. He marked his first year in office then with fanfare. He showcased his achievements, whatever they may be. But again, he is repeating the ceremony. It is believed that Uzodinma’s tactic here is to appeal to the emotion of the public. He wants to continue to appeal to the eyes and ears of the people. He wants to continuously and continually be saying the same thing all over again. He does not want any dull moment. He is afraid that such inactivity will draw attention to his controversial occupation of government house in Owerri.

This brings us to the unfinished issue before the courts over Uzodinma’s governorship. It is a well known fact by now that the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered a judgment it will not like to be cited in the country’s electoral jurisprudence. The reason is simple. The judgement was a mishmash of contradictions. It can neither be justified nor be explained away.

Let us attempt a brief recap. On 20th December, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled in a case brought before it over the All Progressives Congress (APC ) governorship primary in Imo State that Uche Nwosu was the authentic APC candidate in the March 9, 2019 governorship election in the state. The same Uche Nwosu was also the governorship candidate of Action Alliance (AA) in the same election. In other words, Nwosu had double nomination for the election in question. His dual candidature was against the law and the electoral act. Based on this infraction, the apex court disqualified Uche Nwosu from the election.

Going by the judgment of the Supreme Court, no other person can claim to have run that election under the platform of APC or AA. Curiously, Hope Uzodinma claimed that he was the APC candidate in that election. But the December 20, 2019 judgment of the Supreme Court on the said gubernatorial election was supposed to lay to rest the unattainable claim of Hope Uzodinma. It simply means that Uzodinma was not a candidate in that election. Regrettably, the Supreme Court, in a judgement that is still beating the imagination of all sane minds, declared in its January 14, 2020 judgement that Hope Uzodinma was the winner of the March 9 gubernatorial election in Imo State. Nobody understood the meaning of the judgment then. Nobody understands it up till this moment. People have continued to ask: how can someone who was not a candidate in an election be the winner of that election? Put differently: can you be a winner in an election in which you were not a candidate? Surprisingly, Uzodinma is sitting in Government House Owerri as governor on the basis of an election he did not contest. This is the strangeness that defines the governor’s occupation of Government House Owerri. That is the strangeness that underlines that judgement of the Supreme Court. The apex court itself has been ill at ease with this strangeness. It has not been able to explain or justify the judgement. The conclusion that has been reached in this is that the Supreme Court was misled into declaring a non-candidate winner of an election.

Both the apex court and the beneficiary of its wrong judgement are uncomfortable with the set-up. But while the court can remedy its wrong judgement through a review or by any other means possible, Uzodinma can only go to bed and sleep if he is disqualified and removed from the office he is occupying illegitimately. The burden is weighing him down. It is making him to act in very strange ways. One of those strange ways is his repeat of a ceremony he marked just two months ago.

Then again, we are told that the governor is showcasing projects. Those who know say that he is trying to divert attention from the real issue before us. He wants to whip up sentiments in his favour. He wants to be seen as a performing governor so that those who are asking the Supreme Court to do the right thing will stop agitating. But that is turning out to be wishful thinking. The apex court cannot inflict eternal wound on itself because of a man who has misled it. The court, in the interest of justice and fair play, will like to leave not a legacy of fraud but that of integrity and forthrightness.

Besides, the projects which Uzodinma is showcasing are not his. As a matter of fact, he has no projects to commission. One of his predecessors, Rochas Okorocha, has told him that he was only recycling his ( Okorocha’s ) projects and passing them off as his. Where he is not pretending over Okorocha’s projects, he is laying claim to the projects initiated by the immediate past governor of the state, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha. The undeniable truth is that Ihedioha initiated all the roads that Uzodinma is commissioning. Ihedioha awarded the roads and mobilized the contractors. Appreciable work had been done on most of them before his unjust removal as governor. The right thing for Uzodinma to have done would have been to acknowledge that he completed projects began by Ihedioha. But no. He will not acknowledge the man who laid the solid foundation for a new Imo State.

All said, Uzodinma is in a confused state. He is just playing to the gallery. But that is mission impossible. It is believed that Uzodinma cannot afford to lead all concerned by the nose. He can deceive some of the people just for some time. He cannot deceive all the people for too long. The Supreme Court may have been misled. But it will not persevere in its own wrong for too long.

Umunna, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja