The Imo State governor is treading an uncharted path, writes Iheanyi Ukadike

Imo Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, is fast emerging a hero of anti-corruption. In his public engagements since January 15, 2020 when he became governor, he has chosen to tread an uncharted path: To be shrewd and prudent with the management of resources and to be accountable to Imo people. And he has kept faith with this creed in the most profound manner.

Good leaders are those who show up at the foyer of courage; who demonstrate raw audacity to create their path and follow same; not necessarily those who follow the crowd. Just like Albert Einstein once noted “the person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

In the matter of governance in Imo, Uzodimma has elected to chart a new course, away from the usual path where evil is tolerated; where known pillagers of the public till are garlanded with emblems of honour rather than prosecuted with instrument of the rule of law.

This is the context in which Uzodimma deserves commendation, not denunciation, for the exceptional boldness he has shown in the implementation of the recommendations of Justice Benjamin Iheaka-led Imo State Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Contracts instituted by ex-Governor Emeka Ihedioha.

The brief of the panel was to probe contracts awarded between 2011 and 2019 under the Rochas Okorocha administration. After months of sitting, the panel said it has uncovered fraudulent contracts worth N106billion. It recommended that those involved be made to return the money to the government. Findings by the panel showed that some of the contracts were inflated or given to non-existing companies.

The final report of the panel pointed to flagrant disregard for due process and clear abuse of the letter and spirit of the Public Procurement Act. Needless restating that this is not the opinion of one man, but the findings of a panel set up, not by Uzodimma but by Ihedioha. It, therefore cannot be interpreted as an instrument of witch-hunt by Uzodimma. Besides, members of the panel are carefully chosen persons of high moral and professional rectitude with decades of sterling service shorn of scandal. They were persons of unimpeachable character whose pedigree of integrity and unfeigned piety lent them to the job.

The genuine enthusiasm that heralded their submission of the Report speaks eloquently to the desire of Imolites to see and witness the liberation of their state from the shackles of locusts and the mob of abusers. For in reality, Imo had been abused to the point that some of the people could hardly tell they were being abused and their future brazenly stolen, a perfect case of the Stockholm Syndrome. And while the abuse and abrasion of people’s rights continued, governance took flight out of Imo. Democracy was dragged in the mud, indeed to its Golgotha and was thereunto crucified. Yes, democracy died in Imo. All the attributes of democracy as a people-centric, constitutional government namely: the rule of law, the people’s right to know, accountability, transparency et al were sacrificed on the altar of fascism as everything revolved around one family.

It was the lowest point Imo state had sunk since 1999. The opposition was effectively muzzled. Fear became the commonest commodity in the state that has heavyweights in academics, trade and commerce, science and technology. Thus, when the panel’s report was made public, it only confirmed the suspicion of the people; that their state, the beautiful Oriental heartland had been abused, despoiled and vandalized.

There was also the fear that Uzodimma may not muster the courage to implement the recommendations of the panel. You cannot blame those who reckoned that Governor Uzodimma will jettison the prescription of a duly constituted panel, albeit a Judicial Commission of Inquiry. This has been the norm in many states. Governors protect their predecessors even when the evidence is stark bare that the predecessor went into overdrive in the looting of the state or abuse of his office. Some governors were reputed to have looted not only money but also converted public utilities and property to their personal estates. That has been the normal course in the often-mouthed fight against corruption in some states.

But Uzodimma chose to be abnormal. He took heed to the wise counsel of Maya Angelou who once said that “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” In the context of Nigerian public sector leadership, being normal meant protecting the looters of the public till even when their actions directly impact on you in the most negative manner; being normal meant patting the crook on the back while punishing the innocent. Uzodimma chose to shun the normal path. In a rare show of chutzpah and uncommon courage, he set out to implement the recommendations of the panel. So far, he has not only pursued the despoilers, he has recovered what they craftly took from the state in a mindless orgy of primitive acquisition.

And Imo people are the happier for this demonstration of courage by Uzodimma. He has restored the lost totems of democracy in the state. He has by his show of courage won the hearts of Imo people. Governance in Imo is no longer about one family, it’s about the entire Imo people. It’s about development, not division of the spoils of office among one family and its adjuncts of in-laws and cronies. Uzodimma by his actions, has earned the respect of his people. Little wonder, both the rich and the poor in the state are singing his praises.

It’s noteworthy that while the Governor was pursuing to recover and restore, he did not take his eyes off the ball of development and infrastructural renewal. The massive road constructions and rehabilitations going on, the improvement of healthcare facilities, the social investment initiatives and other developments speak volumes of a leader who is concerned about his people.

In two years, Uzodimma has justified the confidence reposed in him by his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the people of Imo. Last Yuletide when this writer visited his Ikeduru home, it was a pleasant surprise that the entire state has become one giant construction site. This reality was different from the social media fallacies and falsehood being spread by some cheap recruits of some desperate and drowning politicians to discredit Uzodimma.

Yes, there were pockets of traffic snarls inside Owerri capital city and some other inter-community roads but that’s because of the many road constructions and rehabilitations going on. And commuters were happy to bear the pain because as they have seen with their eyes, not from social media denizens, Imo is undergoing Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Recovery, the 3Rs that have become the battle cry and mission of the Uzodimma government. Even the departed legend, Dee Sam Mbakwe, would be happy with the remodeling of a state he once turned to the envy of others with his peerless brand of courageous leadership.

The hired goons who had erected garrisons from where they attack Uzodimma should sheathe their sword. Howling and wailing on social media and creating imaginary pictures of doom in Imo will not help your cause, will not add value to Imo people. What adds value is development, both physical and human. And this is what Uzodimma is offering. He deserves garland for his courage, not guillotine.

Ukadike wrote from Abuja

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