The November election will be a referendum on Uzodinma’s four years as governor, writes Kalu Okoronkwo
Governor Hope Uzodinma’s rise to power as Governor of Imo State marked a turning point in the state’s political course and indeed that of Nigeria as a whole. Though Uzodinma had a rocky beginning but since assuming office on January 14, 2020, he has displayed a unique brand of visionary leadership that has begun to transform the state.
While it could not be said that Hope Uzodinma, a former Senator was a greenhorn in politics having traversed major political parties including the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) where he was one time BoT member and also ran as governor of Imo State on the ticket of the Alliance for Democracy in 2003, his eventual declaration as winner by the Supreme Court in a rather controversial circumstance was a paradox that made Uzodinma’s journey to Imo Government House peculiar in a manner of speaking.
This is because Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP who polled the highest vote of 273,404 had been declared winner by INEC and sworn in as Governor while the first and second runners-up, Uche Nwosu of Action Alliance and Ifeanyi Ararume of APGA, with 190, 364 and 114, 676 votes respectively were by passed in the wisdom of the Supreme Court and Uzodinma who polled 90, 458 was declared as winner.
However, as Ndi-Imo braces for another round of governorship elections this November, the question on the lips of every citizen is whether they will have hope or lose hope in Hope Uzodinma (pun well intended) who is vying for re-election under the banner of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The electoral process is not just a contest of candidates; it’s a pivotal moment for the people of Imo State to evaluate the progress, promises, and prospects of another term for Uzodinma.
Imo State has been one of the hot beds of insecurity in the South East. On the political front, the state has had its fair share of ups and downs, but the recent events leading to the November polls have taken the political tussle to a whole new level.
Or how could one describe a state that has often been a crucible of intrigue, controversy and brinkmanship? Over the years, its governance has been marked by a series of shifting allegiances. The state of affairs in Imo State prior to Governor Hope Uzodinma’s tenure have been characterized by frequent changes in leadership, political instability, and a lack sustained progress. Imo State experienced a revolving door of governors, often with short tenures and limited impact on development.
As a political veteran, Uzodinma took office amidst a wave of expectations and anticipation. He promised to usher in an era of development: economic growth and infrastructural transformation. His administration’s key focus areas included education, healthcare, job creation, and security.
However, observers of the political developments in Imo State believe that the gubernatorial election in November is a referendum on Uzodinma’s four years as Governor of Imo State.
One of the central issues that will influence the decision of Ndi-Imo is the state of infrastructure. The Governor had promised aggressive infrastructure development with emphasis on roads, healthcare and Education. Many abandoned roads by previous administrations were re-awarded and completed.
The verdict on his performance in this regard will largely determine whether Ndi-Imo will continue to place their trust in him or explore alternative options. His commitment to improving the state’s infrastructure is evident in the numerous ongoing projects aimed at enhancing the lives of Imo State’s residents. This is also true owing to what his administration have termed “Three and Half Years of Profound Change in Imo State”.
While addressing the elders of the state in a forum recently, Uzodinma gave a scorecard of his road infrastructural program in the state. He said that he was barely two weeks in office as Governor when some people started shouting about the poor state of roads and related infrastructure in the state. “How they expected me to right the wrongs of the past within just one month was baffling me” the Governor said.
But on a second thought, Uzodinma said he understood the frustration of the people regarding the road situation in the state, noting that from MCC road, to Port Harcourt and World Bank roads, the story was the same. Governor Uzodinma said that with the issue on ground, he didn’t need anyone to tell him that the compelling and immediate needs of Imo people included motorable roads.
For the records, Uzodinma is said to have delivered more than 100 good and quality roads measuring thousands of kilometres across the length and breadth of the state while more are under construction. While all roads done by the Imo State government cannot be mentioned here for want of space, there is what the government have described as the signature projects. These included the Owerri-Olu and Owerri-Okigwe dual carriage high ways which were commissioned by former President Muhammedu Buhari.
Other roads completed are the MCC, Chukwuma Nwoha and Toronto roads, all dualized. The Governor listed other major roads under construction to include: Mbaise-Obowo-Umuahia road, Orlu-Mgee, Akokwa-Uga roads among others. Indeed, Governor Uzodinma’s intervention in road construction within his short time as Imo Governor is commendable especially given initial obstacles and weight of expectations that trailed him from the first day in office.
The issue of job creation is another aspect that will weigh heavily on voters’ minds. Uzodinma’s administration promised to tackle unemployment through initiatives that will stimulate the economy and provide opportunities for the youth. The upcoming elections will reveal whether Ndi-Imo believe that the governor’s policies have successfully translated into job opportunities and improved livelihoods.
However, to underscore the governor’s commitment to bring his promises to the people of the state to execution, he has in the past two and half years, revitalized the once moribund Adapalm Nigeria Limited at Ohaji Egbema, Oguta and presently the company has not only started operating at its normal capacity, it has recalled several workers, employed new ones and currently produce about 200mt of palm oil daily.
A major boost to Hope Uzodinma’s visionary leadership in creating jobs directly and indirectly to the people of Imo State is the recent plan of dredging the Oguta/Orashi River to the Atlantic Ocean, a project that has been described by many as insightful. The ultimate goal is to have a seaport in Oguta and when this materializes, the economy of the state and that of the South East will surely receive a boost.
The President of Imo state Amalgamated Marketers and Traders Association, ISAMATA, Emmanuel Ezeanochie, said: “It is a very wonderful project. In the entire southeast region, there is no seaport. We are landlocked. As people known for commercial activities, it will be of great importance to us. We need the seaport to bring our business and goods to Imo State. This project will open up businesses for the people of the South East zone”.
Former Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo also lauded the plan to dredge the Oguta/Orashi River as an economic transformation project, describing the effort as a game changer for the government of Governor Hope Uzodimma and the people of Imo State.
It is therefore saying the obvious that Hope is really bringing hope to the people of Ndi-Imo. Imo State has also become one of the few states to key into the digital economy of the federal government by establishing an agency of government to ensure that digital literacy in the state is increased among the people. This will help to create massive jobs and wealth among the youth in the state.
Recognizing the importance of education, Uzodinma has launched several initiatives to improve the quality of education in Imo State. He has invested in school infrastructure, provided scholarships, and sought to enhance the state’s educational curriculum, as first step to his education reform of the state.
However, it’s not just about promises and policies. Governance is a multifaceted endeavor, and issues like security, healthcare, education, and social welfare will all contribute to the overall assessment of Uzodinma’s performance. The perception of transparency, accountability, and the handling of public funds will also play a significant role in shaping the narrative around his candidacy.
As the election campaigns unfold, the competing candidates will present their visions for Imo State, further fueling the debate on whether Ndi-Imo should place their hope in continuity or explore new leadership. Ultimately, the decision lies with the electorate.
As political rallies and debates intensify in the coming months, Ndi-Imo will weigh the options before them. They will engage in conversations, discussions, and reflections on whether they should continue to have hope in Governor Hope Uzodinma or seek a different path for the future of their state.
Uzodinma’s opponents are not to be underestimated. They include influential political figures, each with a dedicated support base and a deep-seated desire to unseat the incumbent governor. They include Senator Samuel Anyanwu-PDP, Major General Lincoln Ogunewe-AA, Senator Athan Achononu-LP and Anthony Chidiebere Ejiogu-APGA among other contestants.
The political climate in Imo State is highly charged, with rallies, protests, and legal battles becoming commonplace. The opposition is said to be determined to prove that Uzodinma’s government did not reflect the people’s will. Having adroitly edged out former Governor, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, who would have been a formidable challenge, political watchers of the development in Imo State believe that Hope Uzodinma will emerge victorious, but the journey will not be anything but smooth.
However, one needs to applaud Governor Uzodinma on how he has remained calm and resilient throughout the political storm that ushered him in his first term as Governor. His determination to weather the political storm and serve the people of Imo State earned him both staunch supporters and vocal critics.
As the November polls approach, the political climate in the state will remain charged as Uzodinma’s opponents will see the election as an opportunity to unseat him, while on the contrary he is viewing it as a chance to consolidate his leadership.
The campaign trail will be marked by fierce competition, impassioned speeches, and intense voter engagement. The people of Imo State, keenly aware of the importance of their votes, will turn out in large numbers.
While Governor Hope Uzodinma’s visionary leadership has already borne fruit in Imo State, there are still challenges to overcome. As the state continues to grapple with issues such as insecurity and unemployment, Uzodinma’s commitment to inclusivity, dialogue, and development will begin to bridge these gaps.
A new dawn of visionary leadership under Governor Hope Uzodinma has indeed replaced elusive governance in Imo state. His dedication to improving infrastructure, education, and the overall well-being of the people has started to reshape the state’s landscape. As Imo State eagerly awaits the forthcoming gubernatorial election it is the hope of many that the visionary leadership exemplified by Uzodinma will sway the people in giving him a new mandate. In the midst of political turbulence, the people of Imo State have found a leader who seeks to make their dreams for a secure and prosperous state a reality.
Okoronkwo is a leadership and good governance advocate and writes from Lagos