As Uzodimma Delays Inauguration of New Imo Cabinet…

Tony Icheku writes that close to one month after being cleared by Imo State House of Assembly, the 16 commissioner-designates are yet to be assigned portfolio talkless of being sworn-in by Governor Hope Uzodimma.

While being inaugurated for second term on January 25, 2024, Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma dashed the  expectations of loyalists and supporters when he summarily dismissed his entire cabinet. Not even a kitchen cabinet comprising strategic ministries and departments was constituted thereafter. Only the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser, Oguwike Nwachuku was spared.  But over two months into his administration, the Imo chief executive has assembled new members of his cabinet who have been screened and cleared by the  State House of Assembly and would be sworn in any time soon.

The first batch of 12 Commissioner-nominees were screened and cleared by the state House of Assembly on March 7, 2024, while the second batch of four were screened and cleared on March 24, 2024.

Uzodimma ‘s desire for a clean sweep must have been necessitated by tales of abuses of office which crept into his administration towards the end of his first tenure.

The shocking sudden dismissal, arrest and detention of former Commissioner for Lands, Mr Noble Atulegwu over allegations of land racketeering immediately after the governorship election was an indication that Uzodimma’s cabinet needed a surgical operation to weed out those who had become an embarrassment to his government.

Such mistaken assumption that the governor may not reappoint former Exco members led to an unbridled  and intense lobbying. Desperados even went as far as attempting to demarket other Commissioners-hopeful like Hon Mbadiwe Emelumba, former Commissioner for Information and Strategy.

Besides his towering academic achievements topped with an MSc in History and International Relations, Emelumba took to politics like fish to water after his journalism career.

Ironically, Emelumba’s first Constituency, the Press, specifically, some section of the vibrant community press, led the attack. Some were linked to political vendetta, while others were by unprofessional newsmen who threw ethics of the profession overboard. Emelumba’s nomination and confirmation as a Commissioner-nominee says a lot about  the  value and his contribution to the Uzodimma administration.

A former member of the Imo State House of Assembly, Emelumba’s relationship with Governor Uzodimma dated back to years before his entry into politics. And he has functioned as Uzodinma’s media pointsman for decades now, thus he enjoys the confidence and rapport with the governor.

Emelumba’s resilience and determination shone through beginning with Uzodimma’s first tenure when the Supreme Court returned him as the validly elected governor. Uzodimma stepped into a hostile political environment being that the sacked Hon Emeka Ihedioha’s PDP administration was already settling down to business. Thus  it was  fire for fire, as the very vibrant PDP Media Team began hurling salvo at the new Uzodimma administration.

The  media attack dogs coined the epithet ‘Supreme Court’s Governor to taunt Uzodimma, besides other propaganda gimmicks

It was Emelumba who weathered the negative media bombardment. And to counter the vibrant community newspapers in the State, Emelumba  also repackaged the moribund government-owned Statesman newspaper which now appears daily. His return to the Imo Exco is a testimony of his hardwork and value to the Uzodimma administration.

Other returning Commissioners whose comeback could be interpreted as a vote of confidence include Dr Chimezie Amadi, former Commissioner for Digital Economy and e-Governance. Amadi, who hails from Nwangele Local Government, coming from a digital technology background and as Commissioner for Digital Economy and E-Governance had a vision of using digital technology to enhance governance, innovation, entrepreneurship, and to train 100,000 youths, women, and people with disabilities in core 21st-century skills such as software development, blockchain, game development, and technical vocational skills. The goal is to enhance digital literacy and empower individuals for future opportunities.

Besides envisioning using technology to streamline administrative processes and make governance more efficient and attractive, he initiated the Skill-up Imo project in December 2022, to offer digital skills training in three stages – Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced.

This initiative equips individuals with essential digital skills like web design, digital marketing, and mobile app development to thrive in the modern economy. He is obviously returning to complete the programmes he initiated if he returned to the same ministry.

Hon Ralph Nwosu from Oru West Local Government is another returnee Commissioner, and it would be his third time in government, having previously served as  Commissioner for Works under former governor Ikedi Ohakim.

Nwosu is described as a goals-driven workaholic and supervised the construction of the Owerri – Okigwe expressway which was road users nightmare before the coming of Uzodimma. Another road in deplorable condition that was equally quickly completed was the Owerri – Mbaise Expressway. If he returns to the Ministry of Works, it would be to pay attention to the deplorable condition of roads in the State.

Others returnees are the Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Chief C. O. C Akaolisa; Chief Cosmas Maduba, former Commissioner of Agriculture from Isu LG; And Hon Emenike Ejikeme  Major, former Commissioner of Environment from Onuimo LG.

Hon (Mrs) Nkechi Ugwu, from Ideato North LG was former Commissioner of  Gender and Vulnerable Group. A social media enthusiast, Mrs Ugwu showed proactive leadership in her ministry and equally worked closely with the First Lady of the State to further the interests of Women and the vulnerable groups.

Two former lawmakers are also among the new cabinet including Hon Modestus Osakwe who represented Isu State Constituency in the state house of assembly. Another former lawmaker and a new face in the Uzodimma camp who earned his nomination as a result of capacity is Hon Bede Ekeh, two-term House of Representatives member from Ngor-Okpalla. Ekeh, easy going and focused, defected from the PDP to join the Uzodimma camp and emerged as the Director-General of the Hope Governorship Campaign Council in Aboh-Mbaise.

Dr Chika Abazu, from Ideato South LG is a Public Health Physician of over 22 years experience and has risen to position of a Director at the Federal Civil Service and has served at various levels with merit and distinction. He was the APC candidate for Ideato North and South Federal Constituency.

The  other Commissioner-designates are Obinna Onwuegbu,  Ihitte Uboma LG;  Anyanwu  Ezechinyere, Ahiazu Mbaise LG and Obinna Onyeocha-Evaristus , Njaba LG.

From the governor’s body language, his interest would be in completing legacy projects, finishing strong and bequeathing achievements that would enhance his future political ambition, thus his appointments would not have the “Father Christmas” imprimatur like it did in his first term when he created over 500 appointments that dug deep hole into Imo finances.

Definitely, desperate lobbyists, sychophants and political friends would find no place in the Imo state cabinet as the elections are over and the governor would be more interested in technocrats and political alliances that would enhance  delivery of his campaign promises.

Expectations for superlative performance is expected from Uzodimma. He is not only the Chairman of Progressive Governors Forum, he is also the face of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-East geo-political zone with his recent appointment as the Coordinator of the South East APC.  It is only through good governance and delivery of democracy dividends he can market the APC in the region.

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