“Let a New Earth Rise”— Dr. Ugorji Reacts to Political Dev’t in Imo
By Obiageli Adiaso
Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji is the award-winning writer and publisher who serves as the Executive Director of the US-based African Writers Endowment (AWE). He is also an outspoken Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State.
As a scholar-activist, he served as the Director General of the Chekwas Okorie Presidential Campaign Organization in 2015. Currently the Global Coordinator of the Buhari International Group (BIG) and GoBigNigeria.com campaign, Dr. Ugorji granted an interview to this reporter focused mainly on the Nigerian Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2019 gubernatorial election in his home state of Imo.
Question: Your home state, Imo, has a new governor in Senator Hope Uzodinma, as a result of the Supreme Court ruling of January 14, 2020. Where were you when you heard the ruling? And what is your reaction to the ruling?
UGORJI: I was in Abuja when I heard about the ruling. I stopped by Senator Uzodinma’s residence in Abuja afterwards, where I met the likes of Ochudo Martin Agbaso, former Minister Emeka Wogu, Senator Ararume, and Hon. Godfrey Dikeocha. It was a huge surprise. It is rare to see a judicial removal of a governor in Nigeria. I fully respect the wisdom of the justices. And in all sincerity, the ruling raised mixed emotions for me nevertheless.
Question: Mixed emotions? How so?
UGORJI: It is personal, political, and a matter of consciousness. I am from Mbaise in Imo East Senatorial Zone of Imo State. To say that we in Imo East have been short changed over the years in terms of opportunities to serve in the highest executive position of the state, is to say the least. And yet to see my party, the APC, get back to government in Imo State, elicited a pleasant emotion.
I am a committed and loyal APC member and I worked with Senator Hope Uzodinma during the last two weeks of his campaign for governor in 2019. After we worked and saw President Buhari reelected, Senator Uzodinma asked me to postpone my flight back to the US in order to help him out in Imo State, where the state elections took place about two weeks after the presidential election. I attended events with him, including but not limited to a special Mass on the Sunday before the vote.
Question: Are you hopeful for Imo under Governor Uzodinma?
UGORJI: I am an eternal and incorrigible optimist. More important than who the governor is, is how the state is governed. Once the political struggle of elections is over, the policies and values that inform the government’s actions looms much larger. Governor Uzodinma must make the best of his opportunity to govern, for the sake of all of us. Patriotism and statecraft demands that we all do what the urbane Ihedioha has asked us to do, which is to give to Uzodinma the same support and cooperation he (Ihedioha) received while he served.
Perhaps more than in most states, the electorate in Imo is highly sophisticated. This makes governing the state an extra-ordinary challenge. Governor Uzodinma comes amidst a headwind of sorts, but he can navigate this challenge by how quickly, how inclusively, and how transparently he moves to deliver on key indices of good governance. The quality of his team will send either the right signals or worrisome signals. We deserve and are long overdue for great governance in Imo State.
Question: Do you have any recommendations for Governor Uzodinma?
UGORJI: Setting up a credible team to work with him, is going to be task number one. Politics is a team sport and Uzodinma will need a strong, credible team. He also needs to address the fundamental structure of government. There can’t be any meaningful governance without returning these institutions and structures to points of glory and competence, especially the Imo State civil service. He’s got to tackle the shameful and dangerous road networks. While the reviews of contracts he has ordered is going on, Governor Uzodinma should, as quickly as possible, enable continuity of governance by allowing the current road contracts to proceed.
Further, the security of lives and property in the region must be addressed. Education, which is perhaps our greatest thing of pride in Imo State, must be rejuvenated with dispatch. In a campaign billboard that Hope Uzodinma put up in Owerri back in 2003 when he was the AD candidate for governor, he said “Every worker deserves his pay” or something to that effect. It’s time for him to deliver. And above all, Governor Uzodinma should be the “Jobs Governor” for the brilliant and vigorous youth of Imo. Every creative measure must be explored to provide dignified job and entrepreneurial opportunities for our young men and women. I would like him to attract Nollywood away from Lagos to Imo.
Question: What position would you accept in the new government if offered by Governor Uzodinma?
UGORJI: I am not keen on a government position. What is more important to me is how Governor Uzodinma addresses the aggrieved people of Imo East from where Ihedioha hails. There must be magnanimity on his part. There is a wound that needs to be healed by my party. I want him to do our state and our party proud with the most positively impactful government the state would have seen. With no known political godfather, Governor Uzodinma has a relatively free hand to reshape the image of the APC in Igbo land and a unique opportunity to redeem the battered image of the party in the state by providing great governance. Let a new Earth rise!
Question: Are you saying that you will turn down an appointment if the governor invites you?
UGORJI: I am saying that I have my hands full with quite a few nation building projects at this time. Home is where the ancestors know your name. Imo State is home. So one will always respond to calls from home. However, my preference is to contribute through the two NGOs I have set up in Nigeria. I would be delighted to have my NGOs collaborate with the government in human capital development, job creation, environmental protection, and educational excellence in the state. But after over 30 years of public administration in New Jersey, I am not keen to join another state government in an employee status.
Question: What are the NGOs you said you have set up?
UGORJI: One is known as Organizing For Opportunities (OFO), an educational foundation committed to human capital development, environmental protection, community organizing, and the establishment of an Africa-centered youth leadership academy.
The other is known as Go-Big-Nigeria Foundation. This entity started off as an informal group that supported the reelection of President Buhari in 2019, working with Governor Amaechi and Barrister Keyamo, SAN. Among other reasons why we supported PMB’s reelection, we believed that after his second and final term, our nation will have a date with destiny in 2023. I believe that 2023 should see the return of the missing leg of the tripod in Nigeria’s national leadership. So we have formally incorporated GoBigNigeria to pursue a peaceful, negotiated national consensus in 2023 for a unifying presidency. We plan to unveil a project I tentatively refer to as the Initiative for Justice and Equity (IJE) for the presidency in 2023. I believe that 2023 will give us the clearest opportunity to heal the amputated spirit of the country. It is my hope that the IJE project will be non-partisan, trans-ethnic, cross-generational, and national in scope. Essentially, we are big on Nigeria.
Question: Are you talking about a president in 2023 who happens to be Igbo?
UGORJI: I don’t think it is necessary, from our perspective, to ethnicise the project. However, I believe that in 2023 Nigeria will have an opportunity to remove the last remaining vestige of the war. Justice and equity will dictate that the power blocks in the country will reach a consensus to do the right thing for the cohesion, unity and advancement of the country. We plan to contribute towards that endeavor under GoBigNigeria.