Elombah
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Uzodinma is not a thief, But… — By Collins Opurozor

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A tiny Benin or Bini boy likes to tell me stories. I love listening to him. He is a smart kid. When he has many stories to tell at once, he often starts by claiming to know the one I will want to hear first. His name is Osakioduwa which he says means that God should open his doors. Osakioduwa believes so much in the spirituality of names and so he counts on the promises held by his. He hopes that one day he will become the Oba of Benin. His lofty dreams even in the face of lowliness makes him a unique, interesting chap.

He told me a story about his community in Ovia North-East. It is particularly about the community leader whom he referred to simply as Odionwere. Renowned for his open condemnation of theft and crime, and respected for always putting a challenge to everyone to expose him if he was caught in any wrongdoing, Odionwere was at last discovered to be the recruiter of criminals and sponsor of kidnappings and robberies in the land. Concluding, my storyteller-friend said, “This is why for our place if person don dey too deny something, we go suspect say him dey do am.”

In Imo State, there is Hope Uzodinma, who hardly talks without these clichés: “Expose me if I have stolen before”, “I promised God I would not steal your money”, “I have ended stealing in Imo”, “I have come to pursue Alibaba fraudsters and Yahoo boys” and all whatnot. He does not speak without talking about how he is not a thief. Sometimes he seeks to create scapegoats by calling out civil servants. In a meeting with his friends and party members yesterday, he dedicated his entire speech to this denial. He is forcing Imo people to believe that he is not a thief. Remember Odionwere, the community leader in Edo.

Uzodinma needs not deny anything. He only needs to explain something, or some things. First, in the past eighteen months, how much has accrued to the Imo local government system? The records available from FAAC indicate that Imo local governments under Uzodinma have received a total of slightly below N69 billion.

What has happened to the humongous sum? Which project has the regime of Uzodinma done in any local government? Absolutely nothing! In Imo today, no local government secretariat can afford a computer to type letters. You find Chairmen of Interim Management Committees in public cyber cafés processing official documents. Yet their monthly allocations are supposedly nothing below N150 million. This is preposterous! Simply put, Uzodinma should tell Imo people where their local government funds are kept!

The sorriness of the situation in the local governments also pervades other sectors. There are hues and cries from ISOPADEC staff and oil-bearing communities over the whereabouts of their Derivation funds totalling N14.3 billion. Not a single project has been done for them, neither are the staff being paid. Weekly, they take to the streets to protest. Uzodinma should explain what has happened to the funds, too. He has also borrowed a little below N35 billion and gotten almost N80 billion as FAAC allocations, yet salaries and pensions are not paid and infrastructural decay has reached unacceptable heights in Imo State.

What then does Uzodinma spend the people’s common patrimony on? Where is he keeping the funds? Let him tell Imo people! Or does he fall among those who do not steal but when they pass by, something gets missing? A friend says they are not thieves. They only cause things to disappear. May God stop them from causing state funds to disappear in Imo!

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