Why Imolites Still Reject Hope Uzodinma
By Ekene Bob-Ekechukwu
It was the renowned American author, Tony Dungy that said, “The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.”
Barely one year since the Supreme Court made him governor from a distant fourth position, no right thinking person can say Governor Hope Uzodinma has made the lives of Imolites better.
Based on Dungy’s definition of a good leader, Uzodinma’s failure to better the lives of Imolites almost 12 months after his controversial assumption of office has exposed him as a bad leader.
The governor’s actions and inactions since he assumed office on the 20th day of January 2020 has given the people more reasons to reject him and even wish for his soon exit from office.
To buttress the above point, I shall give month by month rundown of some of the above mentioned actions and inactions of the governor which has further estranged him from the people he has been seeking fruitlessly, to endear himself.
During his inaugural speech, Governor Hope Uzodinma stated and I quote: “Imo will prosper under my watch”. He went on to say that his vision of a new Imo State is predicated on freedom, security and shared prosperity, welded into good governance.
Suffice it to say here without fear of contradiction, that the governor has not fulfilled any of these promises at all. Instead the reverse has obviously been the case.
In the month of January, the governor being fully aware of the debt profile of the State and the paucity of funds appointed a total of 63 Special Advisers and 32 Senior Special Assistants.
This is besides the 22 Commissioners and other appointed aides. The economic implication of this unnecessary over-bloated list of appointees cannot be overstated.
The huge cost of maintaining all these aides definitely takes a serious toll on the lean resources of the State. No wonder the government is unable to meet its financial obligations on almost all fronts.
Conversely, this runs contrary to the shared prosperity ideology of this administration which appears to be in place to consume instead of create wealth.
In this month the governor signed into law the amendment of the Imo State Revenue Administration Law 2020 to channel 95% of the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) directly to government coffers.
This was meant to boost the revenue base of the State and better the lives of Imolites.
Since this law was signed and implemented, the government has not been able to explain to Imolites what they have achieved with the 95% IGR running into billions of naira since the past 11 months.
In this same month, the governor informed Imolites that his administration had commenced a comprehensive maintenance work on the Otamiri Headworks of the Owerri Regional Water Scheme as part of measures to guarantee constant supply of portable water to residents of Owerri metropolis.
11 months after, not a single home in Owerri metropolis can boast of supply of portable water from the Owerri Regional Water Scheme. Boreholes have remained the main source of portable water to most residents of Owerri metropolis.
Furthermore, the governor told Imolites that certain foreign investors by the name American International Health Incorporated led by its Chief Medical Officer, Prof Uche Nwaneri, had donated $1.2 million worth of medical equipment to the State.
Till date Imolites have not seen let alone make use of the so-called equipments. Judging by this, it is crystal clear that this government is gambling and politicking with the health of Imolites.
On the 28th day of April 2020, the governor pledged to revive the multi-billion naira Avutu Poultry established by late Governor Sam Mbakwe.
To make good his promise, the governor brought in local investors by the name CMX Industries, managed by the disqualified All Progressive Congress (APC) Imo North Senatorial rerun candidate, Mr. Frank Ibezim.
Mr. Ibezim and his team paid a cursory visit to the Poultry and disappeared. The Poultry has remained moribund till date.
In the same month, and during his address on his 100 day in office, Gov Uzodinma claimed that the IGR of the State had increased from N600m to N1.2 billion.
He also claimed that N2bn is being saved monthly after eradicating the stinking fraud in the public service payroll system. This is beside the over N4 billion recieved as monthly allocation from the Federation Account.
He further promised that with the savings the government would be able to deliver more roads, more housing and better hospitals and schools in the coming months and years.
Additionally, he promised to pay workers’ salaries on or before end of every month.
Again, up till now Imolites have neither seen the monthly savings of N3.2bn and the over N4bn monthly allocation, nor the new roads, housing, better hospitals and schools promised by the governor.
Also workers’ salaries and pensions are not paid as at when due. Instead they are being owed many months in arrears.
In May, the governor during an inspection visit, promised to revive Adapalm and create employment for over 35, 000 Imolites. Till date the company has not been revived and no job have been created for 35, 000 people as promised.
Due to the excruciating hardship they have experienced as a result of non-payment of their entitlements since March, pensioners staged a peaceful protest on the 22nd day of June, 2020.
Aged and weak senior citizens defied the scorching sun to demonstrate on the streets of Owerri to demand for their rights.
Unfortunately their plea fell on deaf ears as the governor ignored them and has not paid up the arrears of their unpaid pensions till date.
In the same month, the governor being jittery about the strong opposition mounted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in defence of the suffering masses, ordered the arrest and detention of the party’s new media spokesman, Ambrose Nwaogwugwu.
Nwaogwugwu was arraigned on trumped up charges of terrorism and for calling Uzodinma, “Supreme Court governor”. Many viewed the governor’s action as undemocratic, autocratic and a calculated attempt to muzzle the opposition.
Opposition is the beauty of democracy and it is believed that the governor was able to pay attention to minor comments made by the youthful spokesman because he wasn’t actually busy with governance.
For no busy governor would have time to order the arrest of an opposition spokesman simply because he referred to him as a “Supreme Court governor”.
In this month, Uzodinma took Imolites for another ride when he announced that his administration had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Julius Berger Construction Company on Owerri – Orlu road construction.
Till date, Imolites have neither seen Julius Berger Construction Company mobilized to site nor the commencement of construction on the said road.
If a poorer State like Ebonyi could construct good roads and 10 flyovers using Julius Berger Construction Company, what is stopping Imo from doing same?
Imo State government purportedly launched Mobile Health Insurance Programme with support from World Health Organization (WHO) to achieve seamless coverage of the over 96% population in the informal sector of the State on Health Insurance.
While reducing the existing out -of- pocket expenditure of 92%. Till date not a single citizen can attest to the fact that they have been covered. The whole programme simply fizzled out like others.
In this same month, based on reports by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 75% of the total employable people in Imo State were either underemployed or unemployed, thereby making Imo the unemployment capital of Nigeria.
According to NBS Imo had an unemployment rate of 48.7% as at the second quarter of 2020, by far the highest when compared to any other State in Nigeria.
This report goes to show how badly managed the economy of the State has been under Gov Uzodinma.
And the long suffering people of Imo are at the receiving end of the apparent ineptitude of what seems to be a caricature of governance. No thanks to the infamous Supreme Court judgement of 20th January, 2020.
In addition, on the 3rd day of August, 2020 hundreds of aged pensioners in Imo State were flogged at the gate of the Government House Owerri by thugs believed to have been hired by the State government.
While the government had denied the allegation, no suspect was arrested nor prosecuted till date despite the fact that the crime was committed right in front of the seat of power.
This goes to show the high level of insecurity in the State and the dictatorial disposition of this administration to deprive Imolites their rights with one hand and beat them to submission with the other, if they complain.
In furtherance to his dictatorial tendencies, Gov Uzodinma signed into law, the draconian Imo State Administration of Criminal Justice Bill No.2 of 2020 which empowers him to arrest and detain Imolites at will.
It is very sad that while more important issues are left without legislation, this administration is busy plotting on how to suppress the people using the instrument of the law.
Law is meant to improve the lives of the people and not the other way round. Any law designed to oppress and suppress the people is repugnant to equity and justice and should be repealed.
Sequel to the EndSARS protest, Gov Uzodinma approved the sum of N2bn from a N6bn earmarked for youth empowerment to be deployed for training of first batch of beneficiaries.
The governor stated that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd batches of an estimated number of 500, 000 Imo youths would be trained in different skills acquisition programmes within the next 2 years and provided with startup capital to begin their own enterprises.
Till date the venue and beneficiaries of the seemingly plausible programme have remained a mirage.
Instead Imolites woke up one morning to the news that the governor had imported Rabbits from overseas worth N2 billion and that the Rabbits were shared 3 apiece to the youths.
Who the beneficiaries are and the location of their farms also remain a mirage. Apparently the programme folded up like the others.
The sudden closure of the State Secretariat by the governor when workers’ salaries were yet to be paid few days to Christmas was viewed as inhuman by many observers.
The closure disrupted plans by workers to get some palliatives for the festive period since the government had no plans for their welfare. It is on record that some workers are still owed October to November salaries.
While others have yet to be paid since March. The government’s claim that it had paid workers salaries up to date is nebulous and at best another mirage.
To make matters worse, the kidnap of the Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Bishop Moses Chikwe by unidentified gun men has further highlighted the high level of insecurity in the State.
This is one too many in the list of kidnaps in the State since the ember months. If a prominent religious figure like Bishop Chikwe could be whisked away in broad daylight by armed hoodlums, it then means that the security of lives and property in the State is not guaranteed.
What then has the government been doing with the billions spent so far from the security vote?
This runs contrary to the governor’s maiden speech where he promised improved security for Imolites. This is just to mention but a few.
In conclusion, it is not rocket science for any right thinking person to decipher, at this point, the reason why Imolites still reject Governor Uzodinma.
All the millions spent by the governor to stage-manage receptions here and there to give a false impression of public acceptance, would have been put to better use in a way that could have endeared him to the people.
But service delivery seems to be far from the governor’s agenda. And I ask: if the first 12 months of this administration is ending in catastrophe, what will become of the remaining 3 years, should they remain in the saddle?
However, the governor should take note that the people are tired of his shenanigans. There is a saying that first fooled is not really a fool, but second fooled is the real fool.
In the past, Imolites may have been fooled by bad leaders but having learnt a bitter lesson, they will not be fooled again.
At the appropriate time, they will make use of their voters card to put an end to the perennial clueless and inept leadership that has intermittently plagued the State like an incurable epidemic.
I rest my case.
Ekene Bob-Ekechukwu Esq., socio-political/public affairs analyst.