By ETHELBERT OKERE

In more ways than one, Jerry Chukwueke’s outing on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Christmas day was a good summary of the experience of the people of Imo state in the about-to-be concluded first term of Governor Hope Uzodimma. It is not an entirely new narrative but Chief Chukwueke quite succinctly reiterated the point that, viewed against the back drop of what he met on ground, Governor Uzodimma’s performance is worthy of scholarly inquiry.

As against the interviewer’s apparent mindset that the governor did not transform Imo state into a paradise in four years – as if any governor in Nigeria has ever done so – Chuwkueke told his host that Governor Uzodimma could indeed be likened a magician, going by what was witnessed in the state. The trust of Chukwueke’s argument was that it took guts, vision and a clear sense of mission for Governor Uzodimma to have been able to record the giant strides he made under very debilitating circumstances, especially the spate of insecurity and hostility from some opposition elements, upon assumption of office.

A typical Nigerian Governor, Chukwueke apparently meant, would have resigned to fate: go to Abuja every month to collect the state’s allocation from the federation account; return to Owerri or indeed stay back there; help himself, his family members and cronies and make a pretence at one or two white elephant projects. Chukwueke, Governor Uzodimma’s Technical Adviser on the New Imo Project and a fellow gifted with rare eloquence, went ahead to point at those things that set Uzodimma aside and which endeared him to the people.

It is, of course, needless to re-tabulate Governor Uzodimma’s milestone achievements here – since they are well known – but what we cannot be tired of saying is that, as succinctly put by Chukwueke, Imo state will witness a rapid transformation in the next four years if it is spared of the politically contrived insecurity that was its lot in the last four years. Listen to Chukwueke’s opener: “We need more peace and quiet for development to go to the next level”.

In my view, there couldn’t be a better way of putting it. Even so, Chukwueke most appropriately mirrored one of the very well known attributes of the Governor: Level headedness. For, rather than create an impression of invincibility around himself – having succeeded were others dared not – the governor still goes about preaching the message of peace among his people. The typical Nigerian politician, who found himself were Uzodimma was and compares it with where he is now, would be talking tough, boastful and denigrating his opponents.

Chukwueke continues: “Our Governor is very desirous of peace and is appealing to Imolites across the board, parents, brothers, sisters and all those that are in contact or can influence those in agitation, those in criminal activities, those who are hiding under the platform of insurgency, known and unknown gun men, everyone who has contributed to insecurity etc to please cease and desist in the interest of Imo state…”. The Governor’s aide further noted that “Our Governor is desirous of ensuring that more and more resources are directed towards economic and social development as opposed to development of security infrastructure.

He then went ahead to list the key issues involved in the governor’s agenda in the next four years, prominent among which are job creation – mostly through skill acquisition – and infrastructural development; pointing out that the governor’s determination is best underscored by the fact that in the 2024 budget proposal, over 70 per cent is for capital projects and then went on and on to identify the strategic achievements of the Uzodimma administration especially in the areas of road infrastructure, health care service, education etc.

But the anchor, not ready to be outsmarted, began to real out indices that seemed not to have painted the state, under Governor Uzodimma, in a flattering language. He talked about high debt profile, shrinking internally-generated revenue and over dependence on federal allocation, high unemployment level etc. To be fair to him, the anchor of the show was trying not to sound patronizing but he manifested the same weakness as most of his colleagues either due to lack of adequate information or sheer mischief.

For example, he raised the issue of the governors “promise” to send four thousand Imo youths abroad for employment in Europe. Said he: “Before the election, the governor promised to send four thousand youths abroad to get employed in Europe. This is December, what happen to that?”. Then ensued what looked like “Did He Or Did He Not?”, debate but Chuwkueke, an experienced public affairs commentator, took control: He told his host that what the governor said was that Imo youths, under the Skill-Up Imo programme, are being equipped with skills that will make them become part of the global work force. He further explained that the state government, under Governor Uzodimma, and as part of the Skill-Up Imo programme, is engaging members of the international community who are seeking for the skills of the products of the programme, adding that many have already travelled abroad to take up offers in that regard.

We can go on and on to look at the whole gamut of issues raised in the interview under review but what, in my view, stands out most is that it offered the Uzodimma administration another opportunity to once again underscore the Renewed Hope message of the governor to the people while canvassing for a renewal of his mandate. Governor Uzodimma was deliberate in making his promises to the people and the latter have no reason to disbelieve him. This is how we knew:.

Senator Uzodimma took over the mantle of leadership of Imo state in less than twenty four hours after the Supreme Court restored his stolen mandate on January 14, 2020. He did not have the privilege of going through a transition period which the framers of the nation’s constitution in their wisdom made provision for. He went straight into governance the next day even without handover notes. As if that was not enough, he was greeted with the covid-19 pandemic which broke out in Nigeria the same month he was sworn into office.

Unlike Uzodimma, majority of the governors of the other thirty five states of the federation had put in over seven months before the pandemic set in. Yet, Imo recorded one of the lowest cases throughout the period of the global calamity. Then, of course, the scourge of insecurity with consequences that were quite devastating on the social and economic fortunes of the state and its people.

What informed this short commentary after watching Chief Jerry Chukwueke on television was that he again brought to the fore a fact nobody must ignore in appraising Governor Uzodimma’s first four years in office. As I have already agreed with him, the governor performance’s, even in the face of the debilitating obstacles he was confronted with, teaches a big lesson which anybody that is desirous of ascending to such an office in Nigeria should learn off by heart. If His Excellency could perform so creditably well under such conditions, then it is only left to be imagined what the future of Imo state will be in the next four years if, as Chukwueke canvassed in his interview, the purportedly aggrieved fellows will allow “peace and quiet” to return.

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