By Richard Dirim Odu


On Monday, January 15, the Government House in Imo State received Governor Hope Uzodimma after he had taken the oath of office for his second term in Douglas House. No doubt, the mood in that political power house of the Eastern Heartland was different from what it was four years ago when Gov. Uzodimma stepped into that house, following a Supreme Court decision that stunned the world. It didn’t, however, stun the Enugu-based controversial Catholic cleric, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, who had seen it in his crystal balls that a hope was about to descend on Imo. He readily announced it at a worship session in his Adoration Ministries grounds only days before the Supreme Court judgment.


Sure, the mood had changed from that of angst, despondency, and helplessness on the part of deposed former Gov. Emeka Ihedioha’s loyalists, who were being forced out then, to glee, delight, and ecstasy for a cross section of Imo people who had tasted Hope’s first tenure and found things to be happy about.


Chief among the things that enamoured the Hopists was the governor’s dogged pursuit of the infrastructural needs of the state. Like magic, he transformed Owerri-Orlu Road from a nightmarish thoroughfare to a blissful road that keeps both the man on wheels and his machine smiling to the end of the road, be it day or night. The road, we note, had defied mouthy Rochas Okorocha, who had worked in vain on the road throughout his eight-year life as governor.


Hope crossed over to Owerri-Okigwe, dealt decisively with the ever-menacing Ekemeelee floods on the Ikeduru axis of the road, and asphalted it to the end. Inside Owerri, he grabbed the hitherto rough-riding MCC-Uratta road and smoothed it, linking it up with the Federal Road Safety Corps roundabout at Egbu through the Owerri-Umuahia road. This was after he had worked on numerous other roads in the metropolis, including Douglas, Wetheral, and Chukwuma Nwoha, among many others.


As we hope for more hopeful days in Gov. Hope Uzodimma’s second term, we must not fail to reflect on why a great number of people among the electorate are usually reluctant to reelect a sitting governor. It is that many of them who seek reelection, having performed wonders in their first tenure, go into their second term lax. They throw overboard the verve of their first tenure and adopt the spirit of lethargy, forgetting that growth is eternal.


Aware that they would no longer have to solicit for the votes of the masses, some descend so low as to take to recklessness with state funds, unscrupulously helping themselves in large doses, to the detriment of the people’s welfare. Those in this class tend to be brash, even uncouth in their behavior and utterances. It is believed that this would not be the case with Hope Uzodimma, who hopes to serve the nation in a higher capacity after his life as governor.


Our “new and old” governor should be reminded of the state’s unfinished businesses in the areas of local government and civil service, as well as the autonomous communities that form the basis of our grassroots.


Twice, the governor had postponed local government elections. We cannot overemphasize the need for functional local governments in the state, being the most formal administrative body in touch with rural dwellers. Rural roads are fast becoming inaccessible, thereby worsening the food situation in the state as movement is impaired on these roads, thus making it difficult to transport agricultural produce from the hinterlands to the thickly populated urban areas where it is badly needed. We need more organized local government councils with the required amenities to tackle the grassroots issues apportioned to them by the constitution. The state has had enough administrators that do nothing more than pay salaries and carry out special duties. By the nation’s constitution, the local governments should have elected chairmen and councilors who are supposed to function under a parliamentary system for balance of power at that level.


The new tenure would do the state a world of good if it strengthened the civil service and made it adhere strictly to the rules. At the moment, a great deal of anomalies has persisted in the civil service, some of which were inherited by the Gov. Uzodimma administration.


The parastatals, who would have been money spinners for the government, have been comatose, while the people of Imo State miss the services such parastatals should be rendering to them. If well run, these parastatals have the potential to absorb wasted manpower in a bid to reduce the unemployment rate in the state.


In the shared prosperity government, how prosperous have been the Songhai Farms at Nekede, the Rubber Estates at Emeabiam, the Nekede Zoological Garden, the Imo Transport Company (ITC), and the Adapalm, among others? Pioneer civilian governor of old Imo State, the visionary late Sam Mbakwe, left legacies of at least one industry per local government. Granted, these industries have either been bastardized or run aground by previous administrations. A task for the shared prosperity government in its second leg is to reactivate these industries to further drive the state’s prosperity level to a desirable level.


What is happening to the state’s schools and universities? Primary and secondary schools in Imo State appear to be places where anything goes. Students leave their parents’ houses to idle away at school since teachers hardly take lessons seriously. There is little supervision in the schools, where teachers are already enmeshed in chasing money in places other than their primary jobs. The Uzodimma second term should take interest in knowing why Imo lost its premier position in education nationwide and make efforts to restore the lost glory.


In the health sector, the governor has a task to find out how functional the Imo State University Teaching Hospital (IMSUTH) is in rendering health services to the state as well as preparing future health workers such as doctors and nurses. It is not enough to pride ourselves on the new status of the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, which was recently converted into a teaching hospital for the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO). In some states, teaching hospitals established by the state governments have been taken over and are fully funded by the federal government. Imo should not be an exception.


Is it okay to have health centers all over the state where health services are hardly available? We believe it’s time people, especially the most vulnerable, got free or subsidized healthcare to prolong their lives.


There are unending wars in some autonomous communities in Imo State over traditional rulership. It is hoped that Hope will this time around direct his attention to these communities and end the good pockets of conflicts that had long existed in them and had stalled the growth of such communities. An equitable settlement of ezeship tussles could go a long way in helping to bring security to the grassroots. Only rudderless communities or those under the rule of unwanted traditional rulers are susceptible to insecurity.


Tendencies to be vindictive often heighten acrimony and rob the state of badly needed peace. This must be avoided. Nothing can be more effective in crisis management than dialogue where grievances and causes of agitation are determined and resolved, and amnesty given where possible. It is said that the best general is the one who wins a war without firing a shot. In other words, what is now popularly known as non-kinetic measures ought to be preferred against the use of force in curbing growing insecurity in the state.


Let’s rewind a little bit to the issue of roads. The governor’s heroism in that aspect will be total when he causes the speedy completion of the all-important and busy Owerri-Umuahia road, which he started in 2022. Getting the federal government to do it even better than it’s being done at the moment will put smiles on the faces of a good number of Imo people who ply the road often.


As Imo transits from Hope to Hope, the state expects nothing but a geometric progression on its trajectory to a model state. I think it can be achieved. Yes, it can.

Dr. Odu can be reached at dirimrich2018@gmail.com or by SMS at +2347016722929.

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