y Emeka Alex Duru
(08054103327, [email protected])
Imo has literally become a playhouse of absurdities in the last one year. From the brazen imposition of Hope Uzodimma as the governor by the Supreme Court, through the unusual destruction of public assets by youths in the wake of the #EndSars protests, to the recurrent crises in Orlu these days, the state has largely been mentioned with scorn in public discourse, lately. But perhaps, what has further unmasked the piteous situation in the state is the war between Governor Uzodimma and his predecessor, Senator Rochas Okorocha. Both have thrown civility to the wind in going about their consuming encounter.
It may be necessary to understand the characters at war to be able to appreciate the issues and how they may pan out eventually. Uzodimma and Okorocha are not strangers to intrigues and controversies. They are of maverick tendencies and Machiavellian, probably differing slightly in their approaches and strategies. The governor sells the dummy of withdrawal but is obviously precise and decisive. Okorocha dances like a butterfly but stings like a bee, as late Heavy Weight boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, would say. But at all time, they have their eyes on the ball, not for public good but primarily for what they stand to gain. In the curious book by V. “The Mafia Manager”, they fit into the categorization of men driven by one aim: “profit and not averse to using any means to ensure and increase that profit”. None is altruistic in the true sense of the word.
They had started off on a tantalising note before the 2019 general elections as buddies caring about the interest of one another with each, however, carefully incubating schemes to undo the other. Okorocha of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who was serving out his governorship mandate, needed to go to the Senate but with Uzodimma at the chambers, that could be a tall order. A deal was made for Uzodimma, who was then of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to go for the governorship on the ticket of the APC, to clear the coast for Okorocha at the Senate. That looked good on the surface but as seasoned games’ masters, each had an ulterior motive. While Okorocha appeared to be on the same page with Uzodimma, he had an agenda to plant his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu as his successor. Uzodimma also had his own plan in hijacking the APC primaries and sealing it with the Supreme Court judgement of January 14, 2020 that catapulted him from the fourth position at the ballot to being the governor.
So, what is actually playing out between the two, can be seen from the angle of conspiracy gone awry. Conspirators always turn against one another in the absence of a common enemy. And as in the world of the Mafia where none lets go easily, they have been at each other’s throat. The fight may linger till assurances are made and deals, struck. Make no mistake about it: the allegations and counter allegations, the show of seizures and confiscations, are not for the good of the Imo citizens or in protecting their interest. They are all antics that will fizzle out in a matter of time, when the right buttons are pressed.
The problem is that while the show of shame lasts, governance in the state slides deeper and the people get more traumatized. Imo does not deserve its curious lot in leadership. It was an entity which the administration of late Dr. Sam Mbakwe took to an unprecedented pedestal in human and material resource management, but has subsequently gone down with successive leaders.
We may need to reflect on the extent the state had gone under Mbakwe before its current sorry status. Newspaper columnist, Professor Obi Nwakanma, in one of his recent outings, captured the state of affairs in Imo at the beginning. According to him, when Sam Mbakwe arrived Owerri Government House as governor, in 1979, the three major cities in the state – “Owerri, Aba, Umuahia still had houses operating “bucket latrines” and the cities still employed night soil men (ndi Oburu nsi) and ran waste landfills”. That was enough to deter the lily-livered but not Mbakwe.
The first statewide public safety and hygiene law passed under the administration gave every landlord and household in these cities four months and a tax rebate to change the infrastructure from the bucket system to the water system, failure of which the houses would be marked as public health hazard zones. This was fully accomplished in three months.
In 1981, faced with acute transportation system to and from the state, Mbakwe threatened that if the Federal Government did not build an Airport in Owerri, he would mobilize the people and build one. He did and Imo had an airport. Mbakwe did other things that made Imo the envy of others and a pride to the citizens in the four years of his leadership.
It is unfortunate that since that glorious era of Mbakwe, Imo has not had it right, especially in the area of political leadership. Since the commencement of the present dispensation in 1999, neither Achike Udenwa, Ikedi Ohakim, Okorocha nor Uzodimma, had developed a blueprint for governance in the state. At individual and communal initiatives, the people are proving their mettle. Imo, for instance ranks tops among the states with the highest number of Professors of different backgrounds in the country. It counts among states with highest number of candidates sitting for competitive examinations, annually. In the last 10 years or more, the state has consistently featured in the league of the first 10 states in WAEC and JAMB examinations. At local levels, giant strides are being recorded at communal development.
The lesson in all these, is that in Imo, there is a reservoir of hands and brains willing and ready to take the state to the next level. It is the leadership that has been lacking. To compound matters, the state has been afflicted with men and women of fleeting conscience, in the clergy, traditional institution and academic, willing to embrace any government in power. That seems the greatest challenge facing the state, presently.
Imo cannot be left to remain the way it is, now. Retrieving the state from the hands of the present transactional leaders requires a coalition of efforts by men and women of goodwill, irrespective of political affiliation, to stand firm and say; enough is enough! Neither Uzodimma, Okorocha nor any of the characters currently parading the corridors of leadership in the state, holds the key in showing the people the way. They are merely, merchants, seeking profits at whatever cost to the state. As long as they hold sway, Imo will remain in the swamp.
*DURU is the Editor of TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos