Senator Hope Uzodinma, Governor of Imo State


Even with no more court case challenging his position as the governor of Imo State, it will take a combination of time and extraordinary performance for Senator Hope Uzodinma to earn himself a true place in the hearts of the citizens of the state.

Not even the fact that nearly all the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) members of the state assembly, including the Speaker, Hon. Collins Chiji; the Majority Leader, Hon. Chigozie Nwaneri has since defected to the governor’s All Progressives Congress (APC), is changing the narrative.

Rather, it has further opened the eyes of the people to the fact that days of politics of ideology have given way to an era of politics of personal and selfish interest in which the people only form part of the agenda during elections.

It became even more so when on Thursday, March 27, former PDP chairman in the state, Charles Ezekwem, ex-publicity secretary, Damian Opara, ex-youth leader, Williams Ahanonu, among others, defected to the APC hiding under the claim that the zoning arrangement of the PDP did not favour them.

The Supreme Court had inadvertently prepared the ground for the sustained rejection after allegedly torpedoing the inalienable right of the people to choose their leaders through a judgment many believe would haunt the nation’s electoral system for a long time.

The available record shows that majority of the 739,485 accredited voters who cast their ballot on March 9, 2019, Imo governorship election preferred the PDP candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, to be their governor and said so emphatically with their votes.

However, 10 months after (January 14, 2020), seven Justices of the Supreme Court sat down in the hallowed chambers of the apex court to decree otherwise. Thus, Hope Uzodinma, the candidate of APC, who came a distant fourth in the race, became governor.

INEC had declared Ihedioha as the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election on the ground that he won a majority of lawful votes cast. The Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal in their concurrent decisions in the case and appeal filed by Senator Uzodinma upheld Ihedioha’s election and dismissed the former’s petition on grounds that he did not prove his allegations against the election of Ihedioha. But the apex court held otherwise.

“What the country’s apex court did by imposing Hope on a people who rejected him at the polls is to create a hopeless situation for the state. The consequences are better imagined”, Ikechukwu Amaechi, a seasoned journalist and indigene of the state, stated.

Uzodinma is a known philanthropist who is generally noted for being particularly generous to his staff at different levels. But recent interactions revealed that majority of the people are not enamoured of the governor, who apart from being in a party that particularly has a bad record in the state, does not come across to them as having the capacity to bring the change they so much desire.

The unfortunate incident that took place at Ohaji-Egbema area of the state in February when the governor was reportedly stoned by irate youths in the constituency, perhaps, speaks more eloquently about the resentment.

Before that incident, indigenes of Imo State had staged series of protest in Owerri, the state capital, disrupting vehicular movements for several hours and condemning the January 14, 2020 verdict of the Supreme Court, which sacked Ihedioha and declared Uzodinma as the state governor.

The protesters who sang solidarity songs as they marched along the road, also displayed placards with various inscription such as: “We totally reject the Supreme Court Imposition on Imo,” “Imo People will never accept an unelected governor,” “Supreme Court must reverse this dubious judgment,“ Imo people never elected Hope Uzodinma governor,” and “Ihedioha is our elected Governor”.

Addressing the protesters at the popular Fire Service Roundabout, the former Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Uche Onyeaguocha, lamented that the Supreme Court declared a man who did not win an election as the governor of the state.

He maintained that Uzodinma who finished a distant fourth in the 2019 governorship election was wrongfully declared the governor of the state, adding that the state will never accept such an imposition by the apex court.

Onyeaguocha urged the Supreme Court to redeem its image by reversing the judgment and restoring Ihedioha who was the duly elected governor of the state, saying that the people would continue until the apex court does the right thing.

“The Supreme Court declared a man who did not win an election as a governor and the Supreme Court knows that they have messed up. They know that they have brought shame to the Nigeria Judiciary. The Judgment is unacceptable to the Nigerians and Imo People in particular”, he said.

End of the road

In what many saw as a proper but unprecedented move, Ihedioha later appealed to the Supreme Court asking it to set aside its judgment sacking him. But the apex court struck out the application, stating that it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain it.

In a submission that went viral, one of the governorship candidates in the election, Nnamdi Okere, noted that what the apex court did was to give legal validation to criminality and electoral fraud.

“What the Supreme Court has done today is to murder democracy; what they have done is to give judicial backing to injustice,” Okere, candidate of the Reform Advancement Party said.

“They have killed democracy in Nigeria. I’m ashamed of them. They have rejected the international and local condemnation that trailed their January 14 judgment. They preferred to uphold their injustice of January 14. What they have now done is to give judicial backing to illegality.

“Somebody gathered fake results and packaged in a Ghana-Must-Go and brought to you, and said it was 388 wards. In his evidence at the tribunal, they rejected 366, but you accepted all the scores. Where was my score? I was a candidate in that election. I was a candidate of the Reform and Advancement Party, where was my own score? Hope allocated all the scores to himself and the Supreme Court accepted it and said that is democracy. What the Supreme Court has done is to give judicial pronouncement to criminality and electoral fraud.”

BusinessHallmark toured the streets of Owerri and Orlu, the new governor’s constituency to ascertain the mood of the people. Surprisingly, despite his reputation for philanthropy, Uzodinma was particularly unpopular in his own native Ozuh Omuma community in Oru East Local Government Area of the state, where his family rules as the royal family.

“For now, he (Uzodinma) hasn’t started doing anything. I think before now he was watching to see if he could stay or not,” noted Mr Nnaemeka Opara, a local politician in Owerri.

“We have not seen anything from him so far. When Ihedioha came, he started doing so many roads in so many places, in almost every locality here. Most of the projects stopped after the court judgment that sacked him. Since then, I have not seen any sign of any project going on. But we expect that if he has something to do, he should start now that the Supreme Court has refused Ihedioha’s application. At the moment, he is making appointments.

“Generally, people are not happy with the court decision. When the court delivered the first judgment, everywhere was calm, even in Orlu where he comes from. Again, when the court struck out Ihedioha’s application, there was still calm everywhere. Nobody celebrated.”

Opara affirmed that in the lead up to the March 9, 2019 governorship election in the state, the people of his community were largely rooting for Uche Nwosu, candidate of the Action Alliance and son-in-law to the former governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, now senator representing Imo West in the upper legislative chamber.

“The man is disliked in his place. During the election, we went to his community where his brother happens to be the traditional ruler, but surprisingly, they were not supporting him, even his brother who is the traditional ruler did not want him. The whole community said they were supporting Uche Nwosu, not Ihedioha during that time,” he said.

“We went to the traditional ruler who told us this. At the time, I didn’t even know they were related. But I believe they will reconcile now that he has become governor.”

‘Not about early popularity’

However, the Chief press secretary to the governor, Mr Oguike Nwachukwu, told Business Hallmark that all the projects started by the previous government that are in the interest of Imo people would be continued, pointing out that some of the contractors handling road projects had been asked to return to a site.

Nwachukwu assured the people of the state that the administration will work for them.

“Imo people should expect good governance; they should expect prosperity. Imo should expect commitment and sincerity of purpose from their leaders. Imo should expect accountability from the current leadership. Imo should expect to be accounted among the states in the country that have focused leadership. Above all, Imo should expect peace, harmony and brotherliness,” he said.

Addressing the state on his 100 days in office, Governor Uzodinma noted that although the circumstances of this “historic victory did not avail him the luxury of a transition period”, which, he said, most governors-elect have the privilege of using as a preparatory phase to actual governance, he still hit the ground running after assuming office less than 24 hours after his final victory.

He said, “I reasoned rightly that I had a choice to make in the face of the daunting situation on the ground; first, to sweep the appalling situation under the carpet and continue to do business as usual, as previous administrations did, and receive accolades for doing little or nothing. Or second, to summon the courage and do the right thing by flushing out an endemic corruption that threatened the survival of our state, and risk being initially misunderstood.

“I made my choice and chose the latter. I did so because I do know that leadership is not about early popularity contest but about having the honest courage to do the right thing for the right reasons and the good of the greatest number of people. I do not doubt in my mind that in the fullness of time, history will vindicate me for not submitting to pressure and blackmail to do business as usual and condone monumental corruption.

But Amaechi said, “It is the singular responsibility of Uzodimma to win the trust of the people who have every reason to distrust him. If he wants to be accepted, he has to endear himself to the people and the only pathway to that goal is service – delivering dividends of democracy.

“But going by his 100-day speech, it would seem he had chosen to tread the boulevard of propaganda and outright lies. He thinks the blame- game will take the place of hard work and performance. That will only deepen the sense of despair and hopelessness.”


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