Michael Odichi-Dan Ugorji (PhD)
A few days ago, I read a report on Sunnewsonline.com about the opposition in Imo State and how they ‘derogatorily’ refer to the state Governor, Sen. Hope Uzodinma as the “Supreme Court Governor”. In the report, a group known as the Imo Council of Elders was said to have declared it derogatory for members of the opposition to continue addressing Governor Hope Uzodinma as ‘Supreme Court Governor’.
I read that report with mixed feelings. Firstly, I was among those miffed that the candidate of a political party that came in fourth in an election would be eventually installed as the winner of an election in which three parties performed better than it did. Secondly, I was disappointed with the Nigerian Supreme Court because I found it grossly illogical to say that Sen. Uzodinma won an election in which a subsisting supreme court ruling had indirectly declared him a non-candidate. Thirdly, I believe that above all, there shouldn’t be a vacuum at the seat of power and Imo needs to move forward, albeit in the positive direction.
For those who do not know the premise to my stance, Sen. Uzodinma became the governor of Imo state as the chief beneficiary of a controversial ruling by the apex court in Nigeria. That ruling removed then governor of Imo state, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and recognized Uzodinma as the governor-elect of the state. It would be recalled that Mr Uche Nwosu who is a family member of former governor, Rochas Okorocha, was declared the rightful candidate of the All Progressives Congress in a different ruling by the same Supreme Court sitting on the same Imo gubernatorial election. In its judgement delivered by Justice Adamu Augie on the 19thof December 2019, the Supreme Court of Nigeria said Uche Nwosu was not qualified to vie for the election being that he doubled as both the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Action Alliance (AA). This would then mean the court acknowledged that Sen. Uzodinma was never a candidate of the APC in that same election and therefore did not participate in it. How then could he have won an election in which he was never legally a candidate?
This issue caused a lot of opprobrium and uproar in various public spheres across Nigeria, eventually leading to a review of the case by the Supreme Court. It is now history that after all said and done, Sen. Uzodinma triumphed at the Supreme Court and has remained the governor of Imo State. Nevertheless, I think it would be unproductive and irresponsible for anyone to continue to demean his status as the governor of Imo State. Having said that, I must also add that it would be pretentious and laughable for anyone or group of persons to expect the opposition not to exhaust their right to protest their loss. This is what makes politics interesting and what should spur the incumbent to action to perform well as he should.
Just moments after reading the statement purportedly made by the Imo Council of Elders, I saw a social media post by one of Sen. Uzodinma’s keenest critics and kinsman of ex-governor Ihedioha. To my utter amazement, he lauded the governor in his post. According to him, Governor Uzodinma has set in motion, the revitalisation of Adapalm, which was one of the illustrious key industrial projects for which the late ex-governor, Sam Mbakwe, will for ever be fondly remembered. This is the only way forward for the governor and our home state. I also came across another story about the executive bill promoted by the governor to stop the payment of large sums as retirement benefits to ex-governors and other politicians who have ruled the state. According to the report, Imo State has been spending over 1.2 billion Naira per annum on retirement benefits to these past rulers. When this law is passed and implemented, Imo State will be able to save that large sum of money and should be able to redirect it to other meaningful mass-oriented projects, such as payment of salaries to the very poorly paid teachers and other civil servants. I would like to applaud and encourage the governor to never ever relent in proving his critics wrong by providing cutting-edge leadership for our people.
These positive news about the resuscitation of Adapalm industries and the cessation of profligate emoluments to little-achieving politicians reminded me of my 2011 letter to then new governor of Imo State, Sen. Rochas Okorocha. I wrote a sincere open letter to Okorocha and suggested certain policy and developmental ideas to support his government, because he came highly heralded by popular praise. Many other knowledgeable and concerned citizens of Imo also wrote and advised him. However, we all have seen how his administration ended almost totally ingloriously. He did not seem to have followed knowledge-based advice. Okorocha quickly became the little bird, nza, who ate and drank and challenged his personal chito a single-handed battle. Our dearly beloved governor appeared like the notorious woodpecker, oturukpokpo, who boasted that on her mother’s funeral she would use her loquacious beak to pull down an orjitree, only for her mother’s funeral to finally come and she developed a cancerous boil on her rampant beak.
I had also sent in similar memos and templates for sectoral development to the government of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha through his proxies and through his many panels. Many other illustrious citizens of our state also did. Whether he would have implemented those proposals or not will remain an issue of postulation since his administration quickly went into a legal liminoid and eventually ‘decayed’ in that liminality. On that backdrop, one may not take Ihedioha to task as one may want to take Okorocha. However, governance is a continuum and should be taken seriously with the people and their wellbeing as the primary calling of any political administration. It would be trite to remind Governor Uzodinma of the transient and temporal nature of power. However, I would still endeavour to give him a piece of advice.
History is replete with heroes and villains, also with victor and victims. We are daily consciously and unconsciously telling our own stories on the unforgiving template of history. We are inadvertently telling history how to remember us by our daily actions and inactions. It would be preposterous for me as nwa-afor Mbaiseto withhold my support for the progress of my state because I am aggrieved about how my kinsman was ill-treated. At the end, it is the progress of Imo State that matters above all other considerations. Politicking and political power are very ephemeral concepts. After one has left political office and after the sirens have gone silent, the convoys shortened, the cacophony gone still and the otimkpumigrates with their sycophancy to a new power-holder, all that will be left will be one’s reckoning with posterity.
Governor Hope Uzodinma, how do you want posterity to reckon with you? In the pantheon of Imo political leadership, would you rather be found with the demi-gods or with the demonic dogs?
Now is the time to keep your head up. Ignore the name-calling, ignore the shenanigans of fleeting political gain, ignore your controversial beginnings, and focus on a glorious ending. Surround yourself with intellect. Surround yourself with wise men. Surround yourself with great thinkers and men who want to do good for our people. However, do not ignore the political vultures and warlords because they also have their own usefulness. Become cautious and Machiavellian in your dealing with your fellow politicians, but never lose focus on why you must succeed as the governor of Imo State. Nobody knows it all. If you need advice, Imo nwere madu!
Michael Odichi-Dan Ugorji (PhD)
Social Entrepreneurship Programme
Oxford, United Kingdom