After Ihedioha’s ouster, Imo awaits Uzodinma’s governance ‘miracle’
No doubt, the post-electoral judicial tussle that ensued between former governor of Imo State on Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) platform, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, but sacked by the Supreme Court, and Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Odidika Uzodinma, of All Progressives Congress (APC), has come and gone, but there are a legion of unsettled political, economic, and social issues that tug the minds of Imo people.
Also, the aftermath of the outcome of the March 3 judgment requires the attention of the new governor to close ranks with Imo people and prove that he would provide better leadership than they had begun to enjoy under Ihedioha in his seven months and two weeks’ reign as governor of the state. The above assertion is against the background of the reactions just before, during and after the January 14 Imo governorship judgment by the Supreme Court and subsequent failed process to upturn the judgment via review.
First, there was tension in the state before the January 14 judgment, created majorly by the prophecy of Fr. Ejike Mbaka, made on his adoration ground in Enugu State that Uzodinma would be governor of the state. That sparked uproar in some quarters while Uzodinma’s camp went wild in celebration.
The prophecy came to pass on January 14, when the hitherto excluded 388 polling units that had placed Uzodinma in fourth position were included and he was declared winner by the apex court and subsequently sworn in the next day in Owerri after receiving the Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Comparatively, Owerri was cold after both the January 14 judgment and its repeat on March 3 dismissal of Ihedioha’s judgment review application.
A trader at the popular Ekeukwu Owere market, Rose Adinma, told The Guardian: “We had started enjoying during the administration of Emeka before he was removed. Money was circulating here in the market. Now everything is in standstill. Is that what we are going to see now? We believe Ihedioha won that election.”
The questions raised on why people were apprehensive of the new governor was whether he would continue institutional strengthening, quality leadership, building of quality roads started by Ihedioha and other social infrastructure, sustenance of regular payment of salaries of civil servants and pensions to retirees, circulation of money in Imo economy as witnessed during the short reign of Ihedioha. He also scouted for the best brains and experts and appointed them into positions in his cabinet and other positions of trust.
Other questions that occupied the minds of Uzodinma’s foes are lack of zonal equity or chatter of equity, which is taken into cognizance by the elders and political leaders in the state. It recognises that Imo East (Owerri with nine local government areas), Imo North (Okigwe – with six LGAs), and Imo West (Orlu – with 12 LGAs), should rotationally take governance seat.
From 1999 Chief Achike Udenwa (from Imo West) governed to 2007, Chief Ikedi Ohakim (Imo North) was governor from 2007 to 2011 while Senator Rochas Okorocha (Imo West) took over from 2011 and left in 2019). Ihedioha, who hails from (Aboh Mbaise, Imo East) was there for only seven months and two weeks). Now, Uzodinma, from Imo West, has taken the seat. Those who hold this view opine that Imo East Senatorial District has been cheated one again.
Another frightening view that is emerging is that the governor is allegedly hobnobbing with those who have contributed to backwardness of the state.
One of those who castigated the sack of Ihedioha is the immediate past Secretary to Imo State Government (SSG), Mr. Uche Onyeaguocha, who, while responding to the judgment, opined that the justices who ousted Ihedioha did wrong, which judicial officers at that level should not have contemplated.
But in reply to the comment considered to be disparaging, a known Owerri-based social commentator, Mr. Bob Njemanze, faulted Onyegocha for making such comment, hinging his position on the fact that the immediate past Imo SSG, a lawyer, should exercise restraint in his comments in line with his education and professional calling.
But on the same day, shortly after the historic review judgment and in response to the reactions from the people of varied opinions, the elated governor, in an emotion laden voice, commended the Supreme Court over its judgment re-affirming him as the duly elected Imo State governor. He gave assurances that he would prove his mettle by providing quality leadership required of him, insisting that it was in consonance with the mandate of the people which he claimed was given to him at the March 9, 2019, governorship poll in the state.
He averred: “The judgment represents the expectation of the mandate of the people. We give God all the glory, that at the end of the day, the truth prevailed. We commend the wisdom of the Supreme Court in standing by the truth.”
He also urged Imo people, both home and abroad, to close ranks and contribute their quota, with him on the driver’s seat, to develop the state. Uzodinma extended an olive branch to his predecessor, Ihedioha, and other opponents.
According to him, “In this business, you must show the spirit of sportsmanship. It’s not every time you win; it’s not every time you lose. When you win, you carry the losers along; when you lose you follow those that won. My plea to my opponents is to come and bring their ideas, let us team up and create a synergy that will develop Imo State and bring succour to our people.”
On what Imo people should expect from his administration to enhance their living standards in the next three years and three months, the Imo State governor made a promise: “You will expect miracles because I know I have a vision and that vision is a well-cut out vision that will develop our state, bring prosperity, development and ensure good and long life for our people.”
Imo State APC Publicity Secretary, Chief Enyinnaya Onuegbu, also urged Imo people to expect miracles that would transform their lives from the Uzodinma. He urged them not to panic, adding, “Imo people are in good hands now. Senator Uzodinma will offer quality and purposeful governance.”
A chieftain of APC in the state, Chief Blyden Amajirionwu, in his appeal to Imo people irrespective of party leaning, posited: “The Supreme Court Judgment of 3 March has brought an end to litigations on the Imo governorship case. The stage is now set for people-oriented governance as characterised in the policies of Governor Hope Uzodinma.
“In delivering good governance, the government as well as the people has important roles to play. What, we as the good citizens of Imo State, owe the administration is undiluted and absolute support without bias. The struggle to occupy the most exalted position in the state is over, to the glory of God. To this end, we proclaim no victor, no vanquished. The victory is for all.
“This is the time to play down party politics. Uzodinma is no more a governor of a particular political party, but the governor that represents the interests and welfare of all.”
A professor of law and former Commissioner for Information in Imo State, Nnamdi Obiaraeri, in his proposition informed the public in a statement that reads in part: “While the review application lingered, legal punditry became a favourite pastime just like football analysis and BetNaija or other pool betting odds.
“Suddenly, everyone out there saw himself or herself as a ‘Justice of the Supreme Court,’ claiming to be more knowledgeable in legal and procedural matters than the learned law lords themselves. To worsen matters, lawyers who never conducted matters, never read the full judgment of the Supreme Court, never read the papers and responses filed in respect of the review application had a swell time dishing out all sorts of legal opinions and conclusions.
“Poor fellows, when the Supreme Court judgment came on 3 March, they realised too late that judicial decisions are not a matter of voice vote or who makes the most noise on TV, radio or Internet. The reality is that judgments of courts are never swayed by riots, protests, vociferous noisemaking of the vocal minority or by rabble rousing and intimidation of court officials.
“Courtesy of the Imo review case, Nigerians now know more about finality of the judgment of the Supreme Court. What a legal reality.
“Categorically, all earlier, erstwhile or archaic decisions of the Supreme Court which do not agree or go contrary to the current position of the Supreme Court on the finality of the judgment of the Supreme Court are consigned to the dustbin of history.
“Again, courtesy of the Imo review case, Nigerians are further reminded that majority judgment of the Supreme Court is the actual and binding judgment of the Court and that a dissenting judgment in the Supreme Court is possible although it has no legal force.”
A youth group from the governor’s senatorial zone, Orlu Zurumee Youths, canvased for peace in statement, stressing, “The Orlu Zurumee Youths have received the result of the review of the Nigeria’s apex court judgment of January 14, 2020, which affirmed the prayer of Senator Hope Odidika Uzodinma as the governor of Imo State with gratitude.
“Senator Hope Uzodinma, having followed due process to retrieve the mandate freely given to him by Imolites through the ballot on March 9, 2019 and same being prophetically confirmed and alluded by the highest court in the land, is now poised to bring the dividends of accelerated development to ndi-Imo, especially through his 3Rs mantra.
“We urge Imolites to support the governor to succeed as our cardinal interest always must be ‘Imo first’ and not any zonal or sectional sentiments.”
Another group, Imo Concerned Citizens (ICC), in a statement signed by its convener, Mr. Amadichi Divine Chike, stated: “Imo Concerned Citizens ICC wishes to congratulate Senator Hope Uzodinma on his resounding victory to continue as the Governor of Imo State at the Supreme Court judgment review. ICC as a law abiding organization has always maintained our stance to respect any constituted authority, as we acknowledged and accepted the 14 January 2020 judgment of the Supreme Court that declared that Senator Hope Uzodinma is the rightful winner of the 9 March 2019 governorship election in Imo State.
“To this end, we want to appeal to the governor to remain focused and deliver good governance to the people of Imo State, for to whom much is given much is expected. ICC will continue to give our collective support to his administration; we in ICC have resolved to give every necessary support to the government of Imo State to enable Ndi-Imo receive the dividends of democracy.
“We shall constantly engage with the government, build synergy, and with the support of ICC members in the diaspora, we will collaborate with the administration to attract foreign direct investment opportunities to the state to boost the much needed infrastructural developments in the state.
“We use this medium to plead with all Imolites to support the new administration. Imo belongs to all of us, as such the government needs our collective support to succeed.”
While also appealling to the people to accept the governor, a revered monarch in the state and ruler of Obinugwu, Orlu, Cletus Ilomuanya, said in a statement: “As you can see, Governor Uzodinma has already offered the olive branch to all those who contested with him for the Imo governorship seat. He has appealled to them to join hands with him. This shows that he wants people with bright and progressive ideas to come on board with him. Unarguably, this action portrays him as a team player and an administrator, who preaches and practices politics without bitterness.”
A former deputy governor of the state under Okorocha, Eze Madumere, lent his voice for Uzodinma, saying: “I heartily congratulate Senator Uzodinma for his affirmation as the validly elected Governor of Imo State. With this I believe that the much needed stability and tranquility that will usher in the atmosphere of prosperity has been attained.
“With the olive branch extended to the other parties and in the spirit of sportsmanship, we should drop our fighting armour and embrace one another for the sake of Imo people.”
Clearly, the task lies squarely on Uzodinma to hit the ground running and turn the state around, thereby putting a lie to those who hold the views that he cannot offer.