Stoppage of severance package excites Imo people, rekindles hope
As governments continue to struggle to get a handle on the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic, those at the helms of affairs are also fashioning ways of mitigating the crisis on their respective domains. One man who has taken the gauntlet to stop former political office holders from further fleecing the state of needed funds is Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State. He follows the example of Zamfara State governor, Mr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle of Peoples Democratic Party, who took similar action upon resumption of office last year.
Imo people owe Uzodinma a lot of gratitude for taking the bull by the horns to repeal the obnoxious law that gave pension to political office holders who only serve eight years as against the mandatory 10 years before anyone can enjoy pension. He did this not minding that he too will soon fall into that category as governor who will leave office in four or eight years and so not ne entitled to such jumbo but illegal pay.
While signing the repeal law, Uzodinma said: “Apart from the inconsistency of such a law to the provisions of the ground norm, which is the Constitution of 1999 (as amended), this has led for very long time precedence that does not encourage diligence and prudence in service delivery.”
The state’s chief executive officer has said the state’s House of Assembly also deserves accolades for being on the same page with him on the need to repeal the law. With such monies freed from former state officials, Uzodinma hopes to boost the state’s internally generated revenue to execute programmes and projects for the benefit of Imo people rather than only a few privileged feast fat on state’s funds.
Until the recent governance feat, Uzodinma was particularly hailed when ‘the gods’ reportedly used him to scuttle the ‘third term agenda’ of then Governor Rochas Okorocha, who wanted to continue ruling Imo through his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu.
But due to how he emerged governor of Imo State, he was being called unpleasant names in several quarters and credited with unpopular comments. This made the Imo Council of Elders to warn that it was derogatory for the opposition to address him as ‘Supreme Court Governor’. They described such appellation for the governor as an insult to Imo people, connoting that the people never voted for him. Chairman of the council, Dr. Edmond Onyebuchi, said at a press conference that the elders would henceforth tackle any individual/group who addressed Uzodinma as a ‘Supreme Court Governor’.
Uzodinma was a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is popular in the South East. But seeing that being in the party would not give him the state’s top seat he desired, he left for the All Progressives Congress (APC). There, with his political clout, he elbowed Okorocha’s puppet and grabbed the governorship ticket. That stunt increased his popularity among Imo people, who wanted Okorocha and his elements out of Douglas House for good.
But with the APC ticket, this Imo senator was like a good wine served in a poisoned chalice. Not with what they experienced in the hands of Okorocha and some APC governments.
When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Chief Emeka Ihedioha as the winner of the 2019 governorship election in Imo, there was jubilation in major parts of the state. Then pan to February 2020 when the Supreme Court declared Uzodinma as the duly-elected governor. The joy in the most parts of the state dimmed, because the APC is endangered in the state.
Many things have happened since Uzodinma took over Douglas House. Is it the attack on his convoy or the ill-feelings whenever he passed in some areas, especially Ihedioha’s strongholds?
The recent death of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff (CoS), Abba Kyari, threw up another dimension to the dislike of some Imo people for APC. First, it was the claim that Uzodinma was indebted to Kyari “for making him governor.” The statement was attributed it to the Office of the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor. As if not done, they followed it up with the story that Uzodinma wanted to rename Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri, after the late Kyari.
Before the rumour crept into the mainstream media, Uzodinma’s Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser, Oguwike Nwachuku, came out to debunk it, though it was trending on the social media.
According to Nwachuku, the author(s) of the fake news had not only credited to the governor what he could not have said, but they criminally wrote his name as the one who signed the purported statement.
“Since Kyari passed on, the same persons have been issuing statements, forging the logo of government and the name of Mr. Nwachuku with the intent to deceive Imolites in particular and the public in general into believing their propaganda and fake news to be real,” he stated.
Fingering the PDP in the whole plot, he added, “Ordinarily, the blackmail by the PDP through the two fake statements they credited to the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor should have been ignored, knowing that no right-thinking person will believe them.
“In one of such fake statements they issued and also circulated on social media, they mischievously credited Governor Uzodinma to have said he would immortalise Kyari for ‘making him governor.’ How would any person believe the complete trash that Uzodinma will, in a condolence letter, say that the late Chief of Staff to the President made him governor of Imo? Such a senseless and irresponsible blackmail!”
The CPS described “the propaganda” as something that only exists in the imagination of the authors’ tiny brains.
“These heartless and infantile fabrications by the PDP do not ordinarily deserve the dignity of a rebuttal by the respected Office of the CPS/Media Adviser. But the circumstances are not ordinary because it is about playing politics with the dead. It is sad to admit that the PDP has lost every sense of decency and fallen to the beastly level of denigrating the memory of the dead,” he stated.
He enjoined the public to ignore all the fake news being churned out around the death of Kyari by criminally-minded people and to also bear in mind that their appetite for wrong causes might not be easy to quench in one fell swoop.
But the PDP came hard on the state government, describing his statement as blackmail, intimidation, terror, false accusation and cheap propaganda.
Secretary of Imo PDP, Ray Emeana, stated: “PDP as the leading opposition party with other civil societies and democratic allies in Imo shall not be cowed into keeping silent in the face of cluelessness which, unfortunately, has resulted in serious dearth of meaningful governance, which the PDP, in just seven months in office, already established in Imo.
We will also not be cowed by lies, blackmails and threats of arrests, as we will continue to hold the government accountable.”
However, Governor Uzodinma still has the opportunity to re-worm himself into the heart of Imolites, which, in turn, will render the purveyors of fake news about him and his government jobless. He should concentrate on performance by building infrastructure, growing the economy and taking care of workers, as his “shared prosperity” government promises. That way, Imo people will know that the insinuation that the Northern cabal installed him to do their bidding is not just false but highly preemptive.
Even ‘autocratic’ United States President Donald Trump realised that governance begins after politicking; he visited his predecessor, Barack Obama. Uzodinma should bury the political hatchet and mend fences with his political rivals, who may be the architects of the fake news against him. The writers may not even be from PDP. He should not disregard his rivals in his own party, the APC.
In the final analysis, visible performance and fence mending are the known elixir, for now, to his political headache.
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