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Why Uzodimma ‘welcomed’ Buhari with Osadebe instead of warrior, Chimezie

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
17 September 2022   |   4:17 am
Right from January 14, 2020, up until now, the people of Imo State have continued to live in suspense with their governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma.

Right from January 14, 2020, up until now, the people of Imo State have continued to live in suspense with their governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma. The relationship between Governor Uzodimma and Imo voters simulates that of two adults in a forced union. The governor does not lose any opportunity to flaunt, like a wife from a privileged and influential home, her status.

Imo people believe that their governor was not their original intention, but forced on them by unexpected pregnancy outside wedlock.

That could explain why ever since the Supreme Court pronounced on the 2019 governorship election appeal that sacked Hon. Emeke Ihedioha, Governor Uzodimma has been struggling to win the confidence of the people, even as he rubs the fact in that despite their reservations, he remains their governor.

Using the foregoing as a backcloth, it could be understood why the recent visit by President Muhammadu Buhari came exactly one year after a similar visit in 2021. Governor Uzodimma and his supporters in the All Progressives Congress (APC), wanted the world to see the President’s visit as evidence of the governor’s political savviness instead of as a makeup visit to right the wrongs of the previous stopover.

And, as happened last year, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) proclaimed the legendry sit at home (SAH), which many have described as part of the Biafran calendar in Southeast.

Unlike the usual Monday SAHs, the decision of the IPOB leadership to slam a SAH on Tuesday September 13, 2022, took many surprise, even as it was given different interpretations: While some observers held that the SAH was targeted at President Buhari’s visit, others argued that the Governor Uzodimma orchaestrated the SAH so that the president’s visit could be without chance occurrence.

Those who expressed that sentiment remarked that the governor stoked the shift of IPOB leader’s trial from October to September 13, ostensibly to instigate IPOB to make their usual declaration.

Recall that in the more than three-year long bitter-sweet relationship between Imo people and Senator Uzodimma, IPOB had been on the forefront in writing off his administration as antithetical to Igbo socio-political interest.

Although there was no official confirmation that Governor Uzodimma had a hand in the shift of Kanu’s trial date, the IPOB’s statement outlined its intentions for declaring SAH on a Tuesday.

In the statement dated September 10, 2022, and signed by Emma Powerful, the IPOB spokesperson, the group declared: “The global family and movement of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) under the command and leadership of our indefatigable liberator, Mazi Nnamdi Okwuchukwu KANU, wish to announce to the general public, especially Biafrans, that Tuesday September 13, has been declared a day of civil action in the form of Sit-At-Home in Biafra Land.”

Powerful noted that the Tuesday, September 13, 2022, civil action was very important for two reasons, “First, Our Leader’s Appeal Court hearing that was supposed to be on October 11 has been brought forward to September 13, 2022.

“As usual, we call on Biafrans and lovers of freedom to demonstrate our solidarity with our leader, who is bearing our yoke in detention for over a year now. IPOB never issued a new directive to Biafrans, but is simply implementing an existing order to lock down Biafra Land any day the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra will appear in court at Abuja.

“It was based on such agreement with our leader that informed the suspension of the initial Mondays sit-at-home declared by IPOB leadership in August of 2021. It is imperative that our people understand this and go about their daily work and businesses on Monday and get prepared for Tuesday the 13th of September 2022, because Biafraland will be LOCKED DOWN COMPLETELY.

“Secondly, it has come to the knowledge of the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra that the vulture in IKONSO HOUSE in Owerri, the Imo State Government office has decided to insult the memories of our gallant men and women and of the youths of Imo State that he has been murdering in collaboration with the Nigerian terrorists in Army, police and DSS uniform by inviting Buhari to Oweeri the Imo State capital Tuesday September 13, 2022, the very same day the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra Mazi Nnamdi Kanu will be appearing in Court. What an affront and insult upon the land of Biafra and the people of Biafra.”

Consequently, that fateful Tuesday 13, when President Buhari’s aircraft touched ground at the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, Governor Uzodimma felt relived and seemingly fulfilled that he was killing two birds with one pebble: First, the President’s visit helped the governor to clear the pervading impression that President Buhari swore never to visit Imo State on Uzodimma’s watch as was being pandered by opposition in the state.

It could be recalled that shortly after President Buhari’s visit to Imo State last year, his remarks that he would consider before accepting another invitation, supported the impression that Governor Uzodimma tricked the President on embarking on the visit.

The President had remarked: “I am overwhelmed by this reception; overwhelmed in the sense that, when I accepted the invitation by the Imo State governor, who wants to justify investments the government has done to the people, I thought I would see the bridges, the roads and a few renovations.

“He didn’t tell me he was going to get the whole Igbo leadership here. So, in the future, when he invites me, I’ll know what to do.”

Also, apart from claims that the President was disappointed by the scant projects executed, opposition alleged that the projects were mostly uncompleted. This was just as the President’s attire was made the butt of ribald jokes on the social media as keyboard happy youths called for the arrest of the tailor who put together the Isiagu piece, particularly the President’s trouser.

In the Presidency’s efforts to come to Uzodimma’s aid, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, released a statement, explaining that Buhari’s closing comment was carefully taken out of context.

Adesina had stated: “We have observed that President Buhari’s concluding remarks at the meeting with South East Leaders during his one-day visit to Imo State is being deliberately contorted and twisted out of context.

“The purveyors of disinformation want Nigerians to believe that the President bluntly told Governor Uzodinma, ‘‘I’ll be careful with your future invitations. They have adduced different meanings to the phrase, contrary to the context wherein the President spoke during his successful dialogue with leaders of thought from Igbo land…”

The Second Coming
ON his second coming precisely one year after, it was a dapper President Buhari that walked briskly and majestically in a contrasting all white caftan, in a manner suggesting a response to all those that won’t mind their business and focus on his attire.

There were near silent whispers of “hey, he appears to be younger and smarter.” But, the height of the pantomime was during the breaking of kolanuts, which is a welcome ritual in Igbo land.

President General of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Ambassador George Obiozor, informed the august visitor that breaking kolanut in Igbo land is a sensitive and tricky business. Governor Uzodimma used the interlude of the kolanut breaking to speak in idiom, which Chinua Achebe describes as the oil with which elders eat words in Igbo land.

Why the governor chose late Osita Osadebe’s Osondi-Owendi, was not lost on many of the dignitaries present, who are aware of the tenuous relationship between the governor and his people. In Osodi-Owendi, Uzodimma was passing a subtle message to IPOB and the opposition that he does not give a damn.

Osondi-Owendi translates loosely to different strokes for different folks, but in the context of the hanky-panky politics of Imo State, the governor seems to have given up on his efforts to warm his administration into the hearts of Imolites.

Apparent from Buhari’s visit to Imo State also, was the fact that the governor was not apologetic about his membership of All Progressives Congress (APC), which has a low acceptability rating in the zone. It is such setting that would have spurred Christogonus Obinna Opara (Warrior of Oriental Brothers) to render his Jide nke gi kam jide nkem, onye ana na ibeya (keep to your lane).

Had Governor Uzodimma wanted, he could have brought Bright Chimezie of Zigima Sounds. The problem with that alternative is that instead of taunting his opponents, Chimezie would have reminded the governor Onuru ube nwanne agbalaoso (be your brother’s keeper) or Meere ndi obodo iheoma si gi n’obi (Serve your people with a sincere heart).

However, oblivious of the coded political diatribe, President Buhari felt at home as he met with Southeast leaders present, even as he declared that in spite of daunting odds, his administration has performed extremely well since it came on board in 2015.

And, as if echoing the Osondi-Owendi lyrics, the President lamented that those who should have been vociferous in marketing his administration’s marvellous deeds are regrettably silent.

Dignitaries present at the reception included, the Deputy Senate President, Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Idris Wase; Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nana Opiah; the Deputy governor, Prof. Placid Njoku; Chairman of Elders Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; a former military administrator of Imo State/Foreign Affairs Minister, Maj.-Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd) among others.

While recalling his government was welcomed into office by a multiplicity of economic challenges, including dwindling oil prices, crude oil theft, Boko Haram insurgency, among other drawbacks, the President declared: “To be frank with you, I blame the Nigerian elite for not thinking hard about our country. Between 1999 and 2015 when we came in, I will like people to check the Central Bank and the NNPC, the average production was 2.1million bpd. Nigeria was earning at this time 2.1 million times, but look at the state of infrastructure, look at the roads, look at the railway, it was virtually killed. Power, we are still struggling.

“But, when we came, unfortunately, the militants were unleashed, production went down to half a million bpd. Again, unfortunately, the cost of petroleum went down from $28 to $37.”

Referring to his previous visit, Buhari noted that his appeal for support to Governor Uzodimma to bring progress to the state was bearing fruit, which could be seen in the infrastructural growth recorded by the administration.

The governor in his welcome address had noted that, but for the prompt intervention of President Buhari, bandits and hoodlums would have overrun the state. He informed the President that, “your prompt intervention helped to restore peace and order in our state. But, for your timely, prompt and fatherly intervention through the security agencies, bandits and hoodlums would have overrun Imo. For this, I also say thank you Mr President.”

While remarking that his administration’s goal is to leave Imo better than they met it, Uzodimma noted: “We refused to be distracted by pockets of insecurity and social media blackmailers and propaganda, especially those that are politically contrived.”

He noted with glee that the Owerri-Okigwe Road, under construction, traverses seven councils, leading to Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and other states, adding that construction of most of the roads undertaken by his administration, including Amucha-Njaba erosion area on Owerri-Orlu road, were abandoned because of their topography.

However, taking on the governor, the opposition PDP described the President’s visit as a meaningless jamboree and waste of public funds, explaining that Governor Uzodimma lured Buhari to the state to commission uncompleted projects.

Although the state governor outlined that the President was coming to commission the first phase of the Owerri- Okigwe Road, and the Owerri- Orlu Road, PDP decried the rush to inaugurate the projects when they were still ongoing.

In a statement by the state PDP publicity secretary, Collins Opurozor, the party declared: “For the avoidance of doubt, the Imo State House of Assembly Complex, the best in Nigeria, was built and commissioned by Chief Sam Mbakwe in 1983. The project was handled by an indigenous firm, Okigwe Construction Company, owned by Chief John Enyogasi.

“For Imo PDP, therefore, Uzodinma’s attempt to take credit for Mbakwe’s landmark project is an intolerable dimension to his insult and disrespect to Mbakwe, and it is the most audacious attack on the memory of the late respected leader.

“What makes the issue more outrageous is that President Mohammadu Buhari, who Uzodinma has concluded plans to bring for the festival of shame, has always been known for his abiding disdain for the progress and development of Imo State.”

While the opposition continues to wail and rail, Governor Uzodimma will continue his Osondi-Owendi till October 2023, when the voters will have the opportunity to introduce their kinsmen, Oriental Brothers and Warrior’s Iche na mmadu bu eghu (who is fooling who)?