By James Okere
One of the key advantages of being prepared for leadership and being conversant with the critical needs of the people is that such a leader does not grope in the dark when entrusted with the leadership position. In fact, a would be governor who already had his programmes tailored to capture the essential needs of the people of the state only hits the ground running, no matter the distractions, including financial challenges. That explains why Governor Hope Uzodinma did not waste time in prosecuting his developmental agenda for Imo state. Not only was he prepared for the exalted office, he was a “home boy” who virtually spent his years among the people, knowing as it were, their expectations from government.
Perhaps in the din of the rancorous campaign among the candidates in 2019, many may not have actually paid much attention to Uzodinma’s development agenda encapsulated in the 3Rs of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Recovery. In his detailed manifesto tailored alongside that of the ruling APC, Uzodinma pledged to recover Imo state from the cesspit of corruption and dictatorship it had been enmeshed. He promised to rehabilitate the decayed infrastructure. He gave his word to reconstruct the state including the psyche of civil servants that had been battered beyond the ordinary. He needed just two critical factors to see through those lofty promises: Will power and finance.
Whereas he had the former in excess, finance was a stumbling block. But believing that where there is a will, there must be a way, Uzodinma confronted the developmental challenges facing him. Although he inherited an empty treasury without even the luxury of a handover note, the governor marched on sustained by hope and faith. One of the key areas that needed immediate attention was road reconstruction. Prior to January 2020, almost all the roads traversing the state were death traps in a comatose state. Flood had sacked many residents. Movement of services and foods was faster than the speed of a snail and to make matters worse, the economy was negatively affected since majority of the citizens relied on commerce for survival. Those in the estate business abandoned themselves to fate because patronage was at the lowest ebb. They just couldn’t force tenants to live in flooded areas with the attendant health hazards and mobility quagmire.
Interestingly, many citizens heaped the blame of the bad roads on Uzodinma. That was not misplaced, afterall, he is the sitting governor. They conveniently suffered collective amnesia and chose to forget that for more than 20 years the problem had become systemic. With the calmness of a Bishop, the governor promised to fix the roads as soon as the rains were over. He told them that the burden of bad roads midwifed by past administrations will be lifted from their shoulders at the advent of the dry season. As a man whose word is his bond, the Imo State governor walked the talk by awarding contracts for the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of 46 roads across the state. At the last count, 22 of the roads have been completed and commissioned.
These roads include Oparanozie Street, Amaigbo Street, Edede Street, Lake Nwaebere Street, Olokoro Street, Umuahia Street, Okeikpe Street, Arugo Street, Egbema Street, Ngwa Street, Douglas Road, JP Ajaelu Street and Thomas Moore Street. Others are Gozie Nwachukwu Street, Archdeacon Dennis Road, Aladimna, Assumpta/Ibariogwa Port Harcourt Road, Federal Secretariat Road, now renamed Muhammadu Buhari Drive, Dick Tiger Road, Dick Tiger Street, Akachi Road now Evan Enwerem way, Relief Market Road and Chukwuma Nwoha Road. The harvest of roads is the product of the commitment of the shared prosperity Government of Gov Hope Uzodinma to change the lives of Imo people and resuscitate the economy.
Although those using the roads have already testified to the positive changes brought about in the conduct of their businesses, the government deemed it fit to invite prominent Nigerians to also bear witness to what Uzodinma has done with the resources of the state within his one year in office. President Muhammadu Buhari was the first to open the floodgate of visitors/witnesses to Imo to behold the road revolution wrought by the shared prosperity government of Senator Uzodinma. As part of activities making the one year in office of the governor, the President virtually commissioned the Federal Secretariat Road which was fittingly named after him. Not surprised that Hope Uzodinma had touched positively the lives of Imo people within just 365 days in office, Buhari proudly proclaimed the governor as a shining example of what an APC product and government can do in and for Nigeria.
The President was not alone in his effusive praise of the governor after the evaluation of his progress report as exemplified in those brand-new roads. His ever loyal deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President of Nigeria visited Imo twice in a space of two weeks to endorse the governor for a job well done. First, he came calling during the official thanksgiving marking the one year anniversary of the Hope’s administration. The security breaches that occurred in Imo penultimate week almost marred the second visit of the Vice President. But the gentle Professor was not deterred. On the 6th of April, he landed in Owerri to also commission some roads and bear testimony to the road revolution of the governor. Apart from stressing the economic importance of the roads, the Vice President urged the people of Imo to hold fast to their governor because of his zealous commitment to their welfare. He was also happy that the governor understood perfectly the needs of the people and was resolute in delivering democracy dividends to them. He therefore urged all, especially the youths to give peace a chance, noting that there can never be any development in the absence of peace.
Whereas the Vice President downplayed the unfortunate events of the previous day, choosing instead to wave the flag of peace, the Senate President, Alhaji Ahmad Lawan was not that diplomatic. He fingered enemies of the federal and state government for being responsible for the security breaches so as to take away the shine from the glorious one year anniversary of the Governor. Warning such people to desist from their evil ways, the Senate President commended Hope Uzodinma for refusing to be distracted by the antics of the opposition, but had gone ahead to deliver quality roads to boost the economic fortunes of the state and ease the movement of human, goods and services across the state. He however urged the people of the state to guard jealously facilities of the government so as to encourage the government to do more for them.
That spirit of doing more for the people apparently galvanized Gov Uzodinma to invite his brother Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to commission the historical Chukwuma Nwoha Road in Owerri. The history behind the road is that it had been abandoned by successive administrations in the last 20 years. The road was named after a member of the conquering Golden Eaglets of 1985. Flood had driven out the residents away. Landlords lost their property and income. Tenants avoided the area like a plaque. Despite its strategic importance in diverting traffic from the city centre to Imo state University and Okigwe Road, Chukwuma Nwoha was desolate. But Uzodinma changed the narrative. Apart from recovering and reconstructing the road, Uzodinma made it a dual carriageway. And Fayemi, the Chairman of the Governor’s Forum was carried away by the beauty and splendor of the new road. While applauding his Imo counterpart for redeeming his campaign promises, the Ekiti State governor praised Uzodinma for this judicious use of state resources for the good of the majority.
Although, Uzodinma had been upbeat in the commissioning of all the roads since the commencement of his one year anniversary, that of Chukwuma Nwoha was emotional for him as evidenced in the speech he delivered at the ceremony. Indeed the speech captured his vision to Imo people especially the youths, asking them to remain peaceful and supportive of his government to enhance the opportunity of more democracy dividends.
Hear him, “Today marks another watershed in our matchless developmental efforts, especially in the area of Infrastructures. Today, we are practically commissioning a brand new dualised Chukwuma Nwoha road which had been surrendered to flood and other ecological processes before we came on board. We all know how residents had deserted this road before we embarked on its holistic rehabilitation. Both landlords and tenants had their tales of woes, yet their cries didn’t reach the ears of previous administrations.
This particular commissioning is heartwarming because this road is named in honour of Chukwuma Nwoha, who as a teenager was among the youngsters that made the nation proud by winning the under 17 world Cup in China in 1985. In essence Chukwuma Nwoha road ought to reverbrate a sense of national pride and inspiration on its users. It should remind them how our young Eaglets made us all proud in far away China 36 years ago. It should also inspire the younger ones to strive to be immortalized like Chukwuma Nwoha. But all that will be only when the road is a delightful motorway to road users.
Unfortunately in the past 20 years, the opposite was the case. What we had instead was a stretch of stagnant pond water that severed this critical Chukwuma Nwoha link road, connecting MCC road to Egbu road. Indeed what we met on ground was a great eyesore and a big shame on our national psyche. To the glory of God, that is now history. We have not only recovered the road but we have made it a brand new one by turning it into a dual carriage way to take more traffic off the ever busy Egbu road. In our shared prosperity agenda, encapsulated in the three RS of Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Recovery, roads are important component because of their socioeconomic benefits to our people.
Apart from relieving residents the burden of restlessness occasioned by flooding,t his road relieves pressure from the city centre as motorists coming from Umuahia, Mbaise and Emekuku can easily pass through Chukwuma Nwoha to IMSU , Okigwe road, Orji and other parts of the city. Today, the chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, His Excellency, Dr Kayode Fayemi is here live to commission this important road. He is again bearing witness to our total commitment to the service of our people through provision of critical infrastructure. President Muhammadu Buhari opened the floodgate of harvest of roads followed by the vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. The Senate President, Alhaji Ahmad Lawan was also here last week. As we have more than 46 roads fully completed or under construction, it means that more distinguished Nigerians will be touching base with Imo State to bear witness to what we have done in just one year.
What it means is that under a conducive environment devoid of violence, unnecessary distractions and malicious political shenanigans, this government would more than deliver on its mandate to transform Imo State. It also means that Imo State will only continue to march on triumphantly to better and better years ahead. Even more importantly, it signals the irreversible end to the days suffocating hardship in the land of “New Egypt”, because we have made sure that NEVER AGAIN, shall our people return to Egypt. May I therefore use this opportunity to appeal to our youths to give peace a chance by refraining from being willing tools in the hands of enemies of our state and country. Since there can never be progress without peace, all our people should recommit to building an enduring society where we shall pursue our legitimate undertakings in peace”.
With 22 roads already completed and commissioned, and 24 more awaiting completion, Uzodinma has served notice that his road revolution is not a fluke but a sustainable programme designed to transform the socio-economic lives of the people. It is gratifying that these roads are not concentrated only on the urban centers. The rural areas are also beneficiaries. It is even more gratifying that among the roads under construction are the Owerri-Okigwe and Owerri Orlu roads which are dual carriageways that would connect the capital city to the other senatorial districts of Okigwe and Orlu and by extension neighbouring states of Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra States. The two roads which are going to be the signature projects of the current administration more than speak eloquently of the desire of Uzodinma to return Imo to its true pride of place as the Eastern Heartland of the Igbo nation.
Dr. Okere writes from Owerri