By Livinus Ozurumba
Any visitor to Imo state would likely experience traffic in some parts of the state, especially along some busy streets in Owerri. Reason is not far-fetched. Governor Hope Uzodimma is remodeling the state, renewing infrastructure and constructing new ones.
Imo is currently one huge workshop with many ongoing road constructions and makeovers. While some of the roads have already been completed and commissioned, a good number of them are at various stages of construction and renewal. It was the promise the governor made at inauguration of his government in January 2020. He pledged to restore the glory of the state. In infrastructure, healthcare, education, commerce and industry, and others, Imo was an epitome of development in the glorious years of Dee Sam Mbakwe.
The magic touch of the phenomenal leader and deft manager of men and resources spawned a verdant of industries and created a conducive atmosphere for enterprise nurturing, quality education, accessible and affordable healthcare. The Mbakwe Imo thus became a reference point and a model for many states across the country. Military intrusion interrupted that momentum of development and Imo has never been the same again.
Uzodimma is well aware of the place of Imo in the south east. He is aware of its rich history and in his word, he is determined to rebuild the broken walls, restore the lustre of education for which the state was famed; rekindle commerce and industry through well-thought through public-private partnerships; upskill human capital by infusing ICT into the workplace and schools and reviving the state’s agro-economy. The recent resolution of conflict with Roche Group which has invested a chunky N350 billion in AdaPalm, a once thriving flagship equity of the state, shows the governor’s commitment to his word to create wealth and jobs among Imo people.
Leadership in contemporary Nigeria has been all talk and little action. Some governments at all levels have deployed the power and compelling allure of the media, both social and traditional media, to create an illusion of an effective leadership with landmark achievements in the minds of people. But such achievements remain audio accomplishments often captured in 3-D presentations just to beguile and deceive. Some governors, past and presents, are only remembered for their sterling performance only presented by graphical illustration but in reality, they are monstrous failures. Some almost stole their entire states, converting public funds, assets and land to private pockets as part of their family estates.
Until January 2020, Imo was a grazing ground for greedy leadership, a festering sore of public assets stripping and misappropriation. One of the former governors, Rochas Okorocha, was lawfully investigated by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry. And the panel’s findings have tilted from the bizarre to the abominable, even ridiculous. He was on the verge of setting a new world record in primitive, unabashed annexation of public funds and assets as family fortunes. He was on the verge of dethroning the late Mobutu Sese Seko whose despotic and corrupt regime in Congo ranked among the most corrupt in the world. The setting up of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry by former governor Emeka Ihedioha and the emergence of Hope Uzodimma as governor is therefore a blessing to the state and to Okorocha family. Imo is lucky to have Uzodimma who, by popular will and desire of the people, has begun the process of recovery of most of the annexed properties.
But no matter the circumstance and pressure to act otherwise, Uzodimma should stick to his mission of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery. He should stay the course of infrastructure development. What Nigeria needs now are infrastructure leaders, whether as president, governors and local government chairmen. Uzodimma inherited roads in terrible and horrifying conditions. Many roads done by previous governments were eroded as soon as they were constructed because the jobs were poorly delivered, and with substandard materials far below standard structural engineering specifications.
It’s heartwarming that Uzodimma is giving priority to building infrastructure especially rebuilding the many failed roads of previous governments and new ones. It’s unfair to blame Governor Uzodimma for the bad roads in Imo. It’s either out of mischief or out of a poor grasp of the rudiments and structural behaviour of asphalted roads. Uzodimma is not the cause of bad roads. He inherited them and like the Biblical Nehemiah, he has rolled up his sleeves to re-do them because that’s what he promised: good governance evidenced by dividends of democracy.
And true to his word, he has been bullish with road construction, remodeling and makeover with no fewer than 90 roads either under construction, completed or about to be completed. It’s the Governor’s bell ringer and perfect strategy to arrest the inexorable decay in road infrastructure. And the governor has, ipso facto, answered the many questions of the irreverent mob of critics. The uniqueness of the Uzodimma model of development is that they are evenly distributed among the three senatorial zones. The roads, for instance, cut across the urban and rural areas spread in the three senatorial zones of the state. Of these roads, 32 had been fully completed and commissioned. The infrastructure of the Uzodimma era includes the flood-control system at Chukwuma Nwoha road, also known as the balloon – driven tunnel. This has been a standout intervention by the governor because over the years, property owners and dwellers within the vicinity had been forced to abandon their homes to escape the destructive fury of the floods. But today, they are no longer on the run. Many have returned to reclaim their homes.
There’s also the on-going construction of Owerri – Orlu and Okigwe – Owerri dual carriageways. They are critical components of the grand vision of the governor to reset the state to its default state as the south east hub for tourism, commerce and industry. Imo needs roads and Uzodimma is building roads, albeit quality roads, not the ‘wash-wash’ roads he inherited their carcasses. The governor is building roads not only to boost socio-economic activities in the state but to also prove that the state can build quality roads that can outlive many administrations, an obvious reference to the strong and absorbent roads built by the late Dee Sam Mbakwe.
Uzodimma believes that when completed, the roads and other infrastructure would help bolster the state’s economy. Owerri, the state capital, remains the tourism capital of the south east. The culinary prowess of the average Imo indigene, the raft of hotels in Owerri and the serenading tropical ambience attract visitors to the state in drove.
Those who have made it their vocation to cause panic and insecurity in the state and turn around to blame the governor should realise that when Imo is made good, it is for the good of all. This army of paid critics and merchants of violence should direct their energy at those who turned the state to a family estate and stole mindlessly from the public cookie jar. Uzodimma has set himself on the right path of re-building Imo. He wants to be remembered as an infrastructure governor. The baying mob should let him be for the good of the people.
- Livinus Ozurumba writes from Owerri