…A case of justice delayed but not denied
BY DECLAN MBADIWE EMELUMBA
The final declaration of Sen Hope Uzodimma as the duly elected governor of Imo state came like an electrifying thunder bolt.
For a few who had concluded that they had effectively covered their tracks in the worst electoral manipulation in the history of the state, it was a rude devastating shock. For the vast majority who had prayed relentlessly for Justice to be served and the stolen mandate restored to the man the people voted excitedly for in the March governorship elections, it was a thing of indescribable joy.
Expectedly, three landmark signals have emerged between the declaration of Uzodimma as the duly elected governor of Imo state – on January 14, his inauguration the next day and his actions 36 hours after, to confirm to even a doubting Thomas that Uzodimma is indeed the Peoples governor who has come ready to serve and whose governorship may become the much needed rallying point for unity and peace
First was the volcanic eruption of joy of thousands of Imo people that greeted the judgement of the supreme court in Abuja which spread like wild fire down to Imo state. The second was the incredible show of support to the new governor by the major political gladiators, Former governor Rochas Okorocha, Sen Ifeanyi Araraume and Okwumba Uche Nwaosu. The third was the sure footed take off of the governor from his swearing in ceremony
Starting from the jubilation that greeted the supreme court judgement, it was evident that it was spontaneous, sincere, even staggering. Of course the news was expected, was even long over-due. The expectation was high. Though it took more than 10 months to manifest, the victory was sweet. The patience paid off and the joy became full. The jubilation that attended the pronouncement of Hope Uzodinma as the Governor of Imo State by the Supreme Court on Tuesday was unprecedented in the history of the State. The crowd that came for his swearing-in the next day on Wednesday, January 15, 2020 more than attested to the fact that Governor Uzodinma is indeed the chosen one whom Imo people voted for in the last governorship election.
Contrary to the vile propaganda of the opposition, the streets of Owerri erupted in celebrations that Tuesday immediately after the supreme court judgement. Most drinking joints in the state capital did not close for the night. Blares of horn from motorists told the story that the real expected change had just begun in Eastern Heartland. Nothing was contrived.
This is not to suggest that friends of the Ihedioha government and those who had profited from them were happy. But they were in the minority, dwarfed by majority of those who voted Uzodinma in the March 09, 2019 governorship election. They were more than happy to witness the reversal of events through the courageous pronouncement of the Supreme Court justices.
The celebration actually commenced from the premises of the Apex court in Abuja. Hundreds of Imolites had camped out there since Sunday. When the judgment did not come on Monday, they were not deterred. Only 24 hours separated them from their dream. They waited. On Tuesday, the joyous news came. They trooped out chanting solidarity songs, trying to outdo “Awilo” in their dance steps, not forgetting to relay the good news through phone calls. That immutable celebration of success echoed through perseverance and absolute faith in God.
Back in Owerri, the city wore a festive mood. On the scheduled day of inauguration, thousands poured into the state capital to witness first-hand Uzodimma’s swearing-in. From the rustic and agrarian village of Ikperejere in Ihitte Uboma LGA to the oil city of Oguta, Imo people thronged the Heroes Square in New Owerri, venue of the inauguration. As Vanguard newspaper reported on Thursday, people started arriving there by 11am. Indeed by 1pm, the scheduled time of inauguration, the entire ground had been taken over by a sea of human heads.
But just like what obtained the day Governor Uzodinma arrived Owerri after he secured the APC ticket, neither weather nor time could stop Imo people from seeing him, even if they could not touch him. For six solid hours that it took the governor to complete his engagements in Abuja (including receiving his certificate of return from INEC) the people waited patiently, singing and dancing. The manifest show of affection was touching. Even old women were part of the crowd. Those that came from the hinterland were not thinking of going home. Their thoughts were only on the man who had previously touched their lives positively and who was now only minutes away from being the governor and benefactor again.
By 6pm when Uzodinma arrived with his deputy, Prof. Placid Njoku to be administered with the oath of office, the crowd went wild in jubilation. “Onwa”, “Onwa” (the praise name of the governor) rented the air. Even the deaf and the blind knew something was in the offing. Lo and behold, Senator Hope Uzodinma became the sixth civilian governor of Imo state by popular acclaim. He became a case of justice delayed but not denied.
As a man who came prepared to be the governor, his acceptance speech after the oath ritual performed by the Chief Judge, Justice Nnadi, more than confirmed that Imo people are now on the path of a rebirth. Uzodinma’s maiden address centred on his three cardinal programme of reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation. He also harped on accountability, reason he demanded records of financial transactions of the state government in the last 10 years. Although, many media organizations reported that the new governor has set a machinery in motion to probe three of his predecessors, Uzodinma simply wants Imo people to know the true state of affairs in government.
But one remarkable thing that happened on that Wednesday in Owerri was that Hope Uzodinma’s gospel of reconciliation was given a practical expression that signaled a fresh beginning for Imo people. Former Governor Rochas Okorocha who fought a bitter political war with the new governor was present at the inauguration. Uche Nwosu, Rochas’ son-in-law and candidate of AA in the last election was also there. So was Senator Ifeanyi Araraume who flew the flag of APGA in the said election. Other rivals from different political divides in the state congregated at the venue not only to give a seal of approval and support to the new administration but to proclaim in a loud voice that this is the real government of the people
As the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshimohle who was accompanied by Minister of State for Education, Hon. (Dr.) Emeka Nwajiuba, said, Uzodinma’s victory is for Imo people. For the records, Oshimohle’s statement was just a reflection of President Muhammadu Buhari congratulatory text to the people of Imo State shortly after the governor’s Supreme Court’s victory. President Buhari urged the people of Imo to see the emergence of Uzodinma as God’s will for them. It was the same message that Senate President Ahmed Lawan and his deputy, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege delivered to the people of Eastern Heartland, urging them to support the new governor. Indeed a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Duro Meseko described Imo people as being lucky to have Uzodinma as governor, saying that the man remains a highly skilled administrator who wants the best for them.
Apparently realizing that the new governor wants the best for them, Imo people comprising all strata of the society, traditional rulers, professionals, politicians, market women and youths turned out in their best last Wednesday to usher in a new governor whose vision is centred on good governance, welfarism and accountability. That rare show of solidarity to Uzodinma is what a former chairman of Imo NUJ, Mr. Innocent Igwe wants sustained. According to him, the political and legal battles are over. Imo should be united under Governor Hope Uzodinma.
And within 36 hours after his inauguration Governor Uzodimma met with relevant stakeholders, from the civil service to all government agencies to assure them that the welfare of the workers and Imo people is the main stay of his prosperity agenda.Also key appointments for the offices of Secretary to the state government, chief of staff, Attorney general and commissioner for justice, as well as chief press secretary to the governor, have been made. By next week the governor will address Imo people to unveil his prosperity agenda to them.