…Seeks Buhari’s intervention to control Imo erosion
…Says Okorocha should understand he’s former gov
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
GOVERNOR Hope Uzodimma of Imo State yesterday said that the emergence of presidential candidates in the 2023 election will not be based on ethnicity.
The governor has also pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to come to the rescue of Imo State on the erosion menace ravaging some parts of the state.
He further told former Governor Rochas Okorocha to come to the realization that he is no longer the State governor and accord him (Uzodimma) the recognition as the sitting governor.
The Imo State governor spoke to State House Correspondents after meeting behind closed doors with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Fielding questions on his position over the agitation among many stakeholders in South East that the 2023 Presidency should come to the zone, he said the decision of who flies the presidential ticket rests squarely with the respective political parties.
It would be recalled that the Chief Whip of the Senate and former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor-Kalu was recently quoted as saying that anyone can contest for the presidency under the All Progressives Congress, APC, since it has not zoned the 2023 ticket to a particular part of the country.
According to him, “Well, you know the position is not vacant now. There is a sitting President and we are practicing partisan democracy and not tribal democracy. So, the emergence of presidential candidate will come on party by party basis, not tribe by tribe basis.
“But if there are other internal factors that will form part of the considerations for parties taking decision of course, that will be entirely the job of the leadership of those political parties and I think that is the right thing to do.”
The governor said he met the president to brief him on the problems in Imo State, particularly erosion to seek his intervention.
He said: “In specific terms, the issue of erosion, the level of erosion in Imo State is alarming and I have taken time to explain to Mr. President and he has assured me that the Federal Government will intervene as soon as possible.
“I used the opportunity also to bring to his knowledge the development in the South East and that our people are grateful on the completion and opening of the Enugu Airport and we are also happy with the speed and the pace of work at the Second Niger Bridge and the various agricultural intervention programmes he brought to South East.
“I also used the same opportunity to ask for more because you know in this business, the more you get, you must ask for more. I am sure and I believe that Mr. President is committed towards alleviating some of the problems in the South East region and Imo in particular. “
Asked how erosion funds received by the state had been deployed, he explained: “I don’t know of what happened before I became the governor but you know I am a parliamentarian and under the law, we have National Council of Environment and Ecological Fund. It is a discretionary fund. It takes only the approval of the President for those funds to be used.
“If you identify ecological site that requires intervention and you write to the President through the Secretary to the Federal Government and they consider some of the projects, those projects will be awarded by the Ecological Fund office.
“I don’t know of money being given to governors, maybe this was before my time but what I have done is to identify the critical areas. If you go to Federal University of Technology Owerri towards Avu, you will see that the road is almost being cut into two and because of the population of students living across the other side, if nothing is done, you find a situation where students will not have access to their usual lectures and again, the lives and property of those in those areas are also threatened.
“If you recall in 1982, President (Shehu) Shagari visited Imo State of then and made a promise to correct Amucha erosion, that Amucha erosion has so degraded to the extent that it is now a death trap.
“Incidentally, it is part of the area that the Imo State government is struggling now to get Julius Berger to dualize the road. I am sure that if the Federal Government intervenes and take the erosion aspect of the road, it will be cheaper for Imo State and affordable for us to pay a contractor like Julius Berger to now concentrate on the road alone.
“So, these are some of the things I brought to the knowledge of Mr. President and I can assure you, in his usual magnanimous manner, he is committed because he has the listening ear.
“You will recall last year, Owerri people were going to market using canoe.The level of flooding in Owerri was terrible. So, what I did first was to review the Owerri master plan, identify the drawing of the drainage system established since 1981 and then got in touch with the company that did the job from Isreal.”
On the alleged squabble between him and former Governor Rochas Okorocha, he said, “On the issue of Okorocha the former governor, he is my brother, my very good brother in whom I am well pleased. I have no issue with him. The only thing is that he is now a former governor and I am now the current governor. Once we understand that, we don’t have any issue.”
Asked if the internal crisis in APC in Imo State will not cost the party the forthcoming Imo North Senatorial election, he said, as a seasoned party administrator, he was in charge of the situation.
” If you understand my history and know where I am coming from, you will agree with me that my knowledge of party management is robust and I can assure you that issues and activities that took place before election, of course any seasoned and experienced party administrator who is in-charge like I am now will do his best to ensure that there is no faction or all those factors that would weaken the strength of the party in the state.
“On the contrary, of late, I have taken time to unite the party, bring all the people in. You must have heard how 23 members of the House of Assembly left their parties and have joined APC. You must have heard how a sitting state chairman of the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) left PDP and joined the APC with his executive. You must have also heard how AA (Action of Alliance) the followers of former Governor Rochas Okorocha have also joined back the APC.
“APC is the ruling party and APC is very strong not only in Imo State. It is growing from strength to strength now in the entire South East region.”