By Declan Emelumba
When one of Hope Uzodinma’s daughters wedded in Owerri recently, the Imo State capital was literarily on lockdown because the crème de la crème of the Nigerian Society thonged the state capital to felicitate with him and his family.
President Muhammadu Buhari (ably represented) led the political class, with the Vice – President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo and the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, showing strong presence.
Two A-list artists, Davido and Flavour, led the celebrities to show solidarity to a man who has shown uncommon passion for service to his fatherland. Many did not honour his invitation because he is the Governor of Imo State. Majority were there to celebrate Hope Uzodinma, the man. It was his humanity and inter – personal relationships that drew the distinguished guests to Owerri. His nationalist views gave them hope that people should not give up on the country.
The desire to witness first hand the Hope Uzodima phenomenon also drew some of the guests to the ceremony aptly referred to as the greatest crowd puller in Owerri in decades.
But, it was to be expected. Hope Uzodinma represents different things to different people. He symbolizes trust and loyalty to friends and associates, and hope and succor to the downtrodden.
At work, he is an embodiment of capacity and efficiency to his staff, and at home, he is an epitome of love and affection to his family. Since Hope Uzodinma came into public office in the last 10 years, he has been an embodiment of excellence, hard work and patriotism.
That is why he is known from the North to the South and from the East to the West where he has had a positive impact on the lives of millions of people. This probably explains why the Sun Newspaper, rightly chose to honour Senator Hope Uzodinma, the Executive Governor of Imo State as the GOVERNOR OF THE YEAR 2021.
In the many other instances that Sun Newspapers had conferred the Governor of the year awards, many of the recipients had spent up to four years or even more in office.
Nominating Uzodinma for such an honour after he had served for just two years in office is proof that he has done something remarkable in Imo State. The truth is he has done and is still doing remarkable things in Imo State.
The nomination has also confirmed the adage that a gold fish has no hiding place. But, more importantly, the award is a confirmation that hard work never goes unnoticed and would ultimately attract the requisite reward.
It is worthy of note that The Sun Newspapers, can only come to such judgement only after their own independent research, assessment and evaluation based on their strict criteria.
For a man whose creed is hard work, Uzodinma has always dominated his environment through sheer industry and fidelity.
His experience in the private sector demanded of him creative energy, zeal and passion for result delivery. The private sector also enshrined in him the eyes for details, the ability to differentiate between genuine proposals and dubious ones.
He also developed the innate resourcefulness of an ardent negotiator and prudent management which prepared him for new career in public service which commenced in 2011 when he was elected a Senator of the Federal Republic.
These attributes must have been obvious in his days at the Senate and may have informed the decision of the leadership of the 7th senate to appoint him the Chairman of the all important Senate Committee on Aviation as a rookie senator.
It is on record that he exceeded the expectations of everyone, not only in the conduct of the affairs of the committee, but in the execution of the oversight functions assigned to the committee.
In fact, it is on record that Senator Uzodimma was adjudged the most resourceful, resilient and result-oriented Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation. Working with the executive arm of government, Uzodinma was a prime pillar in the remodeling of the Nation’s airports. Such an exercise is yet to be reproduced in such a large scale after he left the position.
It was, therefore, not surprising that upon his return to the senate in 2015, the leadership of the 8th senate beckoned on him to head the committee on Customs and Excise – another sensitive and important committee of Senate.
Those familiar with that sector knew of the stench of corruption and other underhand activities that perennially robbed the nation of billions of naira in revenue.
Not a bit deterred by the challenging nature of the assignment, Hope Uzodinma rolled up his sleeves and went to work with members of his committee.
The various reforms initiated by the committee and as passed by the Senate ensured that the revenue leakages were plugged and the billions of naira, which hitherto ended up in the pockets of individuals, went straight to the nation’s treasury. Expectedly, this significant achievement was also recorded for him as national service.
With such exposure, experience and antecedents, Uzodinma obviously came prepared as the Governor of Imo State. Notwithstanding the long and tortuous electoral and legal battles he fought to retrieve his mandate from usurpers, his eyes never left the ball.
In line with the manifesto of APC, Uzodimma fashioned out his prosperity agenda anchored on the 3Rs of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery.
The broad objectives of the policies included a firm resolve to revive Imo State and recover for the people the years that had been lost to the locusts.
Indeed, the restoration of the people’s psyche and belief in governance after a rancid lawless and totalitarian regime became more urgent. The collapsed infrastructure in the state needed rehabilitation and reconstruction, while the stolen patrimony of the state needed to be recovered.
He has since recovered the State University from a man who converted it to his personal property after committing over 40 billion Naira of the resources of the state to the university.
The constitution of a pan-Nigerian Executive Council was the first step that showed that Uzodinma meant business in his desire to make Imo State a model of good governance through ethnic diversity.
It is on record that the state executive council includes appointees from other states of the federation who are currently serving in the cabinet in the state. His principled stance and insistence on accountability and probity in governance has cost him some of his friends and associates who naively thought it was going to be business as usual.
His automation of the civil service, especially personnel and emoluments, has made the coffers of the state impenetrable to scammers and fraudsters who previously feasted on the resources of the state unhindered.
This singular action saves the state an estimated N2Billion Naira monthly. (This figure represents the amount which was previously siphoned through a well orchestrated payroll fraud).
Apart from reforming the Civil Service, Senator Uzodimma embarked on the rehabilitation of the dilapidated structures in the State Secretariat, and currently provides free transport for both management and other workers in the civil service.
In addition, Uzodinma ensures that workers and retirees receive their salaries and pensions regularly. He went a step further to pay the workers a 13th month salary last year. It is remarkable that this was at a time when some other states were in arrears of salaries.
While motivating civil servants like he did helped to revived the economy of the state, having motorable roads also became necessary for the state to achieve its full economic potential.
And that justifies why President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice – President Yemi Osinbajo and Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, have all borne witness to what Uzodinma has done to the road infrastructure in Imo State. To the glory of God and the delight of Imolites, the man whose name, Uzodimma, literally translates to “good road”, has breathed life to the dilapidated and flooded roads of Imo.
At the last count, more than 70 roads have benefited from the road revolution in the state. While some have been completed and commissioned, others are at various stages of completion. And to cap it all, two of the roads are the majestic dual carriageways that connect Owerri to Okigwe and connect Owerri to Orlu.
These all important signature roads, including the Chukwuma Nwoha road, which was recovered from floods to the delight of residents, have made Hope Uzodinma a household name in Imo State.
The Flood control channel, otherwise known as ballon technology, which was built at the Chukwuma Nwoha road, has saved parts of the city from rampaging floods. Hitherto, uncontrolled flooding was a nightmare to residents, especially property owners, who lived in perpetual fear of losing their investments to floods.
The Otamiri Water works, coupled with various roads and roundabouts which were revived by Uzodinma’s administration as part of a carefully articulated Owerri Urban renewal programme, are speedily returning the capital city to its pride of place as one of the most attractive cities in southern Nigeria.
One other area in which Uzodinma has etched his name in the hearts of Imo people is in creating employment for the army of unemployed youths in the state. He first revived the Adapalm Nig. Limited – a multi-million naira palm – processing company abandoned by previous governments in the last 20 years.
Through direct and Indirect employment, thousands of Imo youths can now have legitimate livelihoods as a result of this and other opportunities created by the government.
Interestingly, the government invested more than N18billion naira to train and empower more than 15,000 youths,in collaboration with federal agencies, to become the owners of businesses and employers of labour.
The planned revival of Imo Shoe Industries Limited after the AMCON loan had been repaid by the Uzodinma’s government would further boost the quest to strengthen the employment capacity of the state by the administration. One of the overall aims is to reduce the rate of crime among youths but getting them gainfully employed.
It is pertinent to note that insecurity has dogged the tenure of Hope Uzodinma, but he has been undeterred. Many people have wondered how he managed to achieve so much in so short a time in the midst of insecurity.
In truth, huge resources have now been deployed in securing lives and property in the state, but a lot more have been spent in providing infrastructure, payment of salaries and in the provision of other social services.
Unlike other states where insecurity stems from ethnic tension and clashes, that of Imo is largely politically motivated with pockets of criminality among rascals. But, the ethnic harmony in Imo State has helped to douse tension, thereby promoting national unity and cohesion.
Uzodinma is detribalized and works with all tribes and that’s why appointed non-Igbos into his cabinet. He has also been a leading voice for the unity of Nigeria as against those who want secession.
His belief is that Igbos will benefit more from continuing to be part of a united Nigeria and vice versa. This patriotic and nationalistic stand had earlier won Senator Uzodimma an award as a Pan Nigerian Governor of the year, by the Coalition of Youths across the ethnic nationalities of the county.
Therefore, this award by the Sun Newspapers is a reaffirmation of the recognition by so many organizations and groups, including the Nigeria Union of Journalists which had acknowledged Uzodinma as a charismatic and visionary leader whose faith in Nigeria is infectious, whose commitment to the development of Imo State is unprecedented.
As Uzodinma receives the Sun Newspaper Governor of the Year Award 2021, let me borrow the words of the legendary Chinua Achebe to declare, “It is morning yet on creation day”. Congratulations, Your Excellency.
Emelumba is the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Imo State