January 6, 2023

Uzodimma: Restoring peace in Imo in the midst of haywire politics



By Collins Ughalaa

ON Wednesday, December 28, good news broke about a significant breakthrough in Imo’s ongoing fight against insecurity. Gallant securitymen arrested a notorious bandit who deserted the military after eight years, Lance Corporal Nwagwu Chinwendu. He had been on the radar of the state’s security agencies for nearly two years.

The police said the bandit has been responsible for the security breaches in parts of the state, particularly the gruesome murder of Ahmed Gulak in 2021. When he sang to the police, the military trained engineer now turned bandit confessed to murdering Ahmed Gulak, servicing weapons, and later becoming the Chief Commander of the Eastern Security Network. 

A native of Amaohuru Nguru, Aboh Mbaise LGA, the bandit was said to have been arrested during his father’s burial, where he tried to use guests as cover to escape. His men were said to have engaged securitymen in a gun duel, but he was captured alive. Nwagwu had already trained one thousand bandits and masterminded the attack on the Imo custodial centre in 2021, as well as attacks on several police stations and INEC offices across the state.

The attack on the custodial centre and the police command, where more than 1,800 inmates were released, the unconscionable murder of Ahmed Gulak, the attack on the country home of Governor Hope Uzodimma in Omuma, Oru East LGA, and the introduction of cannibalism mark the highest point of security breaches in the state since unscrupulous politicians introduced insecurity into our political firmament.

Insecurity in Imo did not begin with the Uzodimma administration. Imo State witnessed its share of insecurity during past administrations, when militancy in the Niger Delta region introduced kidnapping for ransom. In those dark days, people were kidnapped from churches, homes, markets, and workplaces.

Communities had been rendered desolate, indigenes became refugees, and traditional rulers fled their kingdoms for fear of being killed. Armed robbery and cultism became commonplace, but all this may fade into insignificance when compared with what politicians introduced in Imo State after January 15, 2020.

Unable to bear their loss, these spineless and dangerous politicians resorted to unleashing mayhem to make the state ungovernable in order to create the false impression that Senator Uzodimma was unfit for governance, that Imo people never wanted him in the first place, that he was forced on them, and that they have rejected him. But that’s not how to reject a government.

If the people believe they have rejected a government, they usually wait for the next election, when they have the opportunity to either return the government or vote out that government. The people do not pick up arms and unleash mayhem, claiming to have rejected a government. The unscrupulous politicians who are sponsoring insecurity in Imo did not know that their strategy would rather expose their underbelly. They knew that Governor Uzodimma would perform so creditably and surpass their expectations; if they allowed the governor to perform so well and shame them, they would not be able to use the ballot to remove him.

They resorted to self-help, but what they saw as self-help was unleashing terror against the state. They had used protests and emotional blackmail, but that did not work. They went back to their well written script and deployed insecurity, first launching attacks on the custodial centre and the police command in order to have criminals that could be at their beck and call. They have tried all the tricks they have in their books to get the governor out of the government house, including the gruesome murder of Ahmed Gulak, but they have failed.

Those who sponsored Gulak’s murder knew what they wanted to achieve. Having failed in all their tricks, they thought they could instigate the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in Imo in order to remove Uzodimma from the Government House. When Uzodimma was declared governor by the Supreme Court in January 2020, the losers went to town with the false narrative that a certain Northern cabal in the Presidency armtwisted the Supreme Court to declare him governor of Imo.

Killing Gulak was, therefore, a clear attempt to set up their imaginary Northern cabal against Governor Uzodimma. Their plan was that if killing Gulak failed to instigate a state of emergency in Imo, it could at least lead to reprisal attacks against Ndigbo living in the North. Either way, they would have succeeded in either getting a state of emergency or painting Uzodimma as an incompetent, rejected governor. But Uzodimma rose to the challenge and shocked them. Today, one of the arrowheads in the murder of Gulak has been arrested, and he is singing melodious tunes to the police.

Was it a coincidence that some of those who killed Gulak were annihilated by the police in a gun duel in Mbaise the same day Gulak was killed? Does it not raise concerns that the locals in Mbaise jubilated and hailed the bandits while collecting sacks of onions and tomatoes from them after they burned trucks conveying goods to Imo, the same day Gulak was killed?

Does it not raise concerns that, about two years later, Lance Corporal Nwagwu Chinwendu, military deserter who hails from Mbaise, was also arrested in his community? Does it not raise concerns that the arrested bandit told the police how they operated freely in Mbaise and its environs, helped by a certain Ihedioha, to the point of setting up a camp in Mbaise?

For sincere people, the confession by the arrested bandit is nothing less than troubling. He said: “My gang, which includes Okechukwu Duru and others, led the kidnap of Jude Nwahiri on November 4, 2021. We collected the sum of N21,000,000 as ransom after killing four people in his residence at Umuohuru Nguru Aboh-Mbaise. I also led the killing of the traditional ruler of Amaohuru Nguru Aboh-Mbaise, His Royal Highness, Eze Anthony Anyanwu, on the 10th of December, 2021”.

Before this latest arrest, one Anosike Chimobi, a suspect linked to the murder of Gulak, was arrested by the Imo Police Command in June 2021. He claimed that he was a commercial bus driver forced to drive Gulak’s murderers. On Monday, December 12, 2022, the police also foiled an attack on the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Owerri, neutralising three of the bandits and arresting two.

This is the success story we hear in Imo, as those who planned to make the Yuletide a sad one have either kissed the dust, cooling their heels in a detention facility, fled or hidden somewhere while we enjoyed our Yuletide in peace. People, especially those who returned home for the Yuletide, cannot hold back their joy. According to a report in a national daily: “Some indigenes of Imo State who returned for the yuletide have expressed happiness with the level of security in the state as opposed to stories they were fed while abroad.” 

 In his New Year’s message on Sunday, January 1, the governor thankfully assured the Imo people that the “security situation will continue to improve this year. Our security forces are now better equipped and trained to deal with security threats.  

*Ughalaa, a civil servant, wrote from Owerri, Imo State