By Oguwike Nwachuku
On Tuesday, September 13, 2022, Governor Hope Uzodimma will again play host to President Muhammadu Buhari as the latter returns to Imo State to commission what every citizen of the State knows and refers to as signature projects.
Exactly on September 9, 2021, President Buhari was in Imo State to commission four key projects executed by Governor Uzodimma who was barely a year and eight months in office when the projects were delivered.
The four projects which our amiable President commissioned last year included: the Naze/Ihiagwa/Nekede/Obinze Link road; the Balloon Driven/Flood Control Drainage System on Dick Tiger road; the Egbeada By-pass road renamed Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu Way and the brand New Executive Chambers, Government House, Owerri.
There were many other completed projects to the credit of Governor Uzodimma prior to President Buhari’s visit about this time last year, but the above named four projects which he commissioned stood out because of their extra-ordinary significance to the economic well-being of the people of Imo State.
“I am pleased with what I have seen and I assure you that I will support Imo State within the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” President Buhari told Ndi Imo in 2021 during the commissioning.
Of a truth, the President has not shied away from supporting Imo State within the ambits of the Constitution of the country as our performing Governor can attest.
Depending on what value one places on support, yours sincerely wants to believe that more than anything else, Governor Uzodimma appreciates the moral support he gets from Mr. President because that is what fires the zeal in him to do what many consider the “unthinkable” in terms of project ideas conception and execution.
There is no gain-saying the fact that the three projects that are instrumental to the return of President Buhari to Imo State this week, barely a year of coming here to commission some projects, are the result of the promise he made to support Imo State, nay Governor Uzodimma. There is no other way to describe Mr. President’s words than as promise kept.
The projects lined up for commissioning by the President include but not limited to the dualised Owerri-Orlu road, the first phase of the dualised Owerri-Okigwe road and the reconstructed Imo State House of Assembly Complex.
To say that the two roads slated for commissioning qualify as among the best roads in Nigeria and even anywhere in the world, and that they have made a significant difference in the economic life of the people, development and improvement of the State is to say the least. The location of the roads makes it imperative that seven Local Government Areas in Imo are directly affected.
Prior to their reconstruction, the Owerri-Orlu road was 36 kilometers undualised while that of Owerri-Okigwe road was 56 kilometers undualised. I leave you to do the arithmetic of their current kilometers as dualised roads with the necessary infrastructure that have made them the best constructed roads today in Imo State and beyond.
Those familiar with the condition of the two federal roads in focus know that they were impassable before the coming of Governor Uzodimma on January 15, 2020.
Previous administrations for reasons best known to them, but not unconnected to lack of courage never considered the two roads worthy of being given priority attention.
Year in and out, they had ready made excuses to give to the people on why the roads in question could not be fixed. If they did not blame it on the State’s lean resources they tried to manufacture other excuses to deceive the people. The implication was that we all watched as the roads got too bad.
To a large extent, the impression those who ran the affairs of our state created was that there was nothing that could have been done to fix the roads in question to make life more meaningful for the people. Yet, they were always quick to tell the people about dividends of democracy they claimed they were delivering to them.
With the reconstruction of the roads, it is now obvious that those who came before Governor Uzodimma could not measure up to his competence, courage, reach and strategic thought-line.
But do you blame them? You can only give what you have and that is exactly Governor Uzodimma has demonstrated with the Owerri-Orlu and Owerri-Okigwe roads – show of class in all ramifications.
It took a Governor Uzodimma who is bold and strategic in thinking to venture into awarding contracts for the repair of the two road projects to a world class construction company – Craneburg – even when the State was grappling with the most challenging economic situation occasioned by the global Covid-19 pandemic and other domestic distractions like #EndSARS#, insecurity, among others.
When Governor Uzodimma was flagging off the roads in question, many had thought that he was up to the usual political gimmickry most governors are noted for until they saw massive mobilization to the sites that made them bridle their views.
Today, the fully reconstructed dualised Owerri-Orlu road, with solar-powered lights has become a reference material for anyone who wants to point to a properly built road, not just in Imo State but elsewhere. The same applies to the first phase of the Owerri-Okigwe road billed for commissioning.
But it is not all about the beauty of the roads that President Buhari will commission.
What is more reassuring is the enhancement of the economic activities of Imo citizens and the residents alike as well as all users of the roads on the corridors where they are bathed.
The excitement on the faces of Imo people ahead of Tuesday when the roads are formally flagged off by Mr. President is palpable. It gels with the return of peace and tranquility in Imo. It is also a clear demonstration of feeling of joy and gratitude to Governor Uzodimma and President Buhari who have made it possible. But more importantly, it is the feeling that truly, dividend of democracy is realizable.
To many, it is also a sad reminder that more than 20 years after return to democracy in 1999, government after government in Imo State invested more in the noise about its elusive dividend than in making it a reality until now.
“This is the time I can say those of us who reside in this part of Imo State have seen the dividend of democracy,” says Mrs. Ifeoma Ogu who owns a beverage shop around popular Ekemele axis on the Owerri-Okigwe road, a place many believed defied all solutions due to the huge dilapidation it suffered for years.
Mrs. Ogu is not a lone voice. According to a commercial motorist, Mr. Paschal Ekeh who daily plies Owerri-Orlu road, the journey on the road today takes less than 40 minutes as against more than three hours they used to spend on the road before Governor Uzodimma’s administration intervened to reconstruct the road.
With nostalgia, Mr. Ekeh said, before now, the Owerri-Orlu road made them helpless, impoverished them and reduced them to irredeemable hardship.
For the reconstructed Imo State House of Assembly Complex the story is not only pathetic but hurts the psyche of an average Imo indigene who appreciates the effort of the first civilian Governor of old Imo State, the late Sam Mbakwe, in putting up an edifice of that magnitude but which previous governors of the State watched until it degenerated to its foundation.
Words failed me on how to properly describe the level of reconstruction that went into the Assembly Complex – interior and exterior.
But I agree completely with those who say that the Complex has been re-equipped and re-furbished with state of the art equipment/gadgets and furniture that have brought it to a world class standard and in fact, the best in Nigeria today.
Those from Obowo, late Mbakwe’s home, are proud to say that their iconic leader must be smiling in his grave now given what Governor Uzodimma has made of one of his concepts – the Assembly Complex.
The best way to appreciate the reconstructed Imo State House of Assembly Complex is for one to physically visit the place in keeping with the saying that “seeing is believing.” If you are not properly guided by your intuition, a mere peep into the hallowed Chamber of the Complex can convince you on the need to become a legislator even if that has never been in your agenda.
Governor Uzodimma is not the only one excited that President Buhari is coming to commission his signature projects, all of us are.
But the Governor’s peculiar excitement stems from the fact that his administration is working hard to put smiles on the faces of Imo people whom, he took an oath to not just govern properly, but protect their lives and property.
Ab initio, since coming into office, the Governor has never hidden his intention to rehabilitate, reconstruct and recover Imo State from many years of misrule and leadership recklessness.
The 3-R mantra of his administration is not just playing out in the manner Governor Uzodimma has gone about recovering, rehabilitating and reconstructing decayed infrastructure in Imo as can be seen in the signature projects slated for commissioning by Mr. President. It is also obvious in the way he has applied the scarce resources of the people to provide them with the needed dividends of democracy.
By deploying the people’s limited funds to turn around hitherto ugly situations in infrastructure, religiously dealing with the welfare of workers and retirees, initiating reforms in the State Civil Service in manners that government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are brought to speed with international best practices, Governor Uzodimma leaves no one in doubt that his 3-R mantra means business.
The question that concentrates the minds of every right thinking Imo citizen equally excited that things are getting better in our dear State is how Governor Uzodimma is able to fund the signature projects running into billions of naira that are meant for commissioning.
The answer is in the manner the Governor pursues the tenets of the 3-R mantra – prudent management of resources. And like he said last week during the yearly Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) event, Imo Prays, “there is God in Imo State.”
…Nwachuku, Chief Press Secretary/Special Adviser (Media) to Uzodimma writes from Owerri.