By Declan Emelumba

As old men and people in power, valentine may no longer excite them. As politicians used to numerous ceremonies, it is far fetched that a single celebration will really excite them. But the valentine day celebration of this year was quite different for many of these gladiators in Owerri, Imo State. Yes, for President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of All Progressive Congress (APC), it was excitement and pleasant surprise at the same time, on February 14th, when Gov Hope Uzodimma hosted them in Owerri.

It was not the usual valentine dinner. It was more than that. Thousands of Imo citizens across the 27 local government areas of the state had converged on the spacious and prestigious Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri for the presidential rally of APC. February 14 was a Tuesday and it was valentine day. Imo people were united in giving their President a rousing welcome with a statement of solidarity and acceptance. As people waved at Buhari, the usually reticent president beamed with smiles and waved back enthusiastically. No soothsayer was needed to tell the people that Buhari was pleased with them. It was indeed a moving sight as it appeared that the citizens had emptied into the stadium.

Indeed it was the National chairman of APC, Alhaji Adamu Abdulahi who captured the mood of the day when he described it as the mother of all rallies. As the man who has led the party to several states, the former Nasarawa state governor should know. Even the sour losers known as opposition in the state acknowledged the mammoth crowd, saying however that they were hired. But the fact remains that the excited crowd could not have been hired. Their spontaneous outpouring of love and sincere demonstration of acceptance of both the president and the governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, had nothing to do with forced labour. Instead it showed a committed party men and women determined to make a statement with their presence ahead of the elections this week.

The people had previously made such a statement on Wednesday November 18th 2018, when Senator Hope Uzodimma returned to imo from Abuja after clinching the governorship ticket of APC. Prior to that, there was despondency and uncertainty in the state as one family attempted to subjugate and mortgage the state as part of their heritage. When therefore Hope offered the people a glimmer of hope by wrestling the APC ticket from the emperor, there was wild jubilation in the state cutting across political persuasions. Whethral road was converted to a stadium. Even the aged trooped out from the hinterlands to behold the liberator. The sea of heads waited as his motorcade snaked through Imo airport to Okigwe road Secretariat of APC in a journey that took more than five hours as against 30 minutes it should have lasted. It was a day that signalled the victory of Hope Uzodimma even before the first ballot was cast. It was a day majority of Imo people elected to stand with the man who with a lion’s courage decided to confront and defeat the monster that wanted to enslave Imo State and her people.

As one commentator put it after witnessing that historic welcome by Imo people. That was the day the governorship election was won and lost. Imo people spoke in very loud vioce that day that, they had settled for who would be their governor in 2019″.

His opponents and traducers also took notice. That was why they went and connived with their co -consipirators to place Uzodimma fourth by denying him his lawful votes cast in 388 polling units in the state. By placing him fourth, they envisioned that he would be so deflated and discouraged as not to challenge the electoral fraud in the courts. The results shocked many people because they knew that Senator Hope Uzodimma won the election. Mercifully, he not only challenged the heist but came out victorious as the Supreme Court declared him the validly elected GOVERNOR OF IMO STATE. Imo understandably erupted into celebration.

So the crowd at Dan Anyiam Stadium on that valentine day was a validation of the popularity of the man who sacrificed his all to offer economic and political freedom to his people. It was a demonstration of the faith of the people on a man who has justified his pedigree through a superlative performance acknowledged by no less a personality than the president himself.

President Muhammadu Buhari who had been in the state physically, for two consecutive times to Commission signature projects of the Uzodimma administration was not surprised when on that same 14th, he was presented with the 12.5 kilometres dualized MCC, CHUKWUMA NWOHA, TORONTO road to Commission again. Only those who knew the state of that road before the intervention of Uzodimma will appreciate what the prosperity administration has done. Abandoned for many years by previous administrations, the road which links two local government areas of the state from the state capital received attention from Uzodimma. That is why both the president and APC top officials were beaming with smiles as they behield the mammoth crowd. To them, given the superlative performance of Uzodimma,Imo is truly a walk over for APC in the coming elections.

In fact it was the irrepressible labour leader and former governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomohle who captured the fortunes of APC in Imo state in his speech. First he reminded the crowd how he assured them in 2018, that electing Uzodimma as the Governor was the surest way of redeeming the state from underdevelopment and tyranny and corruption that pervaded the state as at that time. He reminded them that he also assured them that Uzodimma was going to perform beyond their expectations. According to him, all that he said had come to pass, reason he could boldly return to them to canvass votes for APC.

Indeed with more than 100 roads done and still counting,with three additional functional universities,with improved health care up to the rural areas,with resuscitation of moribund industries,with an ambitious youths empowerment scheme that has given employment to more than 20,000 youths and with an urban renewal programme that has changed the landscape of Owerri,not to mention automated civil service and regular payment of salaries, Oshiomohle is on point regarding the stewardship of Uzodimma. He has been vindicated that Uzodimma will perform and it is not in doubt that APC will triumph in the next election.

That confidence booster prompted Buhari to publicly declare that Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the next president of Nigeria. The resounding yesoooo to his proclamation by the surging crowd testified to the enormous work carried out by Uzodimma and his men. The president was happy with the governor for his tremendous achievements within three years in office. He eulogized Uzodimma for his frugality in the management of scarce resources and for carrying the people along in his developmental initiatives. He told Imo people to continue to support the governor because he was on the right path.

For Tinubu who received express endorsement from Buhari on account of the large supporters gathered at the stadium, he said he didn’t expect less from what he saw. Tinubu joined the national chairman to hail Uzodimma as the true governor general of South East on account of his credible purposeful leadership, charismatic mobilization and cult like followership. He noted that Uzodimma has nurtured APC in Igbo land to a formidable force, confering on it a credibility and acceptance that were alien to it before the Imo state governor joined the party and took over its leadership in the South East. Tinubu who promised to return Imo state to the hospitality capital of the South East when elected as president praised Uzodimma for his doggedness and consistency in making the party a formidable force in the South East.
He noted that with the likes of Uzodimma in the driving seat in APC, the coast is clear for its victory.

That victory is what the Imo state governor has consistently assured the national leadership of the party. To whom much is given, much is expected appears to be the anthem of Uzodimma as far as APC is concerned. He was not only made the leader of the party in the South East, he was also appointed the coordinator of the campaign council of all the party candidates in the zone. These twin assignments have spurred the governor to work even harder to mobilize support for the party from ndigbo. His campaign Strategy has been simple…the Igbo need to be reconnected to the mainstream of Nigerian politics through APC. He cites the second Niger bridge, Federal roads in the South East rehabilitated by the Buhari administration, the proposed dredging of Orashi River to connect the zone straight to Atlantic ocean and many more as benefits from the APC Government.

In addition, Uzodimma uses his administration as a sign post to what a focused and responsive government can do for the people. Incidentally, since he took over as the Governor of Imo State, APC has won all bye elections conducted in the state, including the one at the backyard of Emeka Ihedioha, a PDP chieftain in the state. A Senatorial bye elections, that of House of Representatives and the Ngor Okpala state constituency were convincingly won by APC proving its supremacy over the opposition and confirming the popularity of Uzodimma in the state.

So when he told the presidential rally that Imo will be contesting with Lagos, home state of Asiwaju, in the return of highest votes cast in the presidential election, he knew what he was saying. As a man standing on a solid ground, Uzodimma knows he is competing against himself since the rag tag opposition called PDP is in disarray in the state. The opposition which had been stoking the embers of insecurity in the state in the vain hope of the Federal government declaring a state of emergency is now in tatters with greed and ambition egging the leaders to be at each other’s throats. Therefore the vegetable state of the opposition has already assured victory for APC in imo state.

That was why speaker after speaker at the presidential rally heaped commendation on Uzodimma for a job well done. They had seen with their eyes that the governor’s popularity is not a fluke; but rather a sustained project oiled by the hard work of performance and outstanding achievements. They have been convinced that through accountable, transparent and inclusive leadership, Uzodimma has won millions of disciples for APC in Imo State. And these disciples were charged to carry the message of APC to all the cranies of the state ahead of the general elections.

To say that Uzodimma was elated with the outcome of the presidential rally would be stating the obvious. Although he knew his lieutenants were equal to the task, he was overwhelmed by the sheer number of APC members who trooped out to welcome President Muhammadu Buhari, Tinubu and the array of guests who came to Imo to participate in the rally which turned out to be a carnival celebrating the anticipated victory of APC in the coming polls and strengthening the capacity of the Governor to do more for a people who have loved him without reservation.

…Hon Emelumba is the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy.

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