Why I have not named sponsors of insecurity in Imo- Uzodinma

Hope Uzodinma, governor of Imo State, who recently won the ‘Governor of the Year 2021 Award’ of a national newspaper, spoke to some senior journalists on some of his achievements, the insecurity challenge in his state, the agitation by the South East geopolitical zone for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023, among other issues. ZEBULON AGOMUO brings the excerpts:

Recently, the Supreme Court awarded 17 oil wells that had been in dispute between your state Imo and Rivers State, in favour of Rivers. May we know your reaction and how you intend to handle the financial implication in terms of the short fall in revenue which the development could cause Imo State?

We have not seen the text of the judgment. I cannot make any comment until I see the document; but I must say that it is too early for people to celebrate. I don’t know the appeal that the court has said succeeded partially. Up till now, we have not received a copy of the judgment and do not know the areas that the judgment favoured them and the area we are favoured.

I know what was read in the court by the judges that the appeal succeeded partially; it is also early for people to cry that they lost a case.

If the 17 oil wells have been given to Rivers, does it mean that Oguta Local Government now belongs to Rivers State or Ohaji Egbema is now in Rivers State when our schools are there; the indigenes, the traditional rulers are there and the businesses there are paying complete taxes to Imo State Government? Again, to the best of my knowledge, I am also aware that the National Boundary Commission that came to do the delineation is almost 95 percent near concluding the process. Like I said, until we see the copy of the judgment, we would not say anything on the judgment.

For over two years now, Imo State has been in the news over security challenges. I recall that you said that some politicians were behind the disturbances in the state and that you were going to mention their names. What happened to that promise?

I am sure that you are concerned about the challenge of insecurity we are facing. If you watched the last quarterly stakeholders’ meeting held in Owerri where I was to name some of those suspected to be behind the insecurity in Imo State, in that meeting, I did say that the security agencies pleaded that because investigation is still going on, it will be too early for me to begin to name anybody. I explained that day that I would allow them to complete their job. The last time I contacted them, they asked for two more weeks. l do hope that in two weeks, the information will be ready and it will be made public to Nigerians.

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Amid the challenge of insecurity in Imo, a national newspaper last week awarded you the GOVERNOR OF THE YEAR 2021. What do you think informed that recognition?

It can only be a surprise to those who have not visited Imo State since I took over as governor in 2020. 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 balloon 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. These and many more achievements were recorded just in two years of my administration.

Before your administration in Imo State, there was a semblance of free education in the state. Some university students from the state were not paying school fees. The question is, do you have any plan of resuscitating non-fee paying (free education) in the state?

When I came into office January 15, 20220, I had my first meeting with stakeholders, particularly the leadership of tertiary institutions from Imo State University; nothing has changed in terms of what is being paid. But if truth must be told, there has never been any free education in that school, all that people heard was free education on the television, but if you go to the school; students were paying up to N120,000 (one hundred and twenty thousand naira) AND other amounts of money and what they called other fees.

As much as I am not too much in support of free education because there’s nowhere in the world that education is free; I am not aware of anywhere. The Universal Basic Education, a national legislation from the National Assembly which we passed made Primary Education free; it is being subsidised by the Federal Government. What the Imo State University students were paying is what they are still paying today; we have not reviewed any fee; rather what we are doing now is to try to strengthen infrastructure in that school.

So, whoever that told you they were doing free education, was only doing free education on radio and on television, it was not a reality. You can go and ask the students. In fact, I inherited a lot of liabilities in that school; pensioners in that school were not being paid; you can go and ask questions.

The stakeholders and leaders of thought have been talking about a president of Nigeria of Igbo extraction. As one of the leaders in the South East, how pushful are you to ensure that the presidency come to the zone the way other regions are also pushing for it to come to their zone in 2023?

Well, to the best of my knowledge what we practise here in Nigeria is partisan democracy; driven by political party not by any ethnic sentiments. As much as we want every political zone in the country to taste the position of the presidency has to be with political party arrangement.

None of the leading political parties as at today has selected a candidate, neither APC nor PDP. I am also aware that in the process of selecting a candidate what is uppermost in the mind of every political party is the capacity to win election. Every political party wants to win election. No political party would throw the desire to win election to the winds.

I know that in the South East, there is a strong desire to produce a president, but we will not do it alone. We need the other geo-political zones and other membership of the party to work with us. If you recall, in 1999, after the annulment of June 12 election, it was the decision of the national political leadership of Nigeria that the South West, part of what would cool the political tension in the zone, is that for them to produce the President. And then there were two leading political parties- the PDP and the APP. Both political parties worked internally to produce two presidential candidates that came from the South West. President Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae- these were the two candidates. That meant that whichever party that won the election, the President would have come from the South West.

Now, the situation is repeating itself. There’s a national sympathy for South East to produce the president and what will make it work is for the two ruling political parties to produce candidates from the South East geopolitical zone.

Let PDP produce a South East person as their presidential candidate and APC also produce candidate from the South East. That way, we would have decentralised this power sharing in a manner that it has become all-inclusive and justice and equity would have been seen to be done.

Your party, APC, has over 27 presidential aspirants so far. What does that portend for the party?

The issue of over 27 presidential aspirants who have obtained the forms goes to show that APC still remains the most dominant party in Nigeria, and the process starts from the aspirants coming up to express their interest, of which the process has since started. At the end of sales of forms then, other processes like screening of the aspirants, setting up of appeal panels for those who may want to challenge their screening, and then up to the primaries to usher in the emergence of the candidate. By the APC constitution, there are three methods either direct primaries, indirect primaries or by consensus.

So, the law is very clear and democracy is working. There is nothing wrong with the number of aspirants; in fact, the more, the merrier. We are in a democracy and the party is giving everybody the opportunity to express his/her political interest. The process will stimulate the activities of the party and makes the party stronger and more dominant in the end.

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