#Imolites: Sen. Uzodimma is A Product Of Justice —Declan Emelumba
In an interview with Nigerian Tribune, Honourable Declan Emelumba, the Commissioner for Information in Imo State, speaks on the security situation in the state, infrastructure and pragmatic steps embarked on by Governor Hope Uzodimma to raise the bar of good governance.
Two years down the line for Governor Uzodinma’s administration in Imo State, how far has the APC-led government gone in delivering its campaign promises to the people?
A lot of people find it difficult to believe that within two years, we have commissioned 32 roads and as we speak, 60 more roads are under construction. A lot of people will also not believe that within two years, we have been able to address major infrastructural challenges in Imo State like the Relief Market road and the Lake Nwaebere road. Houses there were not only swallowed by flood but overgrown by grasses until the governor came and used the balloon-driven technology to tackle flooding on that road. So, in terms of road infrastructure, which we call road revolution, we have surprised everybody and the opposition is dumbfounded. They are now throwing sand because there is nothing they can say. Apart from the road revolution, we have revived the civil service that was lost under the previous administration. That administration told civil servants to come to work three times a week and any day outside those three days they see you around the state secretariat, you would be driven away like an intruder or even a thief. But we have been able to reposition the civil service, so that it can be professionally run. The permanent secretaries are back as accounting officers of their respective ministries and that is a big plus for this administration. In terms of youth empowerment, we have empowered over 18,000 youths. Last year, 15,000 youths were empowered at a go, who were trained and each of them given N250,000 as starter packs. In terms of industry, we have recovered the Ada Palm Plantation in Ohaji. The shoe factory that was built by the Sam Mbakwe administration was owing N1.3 billion to the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) but the Uzodimma administration has redeemed that debt and it will soon commence operations. The Otamiri Water Works has also been revived and for the first time in 15 years, supply of pipe borne water has been restored to Owerri metropolis and would be soon extended to other parts of the state. So, generally speaking, we have changed the narrative and Imo State is looking up and the people can see clearly that this government has come to work by doing projects that will endure and not make-shift things. The greatest signature projects we have for now are the Owerri-Orlu road that is about 34km and the Owerri-Okigwe road that is about 54km. These two projects alone cost the government about N60 billion and I will tell you that when they are completed, the economy of the state will turn around for better. The Imo State University Teaching Hospital is also back to life. Anybody who goes there will not believe that it is the same place before this administration came on board. State-of-the-art equipment have been procured by the state government and the people of the state have started feeling the impact.
What is the source of funding for these projects that you listed; is the government taking loans to fund them?
Rather than take loans, we have improved on the internal revenue generating capacity of the state and I can tell you that the loan profile of the state has been dropping since this administration came on board. In 2017, during the Rochas Okorocha administration, the debt profile of Imo State was N67 billion; in 2019, during Emeka Ihedioha’s government, it rose to N164 billion but in 2021, the last figure, under the present government, it has come down to N151 billion. You can verify these figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). We have not taken any loan, rather we have been servicing loans taken by previous administrations. We are also getting funds from other sources like the World Bank. There is what the bank calls Self Transparency and Accountability Programme, which as a government, if you operate a transparent and accountable budget and you publish quarterly performance reports, you receive grants from the bank. During Ihedioha’s government, we did not qualify, but in 2020, when we came on board, we got about $3 million and in 2021, we got $7 million. All these are meant to encourage governments that run transparent budgets.
Despite all these feats by the governor, do you feel discouraged when some people still refer to him as “Supreme Court Governor?
No. In fact, I don’t know why people look at it negatively. For me, it is a very positive thing because it shows that the governor is a product of justice. What does the Supreme Court stand for? It is the highest judicial body in the country and there is hardly anyone who has run for governorship in this country, whose electoral victory was not finally determined by the Supreme Court. So, for me, what those making such reference are affirming is that the governor is a product of justice. The Supreme Court is not a kangaroo court; it is a national institution that stands for justice, so when you call him ‘Supreme Court Governor’, in essence what you are saying is that he is a product of justice, after all, governors who have ruled Imo State ended up getting the final validation of their candidacy at the courts. Even those who ran for national and state Assembly elections, got to wherever is the terminal judicial point for such elections to affirm their respective mandates.
The security situation in the state appears to have improved, what measures did the government put in place to achieve this?
The security situation in the state has really improved and that is because of the determined efforts of the governor and the support of the presidency. Like we have always said, the security challenges in the state are politically motivated and those behind it have been exposed but through the support of the presidency, they are being routed as evil cannot thrive forever. There is always an expiry date to evil and that date is here, which explains why the security challenges are now under control. Let me also use this opportunity to say this: If there is anybody who needs evidence that the security challenge is politically motivated, the person should ask himself why is it that it is in the governor’s immediate enclave – Oru East, Oru West and Orsu local government areas – that usually witness attacks by criminal elements. It is because they want to score a point that it is the governor’s people that are behind insecurity in the state. When the attacks on police stations and other government facilities started, the governor moved in immediately by increasing support for the security agencies and was supported by the presidency; so they couldn’t succeed in achieving their aim of making the state ungovernable, especially the state capital. Therefore, the question is: why is it that they now shifted attention to the three local government areas that I mentioned? They concluded that since the governor had driven them out of Owerri, the next thing to do is to go to his place and be causing problems there but that is being addressed and the whole situation is very much under control.
Why is it that key political actors in Imo State, especially those who were involved in the events of 2019 have refused to let go two years down the line?
Two reasons account for that. Number one is that former Governor Rochas Okorocha believed that he had conquered Imo State. In fact, when Governor Uzodimma, then a senator, got the ticket of the APC and returned to the state from Abuja, the whole state was agog; people trooped out to welcome him and the song they sang was ‘who say men no dey, men dey.’ Why did they sing this song? It was because Okorocha had declared that there are no men in Imo State because he felt that he has conquered the state. Also, that was why he had the courage to tell Imo people that his son-in-law will succeed him and he was almost coasting home with that design until God used Governor Uzodimma to take away APC ticket from him. That was his main carrot because if Uche Nwosu had got that ticket, he probably would have been the governor of Imo State today. So, Okorocha will not forgive Governor Uzodimma and he is not pretending about that. His plan was to have a dynasty because after Uche Nwosu, the next person to be governor is his son. But the only thing that qualified Uche Nwosu to be governor is that he is married to Okorocha’s daughter. Emeka Ihedioha, on his part, claimed to have won the 2019 governorship election with three local governments but 80 per cent of the votes for which he was declared winner of the election were from the three local government areas in Mbaise and he scored far above the registered voters. He didn’t win in any other local government. He didn’t make the spread as required by the constitution but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for whatever reasons declared him winner and asked other candidates to go to court. He was confident that having been declared winner, nothing will happen until the governorship seat was taken away from him at the Supreme Court. So, how do you expect that he would be happy? And I want to explain that the reason why Governor Uzodimma won the election is obvious; his votes in 388 polling units were excluded and he went to court to challenge that. He pleaded the court to add the excluded votes and declare the results. When we tendered evidence of the excluded votes at the tribunal level, the PDP dismissed it as fake but they couldn’t provide evidence to justify their claim. Even INEC failed to provide the original result sheet because they knew that anything they tendered will tally with what we had. So, the tribunal held that due to their failure to produce the original result sheet, it will admit the result we tendered.