By Achilleus Uchegbu
Before Imo State became the Eastern Heartland, it was the Land of Hope. How prophetic! At that time, Hope Uzodimma hadn’t become its governor. He was by the side watching the likes of Achike Udenwa and Ikedi Ohakim steer the ship of the state to their utmost best. Now, Imo, the Eastern Heartland has Hope. With Hope Uzodimma as governor, by divine providence, there is restoration of hope that finally, the future is in the present.
The future that every Imolite had prayed and fasted for seems to have been delivered without much ado. And I guess that is why even Emeka Ihedioha, the one who came as that which is pleasing to all, has graciously, and in thanksgiving, moved on. His supporters therefore have no reason to stay put. They must also move on for as the anthropologist, Martin Buber, said in his book Between Man and Man, “those who sit at the oasis shall be accounted lost in the project of irrigating the savannah”.
Imolites are mostly Christians. So, the story of John the Baptist should resonate very well in their minds. While he preached and baptized, many became mesmerized by his performance that they concluded that he could be the awaited messiah. However, some summoned courage to go and ask him if he was the much talked about messiah or they were to expect another. That Biblical narrative ought to guide Ndi Imo in their approach to the future after Ihedioha. The fact is that Sen. Hope Uzodimma is now the governor of Imo state. That is an incontrovertible judicial and legal fact. So, the task of the next four years is for him, and the team he builds, to steer.
But there is one thing to it! Hope brings hope to governance. I have spoken to a wide section of Imo people, both the elite and those down there, on their hope. They all share the same optimism that Hope will do well as governor. None of those I spoke to expressed any skepticism about Hope’s ability to lead Imo state to a new positive reality. From my conversations, what is most cherished by the people is that Hope is competent. They also express satisfaction that he is not lacking in capacity and courage to take those though decisions that define leadership. I agree with those who told me that Hope lacks experience as governor. Of course, only someone who has been a governor over a state will have the experience of being governor. Can anyone boast of having experience as Managing Director if he/she has neither managed nor directed any organization prior?
The most material thing here therefore, is that many agree that he is competent and capable also. I guess those are the two most essential ingredients in leadership. A leader just has to be competent and capable of leading a people through a hopeful path. Moses did not lead the Israelites through Egypt because he name was Moses. He did so because the one who chose him found him to be capable and also, competent. It is therefore immaterial that a leader is short or tall, fat or slim, fair or dark, good or bad in so far as he/she is competent and capable. Good or bad are moral judgments which do not play any significant role in leadership. Those who spend time making such moral judgments about leaders often fail to appreciate the visions and programmes they bring to governance.
Besides, it does not take a good man to build necessary infrastructure neither does it takes a bad man to do same. Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia etc. were built by leaders who had vision and also, the capacity and competence to drive those visions. Not good men! Folks in Imo must, at this point accept that every politics is local and as such, it takes a capable leader, who understands, and visions, the need for critical infrastructure to build them. And that is what Imo state needs at this time. I believe that the competence and capability quotient are what Hope offers Imo at a time of mass disenchantment and regret over the 2011 to 2019 governance regime.
Governor Uzodimma promises hope. Hope that the locust years will be restored; hope that Imolites can stand tall again in the comity of states of Nigeria. He brings with him a promise to fix an Imo broken by disappointments and failures of governance. He brings hope for good governance, respect for the rule of law, educational growth and economic emancipation of the people. But he has very serious challenges.
As it is now, every Imolite will look up to him for meaning. Many will wait on him for direction. A lot will hold him responsible for the functionality or failure of public utilities and infrastructure. Many will expect him to probe, recover and restore and that will be normal. But the biggest challenge before Gov. Uzodimma is to bring Imolites together again and make them work as one for the good of their state. This is not going to be easy. It will task his mind. It will sap his energy. But I believe that he will overcome if he attends to every segment of the state with the same love he attends to my people in Dikenafai. Hope will however fail if he draws lines of favouritism and preference. He promises to be a huge success if he refuses to draw lines and goes ahead to erase those drawn for him by associates. Overall, Hope is in a position to disappoint a lot of people because his reputation as a man of the people predates his assumption of office as governor. That reputation only needs to be enhanced with accolades that will come from the delivery of good governance to Imo state.
For a successful and eventful outing as governor, Hope must avoid the temptation of believing that he can do everything. No, he can’t. He can do some and profoundly too.
Those are the ones he must give priority attention to. For instance, many believe that the Owerri-Okigwe expressway, as a critical infrastructure in the state, is long overdue for dualization. Though a federal road, if he can pull its dualization into a dual carriageway, he would have radically altered the narrative on Imo and positively enhanced transportation.
The ripple effect can only be imagined. It is populist too. Also, he will score very high governance points if before 2024 he is able to convert, just one in each senatorial zone, of the abandoned general hospitals begun by Rochas Okorocha, into a world class health institution that could attract health tourism to the state. This will prove a strategic step towards diverting to Imo, some of the money Nigerians spend on medical tourism to India. Good vision in this direction will improve the IGR of the state. But it begins with a decision.
Imo is bubbling with talents in sports and the creative industry. That’s a goldmine for the conscious. I had advocated, in earlier paragraphs, for Hope to fix his focus on the development of sports and the creative industry. I am convinced that the development of these two will help mop up talents who have been expecting very uncreative and uninspiring government jobs. Again, it begins with a decision. I believe Hope will make such decisions because, as it is, he is now the hope of Imo state. He is also Onwa (moon). The moon rises for all and illuminates all path.