By Oguwike Nwachuku
Change will not come, if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – Barack Obama
Exactly three years today, January 15, 2020 to be precise, destiny thrust Sen. Hope Uzodimma on Imo State, as he was sworn in as the Governor amid pomp and circumstance.
On that fateful day, Uzodimma, like those with deep intuition, who believe in him, knew that change had come to our dear Imo, though the road leading to where the state was dumped by the buccaneers in the bush was thorny and muddy.
Therefore, the popular view now that Uzodimma’s government has kept faith with Imo people three years down the road, in line with the oath of office he took, simply speaks to the voice of reason.
It is both exhilarating and encouraging noting the general thinking about the effectiveness of Uzodimma’s government that was brought to the fore at the recent stakeholders’ meeting in Owerri, where Imo leaders painstakingly reviewed his performance after three years in office and scored him highly.
I do not need to bore us with what we already know as additional fallout from the stakeholders meeting such as the leaders’ call, via a motion for Uzodimma to seek re-election to continue with the good work he is doing in Imo. Regardless, I must add, however, that three years ago when Uzodimma’s government came on board, what he met on the ground, coupled with seen and unseen forces that coalesced to frustrate his regime, but for God’s grace, were there for any discerning mind to see and be the judge today.
That Uzodimma has provided effective leadership three years in office is not in doubt and never the sole point we are out to espouse in this intervention. Rather, what Imo people have seen, which other persons across the country are witnesses to, is that he came to office prepared, the way genuine leaders do, but there was calculated attempt not to give him a chance.
It is rather unfortunate and regrettable that those opposed to Uzodimma’s coming to Imo three years ago, and fought to derail what God had purposed for the state through him, defined him in their own way. Being blind to Uzodimma’s visionary, pragmatic, courageous, transformative and other covert leadership attributes, they never reckoned with him as a leader, perhaps not in their mould of leaders.
Three years ago, those I prefer to call our “familiar leaders” were so impatient to ask the question, what are the characteristics of a good leader?
Good leaders possess self-awareness, garner credibility, focus on relationship-building, have a bias for action, exhibit humility, empower others, stay authentic, present themselves as constant and consistent, become role models and are fully present.
I am sure our “familiar leaders” are better informed now to see the missing link in their type of leaders, who ran the affairs of Imo compared to Uzodimma, who is in the saddle.
In the course of writing this short essay, I did a little research on the leadership attributes of two key global leaders – former President of the United States of America, Barack Obama and the late Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew – in relation to Uzodimma and his mission in Imo.
I can conveniently say that the trio are visionary, transformational and pragmatic, and in their rights, possess captivating oratorical powers with which they command the attention of their audiences, whether in U.S. in the case of Obama, Singapore in the case of Yew or Imo if we are referring to Uzodimma.
One must have been part of Uzodimma’s daily routine since January 15, 2020, with its dose of vicissitudes, to appreciate the content of Audacity of Hope, an award-winning book by Obama, as if he had Imo governor in mind while writing that book. Obama writes: “If you are walking down the right path and you are willing to keep walking, eventually you will make progress.”
You be the judge as Obama’s view concerns Uzodimma and his three years sojourn in Imo.
Suffice it to say that three years ago, the plan of the detractors was to cause Uzodimma to remove his eyes from the path he was headed. But to the glory of God, they failed because Hope had the will to keep walking to make progress.
What about Lee Kuan Yew’s From Third World to First? Like Uzodimma is striving courageously to turn Imo around after many years of devastation, Yew himself was courage personified. The former Singapore PM/father of modern Singapore almost singlehandedly pulled his country out of general poverty and disorder, turning a “little red dot” on the global map into a gleaming metropolis. According to Yew, “A nation is great not by its size alone; it is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people and the quality of their leaders, which ensure it an honourable place in history.”
The devastation that was Imo prior to birthing of Uzodimma’s regime on January 15, 2020 was scary. But the government had a ready template, the well-articulated ‘Shared Prosperity’ programme embedded in the 3R tripod of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery. Today, virtually all the sectors in the state have something to show as regards reconstruction, rehabilitation or recovery, thereby making Uzodimma’s Shared Prosperity government a reality, and like Obama said, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it is good for everybody.”
In every sector, there is something to cheer concerning Uzodimma’s three years in office.
Many people are rather fascinated by the road revolution associated with the Shared Prosperity administration. Reason: there were simply no roads when he took over office. In three years, this government embarked on the massive construction of 70 roads, some already completed and commissioned, while others are at various levels of completion. Worthy of mention are Owerri-Orlu, Owerri-Okigwe, Owerri-Mbaise-Umuahia, Orlu-Mgbee-Akokwa-Uga and Oguta-Okporo-Orlu. To say that they have nothing to do with the ongoing construction of 135 kilometres local roads across the 27 local government areas of the state is to say the least.
It is Uzodimma’s firm belief that all the urban roads are critical corridors that will link Imo to her neighbours and, consequently, help to stimulate economic activities and commerce in the state.
Today, courtesy of Uzodimma’s Shared Prosperity administration, Imo is in tune with all the socio-economic parameters that will define the scope of its development, whether in the nearest, medium or long-term basis.
Worthy of mention here is the planned dredging of the Oguta Lake and Orashi River up to the Atlantic Ocean following a Memorandum of Understanding already signed for that purpose between the Uzodimma-led government and the Naval authorities. That is visionary, pragmatic and transformational leadership at play, which was completely lacking before January 15, 2020.
Also enormous are the gains accruable from the innovations in Uzodimma’s programmes with the birthing of the Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government, which has the potential of training 100,000 youths in different skills for future employment, the state’s operation of accountable and transparent fiscal process that earned her $30 million over the past three years under the State Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) and the recent launch of the Hope Green Revolution, the acronym that would drive the money-spinning Imo Environment Laboratory and waste recycling facility, under the Sustainable Tran-Environment International Foundation (STEI), for the purpose of reducing green house gas emission.
What, perhaps, marks Uzodimma out from the pack of other leaders that came to Imo before him is his passion for service based on open, transparent, credible, inclusive and accountable government. That remains the magic wand with which he has built trust with the government at the centre, the international community and the development partners. That he keeps increasing the budgetary allocation of capital projects, year in and out, signposts a leadership that is people-oriented and interested in relegating selfish desires.
A little of how Uzodimma concluded his speech during the January 5, 2023 stakeholders’ meeting chaired by Dr. Pascal Dozie still serves as a reminder of the man we are proud to call our governor. This is important because three years down the road, Uzodimma has remained consistent with his approach to governance. During his first stakeholders’ meeting with Imo leaders on June 12, 2020, he said he had a covenant with God to govern Imo for the good of the people.
Today, the question concentrating the minds of many Imo citizens is how Uzodimma was able to achieve so much within short a period, howbeit with scarce resources, despite the challenge of politically-contrived and sponsored insecurity. For those still looking for the answer, he did not come to Imo, like I have always said, to joke.