With the Supreme Court putting a final seal on who governs Imo State in the next four years, the tasks before Governor Hope Uzodinma are quite enormous.
Uzodinma is already settling down for the task of governance and has since released the list of the members of his executive council.
He recently forwarded 22 names to the state legislature as his commissioner nominees for screening.
The governor followed it up few hours later with the appointment of 18 special advisers and senior special assistants that would help steer the ship of his administration.
Many are waiting to see the direction the Uzodinma’s administration would take given that Ihedioha’s seven months’ rule was believed to have shown some flashes of development compared to what was witnessed under the administration of Rochas Okorocha.
The first task before Uzodinma is that of mending the fragmentations in the socio-political space in the state following the manner he emerged as governor.
First of all, observers have argued that it was unthinkable that another person from Orlu zone would occupy the Imo seat of power after former governor Okorocha’s two terms of eight years.
This was why the move by Okorocha to impose his son-in-law as his successor was fought with so much fierceness and intensity.
Uzodinma’s sudden emergence after the people of Owerri zone thought they had already clinched the number one seat via Emeka Ihedioha has continued to generate bitterness amongst people.
In that regard, the governor has a major task addressing such grievances and restoring confidence in the polity for a smooth governace.
According political analysts, Uzodinma would not have it smooth should he fail to take major steps to assuage many ill-feelings amongst the people.
Okodili Ndidi, a journalist and political commentator, advised Uzodinma not to buy into “the mediocrity of running a one man or a one zone show.”
According to him, Uzodinma should ensure that there is an equal spread in appointments, run an open and transparent government as well as fix many of the infrastructural lapses in the state, especially roads.
“Uzodinma should know that he is going to face stiff opposition, especially from the PDP. So, he needs to consolidate his government and make it all embracing. Again the manner Uzodinma contested and emerged as governor indicated that he did not come out with a clear cut manifesto or blueprint. He should quickly draw an agenda of governance in Imo and not try to govern on an ad hoc basis. He should also stay more in Imo, solve Imo problems and stop hopping to Abuja at the slightest opportunity. Imo politics should be played in Imo and not Abuja,” he said.
To some residents of the state, the emergence of Uzodinma was more of a “spoiler” as they argued that the seven month reign of Ihedioha was already bringing a ray of hope before his administration was truncated by the court.
For instance, Ihedioha before he was ousted had started fixing some of the deplorable roads and other decaying infrastructure, thus endeared himself to the people.
He also began reforms in the state’s civil service and rectified flaws in the state pension scheme to ensure regular payments to workers and pensioners.
Uzodinma had promised to continue with Ihedioha’s projects especially roads and payment of salaries.
But many believe that the governor must act fast in fixing some of the roads especially with the rains already at the corner.
Civil servants are of the belief that the governor must keep to his promise of ensuring payment of salaries on 25th of each month.
Another task before Uzodinma is that of mending the cracks within the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state.
Uzodinma’s entry into the party was as uncanny as his emergence as the party governorship flag bearer. At present, there are two factions in the party; one led by Macon Nlemigbo on whose crest Uzodinma rose to power and the other led by Dan Nwafor, which championed Uche Nwosu’s candidature.
As it stands today, Uzodinma is not in full control of the APC party structure in the state.
He may find it hard extricating the party structure from the firm grip of Okorocha’s whose image still looms large in the party.
Nwafor’s faction though had pledged allegiance to Uzodinma but observers still believe he owes a lot of loyalty to Okorocha.
Jones Onwuasoanya, APC State Publicity Secretary agreed as much that there is so much fence-mending to be done in the party. He urged Uzodinma to ensure he pursues genuine reconciliation in the party.
“We want peace back in APC now that the issue of governorship has been resolved. He should ensure that the party is on one page and pursue reconciliation among members and make sure that people are generally happy. He should also pursue political and economic programmes that would ensure fairness and justice and be open to constructive criticisms,” he said.
On the issue of reconciliation, Uzodinma is surely going to face a daunting task especially with the array of political juggernauts that jumped ship with him.
Members of the APC Restoration Coalition have been in limbo. The group led by TOE Ekechi fought Okorocha to a standstill and ensured that he did not have his way.
But of recent, the members have become rather taciturn, apparently adopting a wait and see attitude.
What may probably tear the party apart and make reconciliation impossible is the struggle over who takes over the seat of late Senator Ben Uwajumogu’s Imo North (Okigwe zone) senatorial seat.
No sooner had Uwajumogu been laid to rest than a fierce succession dispute reared its ugly head. A meeting called at the Ehime Mbano palatial home of Billionaire businessman, Tony Chukwu, said to be Uzodinma’s ally, ended in fiasco when he was said to have suggested planting one of his men.
This did not go down well with Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, who is said to be eyeing the seat along with former Governor Ikedi Ohakim.
Apart from these two, so many contestants are eyeing the seat. Observers said Uzodinma may not be favourably disposed to Araraume’s candidature, given the political clout and larger than life figure the latter wields in Okigwe zone. Araraume, though a late entrant to APC, has huge followers in the state.
Knowing this, Uzodinma might have started, albeit subtly, to cut Araraume’s political tentacles.
This was evident in the list of nominees sent to state house of assembly as commissioner nominees. Analysts believe the list was made up of ‘Uzodinma’s men’. Not even one out of the 22 was selected from Onuimo and Isiala Mbano, the political base of not only Araraume and Ohakim, but also that of the speaker, Chiji Collins.
It is obvious that the Okigwe election may be Uzodinma’s first litmus test.
Uzodinma’s next Achilles heels may be the anticipated local government election. It will be his second test. For the past 10 years, the local administration at the third tier of government has been on ad hoc basis. In August last year, the Okorocha-led administration conducted election into the 27 local government areas of the state. The election was described as ‘selection’ as all the seats were then won by the ruling APC. Ihedioha had fixed election into local government, but it was quickly aborted when he realised that the problems were bigger than he imagined.
He was on the verge of fixing another date when the carpet was swept off his feat. The PDP is very much around to extract their own pound of flesh and with the recent reorganisation of the party in the state, the government may have a lot to chew.
Lemmy Akakem, a chieftain of the APC and one of Uzodinma’s strongest supporters holds the view that the party did not make a smooth start.
He said the party is governing with experience. According to him, the party went through a lot of problems that Uzodinma was not able to prepare a blueprint for governance.
Akakem, a former football administrator says, “We are surely on a good track. Don’t forget that we did not have any transition plan or programme like our predecessors did. Nobody handed any note over to us. So what we are doing is that we are governing with experience and you know that Uzodinma is tested in the art of governance as a former governorship aspirant and senator. This is why he is assembling a crack team of professionals in all fields to help him steer the ship of governance in the state”.
Oguwike Nwachukwu, Uzodinma’s Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser said that with the dust over, what remains is “governance, governance and governance.”
He says, “You can see from the appointments he has made and the series of meetings and consultations he has made, he has shown that he is up to good governance. The governor has been able to carry every stratum and gender of the society along. You can see the number of professionals and women nominated as commissioners and special assistants. We’ve never had it so good in the state. We only need the support of the people and with time, everything will be good.”