What Uzodimma did to douse tension in Imo –Emelumba,

By Wilfred Eya

Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Declan Emelumba, in this interview highlights efforts by Governor Hope Uzodimma to douse tension and facilitate rapid development in the state among other issues.

How is the state of affairs in Imo today?

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Imo is moving forward. A lot has happened since the last time we met. Last time, I told you we were about commissioning many roads, and we have done that, and it is to the credit of Imo State that no other personality than the President himself was one of those who commissioned the roads. The Vice President did,  the Senate President did, the State Governor did, so many of them commissioned roads because they came to witness so that people would not say that we’re just blowing hot air and propaganda.  What is important is that the roads we did, many of them are strategically positioned. When the governor came in, he did an assessment and identified those roads that had to do with the commercial and economic nerve of the state. We did the Relief Market Road which was commissioned the same day. Relief Market Road has been in disrepair for more than 15 years and the road that leads to the Main Market in Owerri. The market became so bad the people couldn’t go to the market, those who had property along that route had to relocate. But now, the market is back to life. The MCC Uratta road is under construction but Chukwuma Nwaoha Road is on that major road; it is very significant because it’s a bypass from Umuahia Road to inside the town.  So, if you’re coming from Umuahia, you don’t really have business going to Fire Service and so on. You just bypass it. That road has also been in disrepair for  almost 15 years; so obsolete, it was completely taken over no longer by potholes but gullies. We did it and realised it.

I think most significant of all which President Buhari commissioned was this Balloon driven technology that has taken away  floodwater from the major cities of  Owerri.

How does it work?

It is underground. I may not remember the exact dimension but they are very big. You can even pass a vehicle. You know Owerri has had this problem of perennial flooding since it was created. Right now, when it rains, it takes water from Chukwuma Nwaoha Road, MCC Uratta road, Relief Market Road, all those areas, then takes it directly to Otamiri River. Whenever it is the rainy season, Owerri is dry. Before, floods used to swallow vehicles and so on. The second phase will also come, that will go along that Alvan Road. When that is finished, Owerri would be flood-free completely. So, what the government is doing is looking at the things that will improve commerce, industry, real estate business through road infrastructure. So, we call it road revolution. We have done a total of 46 roads so far within just two years. There’s also the bypass from Onitsha. If you are coming from Onitsha going into town, you don’t have business with the Town Centre; you will just bypass it. All these have helped to ease traffic. Or you are heading to Onitsha, you don’t have to pass through Control, or coming from Mbaitolu; you just bypass and enter Onitsha Road.  And you know we have done this road junction improvement; we are remodelling roundabouts, just like they did in Lagos; we don’t have roundabouts in Owerri again.

And people when they come in, they think they’re either in Lagos or abroad and it has helped traffic flow. So, there has been a lot in terms of road infrastructure but I think the very fundamental one here is that there are two roads. One is from Orlu, they call it Banana Junction to Owerri. It is a major federal road that links mainly all the communities in Orlu axis. The governor is dualising it and it is being done by a German multinational company.  It is a major project. Another one is the one from Okigwe to Orlu which cuts across virtually all the communities in Imo. So, by the time these two major roads are finished, it will definitely impact tremendously on commerce, business, industry, investment and movement of goods. So, these are two major roads that really defined Uzodinma’s administration. It is costing the state government about N58 billion to fix. You ask yourself how the government is getting this money, it goes through prudent management and resources. So, these are some of the things the government has done. And I want to start from there in terms of the difference he has made. Owerri today, most of the roads inside the metropolis are motorable today unlike what you had before. Virtually all the roads in Owerri Town were not motorable when we came in and a lot of other things.

It’s like the tension in Owerri is coming down. There are not many stories of killings again like before. What is the governor doing that is making the tension to gradually come down?

Well, basically, we can say that peace has returned to Imo State, relative peace. You know, before now, we’ve had this bombardment of unknown gunmen, banditry and so on and so forth. Because it was almost alarming, like every week you will see one story or the other about daredevil attacks on police stations, human beings, etc. But the government took it as a challenge. It was a big challenge and he took it head-on. Like he would always say, through the cooperation of the President and the security agencies. The people were fazed also to confront them head-on and by the grace of God, you have been able to stop them. At least from continuing with their relentless attack and breach of  security in the state. The thing was heightened when they attacked the correctional centre in Owerri and released about 1800 inmates. These are  criminals who were either in prison or awaiting trial or whatever. So they went back to society and increased the number of criminals who were prowling the streets. And so the thing became so much but the governor was determined and did not sleep. So as we talk today, Imo is relatively peaceful. Business has returned, nightlife has returned, normal activities have returned. So, people can sleep now with their eyes closed and snore if they want to, but that is not to say that we will not hear occasional incidents here and there, because maybe tomorrow, you will hear somebody was killed somewhere. These are normal. There’s no society that is crime -free but what we’re saying is that abnormal situation where people could not barely move about their businesses out of fear, and frequently you hear about well organised attacks, all those ones have stopped. Imo is relatively peaceful. Like I said, the credit goes to the governor’s determination, the assistance of the President of the country, and the cooperation of all the security agencies. The synergy they show helped in abating the crime to a very reasonable extent.

What is the latest about Senator Rochas Okorocha’s tussles with the governor?

The problem  there is that Okorocha with due respect, I have tremendous respect for him, and he is the Senator from my zone. But I think the major problem is that the man by his nature is a stranger to the law. He doesn’t understand what law means. And he has never been cut out of obeying laws or understanding that the society is governed by laws. When he was governor, he operated outside the rule of law. He even said that he doesn’t have patience for due process and the law.  He forgot to understand that when you finish your tenure, the people have a right to hold you accountable to ask you to give account of your stewardship. He forgot to understand that, that is allowed within the democratic norms and the laws of the land. So, it was the government of Emeka Ihedioha that set up commissions to inquire into his contracts, land use and related matters and this commission stunned him in  their reports. The government brought out a White Paper and indicted him heavily. Because he’s not used to obeying the law, he is thinking it is a personal problem he has, maybe with the present governor, it’s not. The matter is simple: he has a problem with the law and the earlier he faces it, the better because nobody…this is like a Judicial Commission of Inquiry which is legitimate in a democratic setting. And they finished their assignment, turned in their report. And the report was turned into the government, government brought it and it was debated at Exco, Exco approved it and a  White Paper was  issued;  another legitimate process.  And when this thing started, he went to court, the court refused. When Governor Uzodinma came on board, he approached him to stop it,  the governor told him that he cannot do this because he didn’t set up these inquiries, and moreover, he thinks that he is in agreement with the mood of Imo people, that he doesn’t  want to play against the tide. And so when the White Paper came out, he now decided to take the law into his hands. Property that was seized because it was flagged as a property acquired with state funds which he said belonged to his wife,  he went to unseal it by force. He carried thugs to unseal it and the police stopped him.  He’s like seeing himself above the law because he has always operated like that for eight years as a governor. So somehow, he still thinks he is still the governor and can be lawless.  And so when he gives the impression that there’s a problem, there’s no problem. He only has a problem with the law,  and the earlier he faces it, the better for him. Because you cannot escape the long arm of the law. If your hands are clean, you don’t have to be afraid of anything. Because the law is also blind. It doesn’t look at anybody’s face. So, if your hands are clean,  if you come and go, all you need to say is that you’ve not done anything, you can examine me and you will be exonerated. So, the problem, is him accepting that the society is governed by law and he is just a citizen of the country and he has to obey the law. If he does that, he won’t have any problem with anybody. So he has no problem basically except with the law; that is the issue.

People accused your governor of wanting to rig the Anambra elections. Can you explain his role in that?

An invasion  will often imply that he has an army which he doesn’t have. It is amazing because the man was given an assignment by his party. He didn’t apply for the assignment. The party saw him as fit to be the chairman of the governorship campaign APC in Anambra State and being a loyal party man, who also is happy that the party has such confidence in him, he accepted the role and what he did was to go there and there is a good attitude which is to compere for APC to win.  That was what he was asked to do. He campaigned and made sure that he  carried out a very successful campaign. And having finished with that, his job stops from the day the election was held. He is not an INEC official. He had finished his campaign and  that was why he wasn’t even there during the election because he had no other role to play. He had done his work and has completed it and that’s it. The decision as to who wins or who doesn’t win was now left to Anambra people and he had no role to play there.

There is this perception that the loyalty of the governor is more with the caliphate and the North than with the Igbo. What is your reaction to that?

If you look at the history of this man, the governor of the state, Senator Uzodinma, you will find that he has been a businessman all along. He went to the Senate from that background of a businessman, so he has been an independent man. As a businessman, I didn’t know any caliphate  that was his chairman. Because if he so  loves them as they say, you would have heard that in his private companies he has them there, because some people in their private companies appoint all manner of people into their boards. I’m not aware of that. I don’t have any history of that. And so he came from that background and went to the Senate and came out and became governor.  So what what I know is that he is a man who has respect for constituted authority. He is a Christian, and he believes that anybody who is occupying the position has been given to him by God. That’s what our Christian faith tells us. He had  the same respect for Obasanjo when he was there. He had the same respect for Yar’Adua when he was there, and affinity with all of them, Jonathan when he was there, and the same thing he is having with Buhari. There’s no difference. The only difference is that he is now governor which makes it even more mandatory that he should be closer to the power at the centre, so he can attract things to his people.

That’s what people mistake to be friend of the Caliphate.  If Obasanjo or Jonathan was a caliphate then he is a friend to the caliphate. So, there is not much  difference I’ve seen between his relationship with Obasanjo, Jonathan or Buhari.  It’s just people trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. But I can tell you that this man really in terms of his Igboness, because that’s what they’re trying to paint, he is more Igbo than many of those who are trying to question him, because he has been a champion of an advocate of justice for Igbo people. So, he has always carried it as a priority in his public appearances, public  speeches and even while he was in the Senate, and to prove my point, he’s going to present a book very soon on the Igbo question and the way forward, authored by him. So, that will show you that he has always had that burning passion and desire on the Igbo question on how Igbo can get justice. So, it’s not a matter of noise making, a matter of trying to make unnecessary propaganda politically because of whatever this position politically belong. I remember, there was a time the opposition said he was going to rename Imo State University Abba Kyari University; of course, that was not true but these are what people say just to get cheap political popularity. There was even a time they said he has created three Emirates in Imo. My governor is a nationalist, he believes in coexistence, you can’t take that away from him. He believes in live and let live. He believes that our people are living in almost virtually all parts of this country.. They are at the mercy of the laws of the land, which allows people to go to cohabit. That’s what he’s also trying to do in Imo. If you are a resident, you have the right…he feels he has an obligation to protect you just like our people who are also living outside the state have such rights to be protected by their host. So, that’s what he wants to do, show an example so that you cannot say in Imo, they are treating residents from outside bad, so you can’t treat Imo people bad. These are some of the things.  the man who has vision, who understands and believes in the unity of this country, and believes that our problems no matter  how terrible they might be, no matter how bad we might feel, that there are many, many ways of approaching them and getting the same solution. So, I think that I can say emphatically that Uzodinma is more Igbo than a lot of people claiming to be carrying the Igbo cause on their heads.

At the height of the unknown gunmen issue, the media heard that the government invited the military including the Air Force, and some places in Imo land which had never experienced bombs were now attacked by the Air Force. Can you react to that? And also the Oguta people had it on the media that their lands were being taken for ranching. How do you react to this?

On inviting the army, I want to say that if you are in government, and the lives and property of the people are threatened, before now, the Orsu axis, every day, people were harassed, women were raped. It was like a lawless society by people, band of criminals who were harassing the society. And you know, a lot of things were happening. And it was the same people who were saying  that the government is looking helplessly while  people are being killed. I remember what triggered all these things. It was opposition, who planted something falsely, propaganda in social media that the government has given reserved  land for Ruga, for Hausa people in Orlu and herdsmen were already there preparing the place. So, these young men who said they’re about to protect the interest of Igbo you know, were enraged by that and they came to Orlu, looking for the place, a  non-existent place, and in the process, virtually law and order broke down in Orlu. This was the root of what the opposition planted. And of course, it would be very irresponsible of a government to now watch helplessly and this continues to happen.  The police were overwhelmed because they couldn’t really contain it because these were armed people. At that time, they were targeting the police. Anywhere, they saw police on the checkpoint, they shot at them, they were killing them. The police even had to run away, left their stations. So, it was becoming anarchy in that area, and the government had no choice than to do everything that was possible to bring back order and sanity and it included  strengthening security which  was brought in the soldiers. Now the point is that they were brought to restore order, not to make life more miserable for the people, but the same people who triggered insecurity in the area just to make the government look helpless. And even when the government seemed to be wasting time, they were saying there’s no security. The same people because they were now sad that security has been restored through applying this strengthening security precinct are the people who are now saying that  he brought the army to kill them. I keep asking who are the people that these soldiers have killed like the isolated cases or accidental discharge but who are the people. They won’t tell you. They will just say that he brought the army to kill their people but they will not tell you that the same army restored peace in the area. So, it’s just you know, trying to make sure that there is nothing you do. All they want is  to continue to cause confusion. And when you talk about the Air Force, saying that the Air Force has burnt more than during the war, we are in the  social media age. I don’t know how many times, if it was that frequent, as they claimed, I can assure you that these people out of their desperation to prove their point would have been able to capture some images that they would have sent where the Air Force were bombing.  I can’t remember seeing an Air Force going to bomb a place but there are one or two occasions when there was surveillance to determine where criminals were around the axis of Orsu and Ihiala in Anambra,  and those areas.

There was a video about the gunshots and all that.

No. I can tell you there was a time that there was a video that went viral  that the Imo State House of Assembly was on fire. And they sent that video of a house burning actually but it was a video of a building burning in Ghana. So, you can go to the internet  and get false planes, with guns and whatever. What is the evidence that it was in Orlu. 

What about the land grabbing in Oguta?

The governor has made it clear that there is nothing like Ruga. The  government has plans to bring some integrated farm settlements, you know, for the people which is being co-sponsored by the Federal Government. The people who are always looking for what to say against the government said it was Ruga. We have even gone to address the people and clear the air and they are satisfied that this thing has nothing to do with Ruga;  how, what is this? How is it going to happen?

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