Four Catholic nuns have just been kidnapped in Imo state, one of such sad tales that have become almost a daily occurrence since Hope Uzodinma became the absolute ruler. The phrase, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” suggests that whenever a person has absolute power over other people or things, it makes him corrupt. It morally destroys their nature and fills them with destructive pride. However, if the person redeems himself from this abuse of power, he is humble enough to align with the people and rule for the common good.
Again, a leader who hasn’t lost touch with reality works to bring sides together, and not create voids further separating sides. All this does not hold true for Hope Uzodinma and Imo State, which he governs with an iron fist like an ancient emperor as though he is an absolute monarch. Imo, the southeast priced state, once prided as one of the most enlightened in the zone and indeed in Nigeria is adrift and nobody seems to care. Most Imo indigenes are either fighting on partisan party lines or too scared to talk. Many have been hounded into silence, or kept far away from the state. Just like the rest of the country are hoping and praying for the APC-led federal government at the centre to exit in 2023; many Imolites are hoping the Imo state off-season guber election will come sooner to speak with the ballot.
The Supreme Court miracle governor of Imo state, Senator Uzodinma, has not shown leadership with clarity of vision and commitment to peace, unity, and development. For a man whose election was so absurd and most controversial in the nation’s annals, miraculously ferreted from 4th position to 1st by the nation’s apex court, he ought to be soberer. The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua whose election was much less tainted had to admit it, and made amends with the Belgore committee on electoral reforms, which he promptly set up. Yar’Adua also led reconciliation efforts with Niger Delta militants and the rest of the country.
Uzodinma contrarily, rather than set up a peace and reconciliation committee, has remained in a war mood and war path. He is fighting a declared war with his two immediate predecessors, namely, Rochas Okorocha and Emeka Ihedioha, and, more dangerously, with IPOB and Eastern Security Network, ESN. These wars of attrition have left Imo state in tatters. Though his spin doctors want the world to believe that the state has witnessed phenomenal growth under Hope, discerning minds know better.
Imo has simply become a river of blood and one of the most unsafe places to live today. Ndigbo say that a man’s name seeks him out. The governor’s first name is ‘Hope’, and hope means a ‘feeling of expectation’ and therefore the anchorage of life itself and existence. Uzodinma in Igbo means almost the same thing – a hitch-free journey of life. So, to what extent has Governor Hope Uzodinma inspired hope, and to what extent is his journey and stewardship been hitch-free with the Imo people? You be the judge.
But it is clear that since the arrival of Hope Uzodinma as Imo state governor the state has known no peace and has been without hope and its journey is roughest so far (which in Igbo is: ‘Uzo di njo’).
Recall that what sparked the war between Hope and Biafra agitators was his invitation to the Nigerian military to tackle insecurity in the state. Internal security is the business of the police and before the intervention by the military becomes necessary, the police ought to be seen to have failed and a joint review committee called to recommend such an intervention if it is clearly warranted. Ordinarily, such military intervention in the internal security of the country cannot be unilaterally called up by the governor as happened in Imo, Lagos during the EndSars and in some other places. But nobody hears of any such joint reviews and the criteria used, and approvals of both the chief of army staff and even the president who is the commander in chief.
Typically, the military action called up by Hope, which involved the air and ground operations in such brazen showmanship and show of force, with its attendant bloodbath, appeared to be on whims and ego trip. It was an expression of the governor’s lack of confidence and capacity to manage statecraft.
Come to think of it, Biafra agitation particularly ESN, was in existence when Rochas and Ihedioha were governors. It is on record that both men were able to manage the phenomenon and Imo enjoyed relative peace, stability, and economic buoyancy under them. But Uzodinma believes that force is all he needs to conquer and be on top of the state. This has not worked as Imo has been torn and bleeding.
The Imo governor’s Ebube Agu security outfit has been on a killing spree. Obviously, without requisite training and rules of engagement, these political thugs who are branded Ebube Agu, are out to main, kill and destroy. No week hardly passes without such a gory tale of killings of innocent and defenseless Imo people.
In their trails are sorrows, tears, and blood (apologies Fela Anikulapo Kuti). The most recent of this unmitigated bloodletting could be the killing of 14 wedding guests reported to be youths, who were returning from a traditional wedding ceremony in Awomamma in Oru East to Otulu in Oru West LGA, who were attacked by the said members of the Ebube Agu security outfit. The statement by DSS about this sordid killing claimed that those killed were members of ESN. But even if they were, is membership of ESN now a death sentence? Which court pronounced that and authorised the illegal Ebube Agu outfit as executioners? Furthermore, one may also ask: how is the membership of IPOB or ESN determined on sight since there was no evidence that there were interrogations of the victims before their cold-blooded murder?
Those carrying out such killings should know they are murderers. The killing of any unarmed person, even a soldier in war, once unarmed, is murder, since the unarmed person poses no threat to warrant shooting to kill. But rather than arrest and prosecute the so-called Ebube Agu killers for prosecution, the state provided them cover and justification for murderous nonstate action. This kind of security operation is counterproductive. It has been fueling insecurity.
It is also important to point out that insecurity in Imo has left so much collateral damage in the state and has spilled over to Anambra state. Since Professor Chukwuma Soludo was sworn in as governor of Anambra state in March, he has been grappling with insecurity along Imo – Anambra border towns and local governments. So, it’s not only Imo state that is bleeding from the exacerbation of insecurity and conflict in Imo but the neighboring Anambra as well and there is evidence that most of the perpetrators of insecurity in Anambra state are mostly from Imo and one other Southeast state.
Imo, a great Igbo state, has to be saved from ravages of Hope Uzodinma’s dictatorship. There is a great need for Southeast leaders at all levels to prevail on Hope Uzodinma to regain perspective and change his leadership style and embrace rapprochement with his political opponents, both real and imagined, and Biafra agitators. That is the only way to bind and heal the deep wound inflicted on the state and indeed Igbo land by the advent of Hope Uzodinma as governor.
Dr Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social Psychologist, is a Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought and can be reached via Tel.+234- 913-033-5723; Twitter: @DrLawMefor; email: firstname.lastname@example.org