ANEC 2022: The Story Of My Sacred Call To Duty: Challenges And Triumphs – Uzodinma To Editors In Owerri

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Hope UzodinmaLet me most warmly welcome all of you once again to Imo State on this historic occasion of the 18th edition of the Guild of Editors Conference. Yesterday, I was here to formally welcome you to the state as you kicked off your conference, and I made a promise to return today to use the auspicious event of your presence to share the story of my journey so far in the office.

It is a rare privilege to host so many Editors of both the print and electronic media drawn from the length and breadth of the country. According to an Igbo proverb, “anyone who successfully climbs an Iroko tree should endeavor to gather as much firewood as possible because no one gets a chance to climb an iroko tree every day”.

Given the very important role of the media as the watchdog of our democracy, it is important that you, as the leaders of the fourth estate of the realm, use the auspicious opportunity of your presence here in Imo State to see for yourselves how far we have gone in delivering good governance and its dividends to Imo people. This is why I consider it expedient to share a synopsis of our modest stewardship so far with you. Thereafter, you would be allowed to undertake a tour of the state to see things for yourselves, after which you can then come to your own convictions and conclusions.

I have titled this account “THE STORY OF MY SACRED CALL TO DUTY: CHALLENGES AND TRIUMPHS” I have used the word “sacred” because I strongly believe that the unique circumstances that fuelled my governorship ambition were divinely inspired; just as the unique challenges I had to navigate and the uncommon triumphs that became my ultimate reward. Thus, I will start this address with a preamble in which I will tell you the true story of my journey to the Government House. So, I urge you to listen patiently as I tell you this rather enthralling story.


First of all, let me inform you that I had earlier contested the Imo governorship elections twice. The first was in 2003 and the second was in 2007. After the two unsuccessful bids, in 2011, I contested and got elected into the National Assembly as a Senator representing Orlu Senatorial Zone in the 7th Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where I served with some of you in this hall. In 2015, I was re-elected into the 8th Assembly as a two-term senator and was set for re-election in 2019 back to the Senate before duty called me back home for a governorship assignment in 2018. At the time, the political atmosphere in Imo State was truly charged. Palpable despondency pervaded the air and something unusual was about to happen. This was not only because of the abysmal performance of the government of the day but also because the state appeared to be headed to an unthinkable political configuration that could sentence generations unborn to political servitude. Imo people were aghast and quite uncomfortable with the unfolding arrangement but were nonetheless completely helpless.  Most governorship aspirants in the ruling APC abandoned the party, making the situation even more dire.

It was against this background that a group of Elders from Owerri and Okigwe zones led a delegation to me to come and salvage the situation knowing my political pedigree. Many of those who led that delegation are alive and some of them are present at this occasion. Their confidence that I could stop the political drift emboldened me. So, driven largely by patriotism and, feeling somewhat like the biblical Moses, I rose to the challenge to set Imo free from a looming political servitude. To the glory of God, I emerged victorious at the APC governorship primaries of 2018 and consequently became the APC flag bearer for the 2019 governorship elections. Wrestling the ticket from the grip of an anointed candidate was a significant victory of its own.

The eruption of ecstasy that greeted my emergence as the APC flag bearer witnessed in Imo State was unimaginable but heart-warming. The enthusiastic reception I received from Imo people the day I returned to Owerri from Abuja shortly after my victory at the party primaries was ratified by the APC national leadership was also unimaginable. Owerri was locked down by a sea of heads that trooped out to welcome me all the way from the Sam Mbakwe Airport, through the streets to the centre of the city. Our people saw me, and rightly too, as the man, God would use to save them from modern-day political bondage. This effusion of incredible love from Imo people was replicated and sustained all through the campaign season. Our campaign office was a beehive of human traffic which surged daily to show their support and solidarity, with many volunteering to play a role in the campaign. Many joined the campaign trail and asked for nothing in return. All they wanted was to play their part in the fight to save the state from further decline.

In light of these, even before the first ballot was cast in the governorship election of 2019, it was obvious to even a political neophyte and naysayers that Hope Uzodimma, the APC candidate, was the man to beat in that election.


The first major challenge I faced was the spirited effort and propaganda to give the impression that I lost an election that was always mine to win. This was partly because the then incumbent Governor vowed openly that I would never be the governor of Imo State. He followed this up with the action as he went ahead to field his son-in-law to contest the governorship election as the candidate of another party, the Action Alliance (AA). He deployed all the instruments at his disposal as the serving Governor of Imo State to make sure he succeeded in truncating my gubernatorial ambition and getting his son-in-law elected.

It was not surprising that there was a high-level conspiracy to stop me from emerging as the winner of the election and this led to the well-orchestrated but ill-fated plot to place me in the 4th position in the governorship election results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2019. The grand design was to discourage me from going to court to seek redress. This high-level conspiracy also led to the greatest violation of our constitution as a candidate who clearly did not meet the constitutional requirements for winning a governorship election in the country was declared the outright winner of the election.

However, as perplexing and as challenging as the situation was, rather than being daunted, I was encouraged to fight to recover a mandate I was convinced I got from the Imo people.

At that instance, I recalled the inspiring words of Henry Ford “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal “. So, I soldiered on with greater determination. After a thorough and painstaking search to determine what actually happened, I discovered that the conspirators inelegantly excluded the results from a total of 388 polling units in which I got the highest number of votes from the final tally of results announced by INEC. With this startling discovery, I approached the Election Tribunal sitting in Owerri to recognize the votes from the 388 polling units and add the votes to my results and, thereafter, declare me the validly elected governor of Imo State. This was after getting INEC to certify the results from these polling units as true and original copies of the results in their custody.

At the tribunal, none of the counsels to either INEC or PDP could contradict the results I tendered. The votes were consequently accepted by the tribunal as exhibits of the true and original copies of the results from these 388 booths.

When the tribunal moved its judgment to Abuja, many believed that this was because the incumbent governor, who was the candidate of PDP, had lost the case. That appeared to be the only logical reason to move the judgment venue from Owerri to Abuja. But the unexpected happened as the tribunal affirmed his election as the Governor of Imo State. Was I discouraged or deterred by this verdict? No. And this was partly because I remembered the wise counsel of Roger Crawford that “Being challenged is inevitable but being defeated is optional “. So, I chose not to accept defeat and proceeded to the Court of Appeal.

At the appellate Court, there was a split judgment. The minority judgment which favoured me held that since the results from the 388 polling units were not contradicted, they were correct and were, therefore, the original copies of the results from those units. Based on that, the minority judgment declared that I validly won the governorship elections.

As you know, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. At the Supreme Court, the judges examined the two judgments and adopted the one that had more merit and this was the minority judgment. Consequently, on January 14, 2020, seven of the Justices of the Supreme Court in the panel unanimously nullified the election of the candidate of PDP as the governor of Imo State and declared me the winner of the election held on March 9, 2019. Subsequently, I was declared the duly elected governor of Imo state in the 2019 elections.

I was thereafter sworn in as the duly elected governor of Imo State on 15th January 2020.

The first challenge I faced after taking the oath of office was that there was nobody to take over from. There was no handover note, either. So, I had to start off like a man groping in the dark, without a compass. There was not even a nominal role of the state’s workforce. To make matters worse, the state was in a state of rancid decay. There was hardly any motorable road in the state. Worse of all, the Civil Service was in complete disarray, following many years of neglect. The task ahead of me was by no means an easy one.

At the same time, the PDP, obviously unwilling to accept defeat, even when their candidate never legally won the elections in the first place, openly vowed to make the state ungovernable for me. They followed the threat by inciting a section of the public to mount pockets of protests and riots. They also tried to incite workers and pensioners against my nascent administration. As a result of all these, the first three months of my tenure were marked by incessant unrest in the capital city of the state.

As we were grappling with these challenges, the world experienced a devastating challenge in the form of Covid -19 pandemic. Shortly after, the country experienced the crippling EndSars revolt which also had a demoralizing effect on businesses across the country. In between these events, all hell appeared to have been let loose as Imo State was engulfed by an unbridled degree of insecurity. Police stations were burnt at will and law enforcement officers suddenly became targets and victims of fatal attacks. The lives of innocent citizens were lost and people lived in palpable fear for their lives. There was a such a deep and universal feeling of insecurity that our people were afraid to even go to the market. The situation was confounded by the fact that the identities and motives of these murderers were not known. in truth, the challenges were daunting. But, we did not give up. Instead, we chose to confront these hydra-headed problems we faced.

While all these played out, I remained confident of victory because I knew that my election as the Governor of Imo state was a divine mandate which demanded of me the utmost commitment and dedication to the service to the people. To this end, I made a personal covenant with God, that since He restored my stolen mandate, I would in turn serve him faithfully by serving the people honestly and to the very best of my ability. So, with my mandate recovered, I knew it was time to fulfill my own part of my covenant with God. That was why in my inaugural address, I pledged to surrender myself to the will of the people at all times and to work honestly and tirelessly for the good of the citizenry.

As I already indicated, the first acid test of that my resolution, as it were, came with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The virus, as you already know, had a devastating effect on virtually every aspect of human endeavor. But my prompt response to it helped to save a lot of lives. Our swift response was to empanel a committee of experts headed by Prof Maurice Iwu. We acquired ambulances for all 27 local governments and built and equipped a number of world-class isolation centres where those infected were nursed back to life. In addition to that, we put in place restrictions that reduced frequent infections among the people, while palliatives were provided for the needy. At the end of it all, Imo State was among the states that recorded fewer deaths and one of the lowest numbers of infected victims in the entire country

As I already mentioned, those who lost the 2019 election decided to unleash mayhem in the state – in keeping with their public threat to make the state ungovernable. With an ungodly and unholy alliance with the unknown gunmen, these vermin triggered the worst form of terrorism and banditry ever witnessed in this part of the country. These culminated in the bombing of the Owerri Correctional Facility and the release of hundreds of condemned criminals. Thereafter, several police stations were destroyed. The situation got so bad that people were beheaded openly and their heads were displayed in market squares as though it was an article of trade. The climax was that the bandits opened a camp in the bushes in Orsu Local Government Area where they were feasting on human flesh, roasting and eating fellow humans as if they were cattle. We are talking about cannibalism in the 21st century. In the warped reasoning of those who contrived these beastly acts of insecurity, they wanted to portray my Government as incompetent, unpopular and unwanted. To be honest, we faced a daunting situation, but as you know, “where there is a will, there is a will”. According to Winston Churchill, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. I am an unrepentant optimist.

Mercifully, and to the glory of God, the table turned against them through the prompt intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari who came to our rescue and therein the security agencies moved in to restore peace in the state.

Today, Imo State is peaceful again. This is why I will continue to express my profound gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari and the security agencies for what they achieved here. We also remember, mourn and honour the gallant officers and innocent people who lost their lives in the course of the insecurity in the state. May their souls rest in peace.

It is to the glory of God that while we were battling the enormous security challenges, which would have provided enough excuse for a governor to renege in discharging his primary responsibilities, we remained tenaciously focused on our vision to the glory of God.

While still serving as a Senator, I noticed that our children were always risking their lives on the streets of Owerri with jerry cans in search of potable water. On inquiry, I was told that the public water supply to Owerri ceased about 15 years ago. To say that I was shocked was an understatement. So, soon after I assumed office, I mobilized contractors to fix the Owerri Water Works known as the Otamiri Water Scheme. Today, the public taps are back to life in Owerri metropolis.

I also did not hesitate to tackle the decay in the state Civil Service. What we had as a Civil Service when I assumed office existed only in name. Both the institution and the workers were nowhere close to civil and what they offered was very far from service. For all intents and purposes, the reference to the Imo workforce as civil servants was not only an abuse of the terminology but an aberration, going by the level of decay and dilapidation in the system. The situation was so bad that government businesses were conducted in bars and residences of those in power. Permanent secretaries had been stripped and castrated of their authority, while the general despondency among staff was palpable. Workers’ salaries were paid whimsically as no worker was sure of a fixed salary in any month. The payroll system was corruption personified. Salary padding and illegal promotions were the order of the day. The government generated zero tax income from Pay As You Earn (PAYE). There was no recall of salary payments. With a corrupt and dysfunctional Civil Service, internally generated revenue had a free-fall to the lowest level ever. Even the preparations of payroll vouchers were outsourced to consultants who alongside those in power charged the sum of N500m monthly for preparing bloated payrolls. At the end of the day, Imo State was losing close to N2b monthly through shady deals and payroll fraud.

I had to move in quickly to do a holistic turnaround of the Civil Service. Today, things have changed for good. In addition to the automation of the Civil Service, the entire Secretariat has been rehabilitated. The Permanent Secretaries are now the chief reporting officers of their various ministries. Again, through the training and retraining of civil servants, the morale of the staff has been boosted. They not only work in a conducive environment but now enjoy free transportation to and from work every day. The permanent secretaries now have official cars – a situation that was non-existent before I intervened. But, most importantly, workers in Imo State now receive their salaries promptly. I even paid them the 13th month’s salary in December 2021.

As the bureaucracy started running efficiently and effectively, we started tackling the problem of roads and related infrastructure. Almost all the major roads leading to Owerri, the state capital, were impassable when I assumed office. The internal roads were even in a worse state. Before one knew what was happening, some mischievous elements started composing derogatory songs with my name, saying I am Uzodimma (which means good road) but no good roads can be found in Imo, this was barely five (5) months after I assumed office. I wasn’t angry with anyone since the government is a continuum. But I wondered whether they didn’t know those under whose watch the roads got bad in the first instance and why they did not produce songs in their names. But that is the burden of leadership. Today, what you hear about Imo State is the road revolution, though Mr. President preferred to refer to it as the infrastructure revolution.

At the last count, we have done more than 100 quality roads in less than three years. These include urban and rural roads. President Muhammadu Buhari has been to Imo State for a record two times to commission some of the roads executed by this administration outside the ones he commissioned visually.

It is instructive that some of the roads we fixed are federal roads, especially the Owerri – Orlu dual carriageway and the Owerri – Okigwe road which we consider our signature projects given their economic importance to our people and the huge resources expended on them. We also did the Naze – Ihiagwa – Nekede – Obinze road leading to two Federal higher institutions of learning, namely Federal Polytechnic Nekede and the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, and of course the 34 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Obinze. The Iwuanyanwu Bye-Pass and Egbu – Chukwuma Nwoha roads and the Lake Nwaebere and Relief Market roads located within Owerri metropolis also need to be mentioned because they were recovered along with tens of houses from the rampaging flood.

Yes, for more than six years, floods completely took over those roads and the houses and people fled from the areas. Using a novel balloon flood-control technology, we recovered the roads and the houses and ever since, the economic values of estates in the area have vastly appreciated. The flood menace is now a thing of the past in these areas.

Encouraged by this remarkable success, we have now started a similar scheme in another part of Owerri to take care of the Works Layout, Amakohia and Akwakuma axes which are also prone to heavy flooding. Our aim is to ultimately make Owerri’s capital city completely flood-free in the next few years.

In the same manner, we want to stimulate the economy of the state, and this is the reason we are aggressively embarking upon the infrastructure revolution. A few weeks ago, contracts were awarded for the construction of five rural roads in each of the 27 Local Government Areas of the state. Upon completion, these roads will ease the movement of goods and services across the entire state. We have also flagged – off the reconstruction of the Owerri – Mbaise – Umuahia road which connects us to Abia State and the Orlu- Mgbee – Akokwa – Uga road which leads to Anambra State. These form part of our economic blueprint for the growth and development of our state.

In line with this, only a few days ago, I launched an industrial policy for the state which is aimed at accelerating growth in all sectors of the state economy.

Distinguished Editors, my blueprint for the development of the state, which I released during my campaign, is woven around a solid foundation known as the shared prosperity creed, encapsulated in Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery. This is a deliberate policy to get the state working again. As we are embarking on reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure, we have not lost sight of the other leg of the tripod which is recovery. In this regard, we have also recovered assets and property worth billions of naira, including a university established at a cost of 40 billion in naira, from those who looted the state’s treasury.

As we are doing that, we are also expanding the frontiers of knowledge. Apart from the university which we recovered, we have established another one; the University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. We have also been rehabilitating our secondary and primary schools. Currently, we are building one new primary school in each of the 305 wards in the state.

Since it is an established fact that health is wealth, we are paying adequate attention to the health of our citizens too. I instituted a free mobile clinic that moves around the rural areas to offer free medical services to our people. We have also achieved accreditation for our schools of nursing at Mbaise, Awo-Omamma and Amaigbo. Most importantly, we have revived the Imo State University Teaching Hospital (IMSUTH), Orlu. Prior to my assumption of office as Governor, the hospital was a glorified morgue. The morale of staff was at its lowest ebb as a result of a backlog of salaries owed them, in addition to a lack of equipment to work with. To the glory of God, we have changed the narrative. IMSUTH has a new song. For the first time in six years, it has graduated new sets of medical doctors, numbering over 300. That feat was possible because we flooded the institution with state-of-the-art equipment, cleared the backlog of salaries and gave the school a new lease on life. We have similarly been meeting our financial obligations to all state-owned tertiary institutions.

Also in line with our policy of recovery, we have resuscitated the multi-million naira palm plantation known as Adapalm Nig LTD which was the goose that laid the golden eggs for the state previously. The company which was run down by previous administrations was actually the mainstay of the state’s economy, in terms of generation of internal revenue and offering employment to thousands of our youths. Now, the company is back on track through our efforts. It is engendering productive service ranging from employment to marketing opportunities for owners of palm plantations. Efforts are also in top gear to revive and recover the Imo State Shoes Factory as well as Avutu Modern Poultry LTD. Our goal is to boost the economy of the state as well as offer employment to our youths.

My drive to enhance trade and develop the economy of the state received a significant boost with the recent approval for the dredging of Orashi River to link it to the Atlantic. Today, I am proud and pleased to announce that the Federal Government has given me the assurance that the Oguta port project will be completed. The economic impact of this singular development will be far-reaching.

Since it is obvious that government alone cannot employ all our teeming youths, we also developed appropriate programs to train them in various skills so as to empower them to become self-employed and potential employers of labor. Consequently, I created a separate ministry for that purpose. More than 18,000 youths have so far benefited from the exercise while the government has spent more than N8b to drive the process.

It is also on record that Imo state is the first state to create a Ministry of Digital Economy and e- government. The focus here is to train our youths in different digital Skills for self-employment. The first batch of training will commence next month and it is expected that no fewer than 1,000 Imo youths will benefit from the training. We believe that through digital Skills alone the government can create a minimum of 10,000 jobs annually for our youths.

Just a few weeks ago, I launched the Imo green revolution campaign, making us the first state to do so in sub – Saharan Africa. The target is for us to buy into the opportunities created by the global efforts at combating the severe effects of climate change, with its attendant potential for the emergence of small and medium-scale enterprises, to create employment opportunities for our people, increase internationally generated revenue while making the environment safer for everyone.

In all, I am happy that I now have a larger platform to empower our youths because that is what I have been doing all my life. I believe that the more we engage our youths in productive ventures, the less crime we have in society.

In terms of security, I am happy that we are working in harmony and synergy with the security agencies and vigilantes to keep the peace. As a matter of fact, the state has expended huge sums of money to achieve and maintain the peace which we enjoy today. In my moments of reflection, I wonder how much more we could have achieved if we did not have to face these distractions. I am sure I am not alone in this reflection. That is why I am continuously appealing to instigators of violence and insecurity to embrace peace in the interest of the development of the state. Albeit, I can confidently say today that Imo state is much safer today than it was when we assumed office. This explains why very important institutions, such as the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Police, the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria and now, your esteemed Guild of Editors, have found it worthwhile to hold their annual conference here in Imo state this year alone. Indeed, it will not be out of place to declare that Imo State has regained her lost glory as the hospitality capital of the South – East and that we are ready for business once again!

Generally, I can say that we have done marvelously well within the available resources and in spite of the hostile environment, we met on the ground. Today, we are conducting all government businesses in Government House because I rebuilt the place. Before I came into office, government businesses were conducted in bush bars and guest houses. Today, we hold our Executive Council meetings at the brand new, state–of–the–art Executive Council Chambers built by my administration. Today, members of the Imo state House of Assembly have returned from their exile of more than eight years wherein they were conducting the business of law-making in a make-shift building after the House of Assembly complex collapsed. They have returned to the hallowed Chambers because I completely rebuilt them and gave them a new Assembly Complex with state-of-the-art communication gadgets. Today our state judges can proudly raise their heads high before their counterparts from other states because I have provided them with SUV cars as their official vehicles.

All that I have listed as our achievements are verifiable and you can confirm the same during your project tour tomorrow. However, they are not by any means exhaustive as trying to do so will amount to detaining you here for days. Your colleague, the Hon Commissioner for Information and Strategy, will avail you with hard and soft copies of the detailed account of our achievements.

I am personally driven by the words of Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian sage, who charged us to be the change we want to see in the world. I thank God that in the less than three years that I have been in office, we have accomplished so much. I thank God that in spite of all distractions we remained firm and focused. I thank God that even our worst critics and naysayers are beginning to concede that Imo State is far better today than it was three years ago. I thank God that even those who stoked the flames of insecurity in the past are slowly, but steadily relenting and peace has returned to Imo State. I thank God that after almost three years in office, nobody has been able to accuse me of any form of corruption nor has anybody traced any estate anywhere that I acquired after assuming office. Yes, to the glory of God, I have stayed on course with the prayers and support of my family and people of goodwill and I have kept faith in my covenant with my God. So, now I can look back and recite Moliere’s soothing words for resilience in the face of adversity, to wit: “The greater the obstacle the more glory in overcoming” or like Bob Marley put it “the tougher the battle, the sweeter the victory”.

Finally, as you can imagine, these achievements could not have been possible without the very kind support and assistance of individuals and organizations which I refer to as our partners in progress. Of course, this includes some members of the fourth estate who have been kind, objective and fair in telling our story. We owe you a debt of gratitude. On my part, I am giving the task of governance my best shot, and I am confident that history will be kind to me.

As I conclude, let me leave you with this quote from Mother Teresa as food for thought: “I can do things you cannot do, you can do things I cannot do; together we can do great things”.

I thank you all for your kind attention. God bless you all and once again I wish you safe trips back to your respective homes.




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