I have stated it in several articles that Senator Hope Uzodimma emerged Imo State governor through a most odious verdict served cold by the supreme court of Nigeria. After the January 14, 2020 incident and his eventual taking oath of office, Uzodimma, perhaps, buoyed by the magnitude of support enjoyed by his predecessor, pledged to “continue from where Ihedioha stopped”.
To that effect, Uzodimma, in a most remarkable hue ever witnessed in the pulsating Nigerian politics, in deed continued some of Ihedioha’s landmark programmes, particularly the laudable road projects. Yet, most of the roads Ihedioha flagged off for either construction or reconstruction were abandoned.
For the purposes of this discourse, it must be pointed out that the judiciary panel of inquiry set up by the Ihedioha administration was allowed to continue by Uzodimma even as its report is what the government in power has been relying on for its recovery excursions against former governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha. The panel’s report on the establishment of about six universities by Okorocha is equally what has armed this administration as it fights to recover Eastern Palm University. On this, we must patently applaud Uzodimma.
Quite disturbingly, despite being a two time senator, Uzodimma may not have distinctively mastered the political firmament of Nigeria very well. Or, he practically understands but decides to swim against tide.
For whatever reason, the Imo governor has boldly jumped out of the Southern Governors Forum. For the two times this body had its meeting since coming together after many years of being in purgatory, Uzodimma stayed away while important issues concerning the south and Nigeria were discussed.
Of course, knotty issues such as state police, fiscal federalism, true federalism, resource control as well as a possible return of power to the south were all in the menu.
Based on several factors and many reasons, what concerned the governors most was the vexed issue of open grazing routes which has been tearing the country apart. As the chief executive officers of their respective states, the governors, after thorough and high level consultations, came to the appreciable conclusion that the best thing for the governments and people of Nigeria was to toe the international best practice which is ranching. Therefore, the other 16 governors agreed that there would not be an open grazing in the south. That message was signed, sealed and delivered to the Nigerian masses.
Almost spontaneously, Uzodimma disagreed. He punctured his colleagues argument and stated that Imo State was free for open grazing. He maintained that while there was a law backing open grazing in Nigeria in 1963, there was no such law at the state level. But he was wrong. Imo passed an anti open grazing law in 2006.
The essence of this engagement is to remind the Imo State governor that those who had in the past jumped out of the main orbit of their respective people’s stand ended pitiably and disastrously. For instance, the late Chief S.L. Akintola was a brilliant and hard working politician.
If not, he would not have been considered for the position of premier by the legendary Awo. However, when the feudal north wanted an ally in the west, it saw Akintola as willing accomplice. He was used to upstage Awo and his Action Group. Thus, Awo and Akintola became estranged and the latter floated the NNDP as he fled from the AG, the Yoruba party that made him governor. This way Akintola was tagged enemy of Yoruba nation. That stigma never left him until his tragic death on January 15, 1966. Even now, the Yoruba identify and mark Akintola’s name as enemy number one.
Here in the South East, the story of Ukpabia Asika does not bear any repetition now. Asika, a renowned scholar and notable academic from University of Ibadan, accepted to join forces with the General Yakubu Gowon’s regime as administrator of East Central State. Then, Ojukwu, after the massacre of Ndigbo in the north following the assassination and eventual overthrow of General Aguiyi Ironsi, even as Gowon had refused to implement the Aburi agreement, had declared the East as an Independent State of Biafra – yet, Asika, in his bid to be termed a federalist, a nationalist, a patriot and a good Nigerian, chose to go the Nigerian way rather than the Eastern route. He was labelled a saboteur, and called a man against his people. Today, Asika’s name evokes sad memories among Ndigbo.
Internationally, when Adolf Hitler took on the world as his private estate, then British Prime Minister, Nevile Chamberlain, gravely embarked on the unproductive action of appeasement. Meanwhile, Winston Churchill vehemently opposed the act of appeasing Hitler and his Nazis’s forces. As Chamberlain pushed for appeasement in order not to go to war with Germany, Hitler still hit Britain very badly. There and then Britain called on Churchill to rescue them from the throes of Hitler’s Damocles. At the turn of the last century, Britain unanimously voted Churchill as its Man of the Century. The man who tried to appease Hitler was not in the card.
The lesson is that you do not get political or any result by just appeasement. Uzodimma’s northern philandering is an appeasement, may be for current survival and future political glory. This is absolutely a defeatist stand and it is quite condemnable.
The fact remains that the Imo governor, by his action of jumping out of the Southern Governors Forum, is making the state a minority. It means that if ultimately the governors win the open grazing routes war, Imo will not be a beneficiary. The import is that at the end of the day, it will be recalled that Imo State slacked when it mattered most – that the state refused to stand up and be counted. In fact, this action of Uzodimma will for ever haunt the state unless it is revoked.
At least, it is not a hidden fact majority of southerners, Imolites inclusive, are against open grazing routes. It will be a misnomer if Governor Uzodimma forces it down our throats.