By Ori Martins
On December 29, 2021, one of the most respected journalists in Nigeria, Mr Ikechukwu Amaechi, in his Vanguard newspapers column noted that, “Under Hope Uzodimma, Imo has gone to the dogs”.
The revered journalist who is also a publisher, outlined the series of unfortunate incidents which, under Governor Uzodimma, have earned Imo the odious mark of a state in insecurity.
Four months later, on April 20, 2022, another enterprising journalist, in fact, a no nonsense professional, Mr Nnanna Ochereome, in his column in the same Vanguard submitted that “To say that Imo State has been a war zone is an under statement…The governor has been pointing in many different directions thereby causing confusion”.
Many other renowned and credible journalists across the country have equally added thier voices, condemning the spate of violet actions in the state, particularly in the Orlu Zone. All of them had one point in common: the governor has not done much in tackling insecurity in Imo!
For instance, on December 18, 2021, Uzodimma made an announcement through the state owned radio station, the Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) that he would hold a stakeholders meeting on January 3, 2022, and thereafter announced to the world the sponsors of insecurity in Imo.
It was a gleeful news and obviously a laudable move by the Uzodimma government. Imolites enthusiastically looked up to January 3, 2022 with a rapt attention.
Sadly, the governor played a “whimper rather than a bang”. Imo stood still even as Imolites were all ears. They were hugely disappointed when thier governor, in a mirthless drama of sorts, declared that he would allow the security agencies to do the necessary investigations and then the state would announce those behind insecurity!
Yet, on April 5, 2021 when bandits attacked Owerri Prisons and set free over 2000 prisoners, Uzodimma didn’t toe the line of police who said IPOB masterminded the attack – he did not wait for security report before going public.
One intriguing angle about the insecurity in Imo State is the disingenuous approach by Uzodimma who usually assume the duties of the police in going public with details of such heinous acts.
After Alhaji Ahmed Gulak was brutally assassinated in May 2021, the Imo governor announced that it was politically motivated. The police had yet to issue a release about Gulak’s assassination when the governor stated thus.
Again, in the wake of the Otulu in Omuma killings in which 14 youths who were said to be returning from a wedding ceremony were murdered, it was the governor, and not the police or Directorate of State Security (DSS) that broke what eventually became a controversial affair.
Uzodimma claimed that those killed were members of the dreaded ESN (the militia arm of IPOB) planning how to enforce the following Monday’s sit – at – home by Biafra agitators in solidarity with their detained leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
The fact of the matter is that such a sensitive and critical operation – by criminals or security agencies – ought not to have emanated from the governor but from the appropriate quarters: the police or DSS!
In the beginning, the governor, without mentioning names, even without quoting security sources, bellowed that the notorious insecurity in the state was the handiwork of “aggrieved APC members and opposition forces in Imo”.
First, all energy and state apparatus were aimed in the direction of former governor, Senator Rochas Okorocha and his son – in – law Ugwumba Uche Nwosu. On separate occasions, both men were arrested and later released.
Second, the fight against insecurity was taken to a caricature and ridiculous level when the names of former governor, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha and his erstwhile secretary to the state government, Hon Uche Onyeagucha were brandished as the men behind insecurity in Imo.
An infantile and unsubstantiated “telephone conversation” between Ihedioha and the person he was accused to have called was played up. The claim was that Ihedioha boasted that he would make Imo ungovernable for Uzodimma unless he (Uzodimma) handed over to him (Ihedioha). It was a most shameful drama not acted in the theatre but in the hallowed executive chambers!
As Dr Amanze Obi, certainly, one of the best journalists Nigeria has ever produced, and Daily Sun newspapers’ former editorial board chairman and columnist put it in his article of Monday, October 24, 2022, “As this scourge ravages the Imo political space, we should stop to situate the substance or lack of it in the disinformation directed at Ihedioha.
“Those behind the barrage of fakery must have seen it as a political tool, in fact, a means to an end – to get Ihedioha out of the 2023 gubernatorial race.
“The thinking here is that, if Ihedioha is not on the ballot, the quest for a possible return of Governor Uzodimma for second term will become less tortuous”.
It must be unhappily reported that in-between, there have been mindless killings in Izombe in Oguta, Orji in Owerri North, Owerri West, Orlu, Orsu, Mbaise, Obowo, Okigwe, Ihite Uboma and various other places. Investigations indicate that Orlu Zone is the worst hit.
In one of his state broadcasts, Governor Uzodimma revealed in May 2021 that about 400 suspected hoodlums linked to the insecurity activities in the state had been arrested and charged to court.
The issue now is, how many of that number were released and how many have been convicted or still standing trial?
Those convicted or still standing trial, did they not mention names of sponsors or those behind their nefarious actions? That is, Imolites would want to know what has happened to those 400 suspected gunmen who have been making things unbearable for Imo State people and her residents.
To sincerely tackle insecurity in Imo State and the entire South East, Uzodimma played a leading role in the establishment of the now controversial Ebubeagu Security Network. It has not worked. It was rather a gross political miscalculation. Imo people have called for the ban of the Ebubeagu Security Network because of its questionable activities in the state.
And now the recent attack on Ugochinyere Ikenga Imo, last Saturday. It is mindless, reckless and ruthless.
Almost two weeks ago, Ugochinyere cried out that there was an assassination attempt on his life. He narrated that he escaped by the whisker. The spirit cried in the night and the baby died in the morning. Thus, there is a link between the cry of the spirit and the death of the baby.
Did Ugochinyere mention names of those he suspected to be behind the attack on him? Did he petition the security agencies on the attack and what was thier line of action?
Governor Uzodimma, via a news feed on AIT, muttered that Ugochinyere was a victim of his own creation as he had gone against the agreement ha had with IPOB – that there would be no election in the South East unless Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is released.
No matter how you look at it, or where you take it from, Uzodimma’s state of insecurity in Imo is irritating. He is culpable because he is the chief security officer of the state and so every buck stops at his table. Blame game does not provide adequate security. The governor should be awake to his responsibilities and anybody found compromising the peace and order of the state should be meant to face the music.