By Hon. Compassion Chidozie 08163772241
On 27th April 2020, I listened ardently to the speech presented by Imo State governor Sen. Hope Uzodinma as he marks one hundred days in office as the executive governor of Imo State. He started by reminding Imo indigenes and Nigerians how he became governor of Imo State. In his choice of words, his “stolen mandate” was restored by God. However, he didn’t narrate the dramatic legal tussles between him and former governor Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of PDP persuasion that brought him to power for the benefits of those who missed the legal fireworks. It may have been skipped, intentionally, to save time. From his explanations, he won 2019 governorship election through the votes cast by Imolites, monitored by INEC, Nigerian police, international organizations, and civil societies.
Again, what do you expect a man to achieve within his first 100 days in office as the executive governor who met a system almost rotten, left in comatose for over twenty years of gruesome leaderships? There shouldn’t be many expectations. Though one may vehemently argue that the actions of any executive governor in his first 100 hundred days in office could be a yardstick to measure the success or failure of the government as the administration surges on. First 100 days in the office can be akin to a moment of preparations, analyzing the macro and micro economy of the state to get accurate data and working statistics, drafting a well defined political and economic blueprint that is in line with current realities, assembling best brains with good track records that will stair governance for a productive and progressive state, extending hands of fellowships to opposing parties in terms of sharing ideas, attracting foreign and local investments in the state, etc.
We have learned from history how previous governments performed beyond expectations in their first 100 days but later turned the state into a “state of nature” towards the end of the government. That is to say that the first 100 days in the office can not be seen as a sine qua non for effective and efficient government in providing excellent leadership and extending democratic principles in every unit of the state. This write up is not disputing the notion that it’s not possible for any government to begin well and end well, but the history of Imo State politics after the government of Sam Onunaka Mbakwe has proven otherwise.
Furthermore, the main thrust of this write-up is to buttress the inability of Sen. Hope Uzodinma to inform Imolites of his next line of actions in providing health benefits amidst the unseen dreadful disruption of Imo economy by the scares of COVID 19. Imolites were hopeful when the announcement was made by different media outlets that Imo State government led by Sen. Hope Uzodinma will address Imo State indigenes. Our thoughts were raised significantly because we craved to know about the new approaches that are more efficient and adaptive as our culture is gradually grinding to a standstill in pursuit of a copied western policy, and hunger ravaging our land. We craved to know what the governor has in stock as COVID 19 has expanded job loss margin which led to a sharp increase in the unemployment rate. In some rural communities, Imolites of vulnerable status are begging for palliatives from government and well-to-do individuals to sustain themselves and loved ones in this perilous time. They have to survive or kick the bucket. We pray they survive.
Forestalling measures like establishing isolation and test centers, lockdown order, stay-at-home order, curfew order, social distancing, border closure, and economic stimulus cum welfare packages as prevailing templates may have done little or nothing in curtailing the spread of COVID 19. Lagos State which is the epicenter of COVID 19 keeps on having increase index cases day by day despite applying the above listed defensive measures. Regrettably, people are contacting this virus and dying. We can’t be left with the option of lockdown, stay-at-home as the only remote remedies until the cure for COVID 19 is found considering our economic and social corporality. Nobody is sure the exact time the cure be provided except the vaccine manufactured by Madagascar which is yet to receive global recommendations. Imo State budget of -N-197.6 billion for the 2020 fiscal year did not capture additional expenditure on health emergencies of this nature. This means that technically we can not sustain lockdown for a long period of time because of its devastating effects unless there is an emergency rescue fund by the federal government to support our budget expenditures.
Currently, we are facing different types of crises, ranging from economic and health. Therefore it is a fail assignment on the side of the governor who detailed his achievements in his first 100 days in office but forgot to streamline his approaches in tackling these crises that have swallowed our shadows and shoveling our futures. COVID 19 is one of the terrorizing factor terrorizing Nigeria, Imo State inclusive and the plenipotentiary of the state can not make a speech without outlining his plans towards bringing Imo back to prosperity journey. We seem to be suffering from the hit of a worse terrorist, economic terrorist. Discussions on unemployment, education, science and research, the renewed economic stimulus package, welfare package, health, agriculture, etc should be factored and given a wide vacuum accommodation in his speech. This will brighten the future, give hope to Imolites in the assurance that the governor has what it takes to ease their depression, and sustain the economy.
From time immemorial, our culture does not harbor social distancing. It is a new phenomenon. Hovels in Nekede village, teeming Banana Junction in Orlu, cramped Orji community, bustling Egbu village, over-conscious airport junction at Ngor Okpala etc survives on communal living. The adjustment will be difficult as more time shall be priced and bought before adaptation. Therefore, its survival is an act that is impossible. Spatial assemblage, not social assemblage, remains one of our means of continuity. The above-mentioned environments earn their daily living through social clustering. This means that while the lockdown order becomes unachievable in social settings, the infection moves in bits and strengths.
In conclusion, Sen. Hope Uzodinma reminding Imolites in the speech of his readiness to restore parity in Imo State economy amidst COVID 19 remains satisfactory and germane. In line with African practice, creating an opportunistic strategy to salvage our decaying economy, acting responsively towards this pandemic, and creating sustainable accomplishments were unaddressed in his speech. What Imolites expected from the government are plans on how to create a long term basket of new business models, turning these crises into massive opportunities, structural adjustment in infrastructural projects, and capital equipment. Definitely, things shall change after these crises but it is only a people than plans, turn these disadvantages into advantages can make progress decades ahead.