By Collins Ughalaa
For purposes of space and convenience I have chosen to treat this subject
in parts, first beginning with the 8 years of the Redemption government of
Chief Achike Udenwa, and then the 4 years of the New Face administration of
Chief Dr. Ikedi Ohakim.
But before I set out, let me correct the erroneous impression that has
found sweet abode in the minds of many people, including members of the
party. I am aware that even the staunch members of the PDP will give me
some hard knocks because of revelations herein, but that is because of what
they know or they chose to believe, and it is ok. However, if they had
taken a little step further they would have found cure for their biases.
The story has been on for more than 18 years, that Owerri Zone gave their
slot in 1998 to Chief Achike Udenwa of Orlu Zone to become the Governor of
the State. That Chief Achike Udenwa came a distant fourth position while
Barr Humphrey Anumodu, from Owerri Zone, came first.
Those who spread this falsehood do so because they want to make political
capital out of it, or that is what they chose to believe. They always want
to paint the picture of how Owerri Zone has done so much for other zones
and how they have been mistreated.
My research shows that contrary to the widely held belief of Owerri Zone
leaders trading off their opportunity in 1998 because they considered Barr
Anumodu a hard nut to crack and Udenwa a more amenable person, Chief Udenwa
won the governorship primary election of the PDP clean and square.
In the frenzy to grab the gubernatorial ticket of the PDP in 1998, some of
the aspirants padded the votes in their respective LGAs and had very
astonishing numbers without a good spread across the LGAs. They calculated
erroneously that having the highest number of votes without cutting across
the LGAs was all that was needed. Thus, the delegates’ votes from Mbaitoli
LGA was highly inflated to give the candidate from that area the impression
of getting elected as guber candidate without winning a majority spread of
the 27 LGAs. This happened with others, even some from Orlu Zone, as they
concentrated on vote padding in their respective LGAs. But Chief Udenwa did
not inflate his score in his Orlu LGA, neither did he inflate his scores
from his Zone. He won a convincing majority delegates’ votes across the
state, and the PDP leaders had no option than to stand on the side of
truth. They called the gsme at the centre.
The Governor of Imo State should not be the product of any enclave. He
should demonstrate his level of acceptability by winning votes across the
State. It did not matter who was involved. Even though many of the people
who shout on the rooftop how Owerri Zone made Chief Udenwa Governor have
not seen the primary election result of the party in 1998, what mattered
was that someone won the majority spread of the votes cast and that person
was Chief Achike Udenwa.
Having cleared this, it needs to be stated that perhaps outside physical
infrastructure the biggest achievement of the Udenwa era was the peace of
the time, political and economic development of the people and his drive
for ethical reorientation.
Coming from the military era, many people still suffered the hangover of
the military days and as such they behaved in such manner and wanted
government transactions conducted in such brutish military mentality. But
Udenwa wanted to deepen democracy, and thus a campaign for attitudinal
change was born. This in turn led to the creation of the Imo State
Orientation Agency. This agency has been bastardized by the Okorocha
government. Imo State was not the only government in need of mental and
attitudinal rebirth needed for the growth of democracy after the exit of
If you knew that all legacies are not tangible you would begin to
appreciate the efforts put in to change the mentality of a people that have
become used to military ways of doing things, even government transactions.
What would you say of a man who who did not send his children to school but
spent his money building houses for them and saving what was left in the
bank for them? What of the man who spent his money sending his children to
school but built little or no houses and made little or no savings? Who
left a befitting legacy for his children?
Despite knowing that all legacies are not tangible, the Udenwa
administration conducted local government election two times. This means
that we had more about 350 councillors doing legislative businesses at the
local government level and taking development back to their wards. We had
27 elected local government chairmen in place with their aides and
assistants. The economic implications is unimaginable.
Politically, the presence of elected local government officials would ease
traffic and concentration on the state government as many people were
satisfied dealing with their LGAs and not to frequent the office of the
Governor for anything at all. The political stability resulting from this
can also only be imagined.
The Udenwa administration did not stop at the LGAs. But in order to deepen
democracy and bring development closer to the people, the Udenwa
administration created the Local Government Development Centres. These
institutions of governance helped in no small measure in building the human
capita needed in the state. Look very well and you would see that the
Udenwa era through the LGAs and development centers raised strong
politicians who have become useful to themselves and the state.
For example, Hon G. Irona who later became both member of the Imo State
Assembly and Federal House of Reps was the Executive Chairman of Oguta LGA
during the Udenwa administration. Senator SamDaddy Anyanwu who later became
a member of the State Assembly remains the product of that glorious era.
Hon Goodluck Nana Opiah who is now a member of the House of Reps was a
member of the House of Assembly in the Redemption era. He later became
Speaker of the State Assembly. The Ikenga Orlu, Hon Mayor Eze, was the
Executive Chairman of Orlu LGA and Chairman of ALGON during the Udenwa
administration. He later became a member of the House of Reps. The current
Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Acho Ihim, remains a product
of the Udenwa era. What of Toney Black? What of Barr Soronnadi Njoku who
was a Commissioner for Agriculture in the Udenwa administration? He later
became the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice during the first
term of Governor Okorocha. The list is endless.
Regrettably, all this lofty achievements were rubbished and wiped away by a
man who wants to rewrite and retell the Imo Story. As first victims, he
wiped away the development centers and created his toxic fourth-tier
government christened Community Government Council. He also sacked all the
350 elected councillors and 27 elected LGA chairmen.
While Governor Okorocha was destroying the development centers his
counterpart in Lagos State was busy conducting elections into their own
development centers inherited from the Tinubu era, same time Udenwa created
his. And it has been so since in Lagos. You can only imagine the impact of
the development centers in Lagos.
To make sure that peace and political stability reigned in Imo, Udenwa did
not muscle the LGAs. He allowed the people to choose their executive
chairmen and councillors and that brought a lot of peace and political
stability that allowed the government the peace of mind to now engage in
equitable and prudent allocation of its scarce resources to the various
sectors of the state. Even when it had the power to keep power in
perpetuity in Orlu Zone, Udenwa mustered all the energies at his disposal
and stopped prominent and wealthy Orlu sons from eyeing the governorship
seat in 2007. He Zoned the governorship to Okigwe Zone.
Has it ever occurred to you that as at the time Udenwa became Governor the
State was highly indebted to foreign creditors? They successive
governments, including the Mbakwe government, got the State deep in foreign
debts. It was the Udenwa era that began the repayment of those debts. At
the end of the month after each deductions at FAAC, the Udenwa government
would be left with almost nothing.
Having paid back the debts, and in excess, the Okorocha administration has
got more than N20bn as refund of the excess debt payment by the PDP
governments. Imagine a Governor leaving N20bn for his predecessor! Would
you classify such Governor as a failure? Consider also that the Udenwa era
never enjoyed the kind boom in revenue as Okorocha is enjoying now. But you
could see easily that prudent management helped the Udenwa era.
With almost zero income, Udenwa made sure salaries were paid and pensions
not owed and had money to engage in other meaningful legacy projects. For
example: Udenwa developed the popular Civic Center, a residential area for
the who-is-who in the State. As a prudent manager, Udenwa gave out the more
than 75 plots of land and got only one for himself. None for his wife. None
for his children. And he did not leave it undeveloped. With the about N4m
paid per plot of land the Udenwa administration instead of pocketing it
deployed same for the development of the Civic Center. And we have it to
thank God for.
Today the civic center is a wonder to behold. Interestingly, after six
years, the Rescue Mission has developed nothing but has rather gone on
destruction mission instead. The Okorocha government had forgotten that it
was the Udenwa era thag produced the Imo State Oil Producing Areas
Development Commission (ISOPADEC).
When some people talk about the PDP in disdainful tones they feign
ignorance of the fact that Udenwa breathed life into World Bank, spreading
development to Umuguma. Beyond the World Bank, what we know today as
Akanchawa, reaching to Concorde Hotel, and New Owerri are all creations of
Udenwa’s magic fingers.
Chief Udenwa did not demolish Concorde Hotel because he did not build it.
He did not sell it either. With the little income available to his
government he was able to renovate the Concorde Hotel and that opened the
gate of tourism in the State. At the time the football legend, Kanu
Nwankwo, wedded his lovely wife at the Concord Pool Side, and Concorde
Hotel got the attraction of oil companies.
Today, the real owners of Concorde Hotel remains doubtful. And shockingly,
despite the long period of closures and renovations, Concorde has become
beautiful habitat for rodents.
It would actually require volumes of books to chronicle the glorious era of
the PDP in Imo. But mention must be made that the Udenwa era built general
hospitals and opened the General Hospital Road at World Bank. Perhaps the
crown on the efforts of the Udenwa era was the Imo State University
Teaching Hospital with the state of the art medical equipments shipped from
abroad. But till today, the Okorocha government has allowed the containers
to rot at the wharf and the medical facility to decay in Orlu. Had the
Okorocha government paid one kobo attention, Imo State would have become a
medial tourist center.
Not many people have forgotten that by the time Udenwa came on board civil
servants did not have decent offices. They did not even have enough to
accommodate them. To solve this problem once and for all and to spread
development to the New Owerri, Udenwa built the gigantic new Secretariat.
He did not rest there. He renovated the State Assembly complex and built
the State House of Assembly Road. This singular act led to the springing up
of hotels such as All Seasons Hotel, Links Hotel, Newcastle Hotel,
Dreamland Hotels, etc. Today, that area is a living testimony to what
credible leadership can do.
Our people say that an angry man does not take a goat to the market. He
would strangle the goat. However, the Okorocha government has gone on with
so much contempt for his predecessors. In order to portray his predecessors
in bad light, especially Udenwa, he has renamed the Redemption Housing
Estate. This Estate opened up the Avu and Obinze area and pushed
development to that direction. Today many people are happy landlords in
that area, and from there they access Owerri everyday and do their
businesses and return home.
Conversely, despite all the noise of the APC government in Imo, it has been
one step forward, 1,000 backward. It has been a story of failed projects
The APC government said the PDP wasted its 12 years planting trees, but
today the APC government has not only removed the trees and deforested the
State, it is wasting our money roofing all the roads in the State. If this
is not the full definition of clueless leadership, then we must ask that
the authors of the English dictionaries should go back to school.
For over six years the APC government had delivered no hospitals. No drugs.
Nothing. It has been a government that delights in throwing jibes at its
predecessors. Nothing more.
Despite selling the general hospitals the APC government has allowed Imo
people to die in their numbers as a result of lack of public medical
facilities. And wherever you see any medical facility in the State, they
are the remnants of the glorious PDP era. It needless to repeat the fact
that the 27 general hospitals of the APC has provided nothing at all. The
Health at Your Door Step is only as sweet as it sounds and nothing more.
Perhaps this government is only a government of slogans, for the sloganeers
and by the sloganeers.
…To be continued.