analysisBy Nnamdi Mbata
The victory of Chief Hope Uzodimma over Senator Osita Izunaso was long expected. Given the resentment and frustration of the people towards Izunaso, only a political tsunami would have brought in a different result. Even when the national media described Uzodimma's victory as an upset, the rural voters who expressed their anger against Izunaso knew what they were doing. They showed their preference for Hope Uzodimma through the wide margin as a testimony of their hunger for change. That change also propelled them to ensure that Izunaso was retired from politics and a new era of hope ushered.
With Chief Hope Uzodimma as the candidate of PDP in Orlu senatorial zone, it means that he is going to confront former governor of the state, Chief Achike Udenwa who is running under the banner of Action Congress of Nigeria. Before the PDP primaries, Orlu leaders had warned that any attempt to field another candidate outside Hope Uzodimma was going to be suicidal not only for the PDP but Governor Ikedi Ohakim himself. Their reason is that Hope remains the preferred candidate who has the charisma to win his own election and lead the onslaught against Udenwa who is known to be working assiduously against the reelection of Governor Ohakim.
Now that Orlu people have spoken loudly, it means that Ohakim can now go to sleep assured that the battle is off his hands. Hope Uzodimma is capable to deliver himself and the governor because he commands the respect and follower ship of both the leaders and ordinary voters in Orlu zone.
Those who know Chief Hope Uzodimma well know that it took a lot of persuasion for him to accept to contest the Imo West Senatorial seat otherwise known as Orlu zone. As a member of Board of Trustees (BOT) of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), Uzodimma had been the catalyst to the political growth of many young men and women from the zone. As a philanthropist par excellence, he has lifted many women and youths from the nadir of poverty to the zenith of economic prosperity. That is why his name has become a household one such that many people had clamoured for him to secure a government platform to raise the bar of his philanthropy.
Because of his nature, Uzodimma took his time to evaluate the strident calls for him to seek elective office. In 2003, he was the gubernatorial candidate of Alliance for Democracy (AD) with the current governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim as his running mate. In 2007, he came second at the PDP primaries and had to back down when Imo leaders insisted that it was the turn of Okigwe zone to produce the governor. His dream was to occupy an executive position to impact positively on Imo people generally. He has never seen himself as a regional champion given his national and cosmopolitan disposition.
When Governor Ohakim conceded him the opportunity to nominate a commissioner after the 2007 election, he gave the position to somebody outside his local government, thus practicalzing his belief that Imo people should work as one family and shun divisive politics. His campaign for total support for Governor Ohakim has often put him at logger heads with some local war lords who believe that the only way they could remain relevant was to fight the governor.
However two reasons appeared to have convinced Uzodimma to offer himself for service as a Senator representing Orlu zone of Imo State. One is to use his world-wide connections to redress the criminal neglect of the zone by the federal government. The second is to end the current domination of one federal constituency in Orlu zone over the others.
Without prejudice to whatever efforts that were made in the past by both elective and appointive leaders from Orlu zone, the area remains marginalized in terms of appointments and provision of infrastructure by the federal government. The 12 local government areas that make up the zone are ravaged by erosion such that the roads are constantly washed away especially during the raining season. But for the intervention of the Ohakim's led administration, the zone would have been cut off from the rest of Imo State and Nigeria.
In addition, there is no federal government owned infrastructure be it in health, education or otherwise. There is neither a tertiary education nor health institution owned by the federal government nor any industry. Yet Orlu zone is an oil producing area which contributes to the revenue of the federation being enjoyed by other parts of the country.
In terms of federal appointments, Orlu zone has been the worst off in the three senatorial zone of the state. When an Orlu son, Chief Achike Udenwa was the governor of the state, Okigwe zone had the deputy governor and other federal appointees. Owerri zone had a minister, Ambassador and Chairman of the ruling PDP in the state. Unfortunately, when an Okigwe son became the governor, Owerri held on to the minister, Ambassador, PDP Chairman and deputy governor. It was only few days ago that common sense prevailed and Orlu was given the PDP chairmanship. Apart from that Orlu currently has nothing.
This is a glaring failure of leadership on the part of our representatives at the National Assembly. A Hope Uzodimma in the Senate would never have allowed this gross injustice to be sustained. He would have employed his enormous connection to stop another zone from usurping the position of Orlu. That is why Orlu people are earnestly asking for Hope..
This Hope has been further rekindled by the 12 point agenda which Chief Uzodimma has unveiled as his road map to effective representation of the zone. As a man who knows the inner workings of government; as a man who is a foundation member and one of the great financiers of the party, Chief Uzodimma understands that it is not just enough to ensconce oneself in the National Assembly in the name of lawmaking without reaching out to the constituents to alleviate their sufferings.
Indeed, apart from focusing on making laws especially those that would impact positively not only on Orlu zone but the South East in general, Chief Uzodimma has listed empowerment of women and youths, employment for graduates and accountability through Town Hall meetings, as the cardinal objectives of his programmes for Orlu zone. To people who have been meeting regularly with their senators and representatives, they may not appreciate that the last point has been a luxury to the people of Orlu zone. Those who are at the helm of affairs have made themselves lords of the manor and their employers (Orlu voters) as serfs.
Luckily, all that will soon end as Chief Uzodimma who is humility personified and humanity entrenched has demonstrated in words and deeds that he wants the best for his people. Since 1988 when he entered into public domain, Chief Uzodima cannot count the number of people he has assisted financially and otherwise from Imo State. Those who have benefited from his philanthropy can testify that he gives without seeking anything in return. He is not one to ask for the cashing of his political and economic IOU's spanned all over the country.
It is on account of this that his acceptance to contest the Orlu senate seat under PDP has received tremendous endorsement from various groups in the zone and beyond. The outpouring of support and genuine appreciation for Uzodimma's aspiration testify to the man's charismatic and selfless leadership which is embedded in service. His commitment to reverse the years of deprivation suffered by the zone is commendable. His resolve to work in concert with other senators, to push for legislations that would improve the welfare of the people and give them a sense of belonging is refreshing.
As Chief Uzodimma moves to offer real hope to the good people of Orlu zone, the least they owe him is to offer him unqualified support to actualize his dream for them. He is not going to the senate to seek a job or relevance for that he has in abundance. He is offering himself for service so that Orlu can reinvent itself and take its pre-eminent position as the largest and most progressive zone in Imo state.
Now that Hope Uzodimma has emerged the PDP candidate of Orlu zone, the people owe him a duty to vote for the party and himself as a Senator, Chief Ikedi Ohakim for governor and Dr Goodluck Jonathan as president.