By Alex Ugochukwu
Governor Hope Odidika Uzodinma and his political sojourn did not begin with his declaration as the executive governor of Imo State on 14 January 2020.
When the Supreme Court in Nigeria on 14 January 2020 him winner of Imo state 2019 governorship poll, many Imo citizens knew little about Uzodinma and his political sojourn prior to that fateful day.
Some ignorantly thought he was a political opportunist who just came upon governance by chance, while others thought he was a stooge to some unseen political gladiators in the state.
They are all wrong by all standards.
Mr Uzodinma did not just come upon power by sheer chance.
He, in fact, was among the few that were properly prepared for and worked towards it for long enough time to give him a deep insight into what he wanted it for and what he intended to do with it when he eventually got it.
Even though he was born into a royal family, his father Chief Michael Uzodinma being the Igwe of Ozuh Omuma in Oru East local government area of Imo State, Uzodinma dropped his royal regalia and all the comforts attached to it, venturing into the political struggle to bring change to the society.
Starting as a Youth Leader of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1983, Uzodinma and his political sojourn moved on rapidly to align with like minds in the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) in the 1990s, working assiduously to make an impact on the lives of his people.
Among the leadership of UNCP then were Chief Emeka Ojukwu, Chief Emmanuel Nwuayanwu, General Joe Garba (rtd), all of them having influenced the young Uzodinma in a way that eventually shaped his world view and sharpened his political engagements.
At the return of democracy in 1999 after a long military interruption, he served on the Board of Trustee of the newly registered People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
He was also a member of the National Caucus as well as National Executive Council (NEC) of the party between 1999 and 2017, after which he joined the All Progressive Congress (APC) to serve in the same positions in 2019.
He was elected as senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 2011, and he served in that capacity till 2019 when he contested the Imo State gubernatorial election under the APC.
Emeka Ihedioha of PDP was declared winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but Uzodinma’s fighting spirit was not dampened as he launched into the election petitions that followed with gusto, keeping his faith alive up to the Supreme Court, which finally pronounced him winner of the election.
This was the second time that Uzodinma and his political sojourn that he fought a legal battle for an elective position up to the apex court, the first time been the 2011 election to the senate when he was disqualified by his party, only for the court to reverse his disqualification which turned out to have been based on false claims.
He had vied to be Imo State governor in 2003 elections as candidate of Alliance for Democracy (AD) and, in 2006 he ran in PDP’s primaries against Senator Ifeanyi Ararume. He did not win the party ticket but was later appointed a member of the PDP Board of Trustees.
The governor of Imo State holds a Diploma in Maritime Management Technology, and Higher Diploma in the same area of study from Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), Imo State.
He also went Washington University in the US to obtain a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Studies and Diplomacy. He has also been a successful businessman all the way.
For someone who has been in the struggle to emancipate Imo State from the shackles of bad leadership throughout his political life, Uzodinma has observed the weaknesses and failures of his predecessors critically.
He has also seen where they have done well. This observation is a recipe for effective transformation of the state and the Southeastern region generally.
Without doubt, he has come with the wherewithal and will to effect changes and has been equipped to the teeth to make Imo State rise to the occasion of development in commerce, education and industry.
One of the reasons citizens of the state would have to rally round the governor and support his developmental drives is that he has promised it is not going to be business as usual, as he intends to begin by bringing sanity to the treasury and promote prudence, accountability and probity.
The least Imo State citizens could do at this material time is to put aside politics and give room for someone who has what it takes to make the state smile.
Mr Ugochukwu contributed this piece to Nigerian Sketch from Owerri