Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has dumped his deputy, Placid Njoku, and opted for a female running mate for the November 11, 2023 governorship election in the state. The governor on Saturday unveiled Lady Chinyere Ihuoma Ekomaru as his running mate, however saying: “The choice of a new running mate does not mean I have issues with the present Deputy Governor Placid Njoku. The development is due to ecumenical and political permutations.”
The Governor spoke at the Landmark Event Centre New Owerri on Saturday at a special stakeholders gathering where he not only presented his running mate. He used the opportunity to refresh the minds of Imo citizens on what his 3-R government, anchored on reconstruction, rehabilitation and recovery has been able to achieve from January 15, 2020 till date.
Governor Uzodimma took time to enumerate what his government has been able to showcase in Imo in the people’s interest and said: “On our part, I can boldly reiterate that we have indeed walked our talks.
“We have kept faith with Imo people on our promises. We have laid the solid foundation for growth in all sectors of the economy and we shall consolidate on them to deliver an industrial, prosperous and safe Imo state in the coming years.”
In Uzodimma’s opening remarks, he welcomed the stakeholders for joining him to unveil his running mate and be part of another four years of history in the making.
He said he was happy to “welcome all of you to this special stakeholders meeting whose main purpose is to introduce our deputy governorship candidate, Lady Chinyere Ekomaru in our consolidation march to build a safer, more functional and more prosperous Imo State.”
He reminded his audience that included party members that his numerous achievements are there to speak for him and his government as another election beckons.
His words: “We have so much to campaign with. Our works speak for us. So today, we are here to reinforce our genuine claim to re-election. I have picked a female deputy governorship candidate in the person of Lady Chinyere Ihuoma Ekomaru. I believe she will add value to this ticket. I expect Imo women to appreciate this gesture as my genuine appreciation of their innate strength and capacity to make contribution to the growth of our state. The stakeholders are aware of why this particular decision was taken because the process of choosing her was all inclusive. I plead with all of us to accept and make peace with it.”
Governor Uzodimma also had kind words for his outgoing Deputy Governor, Prof Placid Njoku and used the opportunity of the gathering to inform the people that he enjoys a good working relationship with him.
“Let me use this opportunity to make it clear that I don’t have any problem with my deputy Governor, Prof Placid Njoku. If anything he is a very loyal and committed partner in progress. My confidence in him has not waned in any way. I want to assure you that he is still very relevant in our political family. His political career is not by any means over. The truth is that as representative of the people, we need to be sensitive to the ecumenical nature of the environment.”
A grateful Prof Njoku corroborated what his principal said by taking a bow before the Governor and acknowledging applause from the audience.
Governor Uzodimma’s remarks read in parts:
“It is important to recall the situation we met on assumption of office, as this will enable us to appreciate where we are currently. This would also help us to dream and imagine what the future of Imo State will look like in the next four years under our prosperity administration which is encapsulated in Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery. Looking back, I can rightly and proudly claim that I kept the social contact I entered into with Imo people when I assumed office in January 2020.
“In spite of the fact that the opposition elements in the state are to be held responsible for the messy situation we inherited, they were still not happy with our determined efforts to recover the wasted years and opportunities. Recall that we took over, – without any handover note, without a functional government house, without a functional civil service – they were alarmed at the speed with which we tackled the challenges of governance. Obviously, this was why they vowed to distract, stop or slow us down with the security challenges that they created and unleashed on the state.
“Fortunately, I foresaw their desperation and arrived prepared and ready to face them and their mischief. The more they tried to stop me, the more determined and emboldened I became in changing the narrative of the state. I was determined from day one to replace the rancid corruption and ineptitude that characterized their regime with a new era of transparency and good governance. In their desperation, the instigation of violence and insecurity became their last card in the chess game of deceitful politics.
“You may want to ask what our offence really are, it is that we have shown capacity to turn things around, to build durable economic roads, to empower our youth with skills, to recover our lost glory in the health and education sectors, and more importantly, to outline an audacious vision for the industrialization of Imo State with its promise with massive job creation opportunities.
“As you all know, we have successfully check-mated them in their devilish plans. We are all witnesses to the fact that the security situation in Imo has greatly improved from what it was between 2020 and 2021. The wanton and unprovoked killing of citizens by mercenary criminals has abated. The indiscriminate attacks on security agencies have been checked while the burning of houses of Imo citizens is no longer an everyday occurrence. Contrary to the wishes of those enemies of the state, who never condemned the carnage while it raged, people are no longer afraid to come to Imo state for business.
“While there is no doubt that the security situation has tremendously improved, it is clear to me that our people are still afraid from the security scars of yesteryears. The real issue now is the fear of the unpleasant occurrences of the past. This is understandable. However I want to assure our people that there is nothing to fear anymore. Shake off the scars of the sad events of the past, and feel free to go about your legitimate businesses. Enough measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of our people, going forward.
“We should all be emboldened by the fact that if anything, Imo has regained its pride of place as the hub of hospitality. In the last couple of months, the state has hosted high profile events and conferences, including those by the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Guild of Editors. Those in the hospitality business will testify to increased patronage, signaling the return of normalcy in our state. Certainly, it can only get better. To God be the glory.
“However, when I hear those who created this spate of insecurity talk glibly about making the state safe, again, I laugh. Except they have decided to call-off their goons, seeing that the security agencies have given them a bloody nose. It is really curious that the only campaign agenda they have is the promise to battle insecurity in the state. By saying they will make Imo safe if elected, they are directly telling the people that the only way Imo can be safe is by them coming into power, what a poor strategy.
“They are only confirming their earlier threat to make Imo ungovernable for my Government. When the witch cries in the night and the baby dies in the morning, we don’t need to look far in seeking answers. Those who said Imo is now like Afghanistan are still safe in their villages. I don’t really understand what someone gains by de-marketing the state he wishes to govern.
“After politics, we shall all remain Imo sons and daughters. We have no other state than this. In this regard, let us treasure and protect what we have. Our only regret is that we were compelled to spend substantial amount of money on security, which could have been deployed to providing more infrastructure and other dividends of Democracy.
“But it is remarkable that in spite of the distractions by the opposition through the contrived security challenges, this administration has truly made the difference in the lives of Imo citizens in the last 43 months. Through prudent management of resources, a vision backed up with determination, and the support of patriotic Imo indigenes, including officials of this administration, Imo is certainly far better today than it was in January, 2020. This applies to all indices by which governance and development can be measured.
“First and foremost, I met a disorganized and disoriented civil service. Today we have a fully automated system in place in the civil service. In addition, we have eliminated corruption and abolished the menace of ghost workers, which was a major drain on our commonwealth. The environment within the secretariat complex has changed. Apart from the renovation of the entire 10 blocks and provision of relevant equipment, the morale of the civil servants is now sky high because of the regular payment of salaries, including the 13th month salary and other welfare services.
“Our roads which were mere death traps when I assumed office, are now motorable. I am sure all of you drove through these motorable roads to come here today, courtesy of your responsive 3R government. At the last count, this administration has done more than 100 good quality roads across the entire state, including the dual carriageway of Owerri – Okigwe road and Owerri – Orlu road. Construction of five kilometers of roads in the 27 local government areas of the state are at the various stages of completion.
“Let me use this opportunity to appeal to all indigenous Contractors handling the local roads to complete the roads as awarded. The reconstruction of Owerri – Mbaise – Obowo – Umuahia, and Orlu – Mgbee – Akokwa – UGA road is also on-going. Before then, we had dualized the MCC-Toronto road and built balloon technology for the drainage at Chukwuma Nwoha road to effectively check flooding in that area. Several houses were recovered for the owners in the process while movement to the popular IMSU junction from there is now seamless.
“In education, Imo is probably the only state in the South- East that is funding three universities. Yes, after we recovered the KO MBADIWE UNIVERSITY, we also established Imo State University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Umuagwo to ensure that our children are availed more admission spaces and at the same time creating employment and boosting the economy of the state. We are also effectively funding a polytechnic and a college of education. Our primary and secondary schools are enjoying equal attention. Our vision is to ensure that Imo maintains her enviable leadership position in education in the country.
“Such efforts are being replicated in health where we have recovered the Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Orlu from decay ensuring that medical students graduate from the institution after eight (8) years of stagnation. Today, IMSUTH remains a truly tertiary health institution with the requisite experts and consultants. Through our collaboration with the Federal Government, the FMC, Owerri has been converted to Federal University of Technology Teaching Hospital, Owerri.
“Thus, we now have two tertiary health institutions in the state. We had earlier recovered the various schools of nursing and midwifery which lost accreditation before I assumed office. We have also embarked on the renovation of general hospitals across the state. Three new well equipped general Hospitals will be commissioned in the next couple of days. Also, a total of 305 health centers are being renovated and to be equipped to offer comprehensive health care coverage to our citizens in the rural areas. This is in addition to the free mobile clinics which we provided. The same zeal with which we fought COVID -19 in the state is what we have replicated to tackle the health needs of our citizens.
“Based on the foregoing, it is obvious that we have never lost focus, and this is because the template and vision formulated under the 3R agenda are being implemented strictly. When I promised the people of Imo state that I will run a transparent administration, I meant every word of it. Today, even the World Bank has given us an award and prize money for transparency in governance. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria has followed suit with an award to us on transparency and accountability in governance.
“It is this push for excellence that gave us the impetus to recover our moribund industries so as to create jobs and stimulate the economy. We started with Adapalm Nigeria limited. We are now in the process of doing the same at Imo Shoe Industry and the Rubber Company. Thereafter, we shall move to Avutu Poultry, Nsu Ceramic Industry, etc.
“Through a friendly tax regime and creation of new business opportunities, we have also created the enabling environment for investors to establish industries and create employment opportunities in the state.
“Ladies and gentlemen, few months ago, the creme de la creme of Nigerian society were here in Imo State for the flag-off ceremony of the dredging of Oguta to Orashi to Degema to the Atlantic ocean project. That is the game changer in the economic rejuvenation of the entire South-East. With a promise of a sea port at Oguta and an industrial cluster, we are on the verge of economic renaissance in our state. I wish to once again appreciate the federal government for the approval granted Imo State to execute this project. When it is completed, our state shall experience a new lease of economic life.
“I have enumerated few of our achievements today to let Imo people know that the APC government remains their best bet to the attainment of improved life and the economic progress we all are yearning for. Our transporters and farmers can testify to increased patronage and boost to their economy as a result of the new roads. Those working at Adapalm Nigeria limited know where their help came from. The residents of Owerri Capital city enjoying potable water from the rehabilitated Otamiri Water works know we are working, including those beholding the results of our urban renewal efforts.
“What it means is that Imo people are appreciative of what we have done in the last 43 months. We don’t need to employ subterranean tactics, subterfuge, propaganda and deceitful politics to achieve re-election. That belongs to the opposition who have nothing concrete to show to the people. In other words, they have nothing to campaign with. I challenge them to publish their programme for Imo People that will outline their development agenda.
“On our part, I can boldly reiterate that we have indeed walked our talks. We have kept faith with Imo people on our promises. We have laid the solid foundation for growth in all sectors of the economy and we shall consolidate on them to deliver an industrial, prosperous and safe Imo state in the coming years.
“We have so much to campaign with. Our works speak for us. So today, we are here to reinforce our genuine claim to reelection. I have picked a female deputy governorship candidate in the person of Lady Chinyere Ihuoma Ekomaru. I believe she will add value to this ticket. I expect Imo women to appreciate this gesture as my genuine appreciation of their innate strength and capacity to make contribution to the growth of our state. The stakeholders are aware of why this particular decision was taken because the process of choosing her was all inclusive. I plead with all of us to accept and make peace with it.
“Let me use this opportunity to make it clear that I don’t have any problem with my deputy Governor, Prof Placid Njoku. If anything he is a very loyal and committed partner in progress. My confidence in him has not waned in any way. I want to assure you that he is still very relevant in our political family. His political career is not by any means over. The truth is that as representative of the People, we need to be sensitive to the ecumenical nature of the environment.
“On that note, it is my honour and privilege to present Lady Ekomaru as the APC deputy governorship candidate in Imo state for the forthcoming November election.”
Earlier in his address, the APC Chairman in Imo State, Dr Macdonald Ebere, acknowledged the good works done by Governor Uzodimma’s administration and reiterated the need for continuity.
Ebere said: “We are not unmindful of the fact, that the increasing strength, popularity and visibility of our party in the state as reflected in the just concluded election, the litany of defections from major political parties is attributed to your pacesetting infrastructural development and economic re-engineering of our state.
“At the national scene, we are proud of your sterling and diligent display of rare leadership disposition and administrative prowess, which has earned you the confidence of your brother governors and other critical stakeholders in the Nigerian project. Just recently you won your election as the Chairman of the Progressive Governors forum of Nigeria, you also won your election as the Chairman of the South East Governors forum, you were decorated with one of the prestigious National honour in Nigeria as the Commander of the Order of the Niger and was conferred with the highest honour in Rivers State as GSSRS Just to mention but a few. All these achievements and shine are not unconnected to your uncommon service to humanity and God, your philanthropy to Churches and human capital development.
“Today we have gathered here once again to reaffirm our commitment and dedication as a political party to the actualization of your re-election come November 11, 2023.
“We are already in high spirit, our party is strong and popular, with the current state of cohesion and sense of purpose amongst our leaders and party men and women, APC is firmly position to take advantage of the achievement of the shared prosperity administration to secure once again the mandate of our people.
“We are very optimistic that our people will once again speak through their votes, to revalidate their implicit vote of confidence in our party and the Shared Prosperity administration of our governor.”
While thanking the Governor for his gender sensitivity that led to the choice of his running mate, Ebere encouraged Party faithful to rely on “the impressive scorecard of our governor… to be fishers of men, winning and converting souls for our governor and our victory come 11th of November is 100% guaranteed by the grace of God.”
In her acceptance speech after her resume was read out by the Chief Political Adviser/Head of Political Bureau, Barr. Enyinnaya Onuegbu, Lady Ekomaru, accompanied by the husband, thanked the Governor for choosing her as his running mate and promised not to disappoint his expectations of her.
She recalled that she has been in politics for more than 40 years and assured the Governor that her choice meant winning supporters from the Anglican Communion, academia and social groups where she belongs, from the Judiciary where the husband belongs, from the health sector where her child belongs, and more importantly, from the numerous women, social groups where she also belongs.
The event was witnessed by top politicians in the APC, including serving/ former senators and House of Representatives members, former ministers, retired security chiefs, ranking traditional rulers, business moguls, women and youth leaders, among others.