By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye
Before departing for a state visit to Portugal, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State met with President Muhammadu Buhari. He discussed the value of holding the Army Day Celebration, the security situation in the South East, and the reason why the ruling party is not worried about the presidential candidate’s running mate. He was speaking during an interaction with State House Correspondents.
What is the reason for your visit to President Muhammadu Buhari?
Basically, I came to see Mr. President and to thank him for his gracious approval that Army Day celebration be held in Owerri, South East of the country. That of course we know will strengthen the measures that are already on ground to contain banditry and insecurity in the region. So for me, it is a good thing and for the people of Imo State, we are indeed very delighted about that.
The sit-at-home order is affecting businesses in the region. What is the region doing to address this, do you think this ‘siddon-look’ approach is the best?
There is no siddon-look in the South East, the governors in the South East are all working together to ensure that security is guaranteed for people to go about their businesses. The sit-at-home order is not operational in Imo State. It is not working in Owerri and in some parts of the South East where it’s still in operation, the governors are also working in synergy to ensure that it becomes a thing of the past.
One of your colleagues from Zamfara State has asked individuals to procure licenses to own guns in the face of the insecurity. Your state is also experiencing something similar. Would you support this?
Well, the situation in Zamfara is not the same as Imo State. However, if the governor called for individuals to apply for licenses, I think the will only give the license to a qualified and eligible candidate, provided it is the approving authority that is responsible for the issuance of licenses that will issue the license. But I don’t think there is a need for individuals, unauthorized people to carry arms in Imo State because the situation in the state is currently being managed and we have seen relative peace in the past weeks and the normal businesses incrementally have resumed.
The reason the governor is asking for gun licenses for individuals is because the security services are no longer operational. And that they cannot continue to live with a situation where their people are murdered everyday and they can’t do anything. Are you saying that in your own state, security services are up and doing and there is no need for citizens to prepare to defend themselves?
I didn’t hear the Zamfara governor say that and if he did, I’m not in Zamfara State to know what exactly is the situation. However, I don’t think that the security situation is beyond our security services. In Imo State, the security agencies have risen to the occasion and we’re in charge of the security and like I told you earlier, the agencies are working with synergy and the situation has been controlled to the barest minimum. Currently, businesses have resumed and people are going about their day to day businesses without any molestation. So, I think that we’re all working in one accord to ensure that nationally, the security situation is improved.
What do you hope to see after the Army Day Celebration?
Only two days ago, I called on the criminal gangs in Imo State, the unknown gunmen and bandits who are hiding in one way or the other forest and in the bush to come out and I granted a 10 day period, during which if they come out and lay down their arms, that we will grant them pardon and as at this morning, I’m told that some people are already surrendering their arms. So, it is a good development. Because we have to attack the situation from all fronts and ensure that innocent citizens are not molested.
We heard the killers of Ahmed Gulak were arrested, is there any new information to that?
We are waiting for situation reports; as soon as it is ready, I’m sure it will be made available to us, and I’ll make that also open to you people.
You have said repeatedly that you are confident of your party’s victory ahead of the 2023 elections. Are you not worried that some senators at the National Assembly are leaving your party?
Did some leave the party or are leaving the party? Until they leave but for those few who left, of course, there are some others who left other parties and joined the APC. So, one cancels the other.
Of recent, there seems to be deliberate attacks against Catholic priests, how concerned are you about what is currently going on?
Regrettably of recent, some Catholic priests became victims to the banditry saga in Nigeria. I’m not aware that is deliberate because no report has said that. But I think that it is an unfortunate incident which is condemnable here and everywhere. And it’s not as if that other people being killed are not important but we as Catholics, condemn that. And we detest any form of violence or taking lives. The church is against that. Islam is also against that and our local tradition is also against that. So, nobody will stand to tolerate any arrangement by anybody, man or woman taking human lives. It is condemnable. I’m not in support of that and I’m calling on security agencies to do everything humanly possible to fish out those who are behind this and bring them to book.
With the difficulty of your party being unable to find a running mate, are you still convinced your party remains the party to beat in Nigeria?
What do you mean by difficulty? Who told you? The deadline is not yet here until the period of submission is over and we are not able to put a running mate; that is the only time you can ask this kind of question. However, I know because of the strength of character in our party, being the ruling party and how important the party is to us including you here, I appreciate your concern but be rest assured that we will fill a complete ticket for the presidential contest.
One of your aides recently resigned and accused you of running a non-inclusive and that you are undemocratic in your administration. What’s your reaction to that?
You know, politics and leadership is a business that thrives on ideology. Sometimes, you hire aides who by our own primary assessment, you think would be able to fit into the ideology and your vision for your people. So, if the way things are going to the best of their own idiosyncrasies is not consistent with the thought process, it means that they are licensed to try their luck in another place.
Have you paid N77.2 million he said you are owing him?
So, this aide who accused his boss of non-inclusiveness, unfortunately, we’re not running a limited liability company, where shareholders must all vie. So, I accepted his resignation and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours and that brings the matter to a close. I don’t know how I will owe N77.2 million to an aide; you talking about my political adviser, I don’t know what he sold to me that I bought.
But there are issues in your party. For instance, in Akwa Ibom, you have no candidate. Then your presidential candidate is enmeshed in controversies about certificates that have refused to go away. What is your party saying to this? Are you worried?
Well, all the things so mentioned are entire party challenges that will be resolved. But for my presidential candidate, the issue of certificates shouldn’t even arise. In 1999, he contested elections and became the governor of Lagos, in 2003 he contested election as second term governor of Lagos. He ran and won as a senator in the country; where record keeping is efficient, and INEC server is functional, he doesn’t need to do fresh submission. However, if whatever he is supposed to submit is not handy, it is not late yet. I’m sure before the time, he will submit whatever is required of him.