President Goodluck Jonathan visited Imo State on Saturday, February 22 exactly two years and nine months after his election. The president came specifically to receive former members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who returned to the party.
The returnee ex-members included two-time governor of the state, Chief Achike Udenwa, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Senator Chris Anyanwu and Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) as well as their teeming supporters. The crowd was unprecedented. The Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri, venue of the Unity Rally as the PDP tagged it was filled to the brim. The overflow stretched up to the gate of the stadium. Obviously, the PDP deployed the rally to announce to all that it is still alive and well in the state in spite of losing the governorship diadem in 2011 to the incumbent, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
Truly, the camp of the governor particularly his newfound party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) must have caught cold at the huge success of the Unity Rally. Again, the return of the political heavyweights to the PDP must also have sent shivers down the spines of the APC. Right now, all big-men in Imo State are in the PDP leaving the APC with people who may be considered to be feather weights in the politics of the state. So, if elections are held today, the calculation is that the APC may not stand any good chance.
But the governor and his camp are banking on what they term his superlative performance especially in the provision of infrastructure. The Okorocha administration has built roads, both in the urban and rural areas. It has also constructed a new Deputy Governor’s Office and First Lady’s Office in addition to Freedom Square, Ojukwu Centre, Heroes Apartments and transformed the Douglas House, the seat of power in Owerri. Fascinated by the transformation, Chief Tony Black Nduka emerged after attending a meeting at Douglas House to declare the four years of Chief Ikedi Ohakim as a wasted one!
Members of the committee particularly its chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma and deputy, Rt. Hon. Bethel Amadi that packaged the Unity Rally deserve kudos. The rally was efficiently organized. There were no hitches. The PDP has by the rally sent signals that 2015 would be keenly contested. This no doubt has boosted the morale of its members, supporters and well-wishers.
However, the inability of the Mr. President to make any policy statement during the rally is a minus. And on this score, the rally fell short of expectation. It is not always that the country’s president visits any of the federating units. So, whenever he does, the citizens expect to receive from him. The president made no promise neither did he itemize federal projects already executed by his government in the state.
This has given some fillip to the opposition to pillory the PDP government at the centre. Obviously, the Jonathan administration has no project in the state it could point at. Construction work on the Owerri-Aba and Owerri-Port Harcourt expressways seems endless. And up till this moment, the Sam Mbakwe Airport is yet to have night landing facilities. The Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education (AIFCE), Owerri is yet to be upgraded to a university in spite of the strident demands made by the state for such an upgrade. Facilities at Federal university of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) and Federal medical Centre, Owerri also need some upgrade.
For a state which gave Mr. President 1.3million votes, the highest votes second only to Rivers State, Imo State cannot be grouped among the Oliver Twist of this world to demand that he reciprocates this kind gesture. It is also appalling to note that it took Mr. President almost three years to visit Imo State.
Nobody should count appointment of Imo indigenes as achievements made by Mr. President. By law, he must appoint citizens of the state into his cabinet. There is no doubt that Imo loves Jonathan and will again vote for him (if he seeks a second term) but he should not take the people’s support for granted.
So, let Imo indigenes occupying positions in his cabinet inform and get him to meet the challenges facing the state. Imo is a landlocked state and therefore needs to be opened up through the air and sea. Upgrading the Sam Mbakwe Airport to a complete international airport and dredging Oguta Lake will etch Mr. President’s name in the annals of the state.
Whenever the president visits again, let the committee that will package the visit allow him to see things for himself instead of shielding him by flying him in a chopper. Last weekend’s visit also boosted the economy of the state as many hotels had their rooms fully booked even as traders did some brisk businesses. For this, the people are yearning for more of such rallies.