Resurgence Of Smear Campaigns In Imo State – By Collins Ughalaa KSC


As the November 11, 2023 governorship election in Imo State draws closer, there is a resurgence of smear campaigns in the state. We witnessed high-level smear campaigns in Imo after the Supreme Court judgement of Tuesday, January 14, 2020, which ousted Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP and restored the mandate which Imo people freely gave to the Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodimma. Unable to manage their loss, the PDP launched a season of smear campaigns targeted at distracting the governor and making the state ungovernable.

While a large majority of Imo people file behind their performing governor, the weakened and rejected opposition considers smear campaigns a veritable tool to discredit the governor. But knowing that the outdated strategy is no longer working, the battle-weary opposition, with all their internal squabbles, now deploy subterfuge in order to create the narrative they consider good for their desperation. In the course of this, they have built unholy alliances with some discredited, disgruntled civil society groups.

On Wednesday, April 26, 2023, a certain group that hides under the toga of civil society organisation, the so-called International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (otherwise called Intersociety), a meddlesome interloper, lent itself to smear campaigners and took up a hatchet job. Many Nigerians believe that Intersociety is a fluke, a front, and an enabler of non-state actors wrecking havoc across the entire Southeast. In its garrulous nature, it laboured in vain to sell the lie that the Uzodimma administration is perpetrating political gangsterism, house burnings, and terror.

The entire Southeast has witnessed an ugly turn of events with sordid experiences of insecurity to the point that some of the bandits engaged in merciless beheading and cannibalism. Security officials were wantomly killed. The custodial centre and the police command were brazenly set ablaze and over 1,800 inmates freed and unleashed on the society. Members of the ruling APC in Imo, especially appointees of the state government, were targeted and killed, their properties destroyed. The bandits did not even spare the countryhome of the governor. They took over some communities in Orlu Zone and made attempts to even take over Owerri, the seat of power, and overrun the government. Rather than oppose the criminals and support legitimate government action to quell banditry, Intersociety took sides with the non-state actors, spreading barefaced lies, alleging carelessly that the government was rather killing ‘innocent youths’.

Intersociety, though not a political party, has abandoned its self-given mandate and dabbled into politics. In the buildup to the 2019 elections, Intersociety made erroneous claims about some governorship aspirants, and when it was challenged, it feigned human error. This is how low the group has gone, lending itself to emotional outbursts and serving as echo chamber, pleased to rehash and circulate trending gossips.

Speaking on the defection of PDP bigwigs to the APC in Imo State, the group came in defence of the political party and said the defection amounted to political banditry and gangsterism. The group added that Imo State has “politically deteriorated further and became a killing field following ‘the Imo governorship roguery of 2019 – leading to Nigeria’s Supreme Court ‘canonization’ of the present governor in Jan 2020. Since then, Imo State had been turned upside down; forcing it to become a ‘killing field’ and Southeast capital of political banditry and corruption.” This flawed logic depicts Intersociety’s modus operandi, which encompasses irrational thinking and adoption of falsehood to achieve a pretermined end. But this hatchet job has exposed Intersociety’s underbelly, as it is curious that having admitted that the insecurity in Imo was politically orchestrated by those who lost power, Intersociety is now shy to tell those politicians their sins to their face. Is it not curious that Intersociety wants the removal of Governor Hope Uzodimma after he has successfully addressed insecurity and restored peace in Imo, even without any form of support from them?

Besides Intersociety’s subterfuge, another smear campaign surfaced on Saturday that the governor was attacked by some gunmen. The fabricators of the smear campaign also came up with another lie that one 93 year old pensioner died at the state secretariat trying to undergo another round of verification. The government has swiftly and categorically said that no such thing happened, saying: “For the avoidance of doubt, no such thing happened. Rather, what is at play is nothing but orchestrated falsehood arising from extreme hallucination due to alliance and communication with the devil by the author.” The government added: “We are aware that sore losers in Imo State politics can never and have never wished the governor and his government well, hence they have continually resorted to raking up matters they know are pure lies to destabilise him.”

Why would someone try to smear the governor’s image in spite of all he has done, all he is doing? The answer is dirty politics. The oppoaition is not relenting. Having discovered that they have no chance of winning the governorship election slated for November 11, they now resort to smear campaigns. They know that nobody believes their lie that the governor has not done well, and they think they cannot keep quiet and surrender. A responsible opposition would do so and allow the better man to continue. But in the case of the disgruntled politicians we have around as “opposition” leaders, they would rather pull down the roof than support the better man. It is this idea of continuing the fight that results in smear campaigns.

The disgruntled opposition believes the best they could do is to divert attention from the governor’s good works and create a false narrative. This strategy is not new. It started in 2020, but we are now witnessing a resurgence. Whenever the governor records a great feat, the opposition resorts to creating a false narrative to divert the attention of the people and thus try to diminish the impact of the good works done by the governor. The governor on Friday flagged off the first batch of 1,000 pilgrims to the Holy Land, and about 300 Christian pilgrims took off to Israel the same day. For those who do not know, this is the first time in 12 years the Imo State Government would be sponsoring pilgrims to the Holy Land. The Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Owerri, the Most Rev. Dr. David Onuoha, who is also the president of the Christian Council of Nigeria, made the point during a church service in Owerri. He said. “For 12 years, no pilgrim from Imo State had visited the Holy Land. But just on April 28, 2023, the first batch of 300 pilgrims out of the 1,000 pilgrims sponsored by the governor were airlifted to the Holy Land of Israel. The governor, by doing that, has opened God’s window to Imo people and Imo State, as the prayers of the pilgrims will bring progress, peace, and blessings to the state.”

Obviously, the opposition is disturbed with the news that the governor has broken the jinx of 12 yesrs embargo on sponsoring pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It is equally not happy about the governor’s readiness to pay gratuities and other entitlement to civil servants, including the immediate release of promotions for civil servants. For over 16 years, Imo State never paid gratuities to its workers, and the opposition knows that the payment of accumulated N169BN gratuities by the governor is a backbone-breaker, hence the resurgence of smear campaigns.

A civil society group, the Global Association of Concerned Imo Youths (GACIY) captures this in its statement of Sunday, April 30, 2023: “While such disinformation is not new, our detractors spawned it nonetheless hoping to eclipse the record-setting airlift of the first batch of 1,000 Imo pilgrims to the holy lands which our governor facilitated barely 24hrs prior. This event is unprecedented and continues to dominate discussion and headlines country wide and must have knocked the wind out of self-styled opponents. The malicious story’s sole objective was, therefore, to dampen our morale. What other fabrication could give the impression of a state in tailspin than a governor’s convoy being pounded by armed criminals? Such nonsense might excite the cowards behind it, but it can demolish our delicate reputation as the premium business and leisure destination, and with it our jobs, our esteem, and our revenue.”

In the midst of the resurgent smear campaigns, Governor Hope Uzodimma remains undaunted. He keeps rededicating himself to serve the state better and more than he has ever done. The determination by the governor to continue to deliver on his mandate in spite of the distractions is the best response to the smear campaigners.

Collins Ughalaa
Special Adviser (Public Communications) to the Governor.



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