OPEN GRAZING: Fears, Suspicions About Buhari’s Visit To Imo State

By Collins Opurozor

Till this moment, Chief Hope Uzodinma has not told Imo people why President Buhari has chosen to visit Imo State on Thursday. Everything is still hearsay or gossip. A bus driver has one thing to say and his conductor has a totally different story about the visit. Anyone can say anything, and everyone can believe everything, and no one knows anything. The whole thing is mysterious as a sphinx with the head of a human, a falcon, a cat, a sheep and the body of a lion. And if finally it holds, this would be the most un-presidential visit in the modern history of Nigeria. Uzodinma is now like the proverbial man who weeps and prepares for burial without announcing who has died.

Concerned Imo citizens have asked the regime of Uzodinma to show any project which President Buhari is coming to commission. Nothing has been shown to anybody. Agents of the regime have instead been seen sweeping and repainting some roads done by the Ihedioha Administration.

And because Uzodinma’s tenure, which is now almost two years, has recorded the worst variant of infrastructural decay and a strange wolf of insecurity in Imo State, speaking of commissioning of projects would be the most bizarre and comical thing to hear.

There are also rumours that Buhari is coming for a meeting. Some say it is a meeting of Southeast elders or Igbo leaders. This further begs the question of whom the elders of Ndigbo are and where their meetings take place. Socioculturally, Ohanaeze Ndigbo remains the apex leadership group in Igboland. And Enugu, which is the capital of the Southeast, is also the headquarters of Ohanaeze. It is not Imo State.

This visit, also, cannot be associated to partisan politics. Currently, the APC, which National Caretaker Committee was restrained from operating by a court of law, has no extant leadership. Moreover, Ebonyi too is an APC state, and by being lately better than Imo in terms of security, it would have been safer for such visit and meeting to hold there.

Already, the Directorate of State of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, has reportedly ordered a sit-at-home in the entire Southeast on Thursday in protest against the presidential visit. However, this was quickly countered by a faction of Ohanaeze Youth Wing which is known to be romancing hotly with the regime of Hope Uzodinma. Deep fears, suspicions and worries have now enveloped the whole land. And tension, too.

One thing that feeds the fears of a majority in Imo is Uzodinma’s recent shocking betrayal of all the Southern Governors on the question of open grazing. In Abuja after a meeting with Buhari last week, Uzodinma had addressed the press and distanced himself from any plan to enact anti-open grazing law in Imo. He even denied the existence of any regulation to open grazing in Imo, even when the Udenwa Administration in 2006 had enacted one. Buhari’s visit to Imo at this time has been interpreted by many to mean a gesture of appreciation to Uzodinma for that, since Buhari has himself expressed strong support for open grazing. Today in Imo, rumours are everywhere that the regime of Uzodinma may have concluded plans to acquire hectares of land in Oguta and Onuimo areas for grazing reserves. The spokespersons of the regime have kept mum over these troubling rumours, leaving Imo people in a wilderness of apprehension.

Are there plans to establish grazing reserves in Imo? This is one question Uzodinma needs to answer very urgently. His silence on the issue can no longer be justified, and with this inexplicable visit by Buhari, everyone in Imo is now deeply concerned.

Governance is not a secret cult. The regime and its supporters must immediately begin to explain to Imo people the rationale for this sudden visit. Where are the projects to be commissioned by Buhari? The taxpayers need to know how their taxes are spent. Hosting lavish presidential parties in a state with deafening cries over nonpayment of salaries and pensions cannot be deemed rational by anyone. Uzodinma needs to explain this visit to Imo people, the purpose and the expectations. That is the least he owes them.

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