By Collins Opurozor
Oppression, cruelty, sleaze and mass misery are just the defining features of tyranny, while the absence of institutional frameworks for safeguarding human rights and civil liberties makes it possible. It is, therefore, in the character of all tyrants to stifle democratic institutions, muzzle political dissent and gag the press. And since absolute power corrupts absolutely, all moral and political checks to the powers of a tyrant are subdued in this inordinate quest for political absolutism and arbitrary use of power.
In mid January, last year, some interests in Abuja foisted Chief Hope Uzodinma on Imo people through a judicial coup. It was something bizarre, something very abhorrent – an occurrence that rolled back Nigeria’s democratic progress and stained an entire page in the country’s judicial diary. It was, to be sure, a dark and bitter episode in the history of Imo state.
For Igbo people at large, who are known to be democratic and republican by nature, the imposition of an unelected ruler on one of their states was a big assault on the timeless and revered political culture of the people and a reenactment of the failed indirect rule system of the colonial masters. Consequently, the continued occupation of Imo State Government House by Chief Uzodinma, for Ndigbo, indicates the extent to which the people have been denied the power to determine their political destiny within the context of Nigeria. This is a serious political and cultural problem and it hurts the dignity of Igbo people everywhere.
What now makes matters worse in Imo is that Uzodinma has stifled other arms of government and established himself as the only source of all powers in the bid to control the state and achieve some sinister motives. Even the Local Government system has been destroyed completely. He sacked nearly all his appointees over five months ago, and just like all tyrants, he has outsourced hatchet jobs to a coterie of shadowy characters whose sordid acts you can feel but whose faces you can never know. This is government by other means! The tyranny that crept into Imo in January last year has taken root and is now in full swing.
As a sole administrator, Uzodinma sees Imo as his earthly fiefdom and the people as his conquered serfs. It was this conquest he had sought to achieve by levying a war of attrition on the Imo State House of Assembly, the very fulcrum of democratic governance, so that his authoritarian rule would reign unchecked, unchallenged and unfettered.
He began by buying off some malleable members of the House of Assembly. And when he bought a majority, he proceeded to change the leadership and brought onboard a Speaker, Paul Emeziem, who cannot even speak for himself and one totally naive yet helplessly ambitious character called Amara Iwuanyanwu, to finally destroy the parliament. And these two individuals, and some others like them, whose names will be written in letters of shame in the annals of Imo state, have kept faith with Uzodinma in emasculating the Assembly of Imo people.
Through them, Uzodinma effected the indefinite suspension of key opposition lawmakers, including the Minority Leader, whom he saw to be outspoken against his executive rascality and unbridled abuse of public trust. A touching and heartrending revelation by the former Chief Whip, Hon. Arthur Egwim, shortly after he was dethroned some months ago remains fresh in the minds of Imo people.
Egwim had hinted that even in the face of the hydra-headed problem of insecurity in the state, Uzodinma still refused to have any meeting with the members of the House to work out options for addressing the problem. On the authority of his revelation, the House, at the peak of the insecurity, had begged Uzodinma for audience for over six months, yet he never agreed to see them.
Instead, Uzodinma ordered the suspension of opposition lawmakers while gunshots were booming and bullets raining in the hallowed chamber. He thereafter instructed the House to embark on a recess for eight weeks. And just yesterday they reconvened, he ordered them to vacate for another six weeks. For the twenty months that Uzodinma’s wobbling regime has lasted, Imo has not had an active parliament for more than three months. It is not a mistake. It is simply the willful destruction of democracy and creation of a tyranny by Uzodinma. This is not without a purpose. It is not objectless.
The result has been shocking. Just in eleven months, Uzodinma took loans amounting to almost N35 billion. Nobody can tell what he has done with the money. There is no parliament to question him. The 13% Derivation Funds to the State under Uzodinma have now totalled about N15.2 billion, yet ISOPADEC has not completed a single health center in the oil-bearing areas for twenty months.
Just the overhead cost of governance, which goes into satisfying Uzodinma’s appetitive drive for ceaseless Abuja trips, private jets, champagnes, luxury apartments, lengthy convoys and other mundane frivolities, hits over N2.6 billion per month. This is pathetic. But what is more outrageous is that, even when the Imo has received over N76 billion as Local Government allocations from FAAC, not a single Local Government in Imo is working, and despite about N85 billion which the State Government has received, Uzodinma cannot meet the first-line obligation of governance, which is the payment of salaries.
But Imo people have become politically aware. They know, just like Soyinka wrote, that the man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny. The people therefore cannot cover before a tyrant. They cannot be intimidated, and not even the greatest army can stop an idea whose time has come. Their rejection of Uzodinma and whatever he represents is total and perpetual. The destruction of the House of Assembly cannot break their spirit. And, very soon, Imo shall rise again.