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There is power in association. Common sense teaches the ready pupil of life that having one thing close to another (or in another) is just a different route to creating something other than the original two somethings. Take for instance, water and salt: depending on the volume of each, what comes out is salty water or watery salt. Add in good ingredients and lots and lots of pepper, and the resultant mesh is simply bad soup. How is Governor Hope Uzodinma’s past like such a bad soup? Alleged association.
The late Maurice Ibekwe and Imo State’s executive governor, Hope Uzodinma’s controversial bromance is no news to anyone who has been in Imo state since the early 2000s.
The story that ties Governor Uzodinma and the late Maurice Ibekwe is long and thorny. It suffices to point it out simply that Uzodinma started out as a driver of Ibekwe, and a dedicated one at that. Uzodinma has also been reported to have worked in a bakery, chauffeured several other notable politicians around, et cetera, all the marks of an aspiring political merchant.
In any case, Hope Uzodinma’s five-and-six relationship with Ibekwe is always pointed out because the late Ibekwe himself did not keep a spotless closet. It was he who defrauded Klaus Munch, a German, of $330,000 in 1999. A heist that shook Imo state to the very roots. Continuing in his 419 rackets, he was the sweetheart of the 2003 and 2004 media with the allegations of having made the most cash from fraudulent activities, earning himself the prime suspect status in the notorious Banco Noreste fraud, the fraud heist that birthed the Orji Glasshouse complex and being one of the first people befriended by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003.
Those who are familiar with the story say that Ibekwe spent some time at Kirikiri Prison, after some other time in the House of Representatives (which saw his leadership of the House Committee on Police Affairs). Chief Ibekwe died in 2004, leaving behind family, alleged friends, and case files with the EFCC.
Uzodinma on the other hand has been the beneficiary of what people now refer to as “Abuja Connection” based on the Apex Court ruling. He is not a new face in both politics and court matters.
It suffices to say Uzodinma’s political journey became prominent in the early 2000s as a PDP member. In 2003, he ran for governor of the state on the ticket of Alliance for Democracy (AD) but did not win. He returned to the PDP and in 2006, sought the ticket of the party to contest the governorship election but also lost at the primary poll to Araraume.
Uzodinma, who was later appointed a PDP board of trustees (BoT) member, was first elected into the senate in 2011. He was re-elected in 2015.
Before 2000, Uzodinma was the youth leader of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Imo in the Second Republic. He was also a prominent member of the now-defunct United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP).
He was elected Senator for the Orlu (Imo West) constituency of Imo State, in the April 2011 federal elections. He ran on the PDP platform. His election was challenged on the grounds that he was not the valid PDP candidate, but on 5th May 2011, the Supreme Court declared that his election was valid.
He nearly broke up the All Progressive Congress (APC) party in 2018 when he declared himself as the APC flag bearer despite not winning the Party primaries in the state, much to the chagrin of the people of Imo state. He did this with the help of the Adams Oshiomole and Chairman of the Imo state APC primaries, Ahmed Gulak with whom he struck a secret deal that if made the gubernatorial flag bearer and eventually wins the election, he would grant a monthly release of about ₦500 million every month throughout his tenure from the Imo state treasury to Oshiomole, Gulak, and their cohorts.
On Tuesday 14th January 2020, Nigeria’s Supreme Court had also declared him winner of the April 2019 Gubernatorial elections in Imo State, thereby sacking the incumbent governor, Ihedioha, who had been in office for over 7 months. The controversial nature of the judgment derived form the fact that he came a distant 4th position in the elections, behind Ihedioha of the PDP, Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA), and Ifeanyi Araraume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Hope Uzodinma has been involved in multiple scandals since his political career began. One of which is that he is barely educated and did not complete high school. He once indicated on social media that he is a graduate of Washington University in Missouri USA with a degree in Arts/Criminology. An odd combination. Enquiries were made into his proclaimed dual degree and a quick call to the Alumni Affairs Office at The Washington University in St. Louis Missouri showed that his name was not in the database.
In the year 2001, Hope Uzodinma was fingered in a scheme to bribe the then former Head Of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar through the National Maritime Authority. This was revealed by a committee headed by Justice Oputa. He was also arraigned in 2005 and 2009 by the EFCC after he was awarded fraudulent contracts worth ₦250M by Dere Awosika and also for obtaining money under false pretence from SpringBank Plc. using one of his fake companies, Transurb Technical Consult Ltd
In 2013, the media was awash with claims by Senator hope Uzodinma that he graduated from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), and that he possesses a Higher National Diploma (HND) from the institution. This was completely debunked by the management of FUTO as no such certificate was at any time awarded to hope Uzodinma, and that the certificate he was parading was a complete forgery. He was also arrested during the 2015 gubernatorial re-run elections in Imo State for thumb-printing ballot papers at a private residence. Also known as a serial flirt and womaniser, he was accused by Activist and businessman, Nze Ebubeagu Ekenulo for having an affair with his wife and infecting her with HIV which led to her untimely death.
He was also arrested in 2018 by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property (SPIPRPP) for failure to execute a contract of $12 million (₦4.8bn) for the dredging of the Calabar channel by the Nigerian Ports Authority. According to the chairman of the SPIPRPP, Okoi Obono-Obla, the senator had been evading arrest for over a year, until he was finally apprehended by the panel.
He is presently the Governor of Imo state, husband to Chioma Ikeaka, and father to eight children. He needs to redeem what is already left of his tattered image. He can do this by setting his acts right and assuring Imolites that he has actually changed for the better. He is seen by his numerous admirers as a gifted leader and humble, with passion for the development of Orlu zone in particular and Imo State in general. If he can be able to keep up this image and rule Imo state with an honest, steadfast hand, it would be wholly possible to win back the trust of Imo state indigenes.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK