Home Politics Hope Uzodinma is the Candidate to Beat in the November, 2023 Governorship...

Hope Uzodinma is the Candidate to Beat in the November, 2023 Governorship Election in Imo State.

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CYPRAIN OKECHUKWU CHARLES – ATTORNEY GENERAL OF IMO STATE SPEAKS IN AN INTERVIEW WITH VERBATIM MAGAZINE IN OWERRI, IMO STATE.

AKAOLISA HAVE BEEN A VERY CLOSE POLITICAL ASSOCIATE OF GOVERNOR HOPE UZODIMMA SINCE 2002. AKAOLISA, AN ACTIVIST, LAWYER OF REPUTE, POLITICAL POWER HOUSE AND ATTORNEY GENERAL OF IMO STATE COULD BE SAID TO BE THE BEST POLITICAL FRIEND OF GOVERNOR UZODIMMA AND THE MOST STRATEGIC APPOINTEE OF HIS GOVERNMENT.

IN THIS NO HOLDS INTERVIEW WITH UGONNA ANEJIONU, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, AKAOLISA SPOKE ON HIMSELF, HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOVERNOR UZODIMMA, ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE GOVERNOR IN HIS FIRST FOUR YEARS, HIS CHANCES OF RE ELECTION, INSECURITY IN THE STATE AND HOW HE DISCOVERED THE ELECTORAL FRAUD THAT REMOVED FORMER GOVERNOR IHEDIOHA FROM OFFICE AS GOVERNOR.

EXCERPTS!

Verbatim: Good day Hon Attorney General. We are pleased to be with you

Please could you tell us about yourself in detail.

Akaolisa – Okay. I am Chief Cyprain Okechukwu Charles Akaolisa. I am from Awoidemili in Orsu Local Government Area of Imo State. I am a legal practitioner and the Attorney General of Imo State. I started practice after my call to bar in 1986 and I have been combining politics with practice but I have never left my practice as a lawyer. I have held many Political Offices since my foray in politics. I was former State Legal Adviser of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, a member of the MKO Abiola Presidential Campaign Organization South East Caucus. After the annulment of the June 12 election, I left Imo and opened an office in Lagos. From Lagos I returned to Imo to support Achike Udenwa to become Governor of Imo State and was at the end of the day appointed an Executive Assistant to the Governor on Administration and attached to the Secretary to the State Government.

Oh yeah, good luck with that. Hey, tell me something. You’ve got all this money. How come you always dress like you’re doing your laundry? Explain that. Leela, Bender, we’re going grave robbing.

Later, I was made an Executive Assistant to the Governor on electoral matters. I had a little issue with the State Government and decided to contest the Chairmanship of my Local Government. I won the primary election but when it was denied me, I resigned from the Government. So since that 2002, I have been with Senator Hope Uzodimma. You can now check the number of years I have spent with Hope Uzodimma Politically. I decided to join him and also partner with him politically because I saw him as a gentleman, as a likable young man and as someone who could play politics neatly. Before I started working with him, I had worked with Arthur Nzeribe in my capacity as the State Legal Adviser of SDP. So I was in the Arthur caucus. Arthur was our leader and I was a member of the Arthur Nzeribe foundation, the Farmer’s Multipurpose Cooperative and others. When we went to Jos for the Jos convention that produced MKO Abiola, I was working with Chief Ralph Obioha from Arondizuogu who was the Presidential Candidate from Imo State. Remember every State then in Nigeria during the SDP days, was asked to nominate one presidential candidate. So when we got to Jos, we narrowed down to one candidate and that was Abiola. Ralph was my candidate from Imo and I was his national campaign coordinator. We came first at the Primary Election and then had an agreement with Abiola and finally collapsed into the Abiola presidential structure. The rest is history. After the annulment, all of us key actors went into exile. I was in Lagos. Ralph went abroad. Tinubu also went abroad and so did many others. I remained in Lagos and we were the NADECO that was in Lagos coordinating the Abiola struggle.

Verbatim – Oh! you were even an activist?

Akaolisa – Oh! yes I was a member of NADECO. In fact, when Tinubu came back from abroad, I was among the people at the airport to receive him and we took him to his house at Alausa from the airport. I was also at Otopedo When Abiola declared himself President before his arrest.

Verbatim – Did you have a personal relationship with him then?

Akaolisa – No no no. It was usually a group thing but then I used to go to his house with Chief Ralph Obioha a lot then so I can say I know him well. After that I came back to Imo and the struggle continued.

Verbatim – What is the name of your chamber sir?

Akaolisa – COC Akaolisa & Co, Amaraihe Chambers. Let me also tell you that after being the Legal Adviser of SDP, I was also the Legal Adviser of PDP in Imo for years, I became the PDP Zonal Chairman for Orlu Zone that is under the Amodu Sheriff faction. When Sheriff had issues with some State Governors who insisted that he cannot run for presidency while still in Office as the National Party Chairman. This was during the Port Harcourt convention. Plots were hatched to remove him as the National Party Chairman and so the matter went to court. We won at the Appeal Court but lost at the supreme court. Makarfi was then made the National Chairman to replace Sheriff and Hope Uzodimma and his supporters left with Sheriff to APC.

Verbatim – So it was the Makarfi issue that made Hope Uzodimma dump the PDP?

Akaolisa – Yes! It was and that is the truth because after the Sheriff issue, we analysed all the other political parties then and decided to join the APC since we couldn’t find any other political party then as viable and nationally spread as the APC.

Verbatim – So Governor Uzodimma is a very strong ally of Sen Amodu Sheriff.

Akaolisa – Yes! he is; they are very close.

Verbatim – Hon Attorney General Sir, from all you have said here, one could say you are not a green Horn in politics. You have been around for a long time. Your appointment from the inception of this administration also speaks a lot about your political strength and sagacity. Could you tell us how it has been serving as the Attorney General of Imo?.

Akaolisa – Well it has been a great and serious experience. Having to take care of a lot of legal issues in the State. And of course you know the Attorney General advises the government on legal matters and is also the head of prosecution. A lot of challenges arise as should be expected because the office is not a small office. We have seven departments here in this ministry and each of the departments has plenty work to do at all times. You can see how files are coming into my office from all the departments. Volumes upon volumes of files. Note that all litigation matters against all the departments and institution of the government across the state come here. This of course include other government ministries. If they have MOUs to sign, they bring it here for us to vet before they sign and so applies to contracts as well.

Verbatim – It means you watch the back of the government sir.

Akaolisa – Oh! Yes! that’s what we basically do.

Verbatim – Alright sir, so could you tell us to what extent you have been able to achieve that sir.?

Akaolisa – Well you can see that since we came in, there has not been major issues and challenges against the government. We have always tried to navigate through them. When we came in there were lots of litigations against the government which were all principally against the Rochas Okorocha administration arising from the multiple illegal land grabbing and acquisition offences of that administration including encroachments and trespasses. We tried to navigate through this by talking to the people involved. Most of them that agreed on out of court settlements were referred to our Alternative Dispute resolution, ADR department and their cases were settled there. Then we went to court with those we couldn’t settle with. Of course we inherited a lot of garnishee orders and cases kept springing up almost on daily basis but we have been able to contain and deal with them and they have seen we are equal to the task.

Again the governor has been magnanimous enough and have tried to personally settle some cases with prominent Imo citizens on confirmation that they actually did the work they were being owed for. Those we are not sure of are subjected to investigation and enquiry to ascertain what actually happened. We have also tried to improve on the speed of prosecuting criminal matters in the state. When we came in, we were able to enact the administration of criminal justice law which was aimed at reducing the time spent on prosecution of criminal matters in the courts such so that accused persons now know that their cases will not take too long to be concluded once it goes to court. So there is now a time line within which to charge, hear and deliver judgement. So the administration of criminal justice law 2020 has a time frame and time line for all criminal matters. We have also published the Imo state law reports. I must tell you that the last time the Imo state law reports was published was in 2003. Since then it has not been published but we published the Imo state law reports with 42 judgements of our courts. We want to make it an annual thing so we will be publishing every year. The one we published is 2002/2023 and next year we will publish 2023/ 2024. We plan to have many of this judgements published so my successor will have a stepping stone to publish on. Am the chairman of the law reforms commission and as the chairman of the commission, we are working on the laws of Imo state. Since the creation of Imo State, many laws has been passed by the House of Assembly and but there has never been a comprehensive volume of Imo state Laws. In criminal matters before the courts, we are still quoting laws of eastern Nigeria. I mean the criminal code law of the eastern Nigeria is what we are still using and there is no criminal code law of Imo. So we want to review our laws and also remove the obsolete ones especially those that talk about pounds and shillings. We want to remove them from our law books and we would have law of Imo state published before the end of this year. The volumes are big as we might have up to 14 or even 15 volumes. We are on volume 10 now and we would have done some great work for Imo by the time we finish.

Verbatim – I think you are really doing wonderfully too well for the State since your appointment sir. How much support of the governor have you enjoyed sir?

Akaolisa – Honestly the governor has given me every support I need. There is nothing I applied for that be didn’t approve. In fact, there was a day I announced it publicly at an event that the Governor is my friend and that he has given me every bit of support I need to function. It was the day we were launching our law book that I made the public pronouncement. In fact, he has attended every event we invited him to and has given us everything I need to work with and I remember saying that no one should come between me and my governor.

Verbatim – Ok Sir, as a person and as an individual despite the fact that you are an appointee of this government, despite the fact that you have obviously been a long standing friend of the governor, could you as an individual describe the governor.

Akaolisa – Senator Hope Uzodimma as an amiable person, a caring man who has a lot of deep commitment to the development of Imo state. He has put aside everything to work for Imo and because of his style and where he was coming from as a business man who went into politics, a lot of people thought that he will be thinking about money and how to loot the state treasure and allocations of Imo and all of that but a lot of them are shocked at how the man is focused on using available resources to develop Imo state. The accountability he has introduced in the running of his administration of the state has not been seen before. As a commissioner, there is no way I spend money that is not budgeted and approved by the governor. It is not possible. Every single head in the state has gone into a single digit account and I as commissioner do not have access to government money unless approved by the governor and for you to get government approval, you must show what that money is for. He will track that money of course to ensure it was utilized for the purpose it was meant for and will never approve a second for you if he is not satisfied with the

way the approved funds were deployed. That’s Hope Uzodimma for you and I have never seen a more prudent governor than him in this state. Most of the commissioners and appointees are crying because there is no free meals again in Imo. No more business as usual. That’s why he was able to save money for the big road projects, bridges and others going on in the state presently. He has channeled all the money to the development of the state. He has finished the Owerri /Orlu road which no governor has been able to do since Mbakwe left office. He has finished the Owerri/ Okigwe road and has gone to Owerri/Umuahia road. My brother, these three roads are signature achievements. Then look at what he is doing with workers. Prompt payment of salaries and other emoluments. Giving them promotions. For the first time, some people have three promotions. Some have two and he is paying them regularly. He is not owing anybody except those that their claims have not been verified. I am talking about those who rejected being classified as ghost workers. we are still investigating them and anyone that is cleared will start receiving salaries because the governor promised that no ghost worker will be on the state’s payroll. He has introduced a data center where there is a comprehensive list of workers and it is from that data center that salaries are paid with just a touch on the button. Presently, the office of accountant general, other treasury offices and accounts offices in the ministries have nothing again to do with payment of salaries. These were where the frauds were executed. He has just closed all those channels and avenues from where people used to siphon government money. As commissioners, he gives us just what we need to run the ministries. We don’t have anything in excess. You may not believe it but when we need money to pay for our law reports and do our records of appeal, we compile the amount and send to the governor and he will approve. When we need money for litigation expenses we compile the amount and send to the governor and he will approve so there is nothing like quarterly allocation to ministry. That is what prudence is all about. That is what accountability is all about. The governor will never approve further funds for you if you messed up with the first approval and by this Imo state is moving. Many people may not be happy but if you have honour and dignity, you will understand that the economy is bad. You should also remember that you didn’t come to enrich yourself but to help the governor build the state.

Verbatim – The governor is seeking re-election and you will agree with me his re-elections will be hinged on his performance in the first four years in office. Do think he stands a chance for re-election.

Akaolisa – Oh yes! The governor is the candidate to beat in this election. He is purely the candidate to beat because almost all the strata in the Imo society appreciate what he has done in the state. All the strata. You see before he became governor, he was very kind to people with his personal resources. When he then became governor, a lot of people thought that he will be dolling out government money in his usual manner but he called us and said he won’t give out government money because it isn’t his but that he will rather use it to work for the state which is what he is doing at the moment. I tell you, his second tenure will bring unprecedented developments that Imo people have never seen before and by the time he finishes these roads and moves to industrial development and other critical areas, Imo indigenes and Nigerians will see what governance is all about. Just wait and see.

Verbatim – Sir, we noticed that some prominent PDP stake holders and some principal office holders of the PDP left the party to join the governor in APC. Some national assembly members of PDP also left PDP and pitched their tent with him in the APC. What really happened. Is he monetarily wooing these people over or are they just convinced in him as a person.

Akaolisa – No! no! no! There was no monetary inducement. In fact, a lot of people are getting convinced that he is the right man for Imo at the moment and they have come to believe in him. They are now convinced he has done well and it started with the appreciation of the work he has done. These roads alone have made people see him from another perspective.

They are now getting to know the kind of man he is. What do you think will be the reaction of an average Okigwe man that used to spend over three hours to come into Owerri from Okigwe owing to bad roads? Of course, he will see Hope as his sole candidate after he constructed that road which now brings them to Owerri in just 45 minutes. You see what I am saying. Same with a man from Orlu and even Mbaise. It started from there. Appreciation for good job done. The traditional rulers, civil servants and others are pouring accolades on the governor.

Again, they have also noticed that none of his siblings, relatives and friends have been unduly empowered, enriched or privileged in his government like we saw in the Okorocha administration. They are all in the streets with them hustling for a living. That also won him the love of the people because they have seen he is just for the state. The churches are also happy because there is no special preference for any denomination. He treats them equally. The lawyers, doctors and other professions in the state are happy because he identifies with them at all times. He is cruising to victory my brother. God is with him. If God is not with him, he won’t have been able to overcome the level of insecurity that was unleashed on for the state. See that insecurity was politically contrived.

Verbatim – Is that what you believe sir?

Akaolisa – It is the truth and not what I believe. I am an insider and I come from Orsu local government area which is the center of insecurity in the state. The details of course will not be for public consumption but we know. Every other thing that started playing out, the ESN, IPOB are just window dressing because the degree of attack and violence that was launched on the state couldn’t have been master minded by the IPOB. Remember the IPOB has no serious issues with the Imo state government. But the way these whole thing started, you should know it is definitely not an IPOB thing. You know secession agitators think differently. They may issue threats and intimidate people to be granted their wish but they will definitely not be killing the same people that they claim to be fighting to

liberate. They have a limit to how they operate and to what they can do. That’s why we became suspicious and started digging until we found out they were not the agitators but hired mercenaries. When the Owerri prison was broken and murderers, kidnappers and other hardened criminals were brought out, it was not Nnamdi Kanu that engineered that. Of course he couldn’t have ordered the prison break to liberate criminals to attack Imo Imo. It was politicians that engineered that and it is those people that came out from that prison break that have been terrorizing the state. They are the people we have been battling with. Not IPOB and not ESN. I can bet you that Imo is not fighting IPOB or ESN. That was why we were quick to create that acronym “UNKNOWN GUNMEN” because we knew they were neither IPOB or ESN. Fortunately, some of them even accept to be unknown gun men.

They know we know. They are now using Nnamdi Kanu to commit crimes and that is why when he says stop “SIT AT HOME”, they flaunt it. Are they trying to say they don’t have channels of communication with Nnamdi Kanu? Kanu has lawyers, relations and siblings who go to visit him in prison. Can’t they bring messages from him. I am sure there are other channels of communication with him so why will they not stop when he says stop. This is to show you that they are not with and are not ESN. They are carrying out their own agenda and that agenda is targeted at the governments of the south east region and not just Imo.

Verbatim – What is the State Government really doing to eradicate this issue of insecurity that is fast becoming a scourge on the state?

Akaolisa – See, if not for the way the government fought back, I don’t think we will be here by now. The government has done everything to persuade them to stop. It has pleaded with them to stop killing the people and also traditional rulers, offered them amnesty and others. There is nothing the government has not done to reduce the tempo of insecurity in the state but they are still bent on killing more people, burning more houses and causing more havoc. However, the government is not relenting

as it partners the security agencies to overwhelm them. You can see Owerri is calm except the periodic attacks on the outskirts of the capital city where they strike and run. The only place they appear a bit strong now are Okigwe and Orsu where they have their headquarters.

Verbatim – Sir, when the governor came in, most people believed he was installed by the Fulani oligarchy who gave him tasks including creating insecurity in the State. Is this true?

Akaolisa –There is nothing like that. There is nothing like Fulani agenda. These are mere propaganda created by politicians to discredit him. Okay, was it the Fulanis that gave him the mandate to represent Orlu senatorial zone for eight years. Two tenures. And let me tell you. Hope did not want to run for governorship. He wanted to remain in the senate but we pushed him to run for governorship. But Imo leaders came to Abuja and persuaded him to run for governor. People like former deputy governor, Eze Madumere, TOE Ekechi, ID Nwoga and many of them. They came and said he was the only person who can liberate Imo from the clutches of Okorocha and he listened to them and decided to run for governorship against his wish. So when they rigged the election and said he came fourth, we said no. How can Hope come fourth when Imo people who didn’t want anyone close to Okorocha to succeed him came to beg him to run and save them from the grips of Okorocha. They didn’t see Emeka Ihedioha as someone that could win Rochas Okorocha so we went into our political laboratory and started verifying the results. After verifying the results in my office, I discovered that results if 388 poling units were excluded and we prepared our election petition based on those polling units results.

Verbatim – Oh! you made that discovery?

Akaolisa – Yes! I did, I decided the fraudulent Exclusion. I reviewed the results and discovered this fraud. So we prepared our petition. Let me tell you that the victory of Hope Uzodimma at the tribunal was basically on the fact that we predicated our election petition on, the exclusion of votes from the polling units at the ward collation centers in our election petition, we pleaded the polling units, pleaded the number of votes we scored in each of those units and we pleaded the EC8A, NEC8B result form that was given to us by INEC and we tendered them at the trial. So from the pleadings to the evidence, everything was intact. If you listened to the presidential election petition tribunal, it said the Labour party claiming that results were not uploaded could not specify the results after their claims. They could not say which results and which polling units were not uploaded and the number of votes that were not uploaded and also what number was uploaded and how the number affected the result of the election. This specific particular were not in their petition but in Hope Uzodimma’s petition, every single particular was put there. Everything we alleged in respect of the exclusion of votes were specifically stated. The total votes, the number that was excluded, the number declared, the number that we would have gotten if the excluded votes were added were all clearly stated. We claimed that in our petition and also showed that with that number of votes, we scored the majority of votes in that election. That was the work we did. Beautiful work and the tribunal saw it and it was clear to the supreme court that we won the election. That was how Hope became governor. We proved our case. Many people still don’t understand what happened but that is the truth. Election petition is one area of the law that a lot of people should pay attention to. We should try to understand what the laws say. We must reduce social media induced sentiments and political propaganda. For this coming election, we are ready. Hope is ready despite the insecurity situation in the state at the moment. We will continue to push and make sure we give our people the security they need to participate in the election fully and also good security to make the election free and fair. I will monitor the to ensure the INEC abides by its rules and the Electoral Act.

Verbatim – What message do you have for Imo people sir?

Akaolisa – The only message I have for Imo people is that they should continue to support Hope Uzodimma as they are currently doing now. They have seen he is doing well for the state and should continue to support him.

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