Imo: A “Naming Ceremony” that Never Held


By Henry Ekpe 

In December 2020, as Imo citizens were preparing for a blissful Christmas celebration, “Unknown Invaders” stormed Imo State capital Owerri, and wreaked havoc.

The Bandits ravaged the State Police Headquarters in Owerri, and literally sacked the Prison Yard and its inmates.

By the time the criminals were gone, the State Police Headquarters at Shell Camp, opposite the Government House, the Official residence of the Governor, was in flames.

The Hoodlums burnt vehicles, Offices and other important facilities in the premises.

At the Correctional Centre (Prison Yard) which shares the same vicinity with the Police Headquarter, the Invading Forces released scores of inmates, including those awaiting trials.

Imo State quaked. Owerri was in turmoil and residents rather than celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in peace were in mourning, gripped with fear and apprehension over the roiling situation.

As the Authorities woke up after the carnage, it was discovered that despite the massive devastation and destruction wrought on both Federal Government Establishments, not one life was lost.

Not even from the dare-devil criminals.

The question on the mouth of Imo citizens became “Who dunn it?”

The Government of Imo State led by Governor Hope Uzodinma was quick to respond that it could have been the outlawed IPOB that carried out the brigandage.

Suddenly later, the Government recanted, now saying that it was Opposition elements that commited the dastardly act.

Federal Authorities after sent the then Inspector General of Police, and the Minister of Interior, who all pointed accusing fingers at the proscribed IPOB.

Maybe to calm frayed nerves and assuage the curiosity of Imo citizens who were disturbed , the Governor promised to set up a Committee to Investigate into the act and  assured to mention the names of those behind the mayhem.

Unfortunately, since then, Imo State known as one of the most peaceful and accommodating States in Nigeria has been living on a cliff hanger of insecurity.

As Government battles the menace, the criminals adopt various methods to keep Imo citizens living in fear. They were baptized “Unknown Gunmen”, which stuck till date.

Government soon improved in its resistance of the Bandits and was able to neutralize most of them that usually carried out frontal attacks on the State capital in broad day light.

As these confrontations and repellings continued, lives obviously were lost, until Government under Uzodinma completely shut the criminals out of the State capital Owerri.

Rather than run with their tails under their legs, the criminals moved to the hinter lands where they target soft spots and unleashed chaos on innocent citizens.

At a point, they Bandits resorted to the barbaric act of beheading people and placing their heads on tables in market squares.

This is the situation as the heinous acts remained more critical in Orlu zone, sparingly in Okigwe zone, with relative peace in Owerri zone.

It was under this ugly scenario that the Governor promised to “open up” and name those behind this mad scenario so that the Devil could be shamed.

Governor Uzodinma fixed the date of the “Naming ceremony” for January 4, 2022, at the annual State Holders Meeting, where Imo Governors address all the sectors in the State, devoid of Political leanings.

This year’s State Holders meeting generated a lot of Interest, as so many people, even Imo sons and daughters in Diaspora headed home to participate in the “Naming ceremony” exercise. Those at home who were not invited glued their eyes to various Media platforms to be fed with the outcome.

There was really tension in Imo State, as many politicians wondered what could be the outcome.

Would the Governor use the Forum to name his political detractors, so that they be silenced for good?

Would the Governor be sincere enough to really tell Imo people those backing and funding the Hoodlums wreaking havoc in Imo State?

What will happen after naming these sponsors? Has the Governor the right to name openly these alleged sponsors or the Security Agencies?

How many Governors in Nigeria have come out to name some of her citizens as perpetrators of insecurity? Even Borno, Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, Kebbi and other States where the issue of insecurity had assumed a more dangerous dimension?

Why would Uzodinma mention names, even when the Federal Government has been foot dragging in mentioning those sponsoring violence across Nigeria?

These and many other questions dominated Imo environment, as the D-day approached.

But unfortunately, before the “Naming Ceremony” arrived, a big development that shook Imo State occurred.

Chief Uche Nwosu, the Governorship candidate of Action Alliance AA, in Imo State 2019 Governorship election was abducted in a church, thrown into a vehicle and was later found in Abuja, the Federal Capital.

This particular incident threw Imo State into apprehension at the peak of Christmas celebrations.

However, the situation was later officially defined when police authorities in Imo State said it was not abduction, but arrest.

But before the Uche Nwosu saga, the Security Operatives in the State had made a major break through as it stormed a criminal Den in Orsu LGA, where decaying human bodies, fresh ones, and even dried ones were discovered.

After the Police raided successfully, the hide out, it said some of the captured barbarians made useful information available about those sponsoring them.

Since then, the Imo State Government and Uche Nwosu, and his Father-Inlaw, and former Governor of Imo State, now Senator Rochas Okorocha have been at war.

It was under this situation that Governor Uzodinma mounted the Rostrum at the Ahiajiaku Cultural Centre Owerri on January 4th, for the epic “Naming ceremony” that later turned out to be a hoax.

Certainly, a majority of the people at the ceremony and Imo people entirely were all disappointed as the Governor could not read or reel out names.

So, the Government may have used that strategy to lure Imo sons and daughters to a “Naming Ceremony” that never held.

In the end Gov Uzodinma told us that Okorocha is his younger brother, and therefore not ready to join issues with him.

He rather said that Okorocha’s problem is that he wants to remain a Governor, even after he had left office.

Since then, the Governor has been under attack and praises.

Some people said he chickened out and failed to make real his threats to announce those distracting him from working for Imo people, through Insecurity.

The Governor has now left the matter for the security Operatives to pursue.

Others said that he should be praised for retracing his steps from making public those sponsoring insecurity in the State, as that could stoke more problems in the stake.

Indeed, the “Naming ceremony” has come and gone, but it will remain indelible in the anals of Uzodinma’s administration.

The Governor has missed an opportunity to remove finally the issue of insecurity from in Imo political lexicon. He has fluffed a chance to bury the issue of Insecurity in Imo, and reduce its Sponsors to extinction by taking the battle to them through the public domain; Announcing their names publicly.

One thing certain is that a constituted authority cannot bow to any power outside State Power. The Governor should have walked the Talk, since he had already promised Imo people that.

The Governor may have “postponed” this “Naming ceremony”, but should not relent in flushing out those causing mayhem in the State.

To have opted mentioning their name in the first place and later backed out, it means Imo State Government is aware of these Sponsors.

Therefore, Government should pursue them to death.

For two years now, Imo State Government has wasted too much energy and funds fighting these people they know there whereabout. So crush them.

Let the remaining two years be for working for Imo people.

Imo State belongs to all its citizens, even those yet unborn. It is time to sheath the swords for peace and development of Imo State.