By Kelechi Mejuobi
A hatter of Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, who resides in the state, especially in Owerri, the State capital, by now will have cause to love him.
Reason for the love may not be as a result of his near handsome looks or position as number one citizen of Imo State, but because of his ongoing marvelous job in the area of road construction.
Take or leave it, since Uzodinma came on board, the state has witnessed transformation in road projects sector across the state. A regular visitor to Imo in the past would testify that the state fondly called Eastern Heartland hasn’t been blessed with past leaders who placed premium on building of quality roads.
Before now, major road networks were either in bad shape or inaccessible for road users. But from 2020, the tide changed as Uzodinma began to fix sensitive roads in the state capital and beyond.
If the opposition in the state would dare to condemn the Omuma Oru East LGA born politician for not delivering on dividends of democracy for the people, roads would definetly not be part of their complaints.
Moments the Supreme Court confirmed him the authentic winner of the 2019 governorship election in Imo State on January 14th, 2020, Uzodinma moved into action to continue from where his immediate predecessor, Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP stopped.
It would be recalled that Ihedioha who was sworn in on May 29th, 2019, before the Supreme Court verdict pushed him out of the Government House, Owerri, also delved into road construction by awarding contracts for the repair and reconstruction of prominent roads like Owerri Portharcourt, Control to World Bank, and other internal roads in the municipality. The notorious Naze junction to Poly Nekede-Ihiagwa-FUTO-Obinze road that had become a menace to motorists and residents of the area also got attention.
These were earlier roads mapped out for construction by the ousted Ihedioha government, Uzodinma didn’t hesitate to continue.
Later on, the governor had to consider fixing the very important Owerri to Orlu and Owerri to Okigwe roads. During the tenure of the former governor, Rochas Okorocha, the Orlu-Owerri was claimed to have been dualised and fixed.
But before the former governor who is the Senator representing Orlu zone now could finish his two-term tenure, the road that crosses his Ideato locality became a serious death trap that posed danger to users.
Apparently aware of the importance of the road network to people of the state, Uzodinma zeroed into the two major projects worth billions of naira. Despite the initial alarm raised by the governor that construction giants, Julius Berger would be drafted in to handle the project, another company known as “Craneburg” is said to be involved in the project.
Imolites who go through the road at the moment can’t help to appreciate extent of work done so far on the Owerri-Orlu and Owerri-Okigwe roads.
Recall, after Okorocha’s claims of dualizing the Owerri-Orlu road, only the rains of one season washed away whatever was put on the surface for the road to be motorable.
Another astonishing aspect of the new dawn was that Uzodinma went beyond the major roads and moved into the MCC-Uratta road, off Whetheral Road in the heart of the town. Similarly, the Okorocha administration also took up the MCC-Uratta road but there was nothing to show that his administration did any meaningful job.
Within two years of operation, there are enormous evidence to show that Uzodinma means well for people of the state in the area of road projects.
Essential road networks that were hitterto abandoned have been remembered and given a facelift.
Residents of densely populated World Bank, Federal, Imo Housing Estates on Umuguma, Owerri West area have experienced sigh of relief from troubles associated with the popular Control to World Bank and Umuguma road. Previous administrations had paid lip service to fixing the road until Uzodinma ascended the governorship position.
Another fascinating story about Uzodinma’s road revolution is the Naze junction, to Nekede-Poly and Ihiagwa road. From the Military regime till the last dispensation, the road had been an eyesore. Okorocha during his tenure repaired it, but the road couldn’t withstand pressure for a year before deterioration set in. Today, it has become not just a beauty to behold, but thoroughfare from Naze junction to Poly Nekede gate, while that from Poly Nekede to Ihiagwa enroute Obinze is under construction.
Where Uzodinma intends to score another great point in road construction is the plan to build 5 kilometre-roads in each of the 27 LGAs of Imo State. Already, government has made public each of the earmarked roads across the State.
Despite the giant strides Uzodinma has recorded so far to earn accolades in the road construction sector, the governor needs to do more to prove his challengers wrong that indeed he means well for Imo.
While Uzodinma is expected to take a far departure from the Okorocha style of road project branded “China roads” because of the poor quality inputs, if he intends to win more souls in the course of governance, his 3R administration is expected to fast track completion of the existing projects it has mapped out for construction and repairs.
The hallmark of Okorocha’s project was the building of China roads. “China roads” came up because of the poor quality content that never survived each rainy season. It wasn’t surprising that particular administration came up with a fairy tale that rains touching down the surface of the state were acidic rain and spoilt the roads. During that era, only a drop saw the roads washed away immediately when it rains.
It is expected that Uzodinma’s road won’t follow the trend of his predecessor when the rains hit hard on the newly constructed roads.
Uzodinma would write his name in gold if some of the already earmarked road projects where work has commenced are not abandoned. Already, residents of the areas where work is going on have started yelling at the government for blocking their roads for a period without construction activities on it. In one of the radio programs in the state, callers were overheard lamenting over the consequences of using heavy duty equipment of firms handling the projects to block the road and deny them accessibility instead of being mobilized to work. At MCC/Uratta road, World Bank to Housing road and Nekede-Ihiagwa road, residents of the area have cried out pleading for the completion of the work before rainy season sets in.
On the 5km road Uzodinma mapped out for construction in each local government area of the state, it’s expected that it won’t wear the same look of the phoney road project for councils experienced during Achike Udenwa’s tenure. Before Udenwa left office in 2007, he came up with a compulsory road project for all LGAs in Imo through what was said to be a model South African technology. A particular firm was handed that single project which could not see the light of the day till date.
Allocations of LGAs were deducted for the road contract worth millions. At last, nothing was done in the LGA forcing one of the prominent politicians of that era, Arthur Francis Nzeribe to drag the state governor to court for failure to execute the said contract after the deductions. The rest is history.
It is pertinent to state that Uzodinma’s road revolution will be incomplete without a flyover included in the project.
Unfortunately, irrespective of the status of Imo in the comity of states in the federation, the state can’t boast of a motorable flyover. What Imo has at the moment is a waiting disaster according to experts. Instead of Flyover to ease movements the predominant means of controlling traffic in the state is the obsolete roundabout system. Efforts the administration of Ikedi Ohakim made to bequeat Imo with a flyover on Amakohia/Akwakuma and Orji were squandered by the successive Okorocha government. That flyover had poor quality content which earned a negative remark from COREN thereby restricting motorists from making use of the road. In place of the numerous roundabout sprouting in all corners, a flyover can solve the traffic gridlocks in the state capital. Imo is due for a functional flyover than Roundabouts on some locations.
Uzodinma will record more mileages in the road construction if flyover is added in the project plan. At this juncture, it is ripe to remind the governor of the need to improve on what his predecessors did on road project. While he is expected to receive kudos for the complete repair of the bye-pass constructed by Okorocha from Warehouse/Orlu road junction to Emmanuel College Roundabout, Uzodinma should reconsider the inland roads that are signature projects of his predecessor. Okorocha built the inland roads connecting New Owerri to Old Owerri. Unfortunately, due to the same poor quality content, two of the bridges have collapsed.
The repair of the collapsed bridges will further earn Uzodinma praises from the Imo society. Apart from reduction of traffic flow, it will reduce pressure on the remaining two serving access roads.
As the rains gradually make a return, how fast the state government puts pressure on the construction firms to finish their assignments and durability of the completed ones will speak more of the growing belief that “Uzodinma Works”.