Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has called for constructive engagement and dialogue among all stakeholders in the state, saying it is only through dialogue that all state and national issues can be resolved.
Uzodimma made the call during his Democracy Day broadcast on Saturday in Owerri.
The governor said that independence from colonialists was achieved through constructive engagement with the colonial masters, not through violence.
“The G34 gladiators that fought in the 1990s for the restoration of democracy during the military era achieved the goal through constructive engagement and dialogue.
“Our own generation can achieve greater things through the same method because no issue, no matter how intractable it may appear, is ever too difficult to resolve through constructive engagement and dialogue,” he said.
He said that one major attribute of democracy that had for centuries made it the best form of government was that it provided the political space to resolve seemingly intractable socio-political and ethnic issues, through robust dialogue without recourse to violence.
According to him, this is what has sustained western democracies for centuries and availed them the space to run accountable governments which guarantee development.
“This is why this year’s Democracy Day is quite significant because it is coming in the midst of turbulent security challenges both in our state and the nation at large.
“It is significant because, despite the crisis, democracy remains resilient. Its strength remains unshaken because it absorbs all manner of shock and yet stands the test of time.
“It provides us the opportunity to make our choices freely and peacefully. It enables us to ventilate our ideas constructively irrespective of who or what we are.
“This explains why those under democratic government must work hard to preserve and sustain it,” he said.
The governor maintained that one of the tenets of democracy is tolerance, the ability to yield space for others to express their views without suppression.
“When we insist on having our way by brute force, we seek to return to the ancient state of nature where might is right.
“When we seek to force our ideas, no matter how beautiful we think they are, down the throats of others through the barrels of the gun, we are inviting anarchy which is an ill wind that blows no one any good.
“None of these situations can bring forth development which is the first fruit of democracy,” he said.
Uzodimma said his government had engaged in far-reaching development projects, including roads, revamping of industrial concerns, youth empowerment and urban renewal as part of efforts to reposition the state.
“It is significant to note here that it was at the peak of the celebration of our one year in office when some eminent Nigerians arrived here for the commissioning of some road projects that this issue of insecurity was escalated.
“This also came on the heels of the release of the government white paper on the Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Land Use and Related Matters.
“I have often wondered whether those who trigger these satanic acts are averse to development,” he said.
He expressed regrets that it was in the course of restoring normalcy, that there was collateral damage in terms of loss of lives and destruction of property.
He therefore condoled the families of those who lost loved ones and those whose properties were destroyed.
The governor used the occasion to appeal to everyone to sheathe their swords.
“I believe that as brothers and sisters from the same state, we can resolve our differences amicably without resort to violence.
“Imo has been known as the bastion of hospitality and peace. We should collectively come together to rebuild our state and build its economy.
“With what has happened, investments are jeopardised and may soon take flight. Our youths are losing the few jobs they have. This should not be the legacy we should leave for our children,” he said.
Uzodimma said that in the spirit of democracy, he is willing and available for any meaningful dialogue that will bring an end to violence in the state.
He assured the people of Imo of his commitment to serve them to the best of his ability.
“I pledge to judiciously apply the resources of the state for the benefit of the people. All our ongoing projects including the dualization of the Owerri-Okigwe and Owerri-Orlu roads will continue.
“Government will continue to meet its obligations to workers. Government will continue to safeguard lives and property in the state. Above all, government will continue to ensure that Imo people benefit from the fruits of this hard-won democracy.
“Most importantly, our march towards a better and greater Imo remains unassailable.
“Some of us may not appreciate the freedom embedded in democracy because we take it for granted.
“But when we realize that it is a potent weapon with which we determine those who preside over our affairs, we will appreciate the fact that democracy remains the best form of government the world over,” he said.