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A pathetic example of a political stark irony is when the Southeast of which Imo State is, and a part of her is lamenting about marginalisation and denial to take a shot in the leadership of the country, turns around to marginalise sections of its people. This makes the agitation for marginalisation and rotational Government from Imo State look hypocritical and one-side and there is totally no justification at all for this.
Imo State cannot be marginalising Owerri zone and at the same time crying foul against the marginalisation of Ndi Igbo by the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander, they say. Also, he who comes to equity, they say, must come with clean hands.
And interestingly, the other states in the Southeast have addressed the issue of equity and social justice in the governance of their states. Her sister state, Enugu Shas a standing zoning arrangement for the office of the Governor. The three Governors that have presided over Enugu State hail from three different zones. While Chimaroke Nnamani is from Enugu East, Sullivan Chime and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi are from Enugu Central and Enugu North zones respectively. Similarly, Anambra State has applied the same equity principle in its guber selection. Former Governors Chinwoke Mbadinuju and Virginia Etiaba hail from Anambra South, Peter Obi and Chris Ngige are from Anambra Central and Willie Obiano is from Anambra North.
Ebonyi State also has a standing zoning arrangement for Governorship. Governor Sam Egwu from Ebonyi North zone governed the state from 1999 to 2007. He was succeeded by Martin Elechi from Ebonyi Central who presided over the state from 2007 to 2015. The incumbent Governor, Dave Umahi, who took office in 2015, hails from Ebonyi South and investigations have shown that the office of the Governor will return to Ebonyi North in 2023. Finally, Abia State is not left out in the zonal/equity arrangement for the office of the Governor. From 1999 to 2007, former governor Orji Uzor Kalu, from Abia North governed the state. He was succeeded by Theodore Orji from Abia Central from 2007 to 2015. The incumbent Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, from Abia South has also been on the seat since 2015.
This is to illustrate how equity, justice, and fairness have taken root in all the states of the Southeast, except in Imo State where Orlu zone alone wants to dominate the others.
For instance, former Governor Achike Udenwa who ruled Imo State for eight years from 1999 to 2007 is from Orlu Zone. He was succeeded by Ikedi Ohakim from Okigwe who governed from 2007 to 2011 (just one term). Governor Rochas Okorocha who took over from Ikedi Ohakim is once again from the Orlu Zone. The Owerri Zone managed to capture a shot at Governance with Chief Emeka Ihedioha, but his tenure was short-lived as he was ousted by the Supreme Court who replaced him with the current Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma again from the Orlu Zone.
This has turned Orlu Zone into a dominant force that lords over the entire state thus disregarding the States 1991 agreement in which saw the convergence of major political and socio-cultural stakeholders from the three regions at the Orji Glass House complex.
Notable leaders in attendance were Chief Engr. E.C Iwuanyanwu, Chief Evan Enwerem, Dr. J.C Odunna, Barr. B.S.C Nzenwa, Chief Onyenso Nwachukwu, Chief R.O Onyenobi, Chief B.A Nwanne, Prof. Roland Anyanwu, Dr. F.U Ukoha, Barr. R.C Azuatalam, Chief Engr. R.O Ugorji. Dr. A.C Ohashiegbula and Chief Mrs. Maria Eke from the Owerri Zone;
Chief Sen. Emeka Echeruo, Chief Sir T.I Ozoemena, Dr. E.J.K Onyebuchi, Chief Tony C. Emeruom, Sen. B.C Agunanne, Chief Zeph Philips Nwosu, Chief Frances Anamekwe, Hon. Amaefula Ikoro, Mrs. Pat Ogueri, Prince C. Orike, Chief C.C Iwuala and Sir. O.U Ugochukwu, Chief Sen. Emeka Echeruo, Chief Sir T.I Ozoemena, Dr. E.J.K Onyebuchi, Chief Tony C. Emeruom, Sen. B.C Agunanne, Chief Zeph Philips Nwosu, Chief Frances Anamekwe, Hon. Amaefula Ikoro, Mrs. Pat Ogueri, Prince C. Orike, Chief C.C Iwuala and Sir. O.U Ugochukwu representing the Okigwe Zone and Chief Dr. B.U Nzeribe, Sen. Alhaji N. Maduagwu, Chief Walter Ofonagoro, Chief Anyaim Acholonu, Chief Greg Mbadiwe, Chief Peter Mgbenewelu, Prince S.O Ukadike, Chief S.B.N Emejuru, Sir Obed Umelo, Chief R.O Ofoma, Nze Laz Ohakwe, Dr. Otuokere Njaka and Chief R.O Okoro standing in for the Orlu zone of the State.
The Summit saw to the creation of the ‘Charter of Equity’ which resolved that power and ascendency to the position of Imo Governor be rotated among the three zones of the new Imo (Abia state was just carved out then), beginning from Owerri zone by ‘merit’ in the understanding implied that every zone is allowed to serve out its tenure and allow the next to start on merit without aspirants or contenders from other zones. This was the agreement. This was the understanding and premise on which the new Imo was built upon, with the sole aim of reducing heat, pressure, and unnecessary crises as are currently the case in Imo during guber elections. The agreement resolved that Owerri be allowed to start while Orlu and Okigwe followed respectively. Owerri actually took its turn till the end of that political era through Chief Evan Enwerem who ruled under a military era.
But Owerri indigenes have put up a strong argument that they have not even ruled under a democratic setting. Evan Enwerem ruled under the military which was only for a period of 18 months (one year and six months). And this made Owerri Zone bring up the agitation of marginalisation in the Governorship equation of Imo State. Another reason for this outcry is the ethnic nepotism in Imo State. Virtually all the principal officers at the Imo State University, Owerri are from Orlu Zone. The same is the case in other government institutions in Imo State. This nepotic system of appointments was started by former Governor Achike Udenwa and has been upheld ever since by the successive Orlu zone Governors to date.
Various political observers have argued that the Owerri Zone is actually the author of its own predicament as they frustrated the Governorship tenures of other indigenes from other zones to make them look incapable as Governors. They have also been accused of trying to ruin the 1991 accords by fielding in candidates from their zone for the Gubernatorial zone despite the general agreement of zoning. Also, the quagmire surrounding the Agbaoso-Okorocha incident of 2011 has been used to criticise the Owerri zone and the crookedness of their candidates.
Chief Martin Agbaso picked the APGA ticket in the 2011 elections and was looking very set to win the APGA primaries in 2011 and subsequently the gubernatorial election because the zoning strategy was still in play as at then. Then, all of a sudden, magic happened. Agbaso stepped down for Owelle Rochas Okorocha. And news began to spread in all nooks and crannies of the state that Rochas, a very wealthy man who does not know how to spare any amount of money when it comes to politics, had ‘settled’ with Agbaso. A settlement that amounted to billions of naira. Before he could explain to supporters why he stepped down for Rochas, who later became the Governor by defeating the incumbent, Agbaso publicly endorsed Rochas. And before anyone could say ‘Jack Robinson’, Rochas announced that he had picked Agbaso’s younger brother, Jude Agbaso, as his running mate. This was despite several petitions and warnings that the younger Agbaso still had a few legal issues to sort out in the United States. Jude Agbaso became very powerful under Governor Okorocha, perhaps the most powerful Deputy Governor in Nigeria’s history. The public began to refer to the administration in the state as the Okorocha/Agbaso government. And then a flurry of petitions of massive bribery against Deputy Governor Jude Agbaso which was carefully orchestrated by Governor Okorocha followed.
Governor Okorocha had also made it clear to Jude Agbaso that he no longer needed his services as his political influence as Deputy Governor was disrupting his political strategies in the state which was not in the scheme of things. This was why Rochas secretly lobbied the House of Assembly to follow up with the sanctions on Jude Agbaso and strip him of his post. This ousting saw a well-known ally of Governor Okorocha, Prince Eze Madumere being sworn in as Deputy Governor.
That was how the Owerri Zone lost out on her opportunity to rule Imo state.
Owerri zone should close ranks and redeem herself. Orlu zone has constituted itself into a political hegemonic powerhouse that perpetually wants to rule and dominate leadership in Imo State while others remain spectators.
This agitation from the Zone is not new in Imo, but the strategy has remained the same. Despite the unchanging strategy, Owerri zone has not been able to identify the right channel or route to hold down their claims. It is unfortunate that despite their large size (9 local governments) and strategic position, Owerri Zone has remained weighed down by disunity, blackmail, backstabbing, and the pull-him-down syndrome.
In their own interest come 2024, it would be both beneficial to the Owerri zone and the whole of Imo state if they can actually settle down to put their differences aside and find the right candidate to carry the flag and mandate for the Owerri zone. They can also start now to sponsor and forge strong political alliances with rigid politicians from other zones as these alliances would come in very handy in the 2024 gubernatorial race.
The leaders in the zone can also come together to lobby for a single candidate or two in different parties to better increase their chances of clinching the gubernatorial seat because the incumbent Governor Hope Uzodinma has already made it clear from his recent political shuffles that he won’t be letting go of the Governorship position easily. He has enough funds and some sycophants in his favour, while the Owerri Zone has the sympathy of a majority of the state which if utilised well would be a very lethal ammunition in their arsenal.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK