By Don Uba (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Over the weeks, I have read the pages of the newspapers, heard on radios, watched on televisions and also read on the social media, reports accredited to some politicians, business people, students and traditional rulers alike, mostly from Owerri zone threatening fire and brimstone over the coming Governorship election in Imo-State. Their threat is not unconnected with their belief that the position, aforementioned, is their birth right as far as 2019 is concerned, and they have not left anyone in doubt that they are serious of their request to have another shot at the top political seat in the state.
Honourable Uche Onyeagucha recently fired the first shot accusing the Governor of the state, Owelle Rochas Okorocha of trying to deny them the opportunity of producing the governor of Imo-State come 2019, even while he further alleged that the governor wants his son in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu to replace him as the governor come 2019, saying it will mean a third term agenda for Okorocha. Whether his bullet got the target is a matter for another day. Why his agitation got the interest of the public was that he is still a member of the same political party, All Progressives Congress, APC, with the governor.
Furthermore, Onyeagucha called on the members of the party to curtail the excesses of Governor Okorocha in the interest of the party, pointing out that, if that is not allowed to take place, they should consider the party dead in Imo State.
Not too long after the open letter to the governor, a onetime Economic Adviser to Governor Okorocha, Chief Nick Oparandudu, followed up with another letter reminding Okorocha of his promise to hand over the governorship position to an Owerri man in 2019.
Oparandudu, a former Commissioner of Ministry Of Internally Generated Revenue & Pension Matters, did not hide his preference for an Owerri man to become Governor when he noted on the letter that “When the people of Owerri zone clamour for the governorship seat, come 2019, they do so with facts in mind. It is also an aspiration that is grounded on unassailable facts and supported by the overriding tenets of justice, fair play, and even morality.
“Your Excellency, it is on account of this realization that quite a number of Owerri citizens have sued for utmost moderation and an abiding spirit of accommodation as we pursue this aspiration. The charter of equity in the state was a pragmatic intervention by key stakeholders to deal with the inherent inequities in the electoral laws that made the number of local governments more crucial in determining the outcome of the governorship election than the number of votes cast.”
So far, Onyeagucha and Oparandudu are the only persons out of over 122,555 eligible voters from Owerri zone who had come out to boldly request for their turn to govern the state in 2019, apart from other ones hiding under one group or another, then where are the others? They are no doubt, the little voices shouting in the desert, so it is obvious that they are only doing a rehearsal like in the choir practice. I do not mean to spite them as both are my close friends for a very long time and I have so much respect for them.
Another thing is that, if truly they were speaking the mind of their people, their argument may hold water, but if not, then what happened on Thursday June 1, 2017 may repeat itself, whereby the people of Owerri-West LGA, where Uche Onyeagucha hails from disowned him before the governor for allegedly speaking ill of him in his open letter to the governor requesting him to the needful, in terms of handing over the governorship position to an Owerri Zone man, conduct local government elections and revert to due processes in doing government businesses among others.
One may ask, when will people like Chief Jude Ejiogu, the immediate past Secretary to the Government of Imo-State, SGI, Chief TOE Ekechi, former Commissioner for Information, and Chief Matthew Nworgu, who was Chairman, Civil Service Commission, CSC, among other All Progressives Congress, APC, faithful fire their own salvo like Onyeagucha and Oparandudu did? It may be in favour or against the Governor, but the people of Imo-State would want to listen to them or read about their letters on the pages of the newspapers. Another thing is sure, soon the issue of whether you wrote a letter to Okorocha or if your candidate or whatever did same will become a yardstick for campaign.
In an address, presented to the Governor during the solidarity visit by the Owerri-West stakeholders to the governor, they congratulated the governor over his good works in the state, which according to them are most prominent in their area. The delegates who were made up of most known politicians from the area, included some traditional rulers from the area made it open that they are averse to zoning, of which they informed the Governor that he is free to choose his replacement from anywhere, pointing out that what they want is good governance at all levels, especially the governorship position.
“As loyal party men, women and youths, our aim of coming here today is to disassociate ourselves and the entire good people of Owerri-West from the recent vituperations of one our sons, Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, who has decided to toe the line of the devil. It is a clear indication that we still have a handful of political apologists, jingoists, and rabble rousers always seeking for attention and political gains.”
This has vindicated me as I was nearly skinned alive during the debate of who becomes the next governor of Imo-State with some Owerri zone political stakeholders. I told them openly to forget about the governorship of the state in 2019, even as I stressed to them that no core Owerri person, that is those from the Owerri-Municipal, Owerri-North and Owerri-West, will ever support the governorship ambition of any candidate any political party of an Aboh –Mbaise, Ahiazu- Mbaise and Ezinihitte-Mbaise person.
I cautioned them on of the need to warn their elders over threats to deal with other members of the state from other zones who dare speak against their interest, asking them to rather channel their grievances to anyone or group of persons that would put a stud in their quest to clinch the governorship position of the state in 2019.
As if it was a prophesy, my fears manifested when a local government out of the other nine in the zone pulled out of the alleged charter of equity as the further stated: “Owerri-West as constituted is the true home of His Excellency, and as true faithful of the Rescue Mission, we are ever ready to work with His Excellency. Our loyalty is not in question. We urge you not to be distracted by their malicious and defamatory comments. True sons and daughters of Owerri-West cannot remain silent in the face of evil. We will always stand by the truth and we are the ones to determine what is good for us and not those political business men and overnight godfathers who have nothing to give to the masses, but to extort them.”
Their visit to the Governor should not be seen as the last of such exercise, as the people of Owerri –North LGA are expected to follow suit in disowning their son, Chief Oparandudu. When they will come, which will be soon, some traditional rulers who were supposed to be apolitical will also join them to such journey, in a bid to get a bit of the cake.
If that happens, Owerri zone would have lost another local government from the remaining eight, making it two from nine council areas. What is still not clear to me is whether Onyeagucha and Oparandudu, Chief Fidel Onyedeke, the immediate past Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Imo –State council, who recently featured with Onyeagucha in a radio program on the issue of zoning the governorship position to Owerri zone are championing the course of Owerri-Zone for Governor out of patriotism or for their personal interest.
Be that as it may be, they Owerri people is on the on the verge of losing other council areas, because, the Owerri Federal constituency people, Onyeagucha represented at the House of Representative, Abuja, between 2003 and 2007 would soon pay another solidarity visit to the governor to show him support, even as to disown the former lawmaker over his utterances so to speak during the visit.
When that takes place, Owerri zone must have been forced to make do with only six local governments, which will bring them at par with Okigwe zone that have six local government areas too. Then, if the three local government areas from Owerri Federal constituency decide to carry out what is in my mind, then the issue of the zone in question producing a governor in 2019 is gone and gone for good. Not that, none of them is qualified to occupy the exalted seat, but self-aggrandizement, bickering, jealous, bike-biting and gossip would certainly make them to lose out from the contest.
When the infighting would be on, the real contenders will be strategizing on how to forge ahead. While Orlu Zone will want to consolidate, Okigwe zone will be putting finishing touches on how to recapture power in 2019, the people of Owerri zone will be left with no other option than to be carrying plates like beggars asking for political patronages.
It is no longer rumours that some Orlu sons have declared interest to contest for the governorship seat of the state. From his statements immediately after the 2015 general elections, the senator representing Orlu zone in the senate, Chief Hope Uzodinma, has not hidden his intention to occupy the Imo Government house in 2019. He is banking on his popularity in the state, having won elections in the 12 local government areas of the state. So what remains? Isiala-Mbano, Onuimo, Mbaitoli and Owerri-West are nearby local governments of Orlu zone. If he makes incursions into these neighbouring council areas in the zone, your guess is as good as mine since they would want to play the big brother attitude. Apart from the alleged certificate forgery hanging on the neck of senator over the authenticity of his Senior School Certificate, Uzodinma remains the man to beat, but that issue will continue to reverberate anytime as far as Imo-State politics is talked about, unless he produces the paper bearing his name as certificate.
Recently, a group known as Orlu Political Movement, OPOMO, called on Hon. ThankGod Ezeani to throw in the hat in the ring for the belt. Ezeani had at a time represented Ideato Federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Abuja, where he was the House Committee Chairman on Power and Steel. An Industrialist, who out of his wisdom had before now, established factories in Orlu zone unlike others who will prefer to cite such capital project outside the Imo-State.
Just over the week, a onetime member, representing Orlu Federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Chief Mayor Chukwudi Ezeh showed interest in the governorship race. Ezeh was a former Council Chairman, Orlu LGA, even while he was the Chairman of ALGON at that period. He declared to run under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Remember that, I once noted in the beginning of this article, that no Mbaise person would ever support the Owerri Federal constituency person for governorship, meaning that the six areas are in logger-heads and cannot agree, which would surely make them to forfeit the governorship again, if the incumbent governor decide to give their zonal ambition a push, a risk he would not like to take.
The average Owerri politician is aware of what to do so that the position would get to them. They have to begin the preparation towards getting their heart desire from now on. The journey may take them just another four years to realize. Four years is not much and it should be sacrificed for the fruition of their ambition. How it will get to them is an issue for another time. By then, some of them would have been keyed into the Owerri-Zone for governor 2023. 2023, only if they can come together as one people with one mind to the needful.
Taking over in 2023 is a target they should set for themselves and they should support anyone of their choice irrespective of party affiliations, since some of them have nailed their 2019 ambition in the coffin as the Owerri-West Stakeholders led by Barrister Ugochi Nnanna-Okoro and Chief Innocent Ekeh, alongside His Royal Highnesses, Eze Stephen Agummanu of Nekede Ancient Kingdom and Kingsley Odu of Dindi Ihiagwa among others averred: “Equivocally, we stand to state that there has never been any zoning as far as the office of the governor is concerned. One of us here, Lady Barrister Nnanna –Okoro contested against Chief Achike Udenwa, while Hon. Uche Onyeagucha who is calling for the Owerri-Zone to occupy the governorship position now also contested for the governorship in 2007 against Chief Ikedi Ohakim who is from Okigwe zone. The records of gubernatorial candidates from the three zones in Imo state who contested at the time during the primaries as well as the main election from the various political parties are there since the emergence of our nascent democracy.
“Your Excellency, you should not at be disturbed. We will stand by you at all times because you have not discriminated in the allocation of recourses and other democracy dividends. We pray that God will give you the wisdom to bring in a candidate for governor which you have chosen who will also continue with the good works and the tenets of Rescue Mission Agenda, especially the free education policy you initiated which has tremendously assisted the “Have nots” and the vulnerable groups”.
Furthermore, the Stakeholders requested that the governor for the necessary assistance enabling environment to back them and wait for them to give him the positive results, just as they pledged not to disappoint him and his government. With this statement, can they support their fellow Owerri man or woman for Governorship? Can Owerri produce Governor as the few elite desire? I do not think so.
Since the inception of the present Imo state, truth is that Owerri has produced Governor once in the person of Chief Evan Enwerem, which was truncated by the military before the first half of his tenure ended. Actually Orlu zone has taken the much part of the governorship position in Dr. Achike Udenwa and Owelle Rochas Okorocha for sixteen and still counting respectively.
It would have been a different ball game for the people of Owerri zone, had it been that they supported Chief Ikedi Ohakim to finish a second tenure for Okigwe people in 2011. They had the Deputy Governorship in 2007 and till today, they have maintained that position. First in this democratic dispensation was Her Excellency, Lady Ada Okwuonu under Ohakim, Sir Jude Agbaso and currently, Prince Eze Madumere respectively under Governor Okorocha. As it stands now, Madumere also has the intention of succeeding his Boss, but in the history of the present and old Imo-State, no one who had become the Deputy Governor, had ever emerged the governor. Whether the jinx would be broken will be known after the governorship elections in 2019. In fact, as soon as their tenure comes to an end, like the candle in the rain, the former deputy governors will go into extension. Whether the jinx will be broken will soon be revealed after the 2019 governorship election.
Like they clamoured for the governorship position in 2015, the people of Owerri zone have started again ahead of 2019. Most groups have also come on board claiming to be the authentic mouth-piece of the zone. One can readily remember the activities of Owerri Zone Political Forum, OZOPOLF, prior to the last elections. The group championed by Chief Charles Amadi and Barrister Kingsley Ononuju as Chairman and Secretary respectively, at the twilight of the governorship election is 2015 switched allegiance to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Governor Okorocha, from Orlu zone, who later won the election. Both were positively rewarded with various political patronages like lands and positions in terms of appointments by this present administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha, even Amadi‘s was somehow relieved of him at a public function as the Chairman, Board of Governing Council, Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo. Monetary compensations may have changed hands too.
Like Onyeagucha and Oparandudu who apologized to their people both in newspaper publications and radio sponsors, will Amadi and Ononuju toe the line of honour, so to speak and follow suit? Ndi Owerri should not take this agitation personal as they cannot achieve their agitation with threats. They should liaise with about three political parties to give their various tickets to Owerri aspirants in a bid for the people of Imo state to make a choice from there, but if they think that it may elude them this time over the approach the are using, only option left for them, is to do the needful and the needful they should do.
Though, they have the right to via for any political offices of their choice, but they should know that Elective Political Offices, EPOs are not freely given, but are contested. Moreover, the state capital is located in their area and to have the governorship position in their kitty may likely not augur well with the other components of the state. This is because, every other person that will emerge the governor takes over as the landlord of the seat of power located in Owerri zone and as such, a landlord does not play with the development of the area.
Ndi Owerri may not achieve their desire come 2019, until they inform us why the likes of Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Mr. Ken Ojiri of the Accord Party, AP, Dr. Osmond Ukanacho of the United Peoples Party, UPP, and Barrister Ngozi Olehi of the Labour Party, LP among others who contested for the same position they are agitating for now failed in their various local government areas of Owerri zone, except Ihedioha who was able to garner three council areas of the Mbaise nation where he hails from. May be, those from Owerri zone that voted against the candidates of Owerri zone at that period, either by commission or omission should begin now to compose their letters. We will be glad to read them, if not they should kiss the position, “Good bye”.