BY COLLINS UGHALAA#
*“I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am going to spit you out of my mouth! You say: ‘I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked…”* Rev 3:15-17.
On Friday 16 June, 2017, I read one of the articles that have engaged my mind and never letting go. The article which bothered on the controversial zoning arrangement for the governorship seat of the state, which was wrought on the state since 1998 by the leaders of the state for the smooth working and harmonious co-existence of the people of the state, was written by one of the finest journalists in recent Imo, Hon Henry Ekpe, who is also a co-publisher of the Trumpeta newspapers based in Owerri. The author of the elaborate article which appeared on his back page column captioned: “Imo guber: The Owerri and Orlu propaganda”, betrayed the candor and honesty for which his column and articles were known. Why some honest men seem to buckle in the face of reality is still in the realm of conjecture.
Let me be very clear from the onset: Hon Henry Ekpe is not known for blowing hot and cold at the same time. He doesn’t harbor lukewarm beliefs, because doing so is dangerous. And he knows so. Rather he was known for stating his position on any issue very clearly, not minding whose ox was gored. But on this very date and outing, something happened: he blew hot and cold. If you have read the article under reference, you would think from the beginning that he was making a case for Okigwe Zone and Owerri Zone. But when you get to the center of the story you would have no option than to conclude that he was on a mission to crack the case for Owerri Zone.
If you recall the Igbo adage that no man hears the sound of gunshot at the entrance to his father house and runs away you could find some excuse for the author. But despite the flawed argument that late Dr. Sam Mbakwe had ruled the state and that his tenure was counted for Okigwe Zone, the author’s argument cannot be sustained. It needs repeating here that Mbakwe was not the Governor of the present Imo State, and to continue to argue that he was the Governor of Imo State and served Okigwe’s term is to force the argument that Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu had been Governor of Ebonyi State. Again, the argument does not reckon with the fact that Owerri Zone had produced three military governors in three different states.
Therefore, to swear that “Before God and man, it is a humongous injustice to deny Owerri people the Governorship seat of Imo State in 2019” does not arise, because Owerri Zone had produced governors and had got their slots on zoning in 2015 but did not get the job done. Also, that the author went the familiar route of blaming others for what is clearly the fault of Owerri Zone is the greatest injustice on the rest of the state. He authored: “Today, the usual story that Owerri is not together and therefore should go and put her house in order rents the air. Who told them Owerri is not together? The accusation is that each election year, Owerri produces legions of Governorship Aspirants who fight themselves even before the major election…Therefore, the propaganda that Owerri is not together is the usual story thrown at Owerri people by their political detractors, who set them up against each other and corner the goodies, while the Owerri people fight among themselves. That was how the Mbaise phobia was thrown into the system and Owerri people bought it hook, line and sinker.
“As I write, Owerri enemies are at it again, stoking the wicked story that Mbaise taking charge of Imo State Governorship will be only for the benefit of Mbaise Nation alone. But how possible is that? Can anything be worse than what we have in the State now where all the sectors of the State is controlled by the Chief Executive and his immediate family alone?”
Without going too deep into the details of the article, I would like to demand that a few facts be fixed well. First, Hon Henry Ekpe is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ikedi Ohakim who left office in 2011. The former Governor has always said he has one more term to do, to complete his two terms. He attempted a come-back in 2015 but was rigged out by the hierarchy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I am very sure the CPS is more versed in these issues than myself, but my question is this: What is his position on the “One More term” of the former Governor? He should not leave anyone guessing. What is his position on the claim that Okigwe has one more term to do? He should crack the case.
Apart from his personal position on the controversial issue of zoning, as a publisher, his newspaper, the Trumpeta, should also take a stand either way. They should not kiss the bullet. They should rather bite the bullet. What is the editorial of the Trumpeta newspaper on the controversial zoning argument that has being raging? This is more important because Trumpeta, being a well-respected newspaper needs to say something now. It is not sufficient to argue that newspapers do not take a position on political issues, because it is not true. Newspapers and other media organizations all over the world do not maintain neutrality on very sensitive political, social, economic and religious issues. Even on Health, Science and Technology, Arts and Culture, etc, newspapers and other media organizations have taken clear positions on them and took actions to advance them.
However, going beyond the position of Hon Ekpe and Trumpeta newspapers on the controversial zoning arrangement, the fact must be stated that the people of Owerri Zone cannot run away from the hazard they caused the entire state when they refused to listen to the superior arguments. When we understand this fact the people of Owerri Zone would stop the blame game they are currently engaged in, because it is only when you know from where the rain started to beat you that you would know when it stopped. Another fact is that Owerri Zone is their own albatross. They are holding themselves down. Owerri Zone has locked themselves up in a room and started boxing each other. That is the fact.
This is why many people have reached the conclusion that Owerri Zone is just the pawn on the chessboard. The people of Owerri Zone have turned the “It is our turn” mantra to a platform for bargaining for all sorts of compensations. Just like some disgruntled politicians say that political parties are mere vehicles, politicians from Owerri Zone have reduced the clamour for Owerri Zone to produce the governor of the state to political vehicle to reach their selfish ends. I am speaking from recent experience. In 2011, Owerri Zone, clearly upset with then Governor Ikedi Ohakim for no justifiable reason did not grab the opportunity to produce the governor of the state from among themselves. Instead they sponsored Governor Okorocha on the claim that there was no zoning. Not only that, a prominent politician from Owerri Zone has carried the toga of selling the mandate of Owerri Zone for N300M in 2011.
If you are not clear yet, note that many of the major sponsors of the governor in 2011 and 2015 from Owerri Zone have begun confessing their sins. The confessions from Dr. Orikeze Ajumbe, Hon Uche Onyeagucha and Dr. Nick Opara-Ndudu is enough to cast the stones on some politicians from Owerri Zone. And I am shocked that leaders and writers from Owerri Zone have not found the courage to question the actions of the leaders that didn’t mean well for them but shortchanged them for selfish reasons. Instead, they are engaging in lame blame game. Again, the disclosure that the leader of OZOPOLF bargained for himself nine (9) plots of land should make any sincere person from Owerri Zone weep. And to think that the people of Owerri Zone ignore these brazen sellouts by their leaders in whom they invested all their hopes and aspirations in 2015 is tantamount to calling everyone else fools.
Apart from the confessors, few weeks ago Imo people were shocked when the 2015 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Capt. Emma Ihenacho, stormed the Egbu Road secretariat of the party and presented Dr. Ike C. Ibe from Obowo LGA in Okigwe Zone to run for the governorship of the state in 2019 under APGA. By so doing he has opted out of the race. And what does this mean to the people of the state and Owerri Zone in particular? What it means is that if the zoning argument does not favour any politician in Owerri Zone he does not support it. Owerri politician will only sing the zoning song only when he stands to benefit. I want to be proved wrong. Otherwise, why should Captain Ihenacho not support someone else from Owerri Zone since he did not get the job done in 2015? Is Okey Eze not from Owerri Zone? Is he not running for Imo guber under APGA in 2019? If for any reason he cannot support Okey Eze, are there no other Owerri man he could support? But typical Owerri politician will not do so because it will not favour him. To them, “It is either I become Governor or no one else”. And when you recall that Chief Jerry Chukwueke did not support any of his four brothers from Owerri Zone in 2015, then you would agree with me intoto.
Owerri Zone had every opportunity to produce the governor of the state in 2015 when they produced four governorship candidates from different parties. It is shameful to hear that Owerri people did not like any of their four children who emerged governorship candidates in 2015. And what more opportunity does Owerri people want? Is the rest of the state going to wait for Owerri Zone to continue to nurse their wounds, come back and fly to the very top riding on the back of everyone else? Owerri people should not give anyone the impression that they are holding the rest of the state hostage and demanding the governorship as ransom.
Therefore, when politicians and writers from Owerri Zone make the argument that they are being marginalized and go on to claim the governorship of the state as if it were some consolation prize, they are being unfair to the rest of the state. This is purely reinforced by considering the 2015 experience where four political parties zoned their governorship tickets to Owerri Zone. And it is absurd and selfish to expect the rest of the class to wait for the students that failed their exams until such a time when they pass before the whole class could move on. They have had their shot at zoning, and if they did not get the job done they have no one else to blame but themselves, and we are not going to pay for it.
Therefore, it was wrong for Hon Ekpe to look beyond his kinsmen in Owerri and look for some other people to blame. It was wrong for him to claim that “Whoever thinks that he/she will use money to appease the Owerri man now should look for another plan.” Instead of casting the stones on others, he should look inward and see whom to stone, because they are many.
I had played the Devil’s advocate in previous articles and warned that Owerri Zone should be very careful not to forge the Orlu/Okigwe alliance, because doing so would be very detrimental to the aspirations of the Owerri man to be the governor of the state. Nevertheless, henceforth, I would like the writers in Owerri Zone to engineer a better political strategy that would see the Zone producing the governor they so desire in the future. They should think out of the box and take the most reasonable political risk and forgo just one more term. It is not a long time in the life of any people politically, where they right thinking cap in on.
This should be done urgently because going by the mannerism of the Owerri man politically, what the Zone needs is to partner someone that can do only one term and ensure that just that person gets to the government house as governor. This is where I expect Hon Ekpe to play a leading role, and not join in the blame game and hyping the sentiments against the Mbaise people. The discourse for the governorship of Imo State transcends such sentiments.