BY INNOCENT ONYEUKWU
Owerri zone is the weeping child of the political family in Imo State. It has wailed for a long time. And it will continue to wail, except it tells itself it will wail no more. Like the South East in Nigeria, Owerri zone has remained on the sidelines, marginalized from the power schemes of the state, having continuously lost when it comes to electing or producing a governor for Imo State.
For years, the zone has been in political wilderness despite the political exploits most of its leaders brandish. Owerri zone do have various political actors- the good, the bad and the ugly- the low and the mighty- with dossiers of several political escapades. Fortunately, such individual political adventurism has not translated to the collective political advancement of the zone. It has rather remained politically stranded in the politics of Imo State, stagnant and unable to make headway. At the moment the zone lacks direction. No motion. No movement. It is politically handicapped. Its political actors are completely bereft of ideas on how to salvage the zone from political landmines.
Owerri zone is one of the tripods Imo State stands on. It’s a strategic zone in the state. It has remained an indispensable ally to power seekers in the state and holds an enviable record of aiding other zones- Orlu and Okigwe- to climb to power.
The zone has unique electoral features, which makes it a huge contributor and a determinant factor on who becomes governor of Imo State. Two of the nine local governments in Owerri zone- Mbaitoli and Ngor Okpala- have the largest voting population in the state. The three local governments that make up the Mbaise bloc- Ahiazu, Ezinihitte and Aboh- collectively churned out over 400,000 votes in the 2019 governorship election, the largest vote from a single bloc in Imo State.
Despite this electoral strength, why does the zone develop cold feet when it wants to seek for power? Why does it parade a begging bowl in the political arena of the state despite its political strength, electoral power and relevance?
Since 1999, Owerri zone has continued to stutter politically. It has earned a reputation of playing second fiddle to other geo political zones, an act which it unconsciously inflicted on itself. And this is the reason the zone has produced the highest number of Deputy Governors in the State than any other zone.
The zone limps on the political turf of Imo State. When other zones run for power, they crawl or stay behind. They are like players who have become perennial bench warmers in a football team with dwindling value in the transfer market. They never get the attention of the coach not because they lack the ability to play, but because they are not eager to come forth and play.
Owerri zone is a disoriented zone with the political players overwhelmed by inferiority complex when it comes to matters pertaining to struggle for power in Imo State. This has translated to a zone overwhelmed by the dynamics and intrigues associated with power play. While Orlu zone alone boast of 24 years on the saddle of governance of the state from 1999, Owerri zone whisper of 29 months!
The zone had produced the governor of Imo State twice. And twice, it lost it. None of the governors from the zone completed a single term of four years. Evan Enwerem of blessed memory and Emeka Ihedioha were the two former governors from Owerri zone. Both had one thing in common. Their administrations were short-lived. Their tenures ended abruptly. Enwerem’s government was cut short by the military jackboots of Late Gen Sani Abacha. He spent 22 months in office, from January 1992- November 1993. 28 years after, Emeka Ihedioha came on board and like Enwerem, he was also shown the exit door of government after seven months in office, this time not by the barrel of the gun but by the Supreme Court.
Owerri zone has not recovered from the bruises of losing power in 2020. And it lost it in a manner it never anticipated. The gravity of that loss of Imo governorship evaporated so quickly because of clannish leanings of majority of the political players in the zone. Divisive tendencies and clannish politicking runs deep in Owerri zone politics. The three blocs which make the zone- Oratta, Mbaise and Mbaike are driven and propelled by leaders and politicians who are beclouded by clannish interests, which are injurious to the collective goal of the zone. Other zones- Orlu and Okigwe- have successfully exploited these fault lines to widen the gulf of disunity which exists so strong among the three blocs in Owerri zone.
The zone is hunted by a yawning gap in leadership. No leadership structure exists. None is even in sight. To your tenth oh Israel is the sing song in the zone. There are no more rallying points. There is no father figure the zone can lean on. Leaders with political fiber and firepower have either gone to the great beyond. A good number of them have gone on sabbatical. The zone is now invaded by those whose only qualification as a political leader is treachery and deceit. Some are political gamblers. Owerri zone is plagued by a league of political comedians mainly propelled by self seeking interests.
Political leanings are so strong in the zone. And this has led to broken bridges which has made it impossible for the zone to congregate and set an agenda to activate a political direction. Thus, Owerri zone, like a frog, has continued to leap with no purpose. And sooner or later, it may jump into a political ditch which may worsen its woes. Playing second fiddle in a state it is a major tripod is demeaning. And it will continue until a credible leadership structure emerges or evolves. When some set of politicians of the zone hosted Governor Hope Uzodimma last year, I had strongly advised he should be told to his face to return power to the zone after he completes his term.This is premised on the basis that irrespective of diverse political leanings of majority of its political players, Owerri zone is badly bruised politically.
I recalled the June 12 1993 presidential election won by Late M.K.O Abiola which was annulled by the Babangida regime as a case study. The South West was bruised for that singular political error by the military. Politicians of the region subsumed their political leanings and closed ranks to fight for the region’s political redemption. The bruises earned the Yoruba nation the Nigerian presidency in 1999 because there was collective resolution to heal the wound inflicted on the Yorubas for stopping Abiola from being President. With a disjointed tenure in government, Owerri zone is morally right to seek for return to power in Imo State. And it has to be taken not given.Power is not served alacat!
“Owerri zone is a disoriented zone with the political players overwhelmed by inferiority complex when it comes to matters pertaining to struggle for power in Imo State. This has translated to a zone overwhelmed by the dynamics and intrigues associated with power play. While Orlu zone alone boast of 24 years on the saddle of governance of the state from 1999, Owerri zone whisper of 29 months!”