Owerri Zone, Imo Monarchs And Uzodimma’s ‘Promise’

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By Nnamdi Nwadike

Ever since a group of Imo traditional rulers were herded to the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, sometime ago, to do a march past, with the then First Lady of the state, Mrs. Nkechi Okorocha, taking the salute, the unappeased gods have remained unrelenting in pushing them from one “wombling ” and “fumbling ” to another. The latest is their ongoing dance to an orchestra renditioned by a clique of politicians in Owerri zone. The lyrics is the purported promise made by the state governor, His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodimma, to hand over to a fellow from the (Owerri) zone at the end of his tenure in 2028.

Governor Uzodimma is said to have made the promise during the campaigns leading to his reelection in November 2023 ostensibly in pursuit of the renewed Charter of Equity.

Whether the governor was right or wrong in making the said promise is not the concern here but the baffling thing is that no sooner had the election been concluded than some elements in Owerri zone began to make a song and dance to remind him of the promise. Between late December 2023 and now, at least three organizations have sprang up in Owerri zone, all with the sole purpose of putting the governor under watch over the purported promise. There is the Imo Harmony Project, led by a former minister of Interior Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho.

There is the Owerri Zonal Awareness Coalition (OZAC), led by one Emmanuel Okwu. There is the Owerri Political Consultative Assembly (OPOCA), a childish imitation of the Orlu Political Consultative Assembly, led by Willie Amadi.Then there is also the Owerri Zonal Political Forum (OZOPOLF), led by Charles Amadi which though has been in existence for upwards of ten years.

Even though well-meaning observers, both within and outside Owerri zone, have drawn the attention of these groups to the fact that it is too early to mount pressure on the governor over the purported promise, when the processes that will lead to his hand over in 2028 have not even began; and that it amounts to a blackmail to, either subtly or overtly, keep reminding him of his ‘promise’, the campaigners have remained unrelenting.

A couple of weeks ago, Willie Amadi, who is one of the most vociferous adherents of the Owerri zone governorship project, circulated an extract from an interview granted by Governor Uzodimma to a section of the electronic media wherein he made the said promise, in the social media.A few days earlier, another leading political figure in Owerri zone, Tony Greg Okpe, had, in an interview with a widely read national newspaper, posited that the “only legacy” Governor Uzodimma will leave behind would be to “zone” his successor to Owerri zone.

Two days after Willie Amadi’s voice note, a group of traditional rulers in Orlu zone published a newspaper advertorial which central message was to also remind the governor of his‘promise’. The advertorial, said to be a communiqué from a meeting of Orlu zone Ezes, read in part: “Nde Eze Orlu stand with their son, the governor, on his position on the Imo Charter of Equity which rotates the governorship to Owerri zone in 2027”. The advertorial further claimed that at the meeting, the traditional rulers in Orlu zone advised that “…all governorship aspirants outside Owerri zone should wait for their turn after Owerrizone”.

Interestingly, the authors of the advertorial did not disclose their identities. Even though it has been established that no such meeting held and that the said communiqué was horridly put together – hence the countless grammatical errors therein– by some individuals outside Orlu zone – Owerri zone to be precise –the ostensible reason why the authors failed to disclose their identities was the fear of incurring the wrath of the rest of the people of Orlu zone who do not subscribe to their narrative. In other words, the Orlu Ezes, at least the clique that is part of the pressure group, know full well that they are not speaking on behalf of the people of Orlu zone.

Two major questions have since arisen after that unfortunate outing. One, assuming that “their son”, Uzodimma, indeed, promised to select his successor from Owerri zone, what tells this group of “Nde Eze Orlu” that the governor will renege on his promise when the processes that will lead to the hand over are still at least two years ahead? In other words, are the Orlu zone Ezes, both knowingly and unknowingly ,not questioning the integrity of their son? In any case, referring to the governor as “their son ” is clannish and does not fall in line with the more transcendental and pan-Imo disposition of Senator Uzodimma. As governor,Uzodimma is the son of every zone. Two, assuming, even, that their fears of an eventual reneging by the governor is genuine, do “Nde” Eze Orlu zone need a newspaper advertorial to advise their son to toe the proper path, if they mean well for him, their zona and, indeed, the entire state?

Two days after the outing of the Orlu zone Ezes, a similar newspaper advertorial appeared in a local (Owerri-based) newspaper, again with the same message of reminding Governor Uzodimma of his promise to hand over power to Owerri zone.Unlike that of “Nde” Eze Orlu, the publication this time around had names of some traditional rulers across Owerri zones as its ostensible authors. But that is where the difference between the two publications – one from Orlu,the other from Owerri – ended. Even a cursory reading of the two would reveal that the two publications emanated from the same source.

A careful juxtaposition of the two paragraphs in which the two groups conveyed their message to the governor reveals that the language is the same, word-for-word. For example, Paragraph3 of the publication by Orlu Ezes reads: “Nde Eze Orlu stand with their son, the governor, on his position on the Imo Charter of Equity which rotates governorship to Owerri zone in 2027”. Then Paragraph 4 of the publication by the Owerri zone Ezes reads: Ndi Eze Owerri zone appreciates His Excellency for his principled stand on the Imo Charter of Equity which rotates governorship to Owerri zone in 2027”

Witness that the last twelve words in both paragraphs are made up of exactly the same words: “…Imo Charter of Equity which rotates governorship to Owerri zone in 2027”. Going two words further behind it, would be discovered that the publication by Ndi Eze Owerri merely substituted the phrase “…principles stand” (earlier used by Nde Eze Orlu) with “… on his position”

What a wonderful coincidence! Going down further, the message to aspirants from other zones to wait for their turn are also almost verbatim in both publications. Paragraph 6 (6) of the publication by Orlu zone Ezes reads: “That all governorship aspirants outside Owerri zone should wait for their turn after Owerri zone”. Then Paragraph 7 of the publication by NdiEzeOwerri reads:“That NdiEze Owerri zone join Ndi Eze Orlu zone in their strong stance that all governorship aspirants outside Owerri zone should wait for their turn after Owerri …”

Again witness that the last phrase in both are the same word-for-word: “… that all governorship aspirants outside Owerri zone should wait for their turn after Owerri”.The same naivety.The same inelegance in language.The same tactlessness.

The big question, however,is,why did the traditional rulers in Owerri zone, have to wait for their counterparts in Orlu zone to take the lead in this campaign? Since the matter is about their own zone, the proper thing would have been for the traditional rulers in Owerri zone to proactively – if they must – begin to reach out to their counterparts in the other zones to put up arguments in favour of their area. That they – the Owerri zone monarchs – are merely trying to re-echo what their counterparts in Orlu said earlier makes the entire thing ridiculous and gives them out as haven being cajoled into it.

Now that it has been established that the two publications came from the same source, indeed authored by the same person or persons, another big question is, have things become this bad for our traditional rulers in Imo state? The other time, they were ordered from their palaces to do obeisance before a woman. This time around, they are being cajoled into things that are even more sinister.Traditional rulers are not permitted to form pressure groups on political matters. The determination of which bloc power should go to is purely a political matter to be handled by politicians. The most traditional rulers can do is to work through the politicians to offer advice especially when the latter are toeing the wrong path.In the instant case, it is most unlikely that traditional rulers in Okigwe zone will argue along the same line with their counterparts in Owerri and Orlu zones. It should even surprise no one if those in Okigwe come out openly to disagree with Owerri and Orlu. And that will certainly deal the so-called Charter of Equity a deadly blow. But by far more significant is that, as earlier noted, the traditional rulers are being used against the governor. To allow themselves to be dragged into this obvious integrity test on Governor Uzodimma is most unfair to a fellow who has done so much for the traditional kingship institution in the state.And to those who recruited the traditional rulers into this perfidy, it is to their shame that,as so-called politicians, their only claim to the Imo governorship in 2028 is the purported promise by the governor.

Put in a plainer language, what else can Owerri zone offer outside the so-called promise made by the governor?And which, in any case, some of its so-called leaders initially described as a “Greek Gift ” , which meant that they did not believe in it.Instructively, some well-meaning indigenes of the same Owerri zone have suggested that its people and those of Okigwe zone – which is also laying a strong claim to the office of the governor in 2028 – should go to a roundtable and agree on which of the two should take over power in 2028. But they were shouted down by their own people in Owerri zone and branded black legs.

It is this lack of courage to engage in a robust discourse on the matter of power sharing on the part of the so-called champions of the Owerri zone governorship that constitutes the greatest obstacle to its realization.Of course, the fear of going into such a dialogue is not completely out of place. For, what do you say to a people who could only muster just about 90,000 votes from nine local government areas compared with over 100,000 from another zone that has six local government areas? Let’s face it, can these people look Uzodimma on the face and talk about this so-called promise?
Added to this is the fraudulent dimension to it; which is a few individuals sitting somewhere in Ikeduru or Emekuku to script a fictitious communiqué and cajoling unsuspecting traditional rulers to append their signatures to it. Of course, they do not have a monopoly of tricks but the fear is that by the time every section comes up with its own, it may be non dimittis for the so called Charter of Equity. And of course, these desperate elements in Owerri zone would be misleading their people into believing that a free for-all contest in 2027 will be in the zone’s favour. But the good news is that the generality of the good people of Owerri zone are ready to make sacrifices in order to have a more enduring understanding – forget this “Charter” thing – on power rotation. Needless to say, the correct thing is to ignore the current tricksters and look at the bigger picture.

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