(INTERVIEW):Why Imo Charter Of Equity May Collapse Again, Says Ajumbe

by admin

In an interview with select journalists in Owerri, a front-line politician in Imo State and former Commissioner, Professor Vitalis Orikeze Ajumbe, a prominent son of Owerri zone stated that for peace and stability to reign in the State, Okigwe Zone should produce the next governor after the tenure of  Governor Hope Uzodimma. Excerpts:

Q: You are among those who are arguing for power to return to Okigwe zone, rather than Owerri zone where you come from. Why are you not standing with your people?

First, I am not clannish both by nature and by my political leaning. Politically, I have grown above clannishness because I am supposed to be a leader in the entire state if not a statesman. So, the fact that I come from Owerri zone does not mean that I will stand with our people if they are going the wrong way. Rather, the duty of people like us is to advise our people to toe the right path.

Q: So you believe that your people in Owerri zone are wrong in asking for the governorship to be ceded to the zone in 2027?

My people in Owerri zone are not wrong in their demand. Their quest is legitimate since there is no law banning any section of the state from seeking power. Even Orlu zone which we are all accusing of monopolizing power still has a legitimate right to retain power beyond 2027. But since we are talking about equity, fairness and justice what some of us are saying is that once you are talking about that, we have to go back to the drawing board so that we can achieve a long-lasting solution. Going back to the drawing board means going back to interrogate the reasons why the governorship position not only went back to Orlu zone in 2011 after eight years  and has remained there ever since with chances that it may go beyond 2027 if care is not taken.And it’s no rocket science.

Okigwe’s turn was truncated midway in 2011 through a fraudulent means. Ohakim, who was occupying Okigwe’s turn, was hounded out of office even after he won election for a second term. I don’t care what was pronounced by the Courts.

We all know what happened. If Ohakim didn’t win the April 26 2011 election, it would have been a different matter. Some people are blaming Owerri zone for what happened. Whether right or wrong, my thinking is that we should give amnesty to everybody and start on a clean state; which is to allow Okigwe have another four years to complete eight years.

After that, power will shift seamlessly to Owerri zone and stay there for at least eight years. If what I have said does not happen and a fellow from Owerri zone peradventure becomes governor in 2027, I can bet with a million dollars that he will be there for only four years and the thing will go back to Orlu zone and we will return to square one.

Q Why do you think so?

I think so because if we fail to do the correct thing now by allowing Okigwe take just another four years, by 2031, both Orlu and Okigwe will join the fray and Orlu has an advantage. Apart from population, they vote mostly in one direction. Even if Orlu or Okigwe fails to take back power in 2031, the so-called Charter of Equity would have failed and all the noise we are making today would be in vain.

But it is said that you are arguing in favour of Okigwe zone because of your friend, Ikedi Ohakim, the former governor of the State.

I have quite a good number of friends in Okigwe zone and I can even tell you that we have many of them who can swear before even the most dreaded deity that they will do only one term so that power can go to Owerri in 2031. But we shouldn’t take that chance again because we have passed that route before. We have had candidates and even incumbent governors who swore before the Blessed Sacrament to do only one term but reneged even when they are Catholics. We shouldn’t even talk about swearing, because we have a scientific handle to it; which is that it is only Ohakim that must do only four years going by the provision of the Constitution. He doesn’t need to swear to anything.

But more importantly, Ohakim has the capacity, competence and experience. He will not be going back to the learning curve. Bringing him back in 2027 will be a win-win situation for the entire state. The Uzodimma administration has quite a good number of projects it is undertaking and he has barely three years more to go. The administration needs somebody who has the experience to consolidate on the things it has set out to do.  I think Governor Uzodimma is lucky to have such an experienced ally like Ohakim with whom he shares a common vision beginning from 2003 when they both ran together for the office of governor and deputy governor. I believe that bonding is still there.  Both have shown capacity for delivering solid infrastructure. If you go round today, you will notice that all the roads built by Ohakim are still quite solid. Uzodimma is doing a similar thing. He is building enduring infrastructure. Like Ohakim, he has also demonstrated selflessness in service. If we add eight years of Uzodimma to another four years under Ohakim, God willing, you can imagine what that will portend to the state and its people.

Now that you have mentioned Governor Uzodimma, what about this talk that he promised to hand over to a fellow from Owerri zone in 2027.    

I am personally quite amused that our people are talking about a certain promise made by the governor as the basis for our quest for power. That is quite ridiculous especially as some of us even now use it to blackmail the governor. I believe that the governor would also be quite amused at that. The governor is a seasoned politician and he would be amused by the fact that somebody is implying that he can single handedly cede power to any section of the state without the inputs of people from other zones. He would be amused by the refusal of some key political elements in Owerri zone to go into meaningful dialogue with Okigwe zone to determine which of the two zone power should go to in 2027.

Governor Uzodimma never said he will be the sole determinant of where power will go to after his tenure. I think what he said was that the Charter of Equity would elicit the dynamics that may cede power to Owerri zone. The key word there is dynamics. But have we evolved the dynamics. Equity is not an end unto itself. It is a process. My people in Owerri zone have refused to take part in the process that will lead to equity by foreclosing any discussions with Okigwe and even Orlu zone as has been recommended by some of our own brothers and sisters here in Owerri zone.

Instead, they want to rely on the absolute power of the governor to hand over to them. That is not politics. Of course, as an incumbent governor, Senator Uzodimma has a big role to play but to say that he can do it single handedly is to look for a way of killing him for nothing as we would say in ordinary parlance. Under Governor AchikeUdenwa, the Charter of Equity succeeded in making power shift from Orlu to Okigwe but because the basic things were not done, it collapsed just after four years. Up till the time Ohakim took over in 2007, there was still the fight between Owerri and Okigwe zone over which should go. That fight did not end until the election in 2011 and some elements in Owerri zone took advantage of certain things that were being instigated from Abuja to fight Ohakim. But at the end, Owerri zone did not benefit from that fight and today our people are struggling to get power and resorting to all manners of things. It is like giving a cup to a monkey. To retrieve it, is very difficult. Our people in Owerri zone, in a bid to chase away Ohakim in 2011, handed over power back to Orlu zone through RochasOkorocha .

Some of us were shouting that what they were doing will come back to haunt us. But they refused to listen. Now to retrieve the power is difficult. Some sections in Orlu zone are even insisting that the zone will continue holding power beyond 2028. If that perfidy of 2011 did not occur, Okigwe would have handed over to Owerri in 2015. And Owerri would have completed its eight years 2023. Now see where we are. We are even begging for it, employing all sorts of tactics. The point I am making is that we should not make that mistake again. Let’s go into meaningful dialogue instead of talking about promises.

But there is this video clip now in circulation showing where the governor agreed that power should go to Owerri zone after his tenure

Very good. If you listen to the video closely, you will notice that the governor was talking about agreeing. You have even mentioned it. He didn’t say I promise to hand over to Owerri zone. The key word there is “agreeing”. But have we all agreed? Some sections of the State are saying otherwise. The least we can do is to listen to them and find out why they are not agreeing, not the type of thing our brothers in Owerri zone are doing. They do not want to discuss the matter with anybody. They want the governor to hand over power to them on a platter. Where is that done?

But recently, traditional rulers in both Orlu and Owerri zones put out publications asking the governor to abide by his promise

Some traditional rulers were cajoled by some people in Owerri zone to make those statements; and I can say for sure that they have regretted to have allowed themselves to be used that way. I can tell you authoritatively that the two advertorials were written by the same person or persons in Owerri zone. A few days ago, I read an article in which the author painstakingly pointed out the clauses and phrases in the two publications that are exactly the same, word-for-word. It was not just a coincidence. They were caught in the game.

The traditional rulers in Orlu were reminding Governor Uzodimma of his promise to hand over to Owerri zone. But assuming without conceding that the governor made such a promise and there is the fear that he might renege, do the Orlu Ezes need a newspaper advertorial to advise their son to toe the proper path? Couldn’t they have gone to him quietly to advise him instead of allowing themselves to be used to blackmail their own son. 

The involvement of Owerri zone traditional rulers was what gave the authors of the two advertorials out. You would have noted that the one by Owerri Ezes came after that of Orlu Ezes.

And the Owerri Ezes surprisingly admitted that theirs was a follow up to that of their counterparts in Orlu. But why would the Ezes in Owerri zone be playing a second fiddle in a matter concerning their own people? Did the Owerri traditional rulers have to wait for those in Orlu to remind the governor of his so-called promise? The proper thing would have been for Owerri to take the lead. That it was the other way round gave all of them up. It was just an arrangee. Neither the Ezes in Orlu nor the ones in Owerri zone believe in what they published.

And why did the Orlu traditional rulers fail to disclose their identities? Was it not simply because they are afraid of incurring the wrath of the rest of Orlu zone people, majority of who certainly do not believe in what they published? The entire thing is so ridiculous.

So, what do you advise your people in Owerri zone to do?

My advice is that we should first and foremost come to terms with the fact that the rest of the State, including Orlu zone, does not owe us any obligation to hand over the governorship to us in 2027 on a platter. As I said earlier, the process of arriving at the so-called Equity is still on-going. Part of that process is to enter into meaningful dialogue with Okigwe zone which some of the key elements in the Owerri governorship campaign have refused to go into. But it is to our own interest. For example, it is through such a dialogue that we can learn from Okigwe how they were able to give Uzodimma over 100,000 votes at the governorship election last November with only six local government areas whereas Owerri zone, with nine local government areas and a larger population, gave less than ninety thousand votes. Some people say it doesn’t matter but I laugh.

You are talking about promise but did you keep your own part of the deal? When the chips are down, I don’t think some of these our brothers can look Uzodimma on the face and talk about promise.

What is your advice to Governor Uzodimma?

If I were to advise Governor Uzodimma, I would tell him that the fellow he owes a moral burden to support is Ohakim. He was a witness to the injustice done to him in 2011 when the election he won was cancelled and a kangoroo supplementary election staged to push him out. Senator Uzodimma was in solidarity with Ohakim throughout the period the latter was fighting to reclaim that mandate from the courts. I remember that Uzodimma, who went into the Senate following the 2011 general election, was frequently seen sitting together with Ohakim during sessions at the Court of Appeals in Abuja. That meant that Uzodimma believed in that cause. It meant that he believed that Ohakim was wrongly treated. Ohakim has since moved on but the consequence of that is what we are suffering in the State today.

I led an emissary that went to Awara to meet Rev. Father Eustace Okorie whom Ohakim was accused of beating up. He told us that nothing like that ever happened and that if he sees Ohakim, he would not recognize him. Yet, a section of the Catholic Church allowed itself to be used by some disgruntled politicians to spread the lies. Fr. Okorie was transferred from somewhere in Mbaitoli and sent to Awara and asked not to say a word on the matter. He told us so. Everybody in this state knows who gave him that instruction. The fellow is our elder brother in Owerri zone.

I am of the firm belief that as a staunch Catholic, Governor Uzodimma can cause a reconciliation to happen between Ohakim and the Catholic Church. We can even go and fish out the Fr. Okorie when nobody has set his eyes on him. This would be the best process to the equity we are talking about. I am aware that the Owerri Diocese of the Church gave Ohakim an award some time ago but I think we should bring that episode to a meaningful closure. It is not just about Ohakim. The entire Okigwe is hurting.  The grievances of the people of the zone should be addressed.

“I think so because if we fail to do the correct thing now by allowing Okigwe take just another four years, by 2031, both Orlu and Okigwe will join the fray and Orlu has an advantage. Apart from population, they vote mostly in one direction. Even if Orlu or Okigwe fails to take back power in 2031, the so-called Charter of Equity would have failed and all the noise we are making today would be in vain.

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