Imo 2027: Owerri Zone Wants Okigwe Zone To Be Governor Again, Says Bob Njemanze

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Prince Bob Njemanze, a scion of the Njemanze dynasty in Owerri, Imo State, stirred the hornet’s nest when he said during an interview with Saturday Sun that Owerri Zone should support Okigwe Zone to produce the next governor as the shortest route to Owerri Zone realising their governorship dream. In this interview, he reasserts his position, adding that Owerri Zone wants Okigwe Zone to produce governor in 2027. Excerpts:

What has it been like since after the interview you granted on the Imo Charter of Equity and 2027 governorship election in Imo State?

Well, you see, I have no regrets at all about the interview I granted, because I granted it in the belief that my contribution would help my people realize their ultimate goal, which is the seat of government at the Douglas House come 2027. But, unfortunately, quite a number of people are so sentimental about it so much that they are incapable of drawing lines between reason and sentiment and between what is ephemeral and reality. I want someone from Owerri Zone to sit in there as governor, and it is going to correct a lot of things. If nothing else, he will return the dynasty of Njemanze, which has been the fulcrum of not just Owerri as a capital city but the entire Owerri Zone. When you talk about the Oba of Benin, Obi of Onitsha, and Obong of Calabar, the Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano, Eze Owerri plays the same role for all of us, not just the five villages of Owerri, which you call Owerri Nchise but all of us.

The Eze Owerri, just as he is the Eze of Owreri Nchise, wears the garb of the traditional ruler of what represents Owerri on a larger scale, that’s Owerri Zone. So, if we have a governor from Owerri Zone, he will be able to at least restore that image of the dynasty, the throne. But you see, how do we achieve this? All we talk about is the charter of equity, which we say the governor has promised to give us the governorship seat, as if it were his personal property. No, it is not. The governor himself knows this. Certain statements are political. I am not saying that he made this particular one, and I group it as one of the political statements, but we should try to face the reality of the issue. It is his wish that he would hand over to the Owerri candidate. Now, how does that Owerri candidate come about? How will he emerge?

First and foremost, the Owerri people have to get together and get a candidate that is acceptable. Look, there are many political parties; how do you get them to each provide in their primary election a candidate from Owerri? How do you do that? Are you going to stop Okigwe people and Orlu people from contesting along for that seat? You cannot do that. So, having that in mind, what do you do? You dialogue. Now, I commend Prince Charles Ahmadi (Charlvon) for reenacting, resuscitating, for returning the OZOPOLF, which is the political group that had the face of Owerri Zone. There were some misrepresentations about OZOPOLF and all of that, bothering on the misunderstanding during Emeka Ihedioha’s quest for office. But you see, we could sometimes take people for granted and insult any and everyone, even those that get up to do things in the common interest of our people. The situation we have in our hands is not such that one person will handle it. Look, a gentleman like Captain Emma Ihenacho suffered privation to call a meeting, trying to see how he can get the people together, all for this purpose of who becomes our governor. He spent his time and money, and he suffered privation with no particular benefit. I don’t think Emma wants to run for governorship anymore, but they say no, it’s a lie. How could he be calling such a meeting if he was not interested in the governorship seat? So you mean you can’t be patriotic? There must be something selfish about it, and he took some swipes. In fact, people from Orlu already dealt some deadly blows to his image, and not one person from Owerri Zone has come up to defend him, to say, look, this is the circumstance that led to this, and this is the purpose for this. Are we going to just sit back and be governors? We are so divided. You have Mbaike, Mbaise, Ngor Okpala, and Owerri. There is so much diversity, so much selfish interest. Is the governor going to get this governorship seat and share it among Owerri people?

Do you mean that you don’t regret supporting Okigwe Zone to succeed the governor in 2027?

My statement was very straight and factual. The first choice is Owerri Zone, but how do we realize it? If we do not recognize that Okigwe Zone has as much right as we do, and we generate a situation where Okigwe Zone comes full blast into the contest, they will achieve an understanding with Orlu, which will cost Owerri the seat. So, it will either be that Okigwe person takes the seat or Orlu person takes the seat. So, I said in my last interview that our best option, without mincing words, is since Okigwe has a candidate that is constitutionally stopped from a second tenure, why don’t we interface with them and agree to have just that one? I felt that was the easiest bargain we could make. Those who are not thinking in that line, who felt that, oh, governor has offered us the seat, and so it’s been taken to the House of Assembly, it’s been taken to the church, it’s been taken to this thing, so who else can stop it? I mean, I don’t want to run a comment about such behaviour and such characters and their thinking because there was nothing you call in-depth reasoning about the way they think. They are just floating. Meanwhile, they felt that one who took his time to look at the whole situation, and the best way possible has been bought? I put it this way, I said, let’s lose a battle and win the war in the worst position, the worst situation.

OZOPOLF, led by Chief Charles Amadi, said that they would support an Owerri Zone to succeed the governor, and your view is that the route to Owerri Zone becoming the governor is through Okigwe. Do you think that the two of you are saying the same thing?

You see, like I said to you, every genuine and honest Owerri person wants the governorship seat. Charles is not averse to it. The Charlvon I know is not averse to it if the best way to get us the governorship is for us to let go one tenure to Okigwe, and he is sure that after that one tenure it will get to us. He is not averse to it at all. So, he made the same statement as I did, that we want Owerri to get to that seat. Orikeze Vitalis Ajumbe, a Professor, also sees it the same way I do, that rather than your cow being lost, hold it by the tail. I am not saying cut off the tail, but hold it by the tail. There is no way in the worst scenario that we concede one tenure to Okigwe that they will not let us have a full tenure of eight years. But if we start dragging this thing, we are only opening the way for Orlu and at the end of the day, we will say they have no conscience, we will say they are stupid, we will say they are greedy, whereas we are the ones that should be held responsible for not making the best of the opportunities we have. Nothing stops anyone from contesting.

In another intervention, you called on the Imo State Council of Elders to intervene and ensure that the governorship candidates of the PDP and the Labour Party do not proceed on appeal against the judgment of the tribunal given to Governor Hope Uzodimma. Why did you make that call?

I wish OZOPOLF had come on stream by the time I made that call, I wouldn’t have made any reference to the Council of Elders. But it was important that I brought them into the picture because they were the ones primarily propagating this charter of equity. They are the ones that you would hold responsible if anything went right or wrong with the charter of equity. So, I had to call on them, and you could see that they all shied away from approaching Athan Achonu, the one-armed general, or SamDaddy. Because most of them are – I am sorry for using the word “unreliable”. No, They find it difficult to approach these people. The Orlu Political Consultative Assembly (OPOCA), had written a letter to the Council of Elders, seeking that the Council stopped the candidates from Owerri and Okigwe zones from going to the tribunal, but they did not do that. The candidates went to the tribunal and lost their cases. They now have a chance of not proceeding to the higher court or withdrawing their cases from the Appeal Court. Therefore, I called on the Council of Elders and asked them to prevail on the candidates. They are our sons, after all.

Much of the discussions in town is the 2027 governorship, whereas the governor is just about six months into his second term in office. Do you think that it is too early to talk about the 2027 governorship election?

Not necessarily, but when you have a bad gun, you start early to aim before shooting. Because you know you have a bad gun, you have a rickety gun, it is normal to start early. We are so amorphous back here in Owerri Zone. We are like crabs in a basin. To even select who will represent Owerri Zone in one political party alone, you would need two years to do that, not to talk of where you have six, seven political parties, and you are all looking for candidates from Owerri Zone. It is not early at all. You can see the way people are already reacting. I was on a radio interview recently, and this issue came up as an aside. Somebody had asked me about the charter of equity, and in discussing it, I said that it is my wish for Owerri to get there, but Okigwe and Owerri must come to an understanding. The easiest way and the cheapest and shortest route will be conceding to the Okigwe candidate Ikedi Ohakim, who has done only one tenure. That was what created the eruption, and it snowballed into what I cannot define, and some people said that I am a sellout and that Ikedi Ohakim has bought me; that I am rabble-rousing, and all of that. It was very rude, but it didn’t matter to me because I am not a politician. I was looking in the common interest of my people. In fact, I think Ikedi Ohakim should bring that money, which they said he has paid me to start campaigning for him. Could you believe it?

Recently, a communique emerged purportedly from the traditional rulers in Orlu Zone, saying that they support the governor’s statement to hand over power to Owerri Zone in 2027. Do you think that traditional rulers should get involved in politics?

I would like to distance myself from anything that has this traditional rulers touch or bias because I am in court with them. So, I don’t want to be quoted as saying that traditional rulers do not qualify to play politics. I don’t know whether traditional rulers are now allowed by the constitution to start playing politics. It is a good thing you defined which advertorial you are talking about. If I say that I did not see it, then I am a liar, but that advertorial is a farce. I hope I am not called up to write an apology for referring to an advertorial as a farce. It was something put together by some people seeking recognition. If those who signed the communique are actually traditional rulers, I think they need to be reminded that traditional rulers should not play to the gallery.

There are insinuations in some quarters that the communique was masterminded by some political gladiators from Owerri Zone.

Well, I would be happy to see and know that there are political gladiators from Owerri Zone. As of the moment, if there are, they are shrubs. You don’t get into a savannah and expect to see monkeys jumping from one tree to the other. No. It has to be a real forest with trees that have branches. That particular thing I saw, which you referred to, that has unidentified signatories and signatures, it doesn’t qualify for our discussion. I am sorry about it. It doesn’t qualify for any discussion.

In your opinion, should the traditional rulers not be a rallying point for the people instead of taking sides or playing politics?

I am not properly positioned to make a comment on what you call traditional institutions today and what it is made up of. No, I am not properly qualified to make a comment on that. What I have said is that traditional rulers should know that they should not play to the gallery.

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