EMMANUEL MGBEAHURUIKE writes on the spirited resolve of the people of Owerri, the Imo State capital to produce Governor Rochas Okorocha’s succession in the face of an opposing game plan by the governor.
As the countdown to 2019 general elections begins in the country, consultations, lobbying and persuasions within the political class have undoubtedly begun to build up ahead of the polls in Imo State.
This is even as the political temperature of the state is gradually rising to a feverish pitch- all geared towards wresting power from Governor Rochas Okorocha’s All Progressive Congress (APC) government in the state.
Expectedly the activities to snatch the Douglas House (Imo Government House) from the firm grip of the APC has necessitated the expansion of the frontiers of political gathering and discussions by party chieftains towards sensitising and conscientising the minds of stakeholders.
The major gladiators in the political terrain are the All Progressive Congress (APC) currently in charge of the governance of the state, and the current deputy governor of The state, Prince Eze Madumere, who is likely to indicate interest in the race.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is likely to field Hon Emeka Ihedioha and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) is parading and an array that includes Okey Eze, Humphrey Anumudu and Hon. Uche Onyeagocha.
Since it exited from power in 2011 following the historic May 6th supplementary governorship election that brought governor Rochas Okorocha of the then APGA to power, the PDP has not made any pretence about its desire to regain what it lost six years ago.
Political meetings have of recent become common at the country homes of some of Imo State political juggernauts.
Apart from the strong determination of the opposition parties to dislodge Okorocha and his team from power, a new twist is being championed by leaders of the Imo East Senatorial District (Owerri zone) and their counterpart in the Imo North Senatorial district (Okigwe zone).
The two zones are laying claims to the governorship seat of the state, alleging deep-seated marginalization and conspiracy against them in respect of the occupation of the most powerful office in the state since the turn of democracy in the country.
While Orlu zone would be completing 16 years in 2019 through ex-governor Achike Udenwa and the incumbent governor Rochas
Okorocha, Okigwe zone has had a four year tenure through Chief Ikedi Godson Ohakim (Isiala Mbano), while Owerri zone which plays host to the state capital has not smelt the most prestigious and revered office at all.
It was therefore not unexpected when recently, leaders of the two zones commenced consultations, sensitizing all indigenes of their respective areas at home and abroad on the need for a concerted effort to remedy the situation.
Such socio-cultural organizations as “Olu Okigwe,” Okigwe Political Consultative Assembly,” “Mezie Owerri and “Owerri Peoples Consultation Assembly” have taken the centre stage in the politics of the state.
Fired by zeal to grab what they believe to be their portion, it was not surprising when on Saturday, November 11, 2017, all sons and daughters as well as all socio-cultural groups in Owerri Zone met in Egbu, in the Owerri North council area under the aegis of “Coalition For Owerri Re-awakening” to deliberate on what they identified as the worsening economic social and political conditions facing the zone.
The august meeting was attended by leaders, elders, members of the academia, captain of industries, business men and women, professional bodies, public servants, artisans as well as various women and youth organizations.
The meeting deliberated on the over-riding importance of unity in the zone as a critical tool in the re-awakening of leadership and followership from the long spell of dormancy, which it noted has made Owerri zone apper more like a conquered territory than an equal partner in the Imo state project.
Renowned legal luminary and Second Republic legislator, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) in a paper entitled “Unity Founded On Patriotic Understanding And Equity-The Sole Answer,” summarized the political history of the Old Owerri Province which is now Imo State, stating that the importance of the summit and re-awakening “our leadership and fellowship from what may be termed “Sleepy eyeness.” Call it political lethargy which I believe caused the depletion of our political structure with the consequential loss of three important local government areas cannot be over emphasized.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was insistent that Owerri zone must take cognizance of the historical fact that it had made equitable political concessions to achieve friendship and better understanding among the peoples of the three zones in the state.
In retrospect, Chief Ahamba recalled that in 1999, Owerri zone opted out of the governorship race to support Orlu zone (Imo west) in due deference to an unwritten charter of equity.
“As at that time, only the sons of Owerri zone and Okigwe zone had lived in the Imo State Government House. Equity demanded that Orlu should have a bite. Owerri zone kept faith and his excellency- Chief Achike Udenwa emerged as governor with Owerri zone’s votes playing the collective decider.
“Chief Achike Udenwa had two full tenures of four years each, making a total of eight years in office, back to back. In 2007, Owerri zone kept faith with Okigwe zone and his excellency -Chief Ikedi Ohakim of Okigwe zone emerged. Come 2011, his excellency- Rochas Okorocha emerged riding on the crest of APGA, Thus, Orlu had four additional years making it 12 years in the Douglas House (Government House).
“Then in 2015, Orlu zone somehow supported their son for a second tenure in Douglas house bringing their total to sixteen (16) year. This was in spite of restatement of the charter of Equity at a meeting held at the All Seasons Hotel, New Owerri in 2014.
No other Orlu zone candidate emerged from another party to deplete their son’s votes under APC. Could this have been a collective tactical approach to keep power in the zone while pretending to be keeping faith with the charter?”
Chief Ahamba listed inhibitions for the realization of a united Owerri
zone as: selfishness and geocentricism in pursuit of self-set goals, upsurge of political symbiotic insurgency by which many of the indigenes of the zone play internal destructive role by unfair aggression against one’s home fronts, general interest(s) stereo type of one section by another, lack of a common socio- cultural body to oversee the collective interest of the people of the zone coupled with individual endorsement of multiple aspirants for the same political office saying “the civilized attitude is to choose one and in candour, stand by that one which is the approach of the progressive nations,” he said.
It was against this background that the zone in what has now come to be known as Egbu Declaration resolved that equity demands that the next governor of Imo State should be an indigene of Owerri zone; that all political parties should choose their governorship candidates from Owerri Senatorial Zone; that voters in Imo State should vote for only political parties that chose their candidates from Owerri zone in the interest of equity, fair play and unity of Imo State.
The summit insisted that a committee of eminent sons and daughters of Owerri zone be set up to reach out to Okigwe and Orlu zones to convince them of the need to support Owerri zone come 2019 to produce the next governor of Imo State; that political leaders and followers from Owerri zone should be united on the governorship aspiration of the zone come 2019 and to desist from being used to the contrary; that Imo State governor should stop the demolition of properties and markets in Owerri zone; that in view of the prevailing harsh economic realities that the Imo State Government should embark on commensurate compensation for those whose properties have been destroyed or demolished.
Furthermore, that the government of Imo State should without delay, commence payment of all outstanding arrears of pensions and gratuities in Imo State to mitigate the sufferings of beneficiaries.
Okigwe zone is, however, bitter with Owerri zone for casting the votes that robbed her son- Ikedi Ohakim of victory.
Making no pretence about this, the zone has at various fora vowed to pay Owerri zone back in its coins hence in 2015, it teamed up with Imo-west (Orlu zone) to frustrate Owerri zone from taking over the Government House whenever the chips are down for gubernatorial poll in the state.
While the “no love lost saga between the two rival zones rage on in respects of the governorship seat of the state, Imo west has inevitably become a beautiful bride as the two warring zones have commenced intensive and extensive aggressive lobbying of the Imo west, extending their overtures to major stakeholders of the oil rich zone for support to clinch the number office in the state in 2019.
Acknowledged as the biggest fish in APC family in the South East, Okorocha is said to have oiled his political machinery to ensure that the APC retains power in the state beyond 2019.
Already, rumours are rife that he has anointed his chief of staff, Uche Nwosu, (a.k.a Ugwumba) who, his son in-law as his successor.
The governor is said to have begun an in-house cleaning within the APC circle, weeding off the black sheep, and co-opting reliable and trusted new entrants and placing them in strategic positions.
This was said to have informed the dissolution and reconstitution of the state’s executive council not quite long ago.
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