Okorocha And The Gentleman’s Rotational Politics In Imo
EMMANUEL MGBEAHURUIKE writes on the evolving clamour for adherence to a charter of equity deal which stipulates a rotation of power among the three geo-political zones in the state, namely Okigwe, Owerri and Orlu.
As the countdown to 2019 governorship election in Imo State continues, a charter of equity, agreed upon by the stakeholders from the three geo political zones, has become a focal point of engagement. With the plans ahead of the polls becoming rather feisty, the debate is largely over whether the charter, which was designed to guarantee the rotation of governorship of the state across the political zones, would be adhered to in the light of evolving political realities. Zoning or rotational of elective offices has its roots in the political architecture of Nigeria, usually implemented by political parties in the mould of a gentleman’s agreement. The six geo political zones in the country have at various points protested to preside over the country based on zoning. Currently, the South-east appears to be more ferocious in its demand to produce president either in 2023. The argument is that without this political gentleman’s agreement, a zone would continue to rule the country, shutting out prospects of the minority zones. Imo State is no different. In lights of its political complexity, a group of some major stakeholders in the state, came up with the Imo Charter of Equity.
The vision of the proponents is to allay fears of domination and segregation to the detriment of other zones. Consequently, it was this arrangement that produced exgovernor Achike Udenwa (Imo West) who ruled the state from 1999 to 2007 under the platform of the PDP. Udenwa reportedly secured the gubernatorial ticket of the party from Chief Humphrey Anumudu (Imo East) who was said to have won the party’s primary but was prevailed upon to relinquish the mandate to Udenwa whose zone at that time had not tested the governorship seat in the annals of the history of the state since its creation in 1976. Okigwe and Owerri zone had before then, had their turns through the late Chief Sam Mbakwe and Chief Evan Enwerem respectively. While the former completed 4 years (1979-1983) with a truncated second tenure–no thanks to 1983 military intervention in politics, the latter only called the shot from the government house Owerri for a brief period of 18 months (1992 – 1993) consequent upon the late General Sani Abacha coup which interrupted the civil administration and dismantled all political structures in the country. The charter of equity which had enjoyed commendable credibility and relevance in the political equation of the state was to suffer a major setback in 2011 when the hope of a second tenure for Imo North through ex-governor Ikedi Ohakim was dashed and power was returned to the Imo West through the incumbent Governor – Rochas Okorocha who will be completing his second term in office next year. However, the Owerri senatorial zone has shown their determination to legally ensure that the 2019 governorship slot does not elude them, come 2019. But that prospect seems difficult at the moment.
As it stands, the incumbent governor is bent on producing a successor from Orlu zone in the person of his son In-law, Hon. Uche Nwosu. This scenarios has raised the tempo of the inter zonal politics within the state. But the Owerri zone does not seem deterred. This position was taken at the formal launch of ‘Imo Equity Movement’ held at the country home of Dr. Uzoma Obiyo Ugirike, in the Ikeduru Local Government Area (LGA) of the state recently. He emphasised that; “Imo Governor 2019 for equity and Justice (Ofo na Ogu), noted that since the creation of Imo State in 1976, Owerri zone only occupied the Douglas House” one year and ten months; Okigwe zone, eight years and three months and Orlu zone sixteen years, through Chief Achike Udenwa and the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha.
“The obvious disparity and inequality in the power shifts therefore births the need for an Owerri son to arise and break the trend by producing the next Governor for Imo State come 2019. “As firm believers in democratic ideals and the plurality of views, the importance of zone cannot be overemphasized as it not only ensures equitable transfer of power but equal political participation leaving no room for disenfranchisement” he noted. Obiyo maintained that the nexus of election in the State is keeping faith with sacred agreement reached by leaders that power shall rotate among the three zones of Olru, Okgiwe and Owerri. “We, Ndi Owerri will be consistent, persevere and persist in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities in 2019 because it is these that in all things distinguishes the strong from the weak. Ndi Owerri Umu Nnemu, Unuekwe-kwala,” he stated. Speaking to journalists earlier, Obiyo boasted that his zone has people with the capacity and everything it takes to assume the position of governor of Imo State, adding that Orlu and Okigwe people are not greater than them.
He explained that Owerri zone must rise today while orlu and Okigwe zones must go behind, stressing that people from other zones can no longer buy them again. In his comments, one of the facilitators, Barr. Kingsley Ononugu commended Governor Rochas Okorocha for working very well with one of their sons and leader, Prince Eze Madumere, the Deputy Governor of Imo State. He however added that it is only proper for Okorocha to hand over to an Owerri person in 2019 and having described Prince Madumere as his son in whom he is well pleased, he should look no further but to hand over to him. Ononuju stressed that Imo Equity Movement is a body that will not disappoint the people of the zone just as he called on other groups to join their struggle.
On the other hand, a socio-cultural group known as Okigwe for Okigwe 2019 has emerged. The aims and objectives of the campaign group LEADERSHIP learned is to agitate for the completion of Okigwe tenure in the Douglas House Owerri as a Governor of the State in 2019, to support any political party which gives its governorship mandate to an Okigwe son for the remaining one tenure. For this group, their political leaning is without bias to party but for a candidate from their zone. The group made up of mainly middle aged people in their large number met at the Town primary school Umuelemai in Isiala Mbano local government area during which they carried placards like “Okigwe mandate 2019” a chance for Okigwe zone to complete their one term, No Okigwe zone equals No Owerri zone, “He who comes to Equity must come with clean hands”.
The gathering of the group was a fanfare, as they enjoyed large following from commercial motorcycle riders, popularly called ‘Okada riders’. Market women matched throughout the Umuelemai roads shortly after their inaugural meeting, chanting slogans like “Okigwe for Okigwe-“2019”- Okigwe zone”. Speaking to Journalists, the chairman of the forum, Barr. Ralp Nwanebu, a Human Rights Activist and the immediate past Chairman of the LGA, said the forum’s aim is to claim what is due for the people of Okigwe zone.
He contended that until Okigwe zone is allowed to complete their remaining one tenure in the Douglas House, the agitation would continue, stressing that “Owerri zone must wait and support Okigwe zone to complete their one term before they could talk of equity”. He added that “Owerri zone cannot talk about equity now because they rejected the offer in 2011 as declared by the Governor Ohakim in his campaign for 2nd term, when they would have allowed an Okigwe son to complete the tenure and handover to them in 2015. “But rather than taking the offer, some big leaders in Owerri zone openly rejected it and said that they don’t want Government House, they negotiated their right for Deputy Governor, resuscitation of the Owerri town water scheme, political appointments and money, thereby supporting Governor Okorocha to get power, it is not possible for them to talk about equity now. “While highlighting that there is nothing equitable and fairness about their call for equity because they sold their right again in 2015 when PDP gave their son, former deputy speaker, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the party ticket and they could not even vote for their son. In our opinion, their call for equity provides that he would come to equity must come with clean hands. “We are calling on all the leaders from Okigwe zone to rise up to the challenge and defend what is due for Ndi Okigwe.
Okigwe had many leaders who had what it takes to get the ticket and we are going to support them irrespective of their political parties. “We have leaders with full capacities like His Excellency, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Senator, Athan Nneji Achonu, Hon. Emeka Nwajuba, Prof. Maurice Iwu, Sen. Ben Uwajumogu, Rt. Hon. Acho Ihim, Hon. Chike Okafor, Hon. Patrick Ndubueze, Prof. Nnamdi Obiaraeri, Engr. Ebere Udeagu, and Chief Tony Chukwu. According to him, we believe that a combined workforce will take Ndi Okigwe back to the Douglas House come _2019. “We are only demanding for the completion of the remaining four years that was denied from Ndi Okigwe by the Owerri Zone in 2011 and if that issue is addressed, that is when you will say that justice has been done. “We are demanding four years only and in this regard, Owerri Zone is at liberty to enter into agreement with any of their sons of Okigwe of their choice who will stay for just one term of four years. There is nothing wrong with that and “we will not renege on it;’ but for the benefit of doubt, by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, Chief Dr. Ikedi Ohakim is the only person that can stay for one term, therefore it is better for Ndi Owerri to go for him for certainty of one term,” he said.
Commenting in respect of Okigwe stakeholders who have joined forces with Owerri Zone, for the 2019, Nwanebu explained, “I want to tell you clearly that there is no right thinking son of Okigwe who will do that as at now because charity they say begins at home. This is a call for all Ndi Okigwe to rise up and possess their possession because a house that is divided against itself will fall. “Some people will say this is politics and therefore you have right or freedom of choice but I want to tell you dear, when you go and exchange Okigwe’s chance of producing governor for a party Chairman or other political appointments, by tomorrow it will be too late to cry, just the way the Owerri Zone are crying now.” As the drum continues to beat for across the state for adherence to the gentleman’s agreement, the zones will continue to debate and struggle to get an edge ahead of the election. Still, the die is cast as the incumbent governor is bent on producing a successor from Orlu zone in the person of his son in law, Hon Uche Nwosu. Yet, electorates in the state will largely decide the outcome of the polls in 2019