On March 9, 2019, Imo electorate will troop out in their numbers to elect a new Governor to replace the out-going Owelle Rochas Okorocha.
And on May 29, 2019, Imo will swear-in the 6th civilian Governor of the State after His Excellencies, Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe, Senator Evan Enwerem, Chief Achike Udenwa, Dr Ikedi Ohakim and Chief Rochas Okorocha.
Among these five, two are from Orlu zone, another two from Okigwe zone and one from Owerri Area.
From Okigwe zone are Mbakwe and Ohakim, who between them have ruled Imo State for Eight years of one term each.
From Orlu are Udenwa and Okorocha for sixteen years, shared between both men, with two terms each.
Then Owerri has Enwerem, who was in office for Eighteen months, not up to a term. However, since the creation of old Imo State, even before Abia and part of Ebonyi States left the State, the Governorship election had always been stiffly contentious.
Like everything in Nigeria, Religion, ethnicity and zone have always played major roles in who becomes Imo State Governor.
By March 9, the legendary issues will rear up their heads again as Imo people elect a new Governor.
However, the major matter now facing Imo State Governorship seat is that of zoning.
In truth and on record, Owerri zone remains the marginalized area in Imo State politics as far as the Governorship seat is concerned. But the mantra now is that power is not given but taken, which has increased tension in the State as the masses turn out with their PVCs for the D-day.
Never before in the history of Imo Governorship election has the issue generated such discussion as presently witnessed in the State.
During the Sam Mbakwe era, it was a straight fight between the National Party of Nigeria NPN, as represented by Chief Nwakanma Okoro/Chief Collins Obi and Mbakwe of Nigeria Peoples Party, NPP.
While Chief Collins Obi hails from Dikenafai in today’s Ideato South LGA, Mbakwe is from Obowo, in today’s Obowo LGA.
NPN, which had Late Alhaji Shehu Shagari as its Presidential candidate was seen as “Northern” party, while NPP with Owelle Nnamdi Azikiwe as Presidential candidate was seen as “Igbo” party.
And the Mbakwe/Obi Imo Governorship battle was fierce as the NPN which was the ruling party at the national level plotted to win NPP and Mbakwe by all means, but the NPN met strong resistance from “Home Boys” who fought back to stop NPN which even had icons like late KOK Mbadiwe from Arondizuogu, Ideato North LGA, in their role call from invading Imo.
But decades after, not much has changed in the battle for power in Imo State, as it concerns the Governorship seat.
However, what has since changed is that both Okigwe and Orlu have all enjoyed the Governorship position to the detriment of Owerri and her people.
Chief Collins Obi will ever be smiling in his grave that a battle he fought without success has since been won by his kit and kins so much so that in 2019, Orlu zone is about making it to the Guiness Book of Records as having ruled Imo State for Twenty years, while a zone like Owerri that produced some of the elites that championed the creation of Imo State, is yet to even Governor Imo State for two years much more one tenure.
The usual old order is playing out again in Imo in 2019 where Orlu and Okigwe zones are not letting go for Owerri to have an easy ride to the seat. Of all the political parties that are jostling to produce a Governor for Imo, the major ones still have their roots in “Hausa” and “Igbo” dictum.
The ruling All Progressive Congress APC has its roots in the North and South West of Nigeria, with the President from the North and the Vice President from the South West.
The major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, although parades a Northerner as its Presidential candidate, but it’s Vice Presidential candidate is an Easterner, which literally endears PDP to the Igbos.
Among other political parties are APGA, ACCORD, AA etc.
However, following the zoning formula in the State, which though is not written down in a document, but a convention, the general feeling is that for peace and equity to reign in the State, Owerri should be considered in the March 9 election, at least to give the zone a sense of belonging among the other three zones.
But from all indications, Owerri zone should brace up for a tough battle in March 9. Although Orlu and Okigwe Elders have agreed that Owerri be given the seat, but it is not a walk in the garden. The zone must not only work for it, but fight and defend it.
Ironically, the only prominent political party that seems to agree with the zoning formula in Imo Governorship tussle is the PDP, which has an Owerri man as its Governorship candidate, while others parade Okigwe and Orlu candidates.
Following the recent results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, it easy to decipher that Imo electorate have resolved to solve this contentious issue of zoning by lining behind Owerri Governorship candidate on the election day.
In Imo State, PDP was said to have cleared the polls, in all the three zones but could not protect its ballots in Okigwe and Orlu zones where “Gun Boat” democracy was applied to wrestle power from PDP.
The Orlu and Okigwe “Gun Boat” formula is an indication that the March 9 election will be do or die for the contestants who are not strangers to the game, and are bent on taking the diadem, no matter what it takes.
Senator Ifeanyi Araraume of APGA is not a push-over and cannot be intimidated by thugery. He comes from Okigwe zone.
Senator Hope Uzodinma of APC is as bold as they come and can afford what his rivals unleash. He hails from Olru zone.
Okorocha, who is fronting for his son inlaw, and candidate of AA, Chief Uche Nwsou, is a “tough” politician Nwosu is from Orlu zone.
Hon Emeka Ihedioha of PDP has the machinery to face any brigandage posed at him by invaders. He is from Owerri.
With this type of scenario, the “equation” is balanced as any act from the other to undermine the other would be marched with equal reprisal.
Therefore, there is ominous sign that Imo State Governorship election of March 9, 2019 would be dicey and is now left for the security Agencies to play patriotic roles by allowing the electorate cast their votes in an atmosphere of peace, tranquility secured by neutral security personnel.
And for Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Imo masses and still not in good mood over the results of the already conducted pools and want INEC to remain a neutral umpire and not help in pouring fuel in an already raging inferno.
The only option is for all the contenders to by the rules, because anything short of that is an invitation to chaos and mayhem, which will not be interest of Imo State and its citizens, because the State wants a Governor genuinely elected by the electorate.
But with God, Imo will come out unscathed on March 9, 2019 with a Governor- elect.