By Henry Ekpe
The incumbent Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma has barely spent four months in office, and many would be wondering if it is necessary now to begin to talk about the next election which comes as far as 2024.
Well, for political Thinkers and Strategists, every election commences the day the other ended.
Therefore it is quite acceptable to begin to discuss about what will be the shape of Imo politics in the next four years.
This brings me to the topic of today which revolves around how Owerri Zone, that was deemed enlightened and primed to lead Imo development has suddenly taken the back seat and now the hewers woods and fetchers of water for the other two political zones that make up Imo State namely; Orlu and Okigwe Zones.
As far as Imo politics is concerned, today Owerri Zone is boarding last in terms of Leadership of the State.
Owerri which was at the front burner by 1976 when the old Imo State was created has lost its steam, focus and concentration in the Leadership cadre of Imo State and now prefers to play second fiddle, and feels at home playing the role of a mediocre, when it has all it takes to be at the top position.
Owerri’s case is becoming so pathetic that some of its sons and daughters would not mind called ethnic nepotists because sometimes it is usually good to call a Spade by its name.
Today after old Imo State was created, Owerri zone remains the only zone among Okigwe and Orlu that speaks in cacophony of voices when it comes to issue of Leadership while others speak with one voice.
Owerri, a well educated people have turned to fishing ground for up-coming Leaders and political neophytes who delight in making a jest with Owerri people by enticing them with carrots and bets that question their intelligence.
Has Owerri realized that their present Leaders have failed the coming generation? A new generation that may be compelled to be subservient to other zones, as they will see it as a norm just because their forefathers were gullible, and misled them.
In Imo State, while Owerri was busy looking at Orlu and Okigwe as their “inferior” brothers and therefore with compassion, sympathy, and empathy felt that it was fair to bring them up to equilibrium, now what is the situation?
In 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP wanted equity and justice to prevail in Imo and reasoned that since Dr Sam Mbakwe from Obowo in Okigwe zone had governed Imo State before, and Senator Enwerem from Atta in Ikeduru LGA of Owerri zone had done same, it would be fair to allow Orlu zone to take their own shot at Imo Governorship.
This was how Chief Achike Udenwa from Amaifike in Orlu LGA was given the PDP ticket in 1999.
This is despite that fact all the indices favoured Owerri Zone then to grab that opportunity and become Governor.
The PDP State chairman was late Sir ID Nwoga from Ahiazu Mbaise LGA, and Bar Humphrey Anumudu from Mbieri, Mbaitoli LGA was cruising home to victory in the Governorship primary election, but was stopped by his kinsmen for the sake of Imo unity.
Udenwa won the main election and it was agreed that after Udenwa’s tenure, power would rotate to Owerri, which had only thirteen months stint on the seat through Enwerem, than Okigwe who had taken four years through Mbakwe.
But Udenwa became undecided and confused, which led to a political turmoil and logjam that nearly thorn Imo State apart.
In the end, PDP hierarchy went and adopted an All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA candidate in the person of Chief Martin Agbaso. May be because he is from Owerri Zone in Emekuku, Owerri North LGA.
And true to permutations, Agbaso was just some hours to be declared Governor of Imo State when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, led by an Imo Son from Ehime Mbano LGA, Prof Maurice Iwu, struck.
And that was the end of an Owerri Governorship as the preceding political horse tradings produced Dr Ikedi Ohakim from Okohia in Isiala Mbano LGA as Udenwa’s successor.
Having assumed office, the resolve was that since the power has eventually been ceded to Okigwe, the best option was to allow Okigwe finish their eight years tenure and it will automatically be the turn of Owerri Zone.
However, Ohakim could not be allowed to complete his second term, and invariably Okigwe eight year stretch.
From nowhere and beyond all imaginations Owelle Rochas Okorocha, a former top member of PDP went and picked APGA ticket and Chief Agbaso who missed being Governor by the whiskers in 2007, lent Okorocha his younger brother, Jude, to become his Deputy in 2011.
This political strategy caused division among Owerri people, who cast their votes wherever they could, as they neither had a candidate in APGA nor in the ruling PDP as both were the two major political parties in the State then.
In the end Okorocha won the election, and became the first to beat a sitting Governor in Imo , because of sabotage and sale-outs witnessed by Ohakim, followed by the sharing of Okigwe Zone votes in his own domain caused by his brother, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume who ran under ACN ticket.
Okorocha’s emergences caused a lot of confusion, as many murmured if Imo State has done away with the zoning formula which was agreed in principle to share Governorship seat among Okigwe, Owerri and Orlu zones, for equity, justice and peace.
It did not take long before Okorocha jettisoned the Owerri man, his Deputy, Jude Agbaso, for yet another Owerri man, Prince Eze Madumere.
Owerri people were tricked with the belief that Okorocha would handover to them, as it will be the height of injustice to Owerri people should power be shifted to either Orlu or Okigwe again.
The calculation was that when Okorocha will leave office, Orlu would have done a total of Sixteen years (Okorocha8, Udenwa8). Many political realists believed that the matter would be too glaring for any contemplation of leaving Owerri zone for elsewhere.
However, in 2015, an Owerri son, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha of PDP gave Okorocha the political fight of his life. But somewhere in Orlu Zone, Ihedioha, PDP and Owerri zone were sold out when one of the top PDP chieftains handed his LGA results to his brother Okorocha against his party.
Infact, Ihedioha made the impact of 2015 solely for the fact that many liberal Imo citizens believed that the Owerri man has been treated badly in the Imo power Game.
Unfortunately, Owerri has to suffer another betrayal when after supporting Orlu and Okorocha for eight years, the political Fox had the effrontery to look towards Orlu again after the Zone had pocketed Sixteen (16) years, while Okigwe has Eight years of Ohakim and Mbakwe combined. And Owerri has the Eighteen months of Enwerem era.
Therefore, when Ihedioha came again in 2019, a majority of Imo people resolved that for equity and justice, it was most fair to give it to Owerri people.
It was the combination of this and other factors that made it easy for Ihedioha to Truimph in the election, despite all the intrigues displayed by other candidates.
It was also one of the reasons his brief stay in office was generally accepted by nearly all Imo people, coupled with the direction and focus he gave his administration immediately he assumed office.
And honestly, what many Imo people thought was that at last, Imo State has solved the problem of Imo Governorship zoning formula, as it was clear that after Ihedioha/Owerri there will be no other option than Okigwe to take over after which it moves back to Orlu.
Today, there is absolute peace in Enugu and Anambra States, as the people already know which Zone will produce the next Governor.
Former Governor Sulliva Chime had to sacrifice his senatorial ambition to make sure that Nsukka zone produced a Governor.
In Cross-River State, the masses already know which zone is producing the next Governor. The issue now remains who would be the lucky fellow.
Under this arrangement, peace, equity and justice reigns. Greed, selfishness, and nepotism are buried. And it also reduces political tension and violence.
Now in Imo State, we have Senator Hope Uzodinma from Omuma, Oru East as the incumbent. He is from Orlu zone.
By the time he finishes his two term tenure as projected by his followers, Orlu would have governed Imo State for Twenty Four years (24) Okigwe Eight years (8) and Owerri Eighteen Months (13).
Under this scenario, can there be reason to preach to an Owerri man that he has been well accommodated in the Imo State project envisaged by Imo founding fathers?
You may say that all the administrations in Imo State had the Owerri man playing major roles in one appointment of the other. But that is not enough. When will an Owerri Man Govern Imo State?
Is Owerri jinxed? If we shout and disclaim what is happening at the Federal level where one ethnic group is dominating the entire Federation, what of here in our Imo State? Why should we close our eyes to the evil marginalization and injustice being meted out to the Owerri Man?
The present cash and carry Owerri generation may endure and encourage the current barefaced injustice, but the coming generation may not accommodate that.
What is good for the Goose is also good for the gander. Nakwa Ejeki, apology to late Eze Njemanze.