By kelechi Mejuobi
I had intentions to rest this matter for now until time for fresh hostilities concerning who occupies Douglas House, Owerri, the seat of power for Imo State begin.
The issue of Owerri zone person occupying the office of the governor has became a recurring decimal, each election year in the state. It has become fashionable for people from the zone, comprising Owerri Municipal, Owerri North, Owerri West Ngor Okpala, Aboh Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ezinihitte Mbaise, Mbaitoli and Ikeduru LGAs, to always clamour for the position.
Interestingly, their agitation has always been premised on the fact that since the creation of the state, Owerri zone person has not had a fair chance of becoming the governor for more than two years.
Come to think of it, the first governor of old Imo State, late Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe from Obowo, in Okigwe zone ruled 1979 to 1982 and also was on a second missionary journey from 1982 to 1984, before the military struck with a coup d’ etat that disrupted the democratic process.
When Ibrahim Babaginda, a top army officer who was a military President came up with a democratic process in the early 90’s, an Owerri zone man, Evan Enwerem got the opportunity for a year plus reign before another military junta ended his rule.
The nascent democracy in 1999 saw Orlu zone come on the throne through Achike Udenwa. In 2003, Udenwa succeeded in getting a second term bid to chalk another four years making it eight years.
Udenwa was followed by Ikedi Ohakim who had only four years before his successor from Orlu zone, Rochas Okorocha garnered another eight years.
Okorocha’s exit in 2019 opened what would have been an opportunity for Owerri zone to end their tears through Emeka Ihedioha before Supreme Court sack returned the mantle to Orlu zone. Seven months after tasting the power, Hope Uzodinma of Orlu zone took over.
Going through some of the Owerri based newspapers during the week, a notable politician and Senator who represented the Owerri zone (2015-2019), Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu was spot on in the news when he suggested the need for people of honour and conscience to come together to support Owerri zone in order to sustain the zoning arrangement in the state.
Anyanwu, fondly called Samdaddy, similar to what other pro Owerri zone for governor apologists had canvassed, regretted that since the creation of Imo State, no person from the zone had governed it beyond 24 months. His annoyance, according to the report was that those maltreating Owerri zone are the same people clamouring and crying for the inclusion of the South East in the sharing of federal appointments.
According to him, “while the Igbo are agitating against marginalization by the Nigerian government, Imo people should in like manner recall the injustice meted out at Owerri zone and ensure that equity and fairness are seen to be done in future”.
I neither have issues against SamDaddy’s position on Imo governorship and need to consider Owerri zone for governor, nor his morality to ask for such. However, it is pertinent to note that clamouring for the post appears to have become not just the national anthem of a section of Owerri zone politicians, but their past time rhetoric anytime election year is approaching.
I stand to be corrected on this. But must be bold to state that such calls are not only hallow but also comes from narrow-minded politicians who have always employed the message to hoodwink the people.
There is no gainsaying the fact that key players in the quest for the Owerri for Governor have been more of political “Job men” who it is not in doubt, raise such clamour to seek political attention.
Verifiable indices indicate that in each transition year, the major players in the political sector from the zone rock the boat that sinks their expectation to produce a governor.
As a living witness to political developments in the state and who also observed five elections in the past, 2011 would have become a turning point for the zone.
Ohakim was on course for a second term in office in 2011 which would have automatically seen an Owerri person become governor in 2015 if he had won: Ohakim is from Isiala Mbano in Okigwe zone.
In the course of the politicking and electoral process that characterized the exercise, the lot to govern the state favoured an Orlu zone man, Rochas Okorocha. Okorocha was not alone in the venture. He couldn’t have succeeded without the inputs of Owerri zone politicians who strongly supported his ambition. Anyone that followed events which preceded Okorocha’s emergence would know he had the support of a handful of Owerri zone leaders and electorates. Suffice it to state that his Deputy was from the zone too.
I have had chances to interact with few eggheads from Owerri zone who were instrumental to Okorocha’s coming in 2011. According to one who showcased enormous regret after the uneventful political romance with the former governor of the state and Senator Representing Orlu zone, there was an “agreement” between Okorocha and a select leaders of the Senatorial district to allow the former governor stop Ohakim from second tenure after which he would hand over to an Owerri zone person on completion of one tenure. How well the so called “agreement” worked is better told another day.
Before 2015 election, I was chanced to be among the few privileged journalists invited to witness a press briefing organized by one of the powerful Owerri zone socio political organization, (names withheld). The host of the meeting who is not proper to name here during the briefing confirmed how they collectively agreed to back Okorocha in 2011 based on the said agreement to hand over power to Owerri zone person after one tenure. The man who was Okorocha’s ally before the 2015 election swore to disengage from his APC to canvass for an Owerri zone candidate in any other party if Okorocha declares intention to continue in office. But when the chips were down in the heat of that year’s election, the politician, who is from Owerri North LGA, was actually at the battlefront again to give the Ogboko, Ideato South born politician a second term mandate.
The above scenario informs my recall of another account which indicates that those crusading the “Owerri for Governor mantra are “political jobbers” apparently playing politics of the stomach. Before the same 2015 election, another notable political figure (names withheld) raised one of the formidable social political platforms championing the Owerri zone for Governor interest. His Civic Centre private home in Concorde area of Owerri vibrated with beehive of activities with agitators for the zone miling around for the way forward , without knowing that the group that had built support base was for negotiation purpose with interested bidders from other zones gunning for the next election. The group which commenced membership drive in 2012 waxed stronger but collapsed prior to the 2015 election. Yours truly didn’t know what transpired but stories had it that the said leader became a new convert for the Orlu zone mandate to continue in governor’s office as he openly backed Okorocha for fresh tenure. Even when Okorocha was about to finish his eight years in office, the one time Owerri zone for governor crusader became a Chief Campaigner in the intent for an Orlu man to continue again in 2019.
Those close to him revealed that the political warlord considered personal gains above the zonal interest he championed earlier.
Verifiable facts further show that most of the proponents of the Owerri zone for Governor are “political merchants and gamblers” using such clamour to gain political relevance. Most of those who sold the Owerri for Governor dummy in the past have worked and still working for governors of the state from other zones. Space here won’t allow me elaborate in this.
It is trite to state that despite their stand on the issue, they easily regurgitate when carrots are dangled before them to become turncoats and accept appointments from governor’s of Orlu and Okigwe zones. In the days ahead, it is obvious that this manner of attention seekers will flood the political space for recognition ahead 2023 elections.
By kelechi Mejuobi