By Henry Ekpe
June 23, 2022 is a day the inhabitants of Oguta, in Oguta Local Government Area, Imo State will not forget in a hurry. It was the day the immediate past Deputy Governor of Imo State, Hon Gerald Irona buried his mother.
The quiet riverine area of Oguta was stirred awake from her quietness and shaken to its very foundation as dignitaries, especially of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP extraction, stormed the Town that produced the Business Mogul cum politician, Senator Arthur Nzeribe (Oshiji and Damanze of Oguta).
Leading the men and women of status and means to the eventful burial ceremony was Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha, a former Governor of Imo State.
The journey to Oguta commenced from Owerri, at about 9.30am, as Ihedioha resisted riding in his official Jeep, but elected to join his lieutenants and party chieftains in a Coaster Bus.
It afforded Ihedioha and his allies to exchange gists in a convivial and no-hold barred situation, as the Civilian Coaster Bus was turned to a church, as well as a political Board room, spiced with latest happenings from the social, political, religious to even farming, across the Globe.
The journey was so smooth until we got to Awomama, Oru East where suddenly a gully on the road as deep as “ Ojukwu Bunker” forced the convoy to a halt.
However, one young man used his feet in the water logged road to indentify the shallow areas and led the convoy to safety. But at a price.
Then the long convoy snaked into Oguta, and headed to the Old country home of the Ironas where the remains of late Ogbuefi Nwayiafor Mary Irona (Nee Uneanya) 96, laid in a gleaming white casket, waiting for the final prayers before interment.
The Ironas all wore White, with the former Deputy Governor, Gerald, covering his steamy eyes with a Black sun glasses.
The Ihedioha entourage arrived at the proper time and took over the place reserved for them.
In a short speech, Ihedioha eulogized the late Mama Irona and recognized her industry, which led her remain steadfast even after the husband died, to produce for Imo State, a Deputy Governor, in Gerald Irona.
The former Governor gave a hint why he chose Gerald to be his Deputy. He called Gerald “A man I trust”.
Ihedioha remembered how dutiful and trusted Gerald had been to him right from the time they were in the National Assembly.
After Mama Irona was lowered to her grave, the Train moved to the former Deputy Governor’s own residence, where he treated his visitors to A-class Reception.
The venue was a political carnival with over four musical Bands on stand; spilling out “Old Schools” and other genres, Traditional Dancers were not left out, including choral Groups from different churches.
It was a burial that befitted a mother of a former Deputy Governor. Mama Irona deserved and worked for it. She lived up to 96 years. It is not easy and therefore called for celebration. 96 years? It is not 96 months o!
There was enough to eat and drink. Even take-away. The Event was boisterous, with politicians of different camps in attendance. But as expected, members of the PDP family was in their thousands.
And Oguta knew PDP was in town.
Before heading to Gerald Irona’s House, Ihedioha directed the convoy to the palatial compound of Late Senator Arthur Nzeribe, where he met the wife in a Solmn reception, and may be spiritually also to let the late Lion of Oguta know that he was in town.
At Gerald Irona’s abode, the situation changed, as a large mob of corwd could not let Ihedioha enter, until he touched them. It was hectic for the security operatives guarding the former Governor. I pitied them. But they work for their pay.
Minutes after, as Ihedioha stormed inside the venue of the reception, it became another tough day for the security Details.
Every brand of Drinks were presented. Foods were served as you requested. But a particular dish caught my interest.
It was served in a pot, with large size fresh fish, dry fish, periwinkles orishirishi and pounded yam inside the pot. The type which they dish out “Ishiewu”. I nicknamed it “Oguta Special”.
I dealt with one sharp sharp and relayed my experience to Nze Charles Onwulani who sat with men, and he ordered one immediately.
Mekam Mgbewelu , Stanley Ekezie, Nze Henry Chukwuezi and Alex Emeziem demolished theirs with gusto. And we all agreed it was real “Oguta Special”. Gerald Irona was hovering everywhere asking “Nwanne, I hope you are fine?”.
Mrs Nkiru Ibekwe, Winny Olaedo and Vivian Emesaraonye Dimgba all made sure that the teeming PDP Community presents were well treated.
I saw Chief Charles Ugwu, the Imo PDP Chairman, who sat with Ihedioha all through the church service and reception venue sipping his drink and scanning his eyes through the intimidating gathering of PDP stalwarts.
I wondered what was going through his mind. But he saw that Imo PDP is strong and intact, and always rising to the occasion.
Leaving Irona’s home, the convoy headed back to Owerri, where it came from.
One observation, though, was that Jones Onyereri, and Kingsley Uju are on ground in that axis.
Onyereri is running for Orlu Senate and Uju for Oguta/Ohaji/Egbema/Oru East Federal House. From what I saw, Uju has a cult followership in his area. But he still must work harder to sustain that, and even more, before the election.
However, the Ihedioha convoy which stealthily stole into Oguta LGA, could no longer hide as it was returning to Owerri.
After we “escaped” from the Oguta “Mob”, never did we know what awaited us on own way home.
At Awomama junction, the teeming crowd that “way laid” the convoy asked that until Ihedioha addressed them, no movement.
“Ihedioha Come Back” “Ihedioha Come Back”, “Ihedioha Come Back” rented the air.
It was Chief Bony Ebili who managed to ask them “Come Back where?” they chorused “Government House! Government House! Government House!
With “deception” from the Security Operatives, the convoy sped off, but was held up again at that Dangerous spot, where the youth on foot showed us “the way”.
After that, it was Owerri we headed to. But it was at Ukwu Orji, Mbailtoli LGA, where there is Army checkpoint, that Ihedioha met his match.
An Okada man who indentified Ihedioha’s legendary “Green Cap” caused the wahala. Immediately he came close and was sure it was Ihedioha, the trouble began. The crowd swarmed on the Coaster Bus. For over thirty minutes, no movement.
This Group also chorused what their friends in Awomama had asked for.
But here, the cry varied. While some chanted “Ihedioha come back” some said “Ihedioha we know” others asked “Ihedioha when are you coming back, we are waiting for you”.
Having managed to escape this “Mob”. It was at Assumpta Cathedral that the situation could no longer be controlled. Even after Ihedioha disembarked and begged them, saying that church was not ground for such chants.
But it was as if the former Governor spoke to deafs. They kept on yelling and chanting.
At Assumpta Church , Ihedioha eulogized Archbishop AJV Obinna and prayed for his successor Bishop Lucius Ugorji.
Those present in Oguta include the Imo State PDP Working Committee, led by Engr Charles Ugwu, Chief Martin Ejiogu (Dep Chairman) Nze Ray Emeana (Sec) Chief Josiah (Fin Sec), Meregini (Public Sec), Chief Mrs Maria Mbakwem, Greg Nwadike (Youth Leader), and Auditor.
Others are Chief Chuma Nnaji (Omeokachie), Hon Uche Onyeagochaa, Chief Dr Vin Udokwu (Anaa Efobi) Chief Boni Ebili (Odokara Ome) Hon Rufus Omire, Hon Dr Alex Emeziem, Mrs Nkiru Ibekwe, Sir Stanley Ekezie, Nze Charles Onwunali, Rt Hon Onyekanma, Prof Obioma Iheduru, Prof Jude Njoku, Nze Henry Chukwuezi, Engr Ben Ekwueme (Ochendo), Mekam Mgbewelu, Hon Thankgod Ezeani.
Others are Hon Kingsley Uju, Hon OZB, Arch Okolie, Jones Onyereri, Hon Prince Obinna Okwara.
Present include; Bar Golden Nwosu, Chief Bony Unachukwu, Chief Mrs Maria, Chief Chime Nzeribe, and others too numerous to mention.
As the long convoy stopped at Ihedioha’s residence in Owerri, everybody disembarked and headed for their vehicles and home.
I approached Ihedioha “Your Excellency, you heard what those people were shouting asking about and even demanding it. What is your reply to them?”
“Henry, go and figure that out yourself? He just replied me.
I then remembered the title of one of James Hardley Chase Books I read “Figure it out yourself”.