Imo Charter of Equity: Between Owerri and Okigwe Zones

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By Henry Ekpe

In search of Equity and Justice among the three political Zones that make up Imo State; namely Okigwe, Orlu and Owerri, it is said that a Charter of Equity has been signed for power to rotate among the three.

The Charter of Equity is claimed to have been endorsed in the presence of top Political Elements, Traditional Rulers, even Clergy, from Imo State.

The present Charter of Equity takes off in the coming Imo Governorship election, which on November 11, 2023.

From all indications, those who drafted the present Charter of Equity were said to have agreed in unison that the kick-off will commence with Orlu Zone, by giving the incumbent Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma the chance to go again for a second term.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time Imo State is playing with Charter of Equity for equitable distribution of political positions in the State.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP toyed with the same idea in 1999 when it arrived on Chief Achike Udenwa from Orlu Zone to roll-off the Civilian administration in the State, after the Military left the scene.

At that time, an Owerri Son, Late Bar Humphrey Anumudu won the Governorship primary of PDP, but was asked to step down for an Orlu Man for the sake of accommodation and sense of belonging.

According to the drafters of the then Charter of Equity, after Orlu had gone, it would be the turn of Owerri Zone to succeed Orlu, and then Okigwe Zone in that order.

Unfortunately, that plan could not work out as envisaged by the Elders in PDP and Leaders in the party.

As Udenwa was leaving office, rather than look towards Owerri Zone for his successor as assumed in the beginning, names from Okigwe Zone dominated the choice: Namely Engr Ebere Udeagu, who was his Deputy said to be Udenwa’s choice. But suddenly the name of Hon Ike Ibe cropped up as the preffered candidate from then Governor’s “Kitchen Cabinet”.

Unfortunately, the then powerful Secretary to the State Government, Nze Ignatius Umunna went for Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.

This scenario divided Udenwa’s political family and after the fierce battle that followed, Udenwa’s hand was forced to support Chief Martin Agbaso of APGA, and finally, Dr Ikedi Ohakim of Progressive People’s Alliance PPA.

In order words, apart from the fact that Udenwa could not produce his choice successor, the seat ended up in Okigwe Zone and not in Owerri Zone as agreed in 1999.

Now, haven  assumed office as Governor, the issue became that Ohakim should be supported to complete a second term, so that it would be assumed that the Charter of Equity continued with Okigwe, after which, Ohakim will hand-over to Owerri Zone.

Unfortunately, Ohakim could not get a second term, but lost to Chief Rochas Okorocha of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, from Ogboko in Ideato South LGA, Okigwe Zone.

The argument was that it was Owerri people who massively supported Okorocha, and even gave him the Platform; because the entire structure of APGA then belonged to Chief Martin Agbaso, who hails from Emekuku in Owerri Zone.

Till date, it is held that Chief Agbaso gifted his younger brother, Jude, to Okorocha to succeed him in 2019, and it would be assumed that Owerri Zone has taken her turn with the Younger Agbaso or the senior as Governor.

But that plan could not materialize as Okorocha had other ideas and dumped the younger Agbaso as his Deputy after a few months in office.

Okorocha  later went for Prince Eze Madumere, from Mbieri, Owerri Zone as Agbaso’s replacement and was tipped to succeed his Boss and put to rest the issue of Charter of Equity, as it concerns Owerri people, since  it was clear that from 1999, all the Zones had governed  the State, except Owerri.

Therefore, in the 2019 election, the Owerri Governorship issue gained a lot of sympathy from both Okigwe and Orlu, which contributed to the advantage of the candidate of PDP, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, as the issue became a cry of marginalization against Owerri people.

But to rub salt into injury, Okorocha rather than pick an Owerri person as his successor went for his son inlaw and a native of Nkwerre LGA, in Orlu Zone, Chief Uche Nwosu , to succeed him.

That created a problem in the ruling APC, which led to the emergence of Senator Hope Uzodinma as the Governorship candidate of the party.

Still bent on keeping power in Orlu, Okorocha dusted the moribund Action Alliance, AA, and foisted Nwosu as the candidate of the party.

The election became dicey and tough, since Okorocha had both the political power and financial dept to fight other candidates.

In the end, Owerri Man, Emeke Ihedioha of the PDP won with a tumultuous jubilation across the State.

Many heaved a sigh of relief that in the end, Owerri has at last gotten the chance to lead Imo State like other Zones.

But that joy did not last more than seven months, as the now incumbent Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma from  Oru clan, in Orlu Zone took over through a litigation.

Now, in reality, Orlu Zone has led Imo State through Udenwa, Okorocha and now Uzodinma for twenty years since 1999.

Okigwe did four years between 2007 and 2011 through Chief Ikedi Ohakim. And Owerri was on the Seat for seven months through Emeka Ihedioha.

Now, the proverbial Charter of Equity has resurfaced again and this time the proponents of the current Charter of Equity agreed that Uzodinma (Orlu) should commence the new beginning, with just one term, since he cannot do two terms under the new Charter of Equity because he has only one term by constitution haven done one term already.

However, what is not certain is between Okigwe and Owerri who should take the first shot after Uzodinma had gone in 2027?

Sometimes you hear that it will be  Owerri, the next time you hear it is Okigwe and again, whoever between them that performs well in giving Uzodinma massive votes in November election will be the one.

But from empirically studies available, the major clan spear- heading the Uzodinma reelection based on Charter of Equity, is Owerri Zone.

They have thrown up the story that it can only be achievable under a sitting Governor who will use his power to produce his successor in 2027.

They have also said that with Orlu completing  24 years in Imo Governorship Kingdom in 2027 and Okigwe already done  Four years under Ohakim,  the pendulum should  automatically swing first to Owerri before Okigwe because it has on recorded seven months on the throne.

I have also heard that power is not given but taken, meaning that Owerri should not go to sleep believing that Uzodinma while quitting in 2027 will simply thrust the diadem on their laps.

It means that if Owerri wants power in 2027, it should work for it by giving massive votes to Uzodinma, or should be ready to wrestle with Okigwe for the Seat, since power is not given on a platter.

With this scenario now, has the new Charter of Equity really taken care of the seemingly gray arrears that may stir trouble in 2027? And who can swear that in 2027 all Orlu Politicians will fold their hands on their chests, and watch Okigwe  and Owerri  only vie for Imo Governorship Seat? Therefore, how feasible will this proverbial Charter of Equity be in 2027? I am still thinking.