By Nkama Chioma
The apparent conflicts and inherent contradictions in the clearly misguided document known as Imo Charter of Equity are miserably ill conceived and cannot obviously solve the inequality it was set out to tackle.
Those were the key words of Prof Ukachukwu Awuzie, former ASUU president and erstwhile vice chancellor, Imo State University, IMSU, who appropriately insisted that the three geo political zones of Okigwe, Orlu and Owerri must benefit from such a charter.
In a press conference in Owerri, Imo State capital, Awuzie insisted that the Imo Charter of Equity as put together by the Imo Council of Elders and sponsored by the Imo State Government of Governor Hope Uzodinma was an effort in futility.
According to him, “The present Charter of Equity cannot be described as a nascent concept to the Imo people as it is not new. Therefore, adducing reasons for the failure of the first attempt at equitable governance among the aforementioned geo political zones in the state should have conducted prior to the second attempt at developing a similar charter”.
Awuzie was actually pointing out that the charter was not really new in the state. He noted that what is today known as Imo Charter of Equity is an idea hurriedly patched together just for the purposes of benefiting the political patrons and goons who hatched the plot for their selfish and vested interests, as it were.
Remarkably, Awuzie revealed that the intricases and bulges that characteristically brought about the current Charter of Equity were inexorably shrouded in innuendos, hyperboles, and at best, distorted facts, carefully orchestrated to suit the current state actors who prepared and adopted it.
The former ASUU president therefore said it is roundly nauseating that Imo State, with all its avalanche of intelligentsia and hordes of political heavyweights would be in an enclave where a particular zone had ruled for 20 years out of a possible 24 years and still want the other two zones to look aghast till 2027.
He queried that if a charter of equity is stipulated to solve the imbalance in the political equilibrium of the state, the straightforward thing to have done, would have been to, through negotiations and dialogues, shift the November 11, 2023 election to be for Owerri and Okigwe’s matter, as the case may be.
The erstwhile IMSU vice chancellor saw it as horrendous act that in a state with three distinct geo political zones, the Orlu has chosen to dictate, distribute and allocate how power would be rotated. And had Orlu as a zone been very pragmatic rather than been pariah bend about it, whereupon it shares the spoils equitably among the Imo zonal trinity of Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe zones – there would not have been any issue.
However, the worry, according to Awuzie, is, the compilers of the Imo Charter of Equity in circulation are just less than one per cent compared to the rainbow interests in Imo. For instance, the only visible group in the drafting of the present Imo Charter of Equity is the Imo Council of Elders and by extension the Council of Traditional Rulers. Put together, these two groups are not up to one percent of Imo population.
He thus provoked the question; the question is, were Imo masses carried along in the draft of the document called Imo Charter of Equity? Were the traders, women and youth groups consulted? What of professional bodies like NUJ, NUT, NBA, NAMDA, COREN, etc, were they put into consideration? What of student unions such as National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS and National Association Of Imo University Students, NAIUS, were they contacted?
What can be deduced from the foregoing is, the framers of the document just carried out their duties as directed by Governor Hope Uzodinma who wanted a second tenure at all costs. As it is, what it is that the Imo Charter of Equity is a product of political exigency of a serving governor who appropriately exploited a precarious situation to his full advantage.
The charter is never a bye – product of sincere political discourse, interjections, introgations, and questions as well as answers provided. Was there any town hall meeting of any kind? Did anybody submit any paper on anybody’s thoughts based on political culture, political history, political evolution, political economy and socio political nuances of Imo? Thus, the document is an outright APC mirror on how it can systematically sustain its stronghold in Imo polity.
The producers of the charter says it will take effect from 2027 when the serving APC governor would have exited office and handover to an Owerri zone APC candidate in 2027. Of course, this is just a hypothesis not even a theory because it has not been accepted by the majority.
What if the Owerri to be governor fails to secure a second tenure and is defeated by an Owerri PDP, APGA or LP candidate who then rules for eight years? Meaning, Owerri would have reigned for 12 years?
As a way forward, Awuzie stipulated that for the charter to achieve its purpose, it must be fashioned out in such a way that it should point out how it will rotate power in all the zones, LGAs, wards, federal and state constituencies and even includes how government distributes infrastructure within the zones. And as a matter of fact, more work needs to be done to strengthen it, particularly in terms of contents, implementation and enforcement facets.