By Greg Nwadike
Imo, like every other state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has just three senatorial districts of unequal delimitations namely; Imo West (Orlu Senatorial Zone), Imo East (Owerri Senatorial Zone) and Imo North (Okigwe Senatorial Zone). Orlu Zone has 12 local government areas, Owerri zone has 9 while Okigwe zone has only six 6, bringing the total number of local government areas to 27.
On 9 June 1991, at the Iwuanyanwu Glass House, Ugwuorji, Owerri, elders of the state recommended that for equity, fairness and justice, democratic processes regarding to the office of the executive governor of Imo shall be by rotation.Some notable elders from Owerri zone who appended their signatures to the agreement included Chief Engr. E.C Iwuanyanwu, Chief Evan Enwerem, Dr. J.C Odunna, Barr. B.S.C Nzenwa, Chief Onyenso Nwachukwu, Chief R.O Onyenobi, Chief B.A Nwanne, Prof. Roland Anyanwu, Dr. F.U Ukoha, Barr. R.C Azuatalam, Chief Engr. R.O Ugorji. Dr. A.C Ohashiegbula and Chief (Mrs.) Maria Eke.
Okigwe zone had Chief Sen. Emeka Echeruo, Chief Sir T.I Ozoemena, Dr. E.J.K Onyebuchi, Chief Tony C. Emeruom, Sen. B.C Agunanne, Chief Zeph Philips Nwosu, Chief Frances Anamekwe, Hon. Amaefula Ikoro, Mrs. Pat Ogueri, Prince C. Orike, Chief C.C Iwuala and Sir. O.U Ugochukwu. Those from Orlu zone at that extra-ordinary convention were Chief Dr. B.U Nzeribe, Sen. Alhaji N. Maduagwu, Chief Walter Ofonagoro, Chief Anyaim Acholonu, Chief Greg Mbadiwe, Chief Peter Mgbenewelu, Prince S.O Ukadike, Chief S.B.N Emejuru, Sir Obed Umelo, Chief R.O Ofoma, Nze Laz Ohakwe, Dr. Otuokere Njaka and Chief R.O Okoro.
The Charter of Equity as agreed resolved that power and ascendancy to the position of Imo governor be rotated among the three zones of the new Imo (Abia State was just carved out then), beginning from Owerri zone by “merit”. “Merit” as quoted in the understanding implied that every zone be allowed to serve out its tenure and allow the next to start on “merit” without aspirants or contenders from other zones.
This was the understanding and premise on which the new Imo was built, with the sole aim of reducing heat, pressure and unnecessary crises as are currently the case in Imo during gubernatorial election. The agreement resolved that Owerri be allowed to start while Orlu and Okigwe followed respectively. Owerri actually took its turn till the end of that political era through Chief Evan Enwerem.
Chief Achike Udenwa from Orlu was settled upon and until he served out his tenure in 2007 and handed over to Okigwe in line with the understanding of 1991. This was even when Owerri zone again paraded a number of aspirants to stop him. Udenwa after his eight years in office handed over to Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Okigwe zone. The rest are now history: the many litigations by Owerri, through a son of the zone, Mr. Martins Agbaso, that distracted that administration till almost three years in office.
During the Ikedi Ohakim’s era, political leaders of Owerri zone, including some of their religious leaders and industrialists mobilized fiercely to ensure that Okigwe zone had no peace and would not complete its tenure.The world shouted, Orlu warned and we wrote several epistles reminding Owerri leaders the dangers in breaking the 1991 accord. All fell like water on a rock. Owerri zone politicians insisted that they do not need zoning.
Mr. Agbaso later picked the APGA ticket and curiously surrendered it to Mr. Rochas Okorocha who is from Orlu zone. They re-negotiated power with Okorocha to hand over to them after four years. They mobilized forces and resources through APGA and truncated the zoning arrangement which would have seen the zone preparing for its second term in office this year. There is no doubt that Owerri zone murdered sleep.
Owerri zone has been contesting for the office of the governor against the zoning arrangement since 1999. The crucial question then is: why has the zone failed to produce a governor since then if they have the capacity to so do solely? Why did even the last agreement it had with Okorocha to serve one term and hand over to them in 2015 fail woefully? To stop Okorocha, who is from Orlu, can Owerri zone and its people aspire for the office of the governor, campaign for and among themselves and elect one from among them all alone without a well-crafted alliance with Okigwe zone? Certainly that will be a bizarre political strategy of the 21st century.
Owerri zone currently crying of marginalization shouldn’t be doing so as the zone has benefited more on both federal, ministerial appointments and infrastructural considerations more than Orlu and Okigwe zones put together. In the First Republic, Owerri zone had Raymond Amanze Njoku as the Minister of Transport; Orlu zone had Dr. K.O Mbadiwe (Transport and Aviation) while Okigwe had nothing. In the Second Republic, Owerri zone had Dr. S. U. Ugoh a Minister for (a) Education and (b) Science and Technology. Orlu had Chief Dr. Udogu for Labour and Productivity while Okigwe had nil.
In the Third Republic, Owerri zone had Dr. Laz Unogu as Minister for Science and Technology and Chief I.D. Nwoga in Establishment. Orlu had Dr. Walter Ofonagoro in Information. Orlu also had Dr. Mrs. Bekkey K. Igwe for Women Affairs and later Solid Mineral. Again, Okigwe had nothing.In the Fourth Republic, Owerri zone had Dr. Mrs. Kema Chikwe as Minister for (a) Transport, and (b) Aviation and later an Ambassador in a political career that spanned eight years. Chief Martin Agbaso from the same zone was Special Adviser to the President on Ecology.
Chief Tony Ozurumba was Special Assistant to the President on National Orientation. HE Senator Evan Enwerem was the Senate President while Prof. Fabian Osuji was also a Minister for Education. The zone also produced Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. Owerri zone produced Chinwe Obaji, Chuka Odum, Cpt. Emma Iheanacho and Prof. Viola Onwuliri as ministers. Orlu zone had Dr. Mrs. Catherine Acholonu as a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Culture only while again, Okigwe had nothing.
In terms of military appointments, Owerri zone had produced Col. Tony Onyearugbulem, GP. Capt. Luke Achulor and Commodore E.C Acholonu as Military Governors of Ondo, Delta and Katsina States respectively. Orlu zone had produced Col. Herbert Obi Eze for Anambra State as governor while Okigwe had nothing. Orlu, as the largest zone has 12 LGAs, Owerri has 9 while Okigwe has only 6. This informed the wisdom of our elders to design zoning so that equity will be assured. This is what has been destroyed by Owerri zone in 2011 and it is the consequences that Ndimo are suffering today.
2019 therefore provides an opportunity to make amends and return the state to the path of equity. It will be impossible to have a candidate from Owerri zone becoming governor in 2023 should the zone refuse to return to the arrangement that could allow Okigwe zone to complete its remaining one term and thereafter make room for an orderly and smooth transition of power from Okigwe to Owerri for eight years. This has been tried in other states of the Southeast which today has ensured equity and complete rotation of power among zones in these states.
Imo is the only state yet to complete this cycle as a result of the truncation of the arrangement by Owerri zone. Don’t be deceived. Orlu as usual is intact and watching. Orlu shall not hesitate to endorse any of its two candidates at the last minutes should Owerri zone continue to bully Okigwe over its remaining “merit” one term. That single term can only come from Dr. Ikedi Ohakim who is currently the governorship candidate of Accord Party, as no other contestant from Okigwe can guarantee Ndimo a single term. Owerri zone therefore must sacrifice 2019 to merit 2023.
- Greg Nwadike (GOC) is the Publicity Secretary, Accord Party