Despite the warning of concerned Mbaise people prior to their annual new yam festival, Iri Ji Mbaise, the ceremony still turned out to be a forum for politicians to throw brickbats at each other.
Chief protagonists in the awry drama that kept reverberating even after the event were the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, who happened to be a son of Mbaise as well as the chairman of the ceremony held at Chioma Ajunwa Stadium, Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area.
As if he had a premonition of what is going to happen, the Chairman of Owerri zone traditional rulers, Eze Chidume Okoro, signed a paid press release before the event which happened on August 15, asking attendants to the ceremony to keep away from political issues and deal with the cultural elements of the event.
This was not to be. Immediately after the event, news of the face-off between the chief executive of the state and the deputy speaker assailed the newspapers and the internet.
Gov. Okorocha accused Hon. Ihedioha of insulting him and the exalted office of the governor, stating that the verbal attacks on him during the ceremony were unwarranted, unprovoked and unnecessary.
Through a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Sam Onwuemeodo, the governor demanded unreserved apology from the rep.
What were the insults? According to Onwuemedo, Hon. Ihedioha “began his verbal attacks against the governor when he was given the Kola for the event to present to the visitors. Instead of performing that innocent traditional assignment, he took on the governor, telling him how he would not return to the Government House in 2015 in a very disrespectful manner as if he is Imo people”
Again, another round of attack came with Hon. Ihedioha “telling the people how all the projects of the Okorocha-led government were inferior.
Then, a reaction from Chibuike Onyeukwu, personal assistant to the Deputy Speaker on media which accused the governor of rather defiling the Mbaise people “by walking out on the people and failing to accompany the ndi-ezeji to the yam barn”.
In the first place, organizers of the event should not have put an aspirant to the governorship position at the helm of affairs, knowing the desperation of an average politician.
The fresh incident at Oru Owerre where the governor was accused of badmouthing women and denigrating them should have taught them a lesson on averting political skirmishes at cultural festivals.
However, was it right for the governor to have taken umbrage at the deputy speaker remarks? If Ihedioha’s statement had been seen as the wailing of a mistreated child craving for its rights in the Imo family, it would have been easy for the head of that family to dowse the tension by promising that child better days ahead. Perhaps, the child was right.
The people of Imo expect their duly elected governor to rise above altercations with politicians, knowing that his status transcends the level of mere aspirants to the father of the state, so to say.
Come to think of it, couldn’t the governor have sent his aides to the event, knowing the implications of archrivals being in the same arena? Like every other aspirant, Ihedioha is not bereft of the desperation of his ilks and cannot but make statements to favour his aspirations. However, the deputy speaker needs to be chastised for flouting the no-politics order of ndieze and drawing the first blood.
Meanwhile, the belligerent attitude of rushing to the media with statements at every occurrence does not do good to the image of the governor. It is rather the governor’s ability to manage what he perceives as ‘insults’ that lifts him up in the estimation of his teeming admirers. He should not be seen as a rabble rouser.
Now, a purely cultural fiesta has been marred by vaulting ambition of political desperadoes.
Above all, 2015 is pregnant. We must tred cautiously as we manage that election year to term so that the result would not be a still birth.
As great sage Ibrahim Waziri would say, we must play politics without bitterness.