Imo State has three geo-political zones, which made the state to stand on a tripod. The zones are; Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe zones. Following the purported charter of Equity signed by the elders of the state, the governorship of the state was made to rotate among the three zones.
In 1999, when this 4th Republic kicked off, Orlu zone produced the governor of the state on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the person of Chief Achike Udenwa, even though, it was an open secret that the governorship primaries of the party was won by an aspirant from Owerri zone, Chief Humphrey Anumudu.
Chief Anumudu was compelled by the leaders of PDP to relinquish his candidature to Chief Udenwa from Orlu zone, in loyalty to the party. The rival party then, the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) fielded a candidate from Orlu zone as well, in the person of Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu, a composition that might have lent credence that a charter of Equity must have been in existence.
Chief Udenwa of the PDP won the 1999 governorship election and enjoyed his maximum constitutionally allowed two tenures. Without sounding immodest, Orlu zone succeeded by the magnanimity of Owerri and Okigwe zones that had political advantage over Orlu zone and did not use it to their advantage, not that they did not like political power, but they believed in fairness, equity and justice.
In 2007, due to internal crisis within the PDP in Imo State, it was not able to produce a clear-cut governorship candidate during the primaries and the aspirant who got the party’s governorship ticket through the court, Sen. Ifeanyi Araraume was abandoned by the party. The PDP adopted and delivered the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) Chief Martin Agbaso, but the election was cancelled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Prof. Maurice Iwu of Ehime Mbano in Okigwe zone. A governorship re-election was scheduled and conducted, Chief Ikedi Ohakim of the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) was declared winner. Ohakim was from Isiala Mbano, also in Okigwe zone.
In 2011, Ohakim was set to complete his constitutionally allowed period of two tenures. In that election, Chief Ikedi Ohakim was the candidate of PDP, while Senator Ifeanyi Araraume was the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Owelle Rochas Okorocha was of (APGA). Election of that year was a contest between the incumbent, Chief Ikedi Ohakim and APGA candidate, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Due to ill-feeling against Ohakim’s administration by majority of Imo Citizens, battle of political supremacy between Ohakim and his brother, Araraume and the role played by Owerri Federal constituency in that election, as well as influence from different quarters, the purported charter of Equality was thwarted and destroyed, following the emergence of Owelle Rochas Okorocha from Ideato-South in Orlu zone.
Apart from other factors that contributed to the emergence of Okorocha as the governor of Imo State against the tenets of the purported charter of Equity, Owerri, Federal Constituency, which spearheaded the election of Okorocha has to take the greater chunk of the blame.
Owerri zone leaders, who had one issue or the other to settle with Chief Ikedi Ohakim allowed their emotions to take the greater part of their being, despite pleadings from well meaning elders of the zone, who would sit down and see what the young could not see even while standing up pleaded with them to ignore whatever ”atrocities” Ohakim might have committed and re-elect him, so that Owerri zone would have brighter chance in 2015. What Okigwe zone needed in 2011 was block vote from Owerri zone for Ohakim to be re-elected. Owerri federal constituency displayed political foolishness of all times by voting for a candidate who is constitutionally allowed another tenure in 2015 on the promise that he would not present himself for re-election in 2015 as he promised.
The implication of the voting pattern of Owerri Federal Constituency was that, Owerri zone and Okigwe zone are now irreconcilable political foes as long as the politics of Imo State is concerned, as it is believed among them that Owerri zone was instrumental to their failure to complete their constitutionally allowed two tenures through Ohakim and would never, under normal political circumstances support any governorship candidate from Owerri zone.
Immediately after the 2011 general election, Owerri zone left no one in doubt that 2015 governorship seat of the state is sacrosanct to them. Many political pressure groups sprang up to champion the course of Imo State governor of Owerri zone extraction. Prominent among such groups are; Owerri Zone Political Leaders Forum, (OZOPOLF), Owerri Peoples Front (OPF) among others. These groups used whatever means and medium available to them to sensitize the people of Owerri zone on the need to have an Owerri zone man or woman to occupy Government House Owerri. They did not restrict their sensitization to Owerri zone; they reached out to the leaders and people of Orlu and Okigwe zones to support the governorship aspiration of Owerri zone in 2015.
From the onset of the campaign for governor of Imo State from Owerri zone in 2015, the political pressure groups made it known that they do not have any preferred candidate. They made it clear that their candidate would emerge after the various political parties concluded their governorship primaries and advised parties that want to have their support to give their governorship ticket to aspirants from Owerri zone. After the governorship primaries of the parties, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha emerged for PDP, Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho for APGA, Chief Ken Ojiri for Accord party and Dr. Osmond Ukanacho for United Progressive Party, (UPP) all from Owerri zone and the incumbent, Owelle Rochas Okorocha for All Progressive Congress (APC) from Orlu zone.
The outcome of the governorship primaries exposed the under garment of these political pressure groups, especially, OZOPOLF. It showed that they already had adopted a governorship candidate and when that aspirant did not emerge candidate, they lost their voice and went underground.
On the 11th April, 2015, the mother of all political betrayals took place in the state. I call it mother of all political betrayalsbecause, in 2011, it was a betrayal of a people by another people, that is, Owerri zone betrayed Okigwe zone, but in 2015, it was betrayal of a people by themselves, Owerri zone betrayed Owerri zone on that day, OZOPOLF under the leadership of Prince Charles Amadi as its National Leader and Barr. Kingsley Ononuju as its National Secretary shocked the world when they declared that Owerri zone governorship project in 2015 was no longer worth pursuing and like the proverbial dog that went back to its vomit, Owelle Rocha Okorocha, who before then was seen as an “ugly duckling” became a “beautiful Swan”and was courted.
It was not only OZOPOLF, as a group that betrayed the collective interest of Owerri zone, some individuals likes, Jerry Chukwueke, Bethel Nzimako, Humphrey Anumudu, C.V Amako, Oyiga Achonwa Njemanze, and others, mainly from Owerri Federal Constituency and Mbaike bloc of Owerri zone switched their support to Owelle Rochas Okorocha. The actions of these politicians who are jostling to take over from the elders whom most of them despise are not even more patriotic than the elders. They proved that in their politicking, they are after selfish and immediate gains at the expense of the general wellbeing of the people. With the happenings of 2015, Owerri zone cannot move forward with these calibers of politicians it paraded. The zone needs a crop of new politicians that are purposeful, focused, selfless to the core and not the “food is ready” kind of politicians who deceived and betrayed themselves.
The voting pattern of Owerri federal Constituency and Mbaike bloc of Owerri zone as to the governorship election result declared showed that the two blocs voted for Owelle Rochas Okorocha from Orlu zone against their own “blood” brother, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha from Mbaise bloc of Owerri zone.
The implication of what Owerri federal Constituency and Mbaike did was that they have succeeded in severing and ”amputating” the bond of unity, cordiality, co-operation and reciprocity that existed between them and Mbaise bloc. The action of Owerri Federal Constituency and Mbaise bloc against Mbaise bloc could be likened to a stab on the palm of the hand, which pain would always be felt; and what is always felt can hardly be forgiven or forgotten. Mbaise nation will always feel that when they came so close to having their long cherished dream of governing Imo State was realized; their kith and kin from Owerri federal Constituency and Mbaike aborted that dream.
It would be living in a fool’s paradise for Owerri federal constituency and Mbaike bloc to think that Mbaise bloc would support any of their own in future in the governorship race of the State. This is a dangerous scenario that would always deny Owerri zone governorship of the state as the battle will not be between Owerri zone and other zones, but Owerri zone against itself. With the role of Owerri Federal Constituency in 2011 against Okigwe zone and her role as well as that of Mbaike against Mbaise bloc in 2015, it would require more than political realignment, consultation, treaty and handshake across the other zones for Owerri zone to produce Imo governor in 2019 because of their act of betrayal against Okigwe zone and against themselves.
MR. ODOR is a member of Okigwe Unity Forum.