By Innocent Ehirim
I was compelled to contribute this material after reading my brother and colleague, Uche Ezechukwu’s back page column in Authority Newspaper of 1st August, 2016 where he lambasted the mainstream Igbo leadership cadre for shunning Aguiyi Ironsi 50th memorial anniversary thus establishing the cluelessness of South East leaders. That gap was anti-thesis to the North which had always used the memorial anniversary of Late Ahmadu Bello to raise Northern consciousness and agenda and the South West leaders which demonstrated solidarity during this year’s memorial anniversary of late Fajuyi who died while showing loyalty and solidarity to Ironsi.
Uche Ezechukwu hit the nail on the head and I totally agreed with him that Igbo leaders should have used Aguiyi Ironsi event to have made strong statement on the plight of Ndigbo in Nigeria’s unjust and fragile project. I had to call Uche from my high blood pressure sick bed in Owerri for finding time to attend the event and raising the matter in the public domain and public consciousness.
The Igbo Nation is about to demonstrate political naivety and cluelessness with the ”emergence” of Rt. Honorable Ben Uwajumogu as the first APC Senator of South East extraction sequel to the recent re-run senatorial election for Imo North Senatorial District, unless political wisdom prevails. Hitherto, Senator Athan Achonu of PDP occupied the seat after the March 28, 2015 general election but a judicial cancellation based on the exclusion of Accord Party which curiously did not participate in the re-run election led to another round of election which edged out Achonu and ”brought” in Uwajumogu.
The ”emergence” of Rt. Honorable Ben Uwajumogu as a ”Senator-elect” has started bringing about permutations or perception of permutations of re-alignment of Senate leadership. There has been this impression in the air that Uwajumogu will replace the highly challenged Deputy Senate Presidentship being occupied by Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the opposition PDP. During the campaign for the re-run, it was the tool of persuasion that Ben would replace Ekweremadu if he eventually emerged as the winner. I had to write an article titled; “Imo North Must Hear These” and other people also canvassed the idea that it was dangerous to place such political maneuvering and manipulation on the neck of Ben Uwajumogu because even if Benjamin won, he would be a target of dirty and dangerous politics right from his first day in the Senate.
Graciously, the ”Senator elect, Ben Uwajumogu doused the tension whether it was lip-service or not on the day that he received his Certificate of Return that he was not out to upset or pull-down the current Deputy Senate President. However, what has made the matter unsettled and hanging in the air was the statement credited to Owelle Rochas Okorocha after the re-run election that the emergence of APC Senator from the South East would settle the Deputy Senate President’s quagmire galaxy of confusion, apparently referring to Ben Uwajumogu as the possible replacement of Ike Ekweremadu.
Who told Rochas Okorocha and other political enthusiasts in Ben Uwajumogu for Deputy Senate President that this position has been officially zoned to South-East by APC Leadership? I am certainly sure that if that position has been officially zoned to South-East, some rapacious PDP Senators of South-East extraction would have long defected to APC to have clinched the position.
Better still, some over ambitious PDP Senators from South-East would have long ago defected to APC if there have been traces of APC favouring the Deputy Senate Presidentship for South-East. Who is sure that if by any act of omission or commission Ike Ekweremadu ceases to be Deputy Senate President; another South-East Senator whether of APC or PDP will replace him?
In life, one begins from the known to the unknown and from simple to the complex. Have any of these political noisemakers asked why South-West has two Principal leaders in the House of Representatives and the South-East has no Principal leader despite the fact that South-East has two APC members in the lower chamber.
I vividly recall during the peak of the struggle for the Principal positions in the House, Speaker Yakubu Dogara graciously zoned the positions in the House to accommodate the six geo-political zones of the country in line with the principles of federal character and age-long tradition of the House and specifically zoned the position of Deputy Chief Whip to the South-East with Hon Chike Okafor as the possible occupant; but after a meeting between President Muhammad Buhari; APC leadership and the House of Representatives, Speaker Dogara’s proposed zoning arrangement was jettisoned and South-east robbed of the proposed position.
I also remember that during the permutations for the post of Senate President; Okorocha, Ngige, Izunaso and some politicians with tobacco soaked mouths from South-East were insulting and mocking the Ibos that if they had ever voted Izunaso or Ngige as a returning Senator; the South-East would have clinched the post of Senate President. That was living in a fool’s paradise because Buhari took the marginal votes he got from the South-East personal and has been punishing the zone for that action.
Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha whom I served as one of his writers together with Okechukwu Emeh Jnr while he operated from Unity House Abuja worked tirelessly for Buhari during the 2015 presidential campaigns but Buhari did not consider his interests in any strategic political appointment.
Ab initio, PMB launched embarrassing lopsided political appointments against the South-East. It was after I wrote a widely published article titled “Where is Owelle Rochas Okorocha” in August 2015 that Okorocha stormed Aso Rock early September 2015 and demanded for consideration of the South-East in PMB’s political appointments. It was from that time that PMB started considering the South-East by giving them remnants from the Master’s table but has not and will most likely not integrate the South-East in the mainstream of his administration.
I am an associate Northerner having been professionally, academically and politically empowered by the North. I understand the topography and dynamics of Northern politics and politicians thoroughly.
Anybody who thinks that PMB’S hard feelings against the South-East will be assuaged because the region has for the first time produced an APC ”Senator” is a big fool and making the worst mistake of his life. It is not yet Uhuru for the South-East on the mere fact that the first South-East ”Senator” has emerged.
It is interesting and re-assuring the Senator-elect, Rt. Hon Ben Uwajumogu has tendered a public statement that he is not going to Senate to undermine anybody. While waiting for the judicial verdict on the re-run, let him prove that statement sincerely and practically so that he can be integrated faster and with open arms in the Senate because Imo North has suffered serious neglect in the Senate since the vacuum was created.
If you ask me to choose between Ike Ekweremadu and Ben Uwajumogu for any position in the Senate, I will choose Ben because for now he is my Senator but I will not advise any political confrontation with Ekweremadu whether direct or indirect because that will be politically suicidal and will re-enact the embarrassing Enwerem, Okadigbo, Wagbara days in the Senate.