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Okigwe and Imo Governorship 2007

By Chinedum Nwajiuba
Thursday, September 16, 2004

Newspaper reports including The Vanguard, Champion, Thisday etc. in the week commencing August 23, 2004 of a meeting of some political actors at “Obi politics” Amaifeke stated that the Orlu Senatorial Zone of Imo State resolved that Orlu will run for Governorship of Imo State in 2007, and will back Governor Achike Udenwa for Presidency in 2007. The one that has stimulated interest more is the Governorship issue. At least two persons – one a well known Orlu politician, the other a Journalist have asked for my reaction. Hence this article.

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There are at least three issues here. The first is that they are exercising their democratic right. They have a right to say what they said. They also have a right to aspire to what they aspire. Secondly, there are people who believe they are only posturing in order to negotiate. There are also those who believe that their position is unfair.

Thirdly, in the era we are, politics of inequity and unfairness seem to be a dominant philosophy. I may be wrong, but this seems the first widespread newspaper report of a certain “Obi politics.” It may be inferred from this that the overriding character of the counsel of  “Obi politics" is Orlu Agenda and the politics of strength, a Dawinian philosophy of the Ike Kete Orie: The end justifies the mean.

It was from Prof. T. U. Nwala I first learnt of consensual democracy. That is democracy by consensus, by recognising and accommodating the various components of the political unit, and not by the absolute flexing of muscles.

That was the abiding philosophy of the Igbo delegates to the 1995 constitutional conference, the fruits of which include the Six-Zonal structure and rotational presidency in Nigeria. As with all truths, those two have taken roots, even when the Abacha 1995 constitution is not in use. Why have those two issues subsisted? Perhaps, Voodoo politics devoid of truth and fairness, is not our choice.

Let us proceed by believing that Orlu will indeed contest Imo governorship in 2007. After all since 1979, Orlu vied in every Governorship race in Imo State. Chief Collins Obih vied for the NPN ticket but lost to Nwakanma Okoro in 1979. Chief Obih contested against Mbakwe in 1983. In 1991, Engr. Ezekiel Izuogu, Dr. Izugbokwe, Dr. Douglas Achelonu et al, all from Orlu sought the Governorship in both the NRC and SDP. Evan Enwerem won. No Okigwe person contested. Even in the SDP that an Orlu son Dr. Izuogu could have emerged, Orlu’s Arthur Nzeribe was instrumental to the ticket going to Alex Obi from Owerri. This ensured an all Owerri contest (Enwerem vs Obi), while Dr. Douglas Acholonu went on to become Enwerems’ deputy.

Late Senator Emeka Echeruo was another believer in consensual democracy. He along with then PDP State Chairman Chief  I.D. Nwoga assiduously worked for the emergence of an Orlu Governor in PDP in 1999. I have also met some associates of Late Echeruo who have accused him of being a political naivete.

What, they asked, would have happened if they gave the PDP ticket to an Owerri candidate (e.g. Eze Ajoku who public opinion surveys at the time indicated was the most accepted aspirant) or even had Echeruo taken the ticket (because he could - strength)? Perhaps, Ezekiel Izuogu would have been Governor. But could Izuogu have gotten the ticket in APP without Owerri and Okigwe support?

Senator Emeka Echeruo once told me about the politicking leading to the emergence of Chief Evan Enwerem as Governor of Imo State in 1991. He said, the Okigwe position was that it was the turn of Owerri Senatorial Zone, because the last elected Governor then was Sam Mbakwe, and Orlu Senatorial zone having been carved out of Okigwe, they were like brothers, and therefore Owerri should have it.

In settling for Evan Enwerem, they reached some agreements with him. Three things in the agreement: to give Okigwe commissioners for works and commerce, and then get the Federal Government to rebuild the Umuahia – Anara road. And he told me, that Evan Enwerem did all these. If they had any grudge it was with how these were done, because Enwerem obviously used the same issues to settle other agreements he reached before becoming Governor. But the point is Enwerem kept his agreements. He was a man of his words.

He has that reputation. It would have been interesting if Enwerem got the APP ticket for Governorship in 1999. Rather, rewind to the transition preceding 1999, you find key Okigwe persons publicly stating that it was Orlu’s turn. Late Francis Anamekwe (of Ihitte-Uboma) was the state chairman of DPN when EJK Onyebuchi (of Obowo) was the state chairman of UNCP. This was also in an era when some Orlu Governorship aspirants could not obtain nomination forms, due to the activities of other Orlu politicians.

 Then, those vehemently insisting and coordinating Orlu Governorship aspirants were from Okigwe. When therefore “Obi politics" directs that no Orlu person should co-ordinate a non- Orlu candidate or else be sanctioned, a new dimension was introduced to Imo politics. Imo should be spared the trauma of zonal irredentism and zonal ascendancy. A legacy of trichotomy is not worth it.

One line I like so much said by (Woppi Goldberg) in the film SARAFINA is “I love history, it makes you cry.”

Why am I going into all these? Because I love history, and my late Grand father Job Nwajiuba, had a popular portion of the Bible which he often read each time he was invited to adjudicate a local matter. Joel 1:3: “Tell your children about it, let your Children tell their Children, and their Children another generation.”  Returnee Imo politicians who were non- resident in Imo State before 1999 do not quite appreciate the road we walked to get to where we are.

In 2003, Okigwe ran for Governorship and the candidate was my brother Emeka Nwajiuba. In a sense he was the only person who seriously meant to run against the incumbent. Most of the others were perhaps recruits to distract him. Many of the collaborators were Okigwe. Many persons tell me the timing was wrong. Yes they are right to the extent that we are in an era of Voodoo politics and Voodoo elections. Rev. Fr. John Okwoeze Odey wrote a book titled: This Madness Called Election 2003. The kind of politics my brother Emeka played has no place for Voodoo and Okija. Rather he had well considered ideas of what Imo problems are and well researched solutions to them.

 He focused on that during his campaigns, and we know what the public opinions of his efforts were. I raise the issue of 2003, because the statement from “Obi politics” mentioned that Okigwe also ran for Governorship in 2003. That Orlu ran for Governorship in 1979 and 1983 against Mbakwe, in 1991 against Enwerem, and in 1999 and 2003 (Ezekiel Izuogu, Hope Uzodinma et al) should also be remembered.

 If Orlu’s governorship bid in 1979 and 1983 did not discourage Okigwe’s support in 1999, and Orlu against Enwerem in 1991 did not discourage Owerri in 1999, where then is the equity, except that consensual democracy is alien to “Obi politics”, even where Obi politics” is the greatest beneficiary of consensual democracy, and now seeks the presidency in 2007 on the basis of  “Igbo Presidency” (See Vanguard, Thursday September 2, 2004, Page 3: “Igbos are united: no going back, says Udenwa).

Contradictory? Perhaps even unclear is if indeed Orlu is flying a kite, should it be by a sitting Governor? Perhaps the target is really the Orlu senatorial ticket. If that is so, then we expect interesting reactions from the Ideato end of Orlu senatorial zone that have been grumbling.

The reason Okigwe ran for Governorship in 2003 is because there was a gentleman’s agreement that Okigwe would run in 2003, before they supported Orlu in 1999. Unwritten agreements did not commence now.

 It was the case between Orlu and Okigwe prior to 1999, when key Orlu politicians and traditional rulers moved round Okigwe soliciting for support. But as one Newspaper reported last week, “If you give a monkey water, can you get back the cup?” Who is this monkey? Unfortunately, between 1999 and 2003, key Okigwe politicians in PDP in 1999 died. For instance Emeka Echeruo, Francis Anamekwe and Arc. Sam Iwuchukwu. These were the leaders of PDP in Okigwe Zone. The last to die of these three was Arc. Sam Iwuchukwu and he supported Okigwe running because “owu Ihe anyi kwuru.” (That was what was agreed).

He along with Sam Mbakwe and others issued the Okigwe declaration before 2003, asking Okigwe politicians to run, because that was the agreement. But that agreement, as with most political agreements was not written, and was therefore subject to denial. But Sam Iwuchukwu insisted on this even on his death bed at the hospital. Senator Echeruo before his death also said so. Before 2003, no Okigwe person had even aspired since 1983 (20 years), and by 2007, it will be 24 years (a quarter of a century since Mbakwe left office as Governor of old Imo state).

Between 1983 and 1999 (8 years) and from 1993 to 1999, the military ruled with Governors appointed from each state, but often serving in other states. Imo had sons who served as Governor. We did not elect them, but they took our slot, and in most cases even while in other states had influences in their home state. For instance, Herbert Eze (from Awo-Idemili in Orsu LGA), Luke Ochulor (Mbaise) Anthony Onyearugbulem (Ikeduru), and Emmanuel Acholonu (Owerri). Some had influence on the creation of local governments, some on the appointment of commissioners. None of these was from Okigwe.

When all these are considered, I believe that Orlu and Owerri should support Okigwe to produce the Governor in 2007. What key Okigwe politicians did for Owerri in 1991 and for Orlu in 1999, there must be some fair-minded politicians willing to reciprocate.

Dr. Chinedum Nwajiuba Umuezeala-Nsu, Ehime-Mbano LGA, Imo State,  Pioneer Secretary, OLU –– OKIGWE and Member Board of Trustees.