By Emma Agu
On Saturday, December 5, 2020, voters in Imo North Senatorial District of Imo State will go to the polls to elect a replacement for the late Senator Ben Uwajumogu, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who died in December 2019. What this implies is that, for one year, Okigwe has not been represented in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Now the constituency has the opportunity to be represented. By way of information, this was the home of the late great historian Professor Adiele Afigbo. Other notable indigenes of the zone are one-time chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu, another great scholar, poet and literary guru, Professor M.J.C. Echeruo, one of Nigeria’s female lawn tennis greats of the ’70s, Cecelia Nnadozie, Nigeria’s manufacturing great and one-time minister of Industries, Engr. Charles Ugwu, not to leave out Africa’s Exam Ethics impresario Ike Onyechere, MFR, whose daughter, Ada, was one of the anchors of AIT’s early morning current affairs programme, Kakaaki. And now this: former Governor of Imo State, the man whose large shoes succeeding governors have tried furtively to wear, the late Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, hailed from this senatorial district.
As in every contest, the candidates and the parties have adduced reasons why the voters should prefer them. I want to state that, from my perspective, I see many good candidates in the field. But as all such contests, only one person will be elected.
This election is none like any other. Yet, an understanding of the role of the legislator will help us in this critical decision-making position. A legislator makes laws and, in the process, strives to ensure that his/her constituency is not short-changed; advocates for his/her people in job placement, access to opportunities, protection from injustice, attraction of projects, among many other dividends of democracy. The person’s overall responsibility is to promote the happiness of the people while minimising their misery.
For the legislator to make impact, the person must have access to critical decision-making layers of the political establishment; qualify to be accorded significant recognition within the legislative chambers; and in today’s Nigeria, should belong to where it is happening. The senator that voters in Okigwe will elect on Saturday, December 5, 2020, should also add to the ability of the zone to challenge for plum political representation in his or her party, come 2023 and despite pretences to the contrary, the South East should be able to demand that each of the major parties cedes the Presidency to the zone.
This demand is neither strange nor unrealisable. It has happened before. The closest historical antecedent was in 1999 when Nigeria’s power brokers decided that the South West geo-political zone should produce the President. That was why and how Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, CFR, was denied the APP ticket at the Kaduna Convention of the party; that same principle denied Ekwueme the ticket of the PDP in Jos, despite the fact that he was the fulcrum around which the party revolved. Today, that quest for equity and justice that earned the South West the presidential tickets of the leading political parties, can and should also be invoked to honestly reintegrate the South East into the mainstream of Nigeria’s decision-making architecture.
History beckons. Is the South East ready to rise to the challenge? That is the question.
As voters in Okigwe go into the election, pragmatism should be the watchword. Fundamentally, politics is about who gets what and the choices should be guided by rational conditions of the extant political environment, about practical reality, not whimsical sentiments. With the governor of the state in APC, the minister from Imo State in APC, the two members of the House of Reps in APC and the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly (from Onuimo LGA of Okigwe zone) in the APC, I think that, by voting in the APC to replace their former party member, Okigwe would have reinforced the right of the South East to stake a bet on the party’s presidential nomination for the 2023 presidential elections.
Before we repeat past mistakes, common sense demands that Okigwe should energetically, uncompromisingly and unequivocally support their son, the urbane and effective performer, the Honourable Minister of State for Education, Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba who is being touted in several quarters as a likely successor to President Muhammadu Buhari. Through deft political manoeuvres, unobtrusive people empowerment and infrastructure development, Hon. Emeka Nwajiuba is changing lives for the better, not just in the zone but in the South East and beyond.
Unlike in the past when people peremptorily dismissed the possibility of a shot at a strategic federal position, this time around, the people should be both bold and wise, anchoring their faith, as the Igbo say, that onye kwe, chi ya ekwe; that is, the voice of man is the voice of God. Electing the APC candidate now is the most rational choice before Okigwe voters. The Igbo saying that “onye na noha ngahu, ji ya hu ru na’guga oku”, should never be forgotten. In other words, voting APC means that Okigwe people, nay the South East, will have a stronger bargaining power to talk from the bedroom of power, no matter how tenuous because ‘at all at all, na im worse pass’. To quote another Igbo saying, anaghi ano nti agba ntili ukwu. Please ask your neighbour to interpret it. Thanks.
I do no want to bother myself with the tangential question of whether it should be Senator Ifeanyi Ararume or Hon. Frank Ibezim, both of the APC and whose pre-election matter is now in court. Both candidates are eminently qualified to fill the vacancy in the Senate, the same way the candidates of the other parties also qualify. What stands the candidate of APC out is the fact that for Okigwe Zone, given the present political reality, the only choice, that makes practical sense, is between the APC and the APC. I think that is why the APC candidate will win.
•Agu, fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors and former chief press secretary to the Head of State, hails from Imo North Senatorial Constituency of Imo State, otherwise known as Okigwe Zone