•Dozie, Iwuanyanwu, Njoku, Ihedioha, others chart new path
By Henry Umahi
The large field, awashed with colour, was dominated by rows of high networth individuals from all walks of lif- politicians, boardroom gurus, captains of industry and business tycoons. Many of them turned out in exquisite traditional attires that conferred a sort of cultural renaissance on the occasion.
Indeed, the cultural distinctiveness of the people was showcased. Take this: Many spoke in their unique inflection that makes a simple speech a song. However, people like Nollywood star, Kanayo O. Kanayo failed the ‘language test’ as he addressed the gathering in English. The atmosphere was convivial, with many engaging in warm embraces and throwing banters.
Welcome to the 2017 Owerri summit held recently at the capital of Imo State. It was a full house. Among the attendees were Chief Uche Njoku, Prof. Philip Njemanze, Dr. Pascal Dozie, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, Chief Mike Ahambba, Senator Sam Daddy, Col. Lambert Iheanacho, Chief Uche Onyeagocha, Chief Frank Nneji, Joe Obi Njoku, Lady Ann Dozie and Sir Jude Ejiogu.
It was not all about cultural rebirth or an attempt to preserve their identity, as it were. They gathered to take a step in shaping their destiny. That day, people of Owerri zone in South East came together to debate, discuss and demand. To a large extent it was a historic outing. They forgot their political differences and came together to tell themselves the home truth.
The agenda was simple: They want a better deal. They want the next governor of Imo State to come from Owerri zone, which they said had been marginalised in the scheme of things. The people were concerned that since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999, nobody from Owerri zone had ascended to the pinnacle of political power in the state.
Founder/President General, Imozurukwuo, Uche Njoku, called for the unity of the people even as he lamented sabotage from unlikely places.
“One of our sons has been bought over to destabilise Imozurukwuo,” he alleged.
He said the mole in the house is hobnobbing with a group in Lagos “without the Lagos group knowing that they are being used to destabilise Imozurukwuo for the government; they are only interested in their ambition, not Owerri zo.
“It is true that everybody has the constitutional right to contest election; how about the moral, fairness, equity and the constitutional right not to contest, which will make them good men. Good men will start ruling Imo State come 2019 and Imozurukwuo will help champion this struggle. Imozurukwuo hereby offer themselves as a conduit to Owerri zone governorship aspirants who want to connect to other zones. Let’s know you and help. Time has gone when a clique will select you for power; it is the people’s turn to put you in power. The leadership of Owerri zone has never been able to put her acts together and come together for a targeted purpose. I hope this time around, we will make it work.”
Chief Mike Ahamba remarked that the importance of the Owerri Summit was to re-awaken the leadership and followership from what may be termed ‘sleepy eyeness’ or political lethargy, which, “I believe caused the depletion of our political structure with the consequential loss of three important local government areas, cannot be overemphasized.”
Ahamba, however, noted that political geographical structure was not the focus of the paper or the summit.
“The organizers of this summit have chosen a theme, Owerri question. What is that question to which this summit must endeavour to find an answer? In my humble opinion, that question is encapsulated in lack of unity. So, the ‘Owerri question’ may be reduced to a simple query: Why is Owerri zone ‘disunited’? Put in another form, why is Owerri zone ‘not united’? There is, in my opinion, a difference between being disunited and not being united. The former suggests the previous existence of a state of unity which has collapsed, while the later postulates failure to unite at all times of the political association, which metamorphosed from a single division encompassing a number of county councils to multiple divisions, and now to a more politically independent structures called local government councils. Which one applies to us or could it be that both apply? Did the other zones, which are structurally more cohesive not pass through a similar structural metamorphosis as our own division did? I posit that the sole answer to the theme question lies in patriotic understanding of the problem the attempt to analyse which shall be made hereunder, and equitable solution to the problems so analysed.
Noting that Owerri zone is not a cultural entity, he emphasised that the “attainment of political unity in Owerri Zone has a serious contemporary necessity. It is a sine-qua-non to any future collective achievement – political, economic and/ or social in this zone.”
He added: “Owerri zone, as a people, must take cognizance of the historical and self-evident fact that the zone has made equitable political concessions to achieve friendship and better understanding amongst the peoples of the three zones, that is the three senatorial districts in the state. In 1999, Owerri zone opted out of the governorship race to support Orlu zone in due deference to an unwritten charter of equity. As at that time, only the sons of Owerri zone and Okigwe zone had lived in the Imo State Government House. Equity demanded that Orlu should have ‘a bite’. “Owerri zone kept faith and Achike Udenwa emerged as governor with Owerri zone votes playing the collective decider. Achike Udenwa had two full tenures of four years each, making a total of eight years in office back-to-back.
“In 2007, Owerri zone kept faith with Okigwe zone and Ikedi Ohakim of Okigwe zone emerged. In 2011, Rochas Okorocha emerged riding on the crest of APGA, the so-called Igbo party. Thus, Orlu had four additional years making it 12 years in Douglas House. In 2015, Orlu zone somehow supported their son for a second tenure in Douglas House, bringing their total to 16 years. This was inspite of the restatement of the charter of equity at a meeting held at New Owerri in 2014.
“No other Orlu Zone candidate emerged from another party to deplete their son’s votes under APC. Could this have been a collective tactical approach to keep power in the zone while pretending to be keeping faith with the charter? Some say yes; some say no.
“In Owerri zone, the attitude was different in that some of those who lost at the PDP congress that year chose to contest in other political parties, thereby causing a serious distraction and depletion of local votes. This is tantamount to internal aggression, which I have chosen to describe as political symbiotic insurgency.
“In taking this position, I must not be understood to be preaching parochialism in politics, not at all. In fact, I’m not even an apostle of zoning or rotation in political or cultural setting. No. I have taken this position in-keeping with my democratic naturalness, as I have advised myself that my views on political zoning or rotation is a super minority view, consequent upon which I have pocketed it. All I stand for herein is enthronement of equity in our attitudinal approach to issues of personal or collective concern. Let those who have directly or indirectly, deliberately or circumstantially benefited from the unwritten charter of equity in the state act accordingly for the benefit of others and for a more trusting co-existence.”
He also offered profound views on “the ways and means of attaining the central subject of unity, why it has so far eluded us and how we may recover lost grounds.
“The first inhibition to a united Owerri zone is selfishness and ego-centricism in pursuit of self-set goals. The second cankerworm, which must be excised from political relationships and activities is the upsurge of political symbiotic insurgency by which many of our sons and daughters play covert internal destructive roles by unfair aggression against one’s home front’s general interest(s).
“The third point of concern in the Owerri zonal political horizon is the stereotyping of one section by another. This must be condemned and stopped as it can only create a societal gap that can only be to the benefit of other zones. The fourth point of necessity for the attainment of unity in Owerri zone is the need to establish a common socio-cultural body to oversee the collective interest of the people of Owerri zone. The fifth point for consideration is to condemn individual endorsement of multiple aspirants for the same political office. The civilized attitude is to choose one and, in candour, stand by that one. This is the approach of the progressive nations.”
Extending a hand of fellowship to other zones in the state, the erudite lawyer said: “A family which adopts a lopsided approach in the distribution of common family estate cannot justifiably expect friendship, peace, and unity in the family. All that Owerri zone demands of her brothers and sisters, as 2019 approaches is, given the political antecedents, equitable reciprocity. This is not too much to ask for and it will be fair to all concerned to accede to.”
Dozie talked about political restoration while Onyeagocha urged the people to support themselves to pick tickets in all the parties. Kanayo said: “Power is not freely given. It must be fought for. We must put our best foot forward.”