Not quite long after Rochas Okorocha rode to power in Imo State on the wings of our people’s emotions and the impact of a calculated and well-packaged propaganda in the later months of 2010, I told a good friend of mine that Imo people had, one, made a strategic error of choice and, two, disrupted a formula known as Imo Equity, which the leading political lights in the state had carefully packaged in 1999 at Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu’s Glass House in Owerri that ensures justice, peace, fairness and political accommodation in the sharing of important political offices among the three senatorial zones that make up the state. Essentially, the formula ensures that the number one political office in the state, particularly, rotated equitably among the zones. It started with Orlu zone and Chief Achike Udenwa, from Amaifeke in Orlu, took the first shot. It was a welcome political development that ensured equal political opportunities to every section of the state.
In the spirit of the equity formula, the political ship, so to say, was to berth at Okigwe waters after Udenwa’s tenure as governor, and so it was. The man that Governor Achike Udenwa handed over the reins of government of Imo State to was Chief Ikedi Ohakim from Okigwe zone. So far, the spirit of the formula was alive and active. Then came the 2011 governorship election in the state, which could have allowed Okigwe zone to complete its own eight years, a bogus allegation of an assault on a Catholic priest by the incumbent governor or by one of his security aides was released on the public space, and an unwary and unsuspecting public got hooked onto it and some believed it and took it to heart, not knowing that, in political seasons, stories can be carefully and mischievously planted to achieve specific political objectives, as was the case in Imo State in late 2010. Okorocha, from Ogboko in Ideato South, Orlu senatorial zone, buoyed by a willing crowd of Owerri political elite, led by Martin Agbaso, Captain Emannuel Iheanacho and a few other political heavyweights from the zone, succeeded in dislodging the incumbent governor from Okigwe zone and helped in handing political power back to Orlu, my senatorial zone. It was a bad calculation. Okorocha was given the mandate to occupy Douglas House on the strength of a powerful conspiracy. Since then, Imo state has never been the same again.
My people have an interesting saying: Nwanyi luo di abua, ya amara nke ka mma – when a woman marries two husbands, she will know who is a better one. The crying and gnashing of teeth, the deafening complaints, the awareness that the state is under the jackboots of a mindless greedy man and his family, the hunger, deprivations, diminishing opportunities, the arrogance and the shameless determination by the incumbent to impose his son-in-law (also from Orlu zone) on a state with so many political talents from zones outside of Orlu, proves, if any proof was still needed, that the mistakes and miscalculations of Owerri political elite in promoting and supporting the desperate ambition of Rochas Anayo Ethelbert Okorocha in 2011 were huge and tragic. It was an unfortunate misadventure. The chicken has finally come home to roost and regrets, blame game and anger have since set in – in relay.
What to do! How do we restore a hitherto united, peaceful and fast-growing state back to the path of development? Many argue that the famous Equity Formula needs to be restored, by deliberately allowing candidates from Okigwe zone to emerge. They point at the need to give Okigwe zone the opportunity to complete its own eight years, otherwise the rest of us would be unfair and unjust to one of the three arms that make up our state. This might sound simplistic and somewhat impracticable, given the multiplicity of political tendencies and political parties in Nigeria now. But there is always a way out of what may look like a quagmire. Yes, there is!
Okorocha’s shocking emergence as our governor in 2011 was a product of a loose alliance between Orlu and Owerri zones. And now that Orlu elite is becoming politically greedy and refuses, so to speak, to allow the office of governor to go round, political actors in Okigwe and Owerri need to enter into strategic alliance and then enter into talks with the thinking and patriotic fraction of their counterparts in Orlu zone. The aim is to restore justice, equity and fairness to the land. That will curb the greed and excesses of one man and properly restore the seriously dented Imo Equity Formula, and get our state back to work and on track once again. In the strategic alliance that I am putting on the table, I envisage an Okigwe/Owerri team that promises an all-inclusive government in which qualified elements from Orlu would deliberately be made to play significant roles in government. This will not be a difficult arrangement because Orlu zone still has significant roles to play in stabilising Imo polity and economy.
I suggest that the political ship should berth at Owerri waters after Okigwe would have completed its one term in office. Smoothly and effortlessly, our people of Owerri zone will then bring out their best materials for us to choose from. Okigwe, like I mentioned earlier, has just one term to occupy Douglas House. Will those now running for the position of governor agree to serve out one term and vacate office for the ship to move on? So far, it is only Ohakim who has made it clear and who is constitutionally restricted to serve only one term because he has governed the state for one term before. His second term bid was scuttled by a combination of social forces who felt that he had to go, and that Okigwe zone should be short-changed and deprived of benefitting from an accord freely reached by political leaders of the three senatorial zones, way back in 1999.
There are obvious merits and advantages in getting Ohakim in there on March 9, with our votes: He will hit the ground running from Day One; he is familiar with the terrain and knows the system fairly well. He is not going to be driven round the corner by any domineering permanent secretary or head of service. His candidacy should be attractive to the good people of Owerri zone because, by the constraints of the 1999 Constitution, Ohakim cannot serve more than one term. Every other person in the race in Imo State today angles for two terms. It doesn’t have to be announced, after all, didn’t Rochas Okorocha promise the political leadership of Owerri zone in 2010/2011 that, after just one term in office, he would hand over to his deputy who was from Owerri zone? But did he? Didn’t he heap many laughable accusations of corruption against the young man, Deputy Governor Jude Agbaso?
But in the case of Ohakim, who I said would hit the ground running hours after his inauguration, he has just one term of four years to complete eight years on behalf of Okigwe zone, in the spirit of the Imo Equity Formula. I have merely stated the facts as I see them. The options are clear and simple: we either embrace our Equity Formula that has ensured for us justice, peace and development by correcting a mistake that was made in 2011, or continue to wallow in our present confusion, injustice and continue to sink deeper and deeper into self-inflicted underdevelopment and “iberiberism,” which showcases our dear state as a community of unserious citizens. In the popular saying of our people: oluu anyi wu ina achu aja, ikpe mawazie ndi mmuo – our duty is to perform the sacrifice and leave the blame at the doorsteps of the spirits. I have done my duty to my people. I am done.
• Esinulo was a senior media aide to General Emeka Ojukwu in exile in Ivory Coast.