As the debate on who succeeds Governor Rochas Okorocha in 2019 heats up, one major aspect to the issue has been zoning and equity. Ordinarily we would have had no need to come back to the debate on zoning and equity had some people from Owerri Zone not conspired to distort what was properly conceived in line with our culture as Igbo people to ensure that equity and harmony prevails among us. As a young boy growing up, I saw my father observing his early morning prayers, call it libation if you like, and he would always talk about equity. He would say “Let the eagle perch and let the kite perch too. Anyone who refused the other let its wings break”. As a demonstration to his belief in equity, he made sure that he first threw some pieces of whatever he was eating to the ground, as a symbol of giving the gods and the ancestors their share of the meal, kola or drink. Growing up too, I heard late Dr. Sir Warrior sing about it with his Oriental brothers. But we are back to the discussion of zoning, not just because some few greedy people conspired to repudiate our culture but because we must remedy our culture with all resoluteness and live by it, no matter how much damage had been done to it. We are prepared to dust it and forge ahead, so that our ancestors will continue to be proud of us, for living their legacies of equity and brotherliness.

I have a lot of sympathy for the people of Owerri Zone for what they have described as their plight in the politics of Imo State as far as the governorship is concerned. I also hold out a lot of love and admiration for them, despite their shortcomings politically. It is not as if Owerri people do not have the right to produce the Governor of the state. No. But the problem I have noticed is that the people of Owerri seem not to fathom the best and shortest route to the government house. My point is that they had taken the wrong route since 2011 when they conspired and removed Ikedi Ohakim, believing that Okorocha would do four-year-one tenure and hand over to them. They conspired again in 2015 and denied their three brothers, Emeka Ihedioha, Capt Ihenacho and Osmond Ukanacho, and returned Okorocha for second term. Okorocha’s second term will be over by 2019 and I see that Owerri Zone is about to make the same mistake, and if they succeed in making this mistake, they should kiss the government house bye.  

Therefore, if I must play the Devil’s Advocate I will advise the people of Owerri Zone, that even if Ikedi Ohakim does not want to run for the 2019 governorship election in Imo State, they should do everything humanly possible to get him to agree to run, because it is in their own interest that Ohakim runs, so that the journey to the government house would be shorter for them. As educated as Owerri people are, they should see the larger picture, that if Ohakim does not run and win, and Orlu and Okigwe enter into an accord to complete Okigwe’s tenure, any other Okiwge son will probably go for 8 years after which he might want to return the favour and give power back to Orlu for another 8 years.

But while the people of Imo State agree on the principle of zoning and equity, there are still a few voices who make effort to repudiate zoning and equity, as if zoning and rotation is not our culture. They create the impression that zoning and equity are alien to us. But can we allow them repudiate our way of life handed down to us by our ancestors? No. Never. The reason is that our culture and tradition on zoning and rotation is why we have succeeded in life as Igbo people. In Igbo Nation people don’t struggle, they zone and rotate. This is noticed when you take closer look at the operations of the town unions in Igbo land. You would see that if somebody from Village A is contesting for the President of the town union, after his tenure it would move to another village. And if somebody is going for town union President no one else would come from same village to contest the secretary of the same town union. This arrangement is now being extended to the traditional stool of the Eze in the communities, where the “constitutions” of the communities provide for rotary ezeship. This is the way the Igbo Nation operates. It may not be the culture of the Hausa or the Yoruba, the Americans or the Britons, but in Igbo Nation this is our culture.

Therefore, anyone saying there is no zoning is making great mistake and desecrating our culture. Imo people may have noticed that for every ten voices that say there is no zoning there are a million voices saying there is zoning. But because of the adulteration of our culture some people now behave as it suits them, and when zoning pleases them they claim it exists and when it does not please them they claim it never existed. Such people should not be taken serious no matter the height of the office they occupy.

Those who make attempt to destroy the culture of zoning and rotation that has worked for the Igbo Nation should understand that zoning and rotation has worked elsewhere in the country. A good example is Cross River State, where since the election of Donald Duke power is established in the state in zoning and rotatory order. The people there do not make any effort to break the tradition that has brought them both development and harmony. Another state that has attempted to entrench zoning is Abia and Anambra states. We must therefore, continuer to condemn what happened in Imo State in 2011 when some people gathered behind some conspirators’ theories and removed an incumbent as a dangerous breaking of the tradition of the state. If this dangerous interruption of our culture and tradition is not repaired in 2019 our children might suffer it for the next 100 years. By that time we might have cut our nose to spite our face.

2019 offers us a good opportunity to correct the error of 2011. We cannot wait any longer and cannot continue to live as if nothing had happened. The man that destroyed the zoning and rotation tradition has used the powers of his office to perpetrate himself for 8 years in office even after he promised Owerri people he would do only term, thereby given undue advantage to Orlu Zone over other zones in the state. It will be a rape on the people of Owerri and Okigwe zones if someone from Orlu should come and claim there is no zooming and on that pedestal goes back to office. Such idea of an Orlu man going back to the government house again in 2019 does not sound well to the gods of the land, and even mad people.

Those who want to destroy zoning should realize that in the 21st century no one has access to information more than others. Therefore anybody saying that Okigwe Zone had taken their turn in Mbakwe, he is talking bunkum. It is the records and everyone knows that Mbakwe was part of the Old Imo and therefore not part of the zoning arrangement we now have. Mbakwe was Governor in 1979 and early 80s. He was Governor from the present Okigwe, Owerri and Orlu zones. That he happened to have come from Obowo was purely accidental, because the turn he was holding was that of the present Imo State and not any particular zone. And of course, the meeting on zoning and the charter of equity was held in Iwuanyanwu’s house among the three zones of Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri years after Mbakwe had ruled and gone. The charter of equity therefore started with Enwerem, and after the military intervention Orlu Zone took over and stayed for 8 years, which was to be followed by Okigwe’s 8 years before coming to Owerri Zone to do their own 8 years.

Sadly, Owerri Zone, in a hurry to take their turn truncated what was meant to engender peaceful coexistence among us. And it should be clear to them by now that even though they desire to go to the government house they have missed the way. It behooves them to turn back and take the shortest road instead continuing along the path of “no road”. And in trying to take the shorter way, the people of Owerri Zone must be very careful because Rochas may give them “poison” by succeeding himself by proxy. It is said that the offspring of a snake is usually tall. Therefore, Owerri Zone must endeavor to work with Okigwe Zone to make sure that a competent Governor who knows what to do, who can recover the assets of the state – occupies the government house in 2019. Doing this is imperative for all Imo people because Rochas must be given a nemesis. If Rochas does not get his nemesis in 2019 and Owerri Zone allows him to have his way, instead of giving them a stick he would give them a snake by giving them “poison”. The consequences would be that the same person the Governor would succeed himself with would remove Eke-Ukwu Owerri and block the people from asking him critical questions about his government. He would go ahead and demolish Orji and Douglas Road. Owerri people must guard against this.

In 2011 all the people who fought against the zoning arrangement in the state were Owerri sons and daughters. The bank that was used to fund the election is owned by an Owerri man. From Archbishop AJV Obinna to Capt. Emma Ihenacho to Martin Agbaso who was said to have sold the APGA ticket to Okorocha to his younger brother who benefitted and became Deputy Governor, Jude Agbaso, are all Owerri people. What of Ambrose Ejiogu and PC Onuoha who were said to have taken Okorocha to meet Ojukwu? They are Owerri people. What of Senator Christi Anyanwu? They sold Owerri to Orlu and today that partnership has fetched them nothing really. Therefore they need to look in the direction of Okigwe Zone.

Since Owerri Zone had taken the wrong route to the government house and injured themselves in the process, they should take note of the Igbo adage as relates to a palmwine tapper who falls from a palm tree. If a man falls from a palm tree in Igbo land, he does not start climbing again. He has to take some time off and take good treatment too, settle the gods and allow someone else tap his palmwine for him, to give him breathing space before he resumes. In 2015, Owerri Zone fell from the “palm tree”, and if Owerri goes back in a hurry and begins climbing again, the second fall would be disastrous. Therefore, if they are to be advised, it is better for them to embrace Okigwe Zone for a shorter route to the government house. And in doing this Owerri Zone must support the man that will do only one term, so that they will only sacrifice just four years.

One of the reasons Owerri Zone should embrace the four-year-last term from Okigwe Zone is that they cannot go it alone. And they cannot get from the current government. Another reason is that Owerri Zone is the only zone in the state that is not homogenous because there are three nations in the zone and they are constantly in disagreement. Mbaise is a nation, Mbaike is a nation, Owerri is a nation, all in one zone. Events have shown that it is difficult for the three nations to come together. And based on this situation, for Owerri to get power they must get it from an incumbent. Therefore, it is best for Owerri Zone to support the one-last-term candidate so that at the end of the day they would finally get to the destination.

No matter how Owerri Zone wants to bury the discord in their midst, history did not leave us without a witness. Most recent is the 2015 governorship election in the state where Owerri men were candidates of the PDP, APGA and UPP, but they were rejected by their people. Especially, because Ihedioha was of the Mbaise Nation the rest of Owerri Zone rejected him. Painfully, it was Charles Amadi’s OZOPLOF that joined Okorocha in 2015 and made him retain power for a second term. Not only did OZOPOLF reject their brothers from Owerri Zone, Chief Jerry Chukwueke who was the Director of Mobilization also dumped the PDP. Chukwueke was even a governorship aspirant, and joined Okorocha. Also, Hon Uche Onyeagocha was also in the forefront of the campaign for Okorocha’s second term.

It has also been said that part of the reason for the discord in Owerri Zone is because of the deep-seated animosity among them. For example, Ngor-Okpala will not allow anybody from the main Owerri to become governor, because of what happened during the struggle for the Catholic Archbishopship for Owerri Province in 1992. It is said that one Monsignor Okere from Ngor-Okpala was cruising to victory when Owerri people used their contacts, both local and international, and then AJV Obinna who was a lecturer in Alvan Ikokwu College of Education suddenly emerged the Archbishop. And if you watch the political movement of the people of Ngor-Okpala, most of their leaders are moving to APC to continue to support Rochas. This kind of movement by Ngor-Opkala people must be observed with keen interest by the rest of Owerri Zone.

Having a clear view of the situation, my advice to Owerri people is that, if we must bring back zoning, equity demands that Okigwe should complete their term. And in allowing Okigwe to complete their term they should look for the man that has the one-last-term and support him. They do no need someone that has the constitutional right to 8 years as governor. I also want to advise that Owerri Zone should allow Orlu Zone to play another smart politics by entering into a deal with Okigwe for the 2019 governorship election. If Owerri Zone allows this to happen, Orlu and Okigwe might be sharing power among themselves to the exclusion of Owerri Zone.

Owerri Zone should be smarter now and prove those people who think that their politics has defied all permutations and it is very difficult to understand wrong. Owerri people should take it for fact that there is an argument that they cannot have the capital and at the same fight for power. They say that in Owerri Zone lands appreciate daily and that all the higher institutions are located on their soil. That it is in Owerri Zone that you have the most and best roads. Therefore Owerri Zone needs now is the right political partnership and the shortest route to the government house. They should take this challenge and golden opportunity open to them once more and negotiate power with the one-last-term candidate from Okigwe Zone. They should know for fact that if they miss the game and pursue shadow and perhaps allow another man who would be in power for another 8 years, in 2027 they would still come back to shout “It is our turn”, “Give us power”.
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