[Friday, 16th June 2017]

It is no longer news that the concept of Imo charter of equity otherwise known as zoning arrangement in colloquial terms, which has been rocking the public domain in recent times has assumed the dimensions of a vexed and burning question. The polity in Imo state has been so overheated as gladiators test muscles for or against the concept. There has been attacks and counter attacks, alignments and counter alignments, strategies and counter strategies all in a bid to win and score points by those entrapped in the combat.

Our brothers and sisters of Owerri zone extraction have reaffirmed their position in favour of the charter so much so that they are ready to fall out with anyone who holds a contrary view. In their considered opinion the charter this time favours their zone and hence must be treated as sacred and sacrosanct. In fact that is their apple of dispute with the state governor, His Excellency, Owelle Rochas Okorocha over their recent squabbles as he has refused bluntly and blatantly to reason alongside with them. The cordiality of relationship they had shared with the governor who they considered so amiable and amenable hitherto has consequently been eroded by the disagreement as it's resultant friction continues unabated.

So many voices that ardently supported the policies of the governor have eventually turned 180 degrees against him spewing venomous tantrums and caustic vituperations on reading his demeanour and body language which seem obviously unfavourable to their tenaciously held ideology!

Recently, Honourable Uche Onyeagocha, who used to be a strong ally and apologist of the governor took to the media vociferously against an alleged move to deny their zone (Owerri zone) a turn to be at the helm in the state from 2019. I was so perplexed to read the apology tendered by the highly revered honourable to Imolites pleading for forgiveness of the unpopular role he played in favour of the governor during the 2015 election. Well, let me say "I appreciate the humility he displayed by such step"! I wish our leaders would cultivate the humility to admit their faults when necessary. We would have  been in for progress!

The question begging for answer is this: If the charter of equity is so sacrosanct, sacred and untouchable to the extent that an executive disagreement resulted in an acute fallout that is heating up the polity, why is it that its sacrosanctity, sacredness and untouchability were not respected and observed in 2011 when it was rather described as dead. I could remember when the then governor of the state His Excellency Dr. Ikedi Ohakim was on air begging our good people from Owerri Zone pointing to the charter of equity and urging them to observe its sacredness to no avail as his pleas fell on deaf ears. I could also remember that posters in favour of the charter flooded every nook and crannies of the state capital drawing attention to the same ideology and its sacredness but were greeted with untold scorn and contempt. In fact some went on air to announce the obituary of the zoning arrangement which played out at the election. Ngor Okpala that was supposed to be a lifeline to the man who was ready to pass the ball to Owerri zone made the final straw that broke the camel's back during the supplementary election! That was how my good people of Owerri killed the goose that laid the golden eggs and hence are now crying for what they would have got on a platter. Dr Ikedi Ohakim, described at various quarter as the man who saw tomorrow, warned ndi Owerri of the mistake they were about to make letting them know that the disruption of the charter was going to backfire intractably. Has the pragmatic sage not been vindicated? I must salute the foresight of His Excellency Dr Ikedi Ohakim in this regard!

I would therefore urge Honourable Uche Onyeagocha to extend his apology to Chief Ikedi Ohakim on behalf of Owerri zone for killing the charter of equity in his time and forcing him out of office as a result. In fact if Owerri zone is sincere with their call for a reversal to the charter, they should beg Dr Ikedi Ohakim to come back and get through with his second term in the spirit thereof. This is in line with the theory propounded by Barrister Temple Okonji which I endorse as long as the zoning arrangement is concerned! The astute, brilliant, insightful and youthful lawyer and political activist theorised that for fairness to the zoning arrangement, every zone should support Ikedi Ohakim for a second term since he is the only one that can live up to a promise of one term going by the provision of the constitution. Afterwards, Owerri zone takes over on a clean slate. Thus, Ikedi Ohakim now acts as a brick wall that would stop and retire the old generation while the new generation is ushered in after him. That is to say, the rotational arrangement starts on a clean slate with Owerri zone. I term this "The New Deal". This theory provides the easiest way for Owerri zone to match to the government house without hassles. But the question that would always agitate sane and dispassionate minds is, would our beloved people of Owerri zone extraction be patient for this idea to sail? Can they come to terms with the fact that four years is not too long after 2019. Patience as a virtue would be critically needed in this regard. Let them realise that there is no new deal without Dr Ikedi Ohakim as an indispensable factor aptly and succinctly captured in the formula!

However, if they insist on 2019, they would still win my applause. In that case, I would advise they go back to the drawing board, close ranks, form a common front and drum for support from other zones through wider consultations. But let them realise that their quest for 2019 makes the charter of equity unpopular and hence of no effect as he that goes to equity, must go with clean hands as the saying goes. And there is no clean hands if Dr Ikedi Ohakim is not captured in the picture!

If my counsel would make anything to go by, it should be realised that they should champion their project in the spirit of fairness and tolerance as no one zone alone can make any man a governor in Imo state. So no zone should  threaten fire and brimstones to candidates from other zones on campaign tours as no one has the monopoly thereof! To be candid, if the charter of equity is not lifted up with clean hands in line with "The New Deal" in 2019, then anyone regardless of his zone has an inalienable right to run for governorship of Imo state. He also has the right to be voted for, the right to be declared the winner if he scores the highest number of votes and the right to be sworn in if he is declared the winner. This is the highest form of equity and hence should be regarded as sacred and not be murdered.

Therefore going by my later postulation, I make bold to posit that , the chief of staff to Imo state governor,  Hon-Uche Nwosu has the inalienable right to contest for Imo guber in 2019 if he so aspires. There is no ground whatsoever to criminalise his ambition. Neither is there any line in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended barring relatives of an incumbent from contesting for same position. So those who are mounting pressure on the governor's chief of staff to drop his ambition are misguided and hence taking the wrong step. However, they can devise legitimate means to stop him if they are opposed to his ambition. This is allowed by the rule of the game. Can Uche Nwosu make himself governor without the people's votes? Absolutely no! So if you consider his ambition unpopular, then go to sleep. Otherwise you may be making him popular by the day which may spring surprise when the time comes.

As the syntax of my writing so far connotes, 2019 is going to be thrown open for all if we fail to endorse "The New Deal". As a matter of fact, so many from the three geopolitical zones are warming up already for the plum job. Incidentally, there are heavyweights in the leading political parties who believe they are well able if they have the opportunity. Senator Hope Uzodinma of the Almighty PDP is making a force to beat in 2019. He is from Orlu zone and enjoying massive support from there and going by the strength of that zone, he is closer to the ticket than any other. In the ruling party, APC, apart from Uche Nwosu who is enjoying the weight of the governor, we have another gladiator in the person of Honourable Chike Okafor whose clout is felt in the entire state. This youthful member of the house of representatives and Okigwe zone born politician has succeeded in mustering the popularity and capacity that can earn him the ticket of the party on a level play ground. What about the super game changer, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume whose name can make the heart drop into the stomach? The agu isiebu of Okigwe zone who knows how to rock the boat out of control whenever he feels shortchanged.

They are  great men you can't take for granted! So the pursuit of the charter of equity in 2019 would amount to a wild goose chase unless "The New Deal" theory is espoused. Hence advocates in favour of Owerri should face the reality by dropping the zoning arrangement ideology and taking up the gauntlet to avoid being caught pants down. Outside "The New Deal", the game is going to be like an "akara" in a hot oil. The most courageous would pick it!

By the way, how people-oriented is the so called charter of equity? Who crafted it? Was there any time the people of Imo state assembled in a conference with delegates drawn from all the 305 wards or at least the 27 LGAs of the state and drafted the charter by popular vote? Of course no! The charter was just a product of a kangaroo meeting of few individuals who felt it could serve for power sharing. It does not therefore represent the position of the good people of Imo State. Few individuals cannot just develop an idea and force it down the throat of the entire people of the State. Otherwise few other individuals can come up with another idea tomorrow and do the same thing. Furthermore, this concept was adopted by the PDP alone and the state does not belong to them alone. After all, another party is currently in charge in the state and there is no charter of equity in their manifesto as a gentleman agreement. Recall that in 2007, Chief Martin Agbaso who flew the APGA flag participated fully in the election despite the clamour about zoning arrangement pointing towards Okigwe zone. If he was declared eventually as the winner, he would have been sworn in despite the zoning arrangement. After all, when the incumbent governor was declared winner in 2011, nothing stopped him from being sworn in, zoning arrangement not withstanding! So those who endorse the arrangement  can join the PDP as an alternative. But let them bear in mind that such step cannot be just without "The New Deal"! In fact if PDP fails to field Dr Ikedi Ohakim, they would be doing so at their own peril as they would likely lose at the polls. Ohakim is the only sure winner for the PDP. This is the HINT! This is the GIST!!

Let's recall that as Owerri zone laments over political marginalisation, Okigwe zone does same over developmental marginalisation. If you can count your teeth with your tongue properly, you would come to terms with the fact that most of state presences are located in Owerri and Orlu zones with Owerri zone enjoying the bulk. Even federal presences are intercepted and entrapped by Owerri. As few cases in point, the following are located in Owerri zone: Imo state university Owerri, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Alvan Ikoku Federal college of education Owerri, Federal Medical Centre Owerri, Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri, Imo Broadcasting Corporation (Radio and Television), Federal and State Ministries and so on and so forth. Owerri is also in the lead both in Urban renewal and infrastructural development. Orlu zone enjoys the following: Imo state teaching hospital Orlu, Imo state polytechnic Umuagwo, Orlu Modern Market etcetera. Orlu is second in urban renewal and infrastructural development. Where then is Okigwe found? What do they enjoy from government? I challenge those crying fowl to point out for us government presence in Okigwe zone as well as developmental projects sited in that zone. Akwa ariri kwesiri ibe, onye zogburu ya a na ebe( He that trampled on the millipede is crying instead of the millipede). Without trying to whip up sentiment, have you seen that it is Okigwe zone that is being cheated, marginalised, marooned and left in gross quandary? To say the least the outcry about marginalisation by any other zone in Imo state is out of place. While Orlu has been in control politically, Owerri zone has been in control developmentally. Okigwe is left for the crumbs!

Considering power at the federal level, when the slots for senate president and deputy speaker of the house of representatives came to Imo state, Owerri got them in the persons of Senator Evan Enwerem of the blessed memory and Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha respectively. The later eventually rose to the position of the acting speaker of the federal house. Owerri zone is not marginalised at all. Okigwe zone is instead!

Have you forgotten that there is a gross imbalance in the number of LGAs per zone? While Orlu and Owerri zones enjoy the lion's shares of 12 and 9 LGAs respectively, Okigwe manages only six. What marginalisation? Who is marginalising who? Let's assume the LGAs enjoy an average allocation of 100 units each per month. This implies Orlu rakes in a whooping 1200 units, Owerri, 900 and Okigwe, a paltry 600! Nakwa e checki!!!

In addition, the state capital is located in Owerri zone. As a result, more than 60% of attention in terms of development is channelled towards them and cities are springing up in the state capital's environs such as Irette, Ogbaku and Avu. Imo is among the states in the Niger Delta that enjoy 13% oil derivatives today consequent upon the oil from Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema LGAs. Visit those two oil areas and see a thousand and one reasons to weep. I bet, you can't see government presence there as it were, except the dormant, moribund and redundant Adapalm otherwise named Imo palm plantation at Ohaji/Egbema whose dividends the host LGA doesn't enjoy! I stand to be challenged and corrected. They suffer a lot of disaster due to oil mining activities. Their aquatic lives are destroyed, environment devastated and farmlands ravaged. There are no good roads, markets, hospitals and schools. Most of their communities are still groping in darkness due to lack of electricity. Their youths are languishing and wasting in joblessness and unemployment. In short their situation is so pathetic and unfortunate!! Yet they attract huge fortunes for the state on monthly bases!!

So who is marginalised and should be clamouring now for equity? Don't you think that Okigwe should be compensated with power to enable them catch up with other zones if equity is anything to go by?You can take those as rhetorical questions anyway!

I must acknowledge the fact that we have perspicacious and consummate technocrats of Owerri zone extraction. Those who have made indelible impacts in the nations economic sector and hence has verifiable capacity to transform Imo state if the opportunity is given to them. How I wish they can be showcased and supported by their kinsmen so we can follow suit. We are looking for the best who are "born" out of the desire to transform the entire state and not just to satisfy an obsolete, cretaceous, parochial and unpopular concept. Moving Imo forward is the ultimate priority and sacrosanctity!

THE NEW DEAL STILL IN PERSPECTIVE!
"Give it to Ohakim". That was the purported statement of Governor Rochas Okorocha as captured by certain tabloids in 2014 while the gubernatorial aspirants in PDP were manouvering, intriguing and negotiating for the ticket. I consider it a clue pointing to what the governor was scared of but stated ironically to draw away attention and it worked for him as Ohakim was denied of the ticket. The combination of Ohakim and a running mate from Owerri zone would have sent APC packing from Imo state. But those chanting the mantra of equity charter never understood that. If they had acted in line with "The New Deal" combining the strength of Owerri and Okigwe, the story would have been different and Owerri zone would have been waiting at the door for a smooth ride towards 2019. Fortunately, the opportunity has presented itself again. Let "The New Deal" be mixed with patience towards 2019 so we can correct the mistake of the past and turn a new leaf!

For those who are feeling shortchanged by the governor's alleged refusal to hand over power to Owerri zone as he promised them, why didn't you support your brother Rt Honourable Emeka Ihedioha in 2015 when he got the strongest opposition gubernatorial ticket? Why did you prefer the candidature of an Orlu man if zoning formula is held sacred by you. Did you forget that the candidate you preferred promised in 2011 to hand over to your zone after one term? You helped him renege on that promise in 2015 and expect him to be faithful to you in 2019 by keeping same promise. Akuko! What do you think would have happened if all of you had supported your brother who almost clenched victory with only three LGAs? Your guess is as good as mine! Permit me to quote the adage that says "You can't eat your cake and have it". If you ask me, the apology should also be extended to Rt Honourable Emeka Ihedioha.

2015 presented the greatest opportunity for ndi Owerri zone because of the clout exerted and wielded by their front line  guber faithful, Emeka Ihedioha. He was the 6th citizen of the nation and therefore a major stakeholder in the Nigerian project! If Owerri zone lost it in 2015 as a result of disunity despite that clout, can they make it this time in 2019 having been stripped of that federal power? Well, they can! But they should unite without reservation. Owerri wu kwanu oke Mba for crying out loud!

Honestly, I thought Owerri people would rally round Ihedioha for having got so close to the dream that had eluded them for long. I can't rationalise why the reverse became the case. Any rational mind would consider them unserious for the miscarriage of that golden opportunity. Ihe a n'acho nuko elu ka a huru n'uko ala, a na achokwa ya na uko elu.(What you were looking for in the upper shelf, you saw in the lower shelf! Yet you continued to search for it in the upper shelf?). Wisdom demanded that they switch over to Ihedioha immediately he emerged the flag bearer of PDP. That was the lower shelf and shortcut. Supporting the incumbent, believing that they would get from him what God had already given to them in 2015 was the upper shelf. Why continue searching the upper shelf? Alas, it can't be found there! How I just wish they took advantage of that rare golden opportunity!

I am not against an Owerri man emerging in 2019 as Imo governor in much the same way as I am not against any man from the other zones. I am a progressive and therefore anticipate a progressive irrespective of his zone. Therefore if anyone insists on any zone, let them project a sound progressive with defined credibility, sound character and impressive capacity. I for one, will support his aspirations, although based on nothing but those crucial qualities. He can come from Orlu, Okigwe or Owerri!

On a final note, I would like to appeal and urge the proponents of the charter of equity to embrace " The New Deal" if they are insistent. That would certainly provide them with the most unhindered route to the Douglas house turned people's house. It will cost them nothing but patience and definitely present them with an open cheque. But if they think otherwise, then the race shall be thrown open to and free for all in 2019. The second option can't guarantee their dream in absolute terms as it shall be too hot and vehemently contested for! So espouse patience and have it or ignore patience and risk it!! Let the choice be objectively made!!!
Ndewoo nu!
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Emma Nzenwa GOC (Engr)
2015 Governorship Candidate, New Nigeria People's Party (NNPP) and
The Pioneer,
Coalition of Great Imolites(CGI)
greatdreams247@gmail.com
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