Cosmas Omegoh

A former governor of Imo State now seeking a return on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, has urged a return to the zoning formula in the state, as a way of promoting justice and equity.

Some people say that for the people of Imo State to once again begin to enjoy inclusiveness, there is need to return to ‘Imo Charter of Equity’ and one wonder what this is all about.

Can you tell us what is it?

Yes, at some point in the history of Imo State, some elders committed themselves to the spirit of equity. That was a little after the current Abia State was carved out of Old Imo State. They came together and decided that the governorship position in the state should be zoned and allowed to rotate among the three senatorial namely: Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe zones. The idea was to promote equity and justice and avoid rancour.

With that feat, it was thought and believed that the idea would downplay unnecessary political competition and rivalry which would be injurious to everyone. The state’s founding fathers had hoped and believed that the spirit of Imo Carter of Equity was going to engender love, understanding and peace if all the zones were allowed to take their turns to occupy the governorship position of the state. So, after a series of consultations, on June 9, 1991, they met in Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu’s office at his Glass House, in Owerri, where they agreed on the historic Imo “Charter of Equity.”

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From that June 1991 when that formula was unanimously adopted, Imo State became at peace and made good progress. But unfortunately, the charter suffered a brutal disruption in 2011 when the current state governor. Owelle Rochas Okorocha was elected. Unfortunately, so far, his election has had serious political implications and consequences for a people that had consistently enjoyed peace and spirit of brotherhood. But now, there is a growing consensus that the “Imo Charter of Equity” should be reactivated to replace the current chaos we currently have and might continue to experience in the future.

So at what point was this formula was jettisoned?

The truth is that failure to re-elect me in 2011, meant that Okigwe zone’s space was not fully utilised as the charter clearly stipulates. Right now, we don’t need to be told that Owerri zone is growing impatient following the delay in having the baton to it. That is understandable. But it would be foolhardy to begin blame Orlu zone for this delay. Perhaps both Okigwe and Owerri zones are to blame for this challenge.

So why do you believe so?

Honestly speaking, the reason for what I said is not far from the inability of Okigwe people to act as one when it mattered most and perhaps the willingness of Owerri zone to jump at the deputy governorship position when it could have supported Okigwe to complete its remaining ‘quota.’

Like I said earlier, this was majorly contributory to the emergence of Rochas Okorocha who is from Orlu zone. And don’t forget that from 1999, to date, Orlu zone has occupied the Imo Douglas House for 16 straight years. Dr Achike Udenwa was governor in 1999 and did two terms. If the Imo charter had been followed by now, Owerri zone would have been getting ready for its second term.

So what are then the issues that led to the collapse of this Imo Charter of Equity?

Some politicians from Owerri zone played various roles that led to the controversial emergence Okorocha in April 2011. You recall that Mr. Martin Agbaso literally yielded the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) structure to Rochas and allowed his younger brother Jude Agbaso, to run as his deputy. There were also various roles played by other politicians including the clergy. But we can excuse all that as the spur of the moment and the rest is history. But that mistake still stays with us and needs to be remedied.

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Some people are saying that the Owerri zone was short-changed by the current Okorocha government, what is your take on this?

It is common knowledge that Owerri zone played a strategic role that helped Okorocha to win in 2011. But that victory is hurting and hunting everybody now with Owerri being the worst victim of Okorocha’s reckless administration. First, Rochas engineered the impeachment of his deputy, Jude Agbaso. Second, he breached the agreement he had with the Owerri zone to support one of their own to the Douglas House.

Now, look at how he demolished the popular Ekeukwu Market in spite of protests and subsisting court orders.
He went on to demolish buildings owned by some prominent indigenes from the area citing environmental breaches. He tried lately to impeach his current deputy, Eze Madumere, to complete that planned humiliation for the zone. But thanks to the judiciary that he has not been able to do so yet. But one would rather say that there are some consolations for the Owerri zone.

Do you see things that way?

Nevertheless, there is some consolation for Owerri zone. For instance, it should always be remembered that it was from the zone that a Senate president, Evan Enwerem, Deputy Speaker of the Federal House, Emeka Ihedioha, ministers Kema Chikwe (she was also Nigerian Ambassador) emerged.

There is also Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho, and Prof. Viola Onwuliri who were ministers of the Federal republic at a time. Even Martin
Agbaso, at some point, was a Special Adviser to the President. So to me, Owerri zone is not a political orphan of Imo state. Talking about real orphan, Okigwe is! Okigwe zone appears a political orphan, having seemingly benefited the least so to say among all the zones.

Do you share this view?

If we in Okigwe had completed our eight years as contained in the Imo Charter of Equity, perhaps we could not be where we are at the moment. We should learn from that mistake and also learn from our brothers and neighbours in Anambra, Abia and Enugu states who borrowed that formula from us. Those neigbours are enjoying real peace and development now. It is sad when some people from Orlu zone tell us to our faces that the area is a ‘swing zone’ on account of their numerical strength. That make rubbishes the principle of equity
which we had hitherto enjoyed. This is the simple truth! We all make mistakes sometimes, but, I think we lost it in April 2011.

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Going forward, what is the right way to follow in a bid to realise and sustained the good intentions of Imo elders as contained in the Imo Charter of Equity?

We need to return to the drawing board. Now is the time to reactivate the’ Imo Charter of Equity.’ In doing that, equity demands that we allow Okigwe zone to complete its term of four years. And after, Owerri zone can present it best candidate – with clear vision and mission – who understands our state, its challenges and development goals.

Now, it needs be said that it is not true that Okorocha has abandoned his idea of imposing his son-in-law on Imo State – that dastard plan is on course. He still wants to rule the state by proxy. Imo should not let this happen; we need to present the best candidate to stop this man’s ploy.

In the light of the foregoing, returning to Imo State Charter of Equity has become expedient. That means that the next governor ought to
come from Okigwe zone whose quota was disrupted by the mistake of 2011. Then, what next do we say? We need to persuade Owerri zone to just hold on for the next four years. After that equity demands that we support them to have their eight years, as enshrined in the charter. Meanwhile, the man from Okigwe has to someone with studied experience and exposure.

I’m talking about someone who will not spend six months if not one year learning the ropes. That’s while I’m appealing Ndimo to let Okigwe people lead us for another four years. I’m presenting myself to the people because I know the enormous work that needs to be
done to get our state working again after the Rochas Okorocha debacle. I will hit the ground running from day one having learnt from the mistake of the past.