Imo State is already in frenzy over who succeeds Governor Rochas Okorocha in 2019. Already, many individuals, groups and organizations from the three senatorial districts of Imo East, Imo West and Imo North, are engaged in serious discussion on how to answer the question.
Imo East, also known as Owerri zone, has nine local councils, namely Owerri Municipal, Owerri North, Owerri West, Ikeduru, Mbaitoli, Aboh Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ezinihitte Mbaise and Ngor Opkala.Imo West or Orlu zone, has 12 councils including, Isu, Njaba, Orlu, Nwangele, Oru East, Oru West, Ideato North, Ideato South, Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema, Orsu and Nkwere. The incumbent governor is from this zone.
Imo North, otherwise known as Okigwe zone, has the least number of local councils. They are Okigwe, Isiala Mbano, Ehime Mbano, Onuimo, Obowo and Ihitte Uboma.In the current democratic dispensation, Imo West has produced Chief Achike Udenwa (1999- 2007) while Imo North produced Chief Ikedi Ohakim (2007-2011) showing that by the end of Okorocha’s tenure, Imo West would have been on the saddle for 16 years.
The arrangement has led to agitation that the area remains the only zone that has not produced a governor since the military handed over political power to civilians. The agitators recalled that the only time the zone produced a governor was in 1991 when the late Chief Evan Enwerem held office for a few months during the Ibrahim Babangida diarchy of the aborted Third Republic.
The alleged marginalization led one of the conveners of the Owerri Coalition Reawakening, Oliver Enwerenem, to argue that the zone had been cooperating with other zones in producing governors whereas they are the host, having the state capital sited in their zone. He noted that the time was ripe for the zone to occupy the top seat and that the other two zones should reciprocate past gestures and provide the necessary support.
But Okorocha is not looking at the issue of governance from the perspective of zoning and rotation preferring that the process of emergence of his successor should be anchored on getting the best. He recalled how he emerged in 2011 not minding that his zone had produced a governor that had held the baton of leadership for eight years.
Not perturbed by the governor’s position, two prominent sons of Imo North, Ohakim and Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, are not relenting on their quest that power returns to their zone. While Ohakim, who aspires to secure a second term that he felt was truncated by the emergence of Okorocha in 2011, Ararume who also aspired to govern Imo in 2015, is still warming up for another outing in 2019. The Senator has been building his political structure in the 305 electoral wards in the state.
But the issue heating up the polity is the rumoured plan that Okorocha, who had said he would not want anyone of 50 years and above to take over from him, is clandestinely working hard to ensure that his son-in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu, succeeds him.
Nwosu, who holds the chieftaincy title of Ugwumba, is married to the governor’s first daughter, Uloma. The Nkwerre-born politician has held various political positions since 2011 when Okorocha took over power. He was Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Government House and later Commissioner for Lands, among others. His present position, Chief of Staff, previously held by incumbent deputy governor, Eze Madumere, has seen all government officials, starting from the SSG and commissioners, bowing before him before they could have any favour.
A few days ago, a member of the state legislature representing Ohaji/Egbema constituency, Henry Ezearo, addressed journalists in Owerri, saying that the 27-member Assembly had endorsed Nwosu as the sole candidate for governorship position in 2019. He also disclosed that 27 buses had been donated to buoy Nwosu’s campaign efforts.
This was however denied by the Speaker, Chief Acho Ihim, who doubted that any member of the Assembly could do that. He said as much as Nwosu has political right to contest for any political position, it was not for the lawmakers to endorse him, stressing that the legislature was not a political party but a congregation of men concerned with lawmaking, appropriation, oversight and issues bordering on checks and balances between the various arms of government.
The Speaker wondered if anyone in the Assembly could engage in such venture and promised to use his office to ensure that the claim was investigated.
As the controversy over the issue rages, Nwosu began to build a political structure known as ‘Ugwumba’ (respect of a land) with strong coordinators like the SSG, George Eche, a development that is causing ripples in the state’s political circle.
But Eche, in a recent comment, said the primary reason that brought the group into existence was to ensure that anyone who must rule Imo should have their support.
In the middle of all these, indigenes of Imo East last weekend formally expressed their anger on what they called worsening economic, social and political conditions of the nine councils of the area, calling for urgent redress by allowing them take over the political leadership of the state.
They also asked Okorocha to stop demolition of peoples’ property and market and demanded that the state government should pay pensions and gratuities of retirees, workers salaries and compensate those whose property were demolished. They complained that their lands are being taken over by the government on account of the Land Use Act, leaving them with little or nothing.
The indigenes who gathered at the Owerri Summit, organized by Coalition for Owerri Re-awakening, comprising leaders and other major stakeholders, resolved in a communiqué that their brother zones of Orlu and Okigwe, should allow them to take the political leadership to address what they considered highly lopsided imbalance of development in the area by 2019.
In their 8-point resolution, they resolved “that all political parties should choose their governorship candidates from Owerri zone and that voters in the state should vote for only political parties that choose their candidates from the zone in the interest of equity, fair play and unity.’’
They also resolved to set up a committee of eminent sons and daughters of the zone to reach out to other zones in order to solicit their supports to produce the governor in 2019.