Why has Owerri Zone consistently failed to produce governors despite her obvious strengths?
I would briefly discuss some of the reasons in detail.
Lack of altruistic interest:
Why does the governorship elude Owerri zone despite its obvious electoral and political relevance? Why is the zone not mounting any serious challenge? The answer is simple; our zone appears to lack ‘altruistic interest’. Its major players are mostly self-serving, ready to play second fiddle, greedy and selfish.
A journey down memory lane would reveal that since 1999, Owerri zone has been politically relegated. We have quite frankly, developed a tarnishing reputation for playing second fiddle to other geopolitical zones. Yes, this is a reputation we have subconsciously earned. And it is for this reason that our zone has produced more Deputy Governors than any other zone in the State. The facts are public knowledge.
On Imo State’s political turf, our zone limps. Owerri Zone is eveready to play second fiddle when other zones scramble for power on the big arena. Key political stakeholders in the zone have turned themselves wittingly or unwittingly into lackeys of other zones top politicians. Only a few owerri zone politicians have the structured clout to give a challenge and they are not roundly supported. If the zone would ever make it to Douglas house in 2024, then this is a major issue to resolve. Nobody would develop this interest for us. The passion, patriotism, zeal and determination have to be stiffly consuming. The zone would not get anything in 2024 if this very critical observation is not addressed. Power they say is taken and never given on a platter.
When it comes to topics relevant to the struggle for power in Imo State, Owerri zone is viewed as a disoriented zone, with political players plagued by inferiority complexes. This has resulted in a zone that is overrun by the dynamics and intrigues of power play. While the Orlu zone has been in control of the State for almost 20 years since 1999, the Owerri zone has only managed 7 months!
Owerri zone had produced the Governor of Imo State since the inception of the state twice, Okigwe zone thrice, and Orlu zone five times. None of the Governors from owerri zone completed a single term of four years. Evan Enwerem of blessed memory and Emeka Ihedioha were the two former Governors from Owerri zone. Both had one thing in common, their administrations were short-lived as their tenures ended abruptly. Enwerem’s government was cut short by the military jackboots of Late Gen Sani Abacha. He spent 22 months in office, from January 1992- November 1993. 28 years later, HE Emeka Ihedioha came on board and he was dislodged fantastically after seven months in office, this time not by the barrel of the gun but by the Supreme Court. There was also the case of Chief Martin Agbaso who had his election he had won cancelled and reran and manouvered to okigwe zone. Aside from the case of HE late Evan Enwerem, it appears that the other zones have ways and means of ensuring that power eludes Owerri zone. While many might not agree with this painful reality, it is actually true. Are we plagued by an inferiority complex that has made our politicians believe we dont have what it takes to win the governorship? Owerri zone must do away with this mentality if thats the case between now and the next Guber poll.
The issue of micro zoning is a very sensitive one. Some stakeholders in the zone are of the opinion that it is very important that when next Owerri Zone produces a governor, the governor should emerge from other parts of the zone, who are yet to occupy the position like Owerri federal constituency and Ngor Okpalla. It is important to to note that this microzoning anomaly is one of the reasons why Owerri has refused to unite for purpose. Unity would continue to elude Owerri zone if this anomaly is allowed to continue to fester. It doesn’t bode well for Owerri zone. How can a zone that has never got a full tenure in the government house be having internal wrangling caused by micro-zoning?
Anomalys, such as this, divides Owerri more than it unites her. If the zone would make any impression or even clinch the governorship seat, it must sort out these issues.
Lack of Visible Unity:
Elders have to step in, religious and traditional rulers have to step in, the game should be about the collective interest of Owerri zone and not the overriding interest of a selected few. Yes, politics is a game of interest, however, the interest here should be that of the Owerri Zone and not that of one person. The interest should be how can an Owerri man become governor.
It is indeed highly unfortunate that despite our large size (9 local governments) and strategic position, Owerri Zone has remained weighed down by disunity, blackmail, backstabbing, and the very ugly and archaic ‘pull him down syndrome’ mostly influenced and sponsored from outside the zone. Traits like these among brothers do not enhance their welfare but diminish their collective efforts to a common goal. They simply erode any major gain with the hope of diminishing it, quickly building fear and distrust instead of enhancing confidence and fortitude. Sadly, Owerri Zone has not found a way of weeding herself off these deadly counter productive traits. Brotherliness and brotherhood have become a costly commodity in Owerri zone where it concerns politics. The importance of unity cannot be overemphasised.
Presently, Owerri Zone politics is rife with divisive tendencies and clannish politicking. Sadly, other zones – Orlu and Okigwe – have successfully exploited these fault lines to widen the gulf of disunity which exists so strong among the three blocs in Owerri zone. If Owerri zone would be making any headway in the next guber elections, then unity must take centre stage.
Lack of Proper cohesive leadership:
There is a wide leadership chasm that constantly threatens the Owerri Zone. There is almost zero organisational structure in place. Lack of leadership has badly exposed the flanks that should create a buffer for the zone. Taking a proper look at the zone would show that there is almost no one single or collective rallying figure or organisation in sight. Getting leadership figures or an organisation to rally people around is frankly, difficult. Owerri Zone has no father figure or organisation to lean on. A few leaders with political clout, respectable integrity and firepower have either passed away, gotten old or simply moved on with their retirement. A significant number of them have simply taken sabbaticals from the energy sapping and capital intensive world of politics. The zone is currently occupied by political leaders whose main qualifications are treachery, sycophancy, PHD (Pull him down), self service and deception. Some of them are only good at taking political gambles that put the zone into a deeper mess. The Owerri Zone is afflicted by a slew of political opportunists who are primarily motivated by self-interest and the lust for selfish desires. The Owerri Zone needs a rallying figure. The zone needs someone who could wade into disputes and settle them without hassle because he or she possesses distinctive charisma. Owerri Zone needs such a leader, preferably a Statesman figure.
Political leanings are so strong in the zone. And this has led to broken bridges which have made it impossible for the zone to congregate and set an agenda to activate a political direction. Playing second fiddle in a State where we are a major tripod is demeaning, breeds marginalisation and relegation and outright insulting. And it will continue, until a credible leadership structure emerges or evolves. There is no better time to shop for a credible leader than now. It must be an elder, or a charismatic political figure with integrity. Such a leader must possess charisma, character, sense of purpose, direction and tenacity.
Imo State is a smaller version of Nigeria. And while Orlu and Okigwe Zones could be described as having the same zeal and confidence the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba have for their ethnicity, most owerri politicians are the Igbo in the equation who pretend to be republican in nature, sabotage her people and could be purchased like goods on the shelf.
Take it or leave it, Okigwe and Orlu Zones have more cohesiveness among themselves than Owerri Zone, and that is why both zones continue to Lord it over Owerri Zone as far as governing the State is concerned. As painful and distasteful as it sounds, it’s the truth. Truths are mostly not palatable. Owerri must look for a way to indentify and politically ostracise betrayers and find more reasons to collectively commit to a united purpose.
In the entire world, no war ends without saboteurs. Saboteurs are elements used by the enemy to infiltrate the opponents. And these people who serve as tools of information for their masters are usually used to working against their own people for a plate of porridge, or easy lucre.
Yes, saboteurs abound in every sphere, be it in your office, political party, community, or in the home. However, the political arena appears to have a special bunch of them. They appear very harmless and welcoming on the surface, however, they are fond of always going to the back to do what they know how to do best – betraying their people. These sets of people are one of the major reasons why Owerri Zone is still struggling in Imo political turf. In politics, they are often referred to as moles. Although it is almost difficult to completely eliminate them, our Owerri Zone must find a way to identify them and keep them at arm’s-length as the race to Douglas House heightens.
CAN THESE PROBLEMS BE RECTIFIED?
The answer to that is an emphatic hell YES!
The question of how is totally up to the good, the bad and the ugly people of Owerri zone. However, i would suggest a few of the basic things our zone MUST seriously pursue:
Just as it was clearly pointed out above, disunity is one of the major storms rocking the Owerri political ship. The only reason the ship has not wrecked is due to the doggedness and determination of a few selfless individuals in the terrain. However, if something as meaningful as the Government House must be achieved by the zone, then the need for unity must start getting more than just mere lip service.
Talking about unity, the people of the zone must find a way of reaching a consensus with regards to the pre-election selection of governorship candidates. The zone must find ways of narrowing down her options to one or two people. Under that circumstance, giving block votes would be easier and without much hassle. Charity must start from home.
Ugly situations like what happened in 2007 and 2015 must not be repeated. In 2007, Owerri zone did not fully support Chief Martin Agbaso when he was robbed of the governorship in broad day light. Rather than fight, most politicians of owerri zone immidietely warmed and sucked up to the newly installed governor, leaving Agbaso to fight the long drawn court battle that ensued almost alone. In 2015, Owerri Zone got something that looked like a penalty kick. Yes, a very bright chance to enthrone an Owerri man as Governor. Four Owerri sons got the tickets of four political parties: Mr. Ken Ojiri (Accord), Mr. Osmond Imo Ukanacho (UPP), Captain Emma Ihenacho (APGA) and Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha (PDP). As formidable as all four men were, none of them saw the need to step down for each other and they all went into the polls and failed abysmally. In contrast in 2019, the difference was evident, few Owerri sons contested and Emeka Ihedioha the PDP candidate against all odds was in unison with other zones under those circumstances declared winner. There is strength in unity and just like they say in an Igbo adage ‘Igwewuike’.
In 2023, the idea of coming in alarming numbers across various prominent political parties in the state must be discouraged. If Owerri is really serious about producing the next Executive Governor of Imo State, the zone must learn consensus building. Having everyone all running for governorship would only lead to nothing short of terrible collision. It is quite sad that the same moves are already going on right now. Many stakeholders are already scheming in the shadows and they seem inherently helpless to stop this drift. This very ugly politicking must be discouraged at all costs.
Talking about building consensus, at this point it is better for our stakeholders to behave like real elders, use their tongues to count their teeth. Anything short of this would see our zone shooting themselves in the leg and thus crippling ourselves without even knowing.
Avoid selling conscience:
This is the only way to expunge betrayals and back-stabbing from Owerri politics. Conscience selling is a malady that has eaten very deep into the fabric of Owerri zone. It is something that has attained the position of a recurring decimal in the history of the zone.
Politicians from Owerri Zone have to find a way to stop selling out the zone. The idea of always positioning as running mate to become Deputy Governor must be discouraged. The Nigerian constitution only succeeded in making all Governors so powerful that Deputy Governors are mostly perceived as spare tyres. Owerri Zone deserves much more than that. In 2024, it should be the office of the Executive Governor of Imo State or nothing. Trading conscience and aspirations on the altar of politics must be consistently discouraged. Owerri zone has been in the wilderness for such a long time, it is important that they see the light and experience life on the other side.
Play the right cards:
Owerri Zone hasn’t been very deft with the intricacies of political maneuvers and positioning. It is already a known fact that no zone in the State can produce a governor without the help of at least one of the other two, what this means is that Owerri zone has a lot of bridge building to do and alliances to negotiate. The zone must do everything humanly possible to understand the political game and how to outperform their opponents. Politicians in the zone must reach out to their counterparts from other zones, they must put the right offers on the table and pursue the collective aspirations very vigorously no matter how badly tainted the odds may be. Owerri zone and our politicians must take the game to Okigwe and Orlu. Once the zone is done putting her house in order, the business of reaching out must commence and it must be holistic and very engaging. It should be taken up as an OWERRI AGENDA without APOLOGIES.
Hopefully this piece should wake up and jolt the average Owerri zone man and woman in or out of politics to the reality of how much we have been relegated and how we are viewed in our polity. Time waits for no zone.
Duruebube chimazuru Nnadi-Oforgu.