Chief Martin Agbaso was universally acknowledged as the winner of the governorship election in Imo State on April 14, 2007. The 2007 election was midwifed by the honorable and gentlemanly Governor of the state at the time HE Chief Achike Udenwa of Orlu zone, who was poised to reciprocate the gentlemanly dispisition of Owerri zone in acknowledging that it was the turn of orlu zone to govern the state, and at the same time, taking cognisance of the fact that Okigwe and owerri zones had taken turns with the stints of Chief Mbakwe and Chief Enwerem respectively, Chief Enwerem’s stint albeit cut short by the military in 1993.
That 2007 election ran concurrently with the State House of Assembly election that took place throughout the state and was adjudged as free and fair by the electorate in general, before INEC via its national chairman of the time struck, cancelling the election for no apparent reason other than that he wanted an okigwe man as governor, and that he had the blessing of Aso rock, the power and influence to achieve it.
While the INEC represented at the time by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Imo State, Austin Okojie, affirmed the sanctity of the State Assembly elections, INEC cancelled the governorship poll after results had been declared in about 80 percent of the wards in the entire state mostly in favour of Chief Agbaso.
The reason given by the Prof Iwu led INEC for an annulment was the flimsy reason of alleged violence in nine of 27 local council areas. But the police report on the conduct of that election as published by a national newspaper suggested no significant instance of violence.
Chief Agbaso immidietely proceeded to court and prayed the court to clarify if it was possible to cancel the governorship election and uphold that of the State House of Assembly held simultaneously on the same day with votes cast in the same ballot boxes, while also challenging the legality of the poll cancellation.
Not even in the nine affected local government areas did INEC cancel any of the results of that election, which suggests that the Iwu led INECs claim was just a charade meant to stop an Owerri zone aspiration and input an Okigwe governorship instead. It was an opportunity Okigwe zone could not miss with their man at the helm of INEC affairs.
Despite the fact that the final compilation had been done and all that was left was for the REC to announce the results in favor of the winner Agbaso, the REC allegedly absconded only to reappear in the company of soldiers and armed policemen, announcing to the amazement of Imo people, that the election had been cancelled.
At the time of the election, the REC as we all know was answerable to Prof. Iwu, who belongs to the same Mbano clan as Ohakim who was later to emerge as governor after the rerun election soon after. A perfect coup by all undications at best.
Was INEC right to have cancelled that election, only to conduct another in which a candidate distant from the frontline of the April 14 contest was declared winner? The answer is hell no.
Such has been the plight of Owerri zone. And yet, it is surprising that people turned around to blame Chief Martin Agbaso for supporting Rochas Okorocha against the incumbent Ohakim in the 2011 elections and also accused him of betrayal and all other manners of insinuation. The level of cold injustice metted to Chief Agbaso and role of the judiciary at the time can only be imagined.
Orlu zone is currently on the saddle after almost 20 years of rulership of imo state, Owerri zone on the other hand can only boast of 7 months on the saddle since 1999. If the ‘no vacancy’ talk emanating from government house is to be taken seriously, it means that Orlu zone might have concluded plans to further perpetrate injustice and further entrench the disequilibrium in our politics by venturing to extend their tenure to 24 years, albeit that the sitting governor is constitutionally empowered to do so if he so chooses. But then, should owerri zone sit back and allow that to happen without a fight?
Hence my appeal to Owerri zone status quo proponents who seem to have forgotten the plight of owerri zone, who have lost hope or suffer an inferiority complex of a people outsmarted severally and relegated to a second fiddle role, to challenge yourselves to stand up and fight against the continued relegation and marginalisation of the zone by our brother zones and man up to shun cheap enticement of unproductive appointments and pecuniary benefits.
Ndi Owerri cannot be vassals in their own state.
Time waits for no zone.
Duruebube Uzii na Abosi