It is common knowledge among politically aware indigenes of Imo State that soon after Abia State was carved out from the old Imo State, leaders of the remaining part met and decided on how the governorship position in the state was to be zoned and rotated. The idea, essentially, was to have a homeland that would be devoid of unnecessary political competition and rivalry that could harm peace and development in the “new” state. After series of consultations, a meeting was held on June 9, 1991 at Chief Emmanuel Iwaanyanwu’s Glass House office in Owerri, and the result was a historic agreement that came to be known as Imo “Charter Of Equity”. Its spirit was to promote love, understanding and peaceful rotation of the Number One office among the three senatorial districts in the state. But in 2011, that Charter, painfully, suffered a major setback. Some say that it may not have been deliberate, but it happened like no agreed formula ever existed.
Since June 1991, when this formula was first canvassed and unanimously adopted, Imo State has been at peace with itself. Unfortunately, the disruption that occurred in 2011 is now having serious political implications and consequences in a state that has consistently enjoyed internal peace and order. But, happily, there appears to be efforts at reactivating the “Imo Charter of Equity”. How can this be resisted without injuring nerves and ego, and from which of the zones, after so much water has been fouled, should this repair job start? Exactly at what spot was the formula dislodged or decapitated?
The truth and the reality is that Okigwe zone has, somehow, not fully utilised its space or what Nigerians prefer to call ‘quota’, as clearly stated in the Charter.
But I realise that Owerri zone may be getting slightly impatient and agitated over the delay in handing over “the relay stick” to one of its own. That is understandable. And it would be most uncharitable to blame my Orlu Zone for this delay or postponement.
The disruption of our Imo “Charter of Equity” should be squarely put at the doorsteps of the political leadership of both Okigwe and Owerri zones. When examined critically and without any morbid sentiment, the inability of Sam Mbakwe’s Okigwe people to act as one when it mattered most plus the willingness of Owerri zone to accept the deputy governorship position when it could have supported Okigwe to complete its remaining ‘quota’ and the apple falls on its lap, certainly contributed to the emergence of Mr. Rochas Ethelbert Okorocha from Orlu zone, a zone that had done its turn. Okorocha is from Okpoko village in Ideato in Orlu Senatorial District where Achike Udenwa who occupied Douglas House, Owerri for an uninterrupted eight years comes from. If the Imo Charter had not been violated, Owerri zone would have been gearing up for its second term by now.
And I remind myself of the critical roles that some prominent Owerri political heavyweights played in the controversial ‘victory’ of Okorocha in April 2011. I mention Mr. Martin Agbaso who donated the party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and his brother Jude Agbaso to the Okorocha Campaign of 2014, Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho, a former Minister and the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, His Grace Anthony Obinna, as some of those who facilitated the emergence of Okorocha as our governor in 2011. That mistake or miscalculation still lives with us, and I ask: how have the trio and a few other influential political voices from Owerri zone faired under the administration of Okorocha? I ask the question with deep respect and due reverence?
But did Okorocha, in 2010, promise Owerri leaders that he would not seek Douglas House in 2015 – that he would be a one-term governor? Did he and what happened? If Okigwe had completed its eight years as spelt out very clearly in our Charter of Equity, that fake promise would have, in my view, been unnecessary. We should learn from that mistake and also learn from our brothers and neighbours in Anambra, Abia and Enugu states who have since stabilized their own politics and polity. They all borrowed from the Imo Charter of Equity, and are religiously following and obeying its content.
We all sometimes make mistakes in our calculations and projections, but, I think, in April 2011, the people of our beautiful state committed an error by throwing away the baby with the bath water. We ought now to begin to correct the mistakes by reactivating the Imo “Charter of Equity” and allow Okigwe Zone to complete its disrupted ‘allocation’ and then, in just four years, anchor on Owerri zone and demand that, across the parties, they should give us their very best candidates – politicians who understand our state, its challenges and development goals – political actors with clear vision and mission.
But I must say this before I forget: it is certainly not true that Okorocha has abandoned the idea of imposing his son-in-law on Imo State. The governor’s determination to hand over power to a proxy is still on the table, alive and active. But who may be our best bet to stop Okorocha. I have some ideas: Imo State has to go back to its “Charter of Equity”, Two, the next governor should come from Okigwe zone whose quota was abridged by the mistake of 2011. Three, Owerri zone should be persuaded to, please, wait for just four years and the ship berths at its shores and stays there for eight years, as enshrined in the Charter. And lastly, we must think of some with studied experience and exposure, someone who will spend six months or so learning the ropes and trying to understand how the system works or responds to certain stimulus.
Let Sam Mbakwe’s Okigwe people lead us for another four years, although I will not envy whoever takes over from Mr. Okorocha because of the enormous work that needs to be done and to get our state working again.
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