Restoring Imo’s political equilibrium
January 12th, 2018
By Nwagwu Jamike,
Imo state which was created in February 3rd 1976 by the Military Administration of late General MurtalaMuhammed is one of 36 states of Nigeria. The state which lies South-East of Nigeria has Owerri as the capital. Besides, there exist other major cities like Orlu and Okigwe. Imo State occupies the area between the lower river Niger and the upper and middle Imo River from which it took its name “Imo State”. Going by the 2006 Census, the population of the state is put 3,927,563 million people, but as it stands today, the population figure is put at approximately 5.8 million people. It is important to mention here that these three major cities of Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe form the three senatorial zones of the state. Suffice also to say that it has been on these three senatorial zones that the political power sharing formula has been rotating in all the democratic dispensations since the creation of the state in 1976.
With the coming in of democracy in 1979, Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe from Okigwe zone was elected unanimously as the first executive governor of Imo State and he assumed office from 1st October 1979 till 31st December, 1983, when the coming to power of General Muhammadu Buhari military government truncated the nascent democracy. It is important to say that the administration of Governor Sam Mbakwe recorded tremendous achievements in terms of project distribution, appointments, and inclusive government without regard/recourse to political affiliations. Unfortunately, this uncommon administration style loved and hailed by the Imolites was abruptly terminated by the military incursion on 31st December, 1983. Unfortunately again, all the military governors/administrators that ruled Imo State during the military regime, none of them was from the state: for instance Cdr Ndubuisi Kanu, Major General Ike Nwachukwu, Governor Akonobi, Amadi Ikwuechi, Alison Madueke, Tanko Zubiru just to mention a few. Because these governors/administrators were not sons of the soil, or because of their military background they were highly ignorant of the composition and zonal structure of the state. This greatly reflected in so many cases of lopsided distribution of projects, appointments and infrastructure distribution against what was done by Governor Sam Mbakwe.
This scenario of military rulership continued till 1992 when another experiment of democratic governance came on board. Prior to 1992 the deliberate actions or inactions of the military regimes in the state got people who felt ignored/short changed in the administration highly aggrieved, thereby drumming up some pocket of agitations. Being a peaceful loving state with common goal destiny and dreams, the parts that gained and those that did not adequately benefited resolved and waited patiently for another democratic dispensation that will return the state to the standard already set by Chief Sam Mbakwe. That prayer was answered in 1992 when democracy was returned. The political elites in Imo within the period under review resolved that for peaceful co-existence, justice, equity and fair play, the governorship of the state be rotated between the three senatorial zones – Okigwe, Owerri and Orlu. Though this agreement was not documented, it was meant to be strictly adhered to by all.
In view of this understanding, in 1992 democratic dispensation the mantle of who to govern Imo State fell on Owerri Zone with Chief Evans Enwerem duly elected as the 2nd elected executive governor of Imo State on January 1992 running to 8th December, 1993 when another military incursion interrupted the democratic system. With the military coming to power again, all the democratic structures were destroyed and the entire nation went back to military era which finally closed-up in 1999 ushering in the current democratic system which is ongoing now. In 1999, when the democratic system of government was restored, the age long understanding agreement by Imo political elites was brought to bear once again. Succinctly put, the choice of which zone should produce the next governor of the state undisputedly fell on Orlu Senatorial Zone. It is pertinent to state here that based on the unwritten but gentlemanly agreed rotational system, Chief AchikeUdenwa from Orlu zone emerged as the third Executive Governor of the state as against more experienced and popular candidates who contested against him then. This was also notwithstanding the fact that Owerri Senatorial Zone under Chief Evans Enwerem spent only two years in office before the military took over the government. Unlike his predecessors, whose tenure of office were truncated by series of military interventions, Chief Achike Udenwa who was a political neophyte in Imo State politics then, was drafted into political lime light by the powers that be in the state and packaged against more experienced, popular and credible political names in the state that time. Chief Udenwa’s tenure as governor of Imo State ran from 29th May 1999 – 29th May 2007 (8years).
Consciously as it was in the minds of Imolites, when the tenure of Chief Achike Udenwa ended in 2007, power shifted back again to Okigwe Zone with the election of Chief Ikedi Ohakim for the beginning of another rotational circle as the three senatorial zones have previously had a slot each. The purpose of this decision by the people of Imo State was to ensure that zonal rotation system was maintained to ensure equity, fairness, peace and sense of belonging across respective zones. Orlu senatorial zone where Governor Rochas come from could not have had any moral justification to lay claim to the seat of Imo State again, if not for the aforementioned lapses of Chief Ohakim during his first tenure. Now that the actions/inactions of Chief Ohakim in 2011 provided Okorocha the opportunity of becoming Governor of Imo, and he will be completing his eight years in office come 29th May 2019, simple justice demands that political equilibrium of the state should be made to return to the old status quo/order. This is the only way to maintain equity, unity and justice for which the state is known for.