Elder statesman and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu examines the achievements of Imo Stae Governor Hope Uzodinma, leadership squabbles in Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Southeast’s quest for power shift in 2023.
In the past few weeks, a group of people from Owerri Zone have continued to make embarrassing statements, not only to Owerri Zone, but to the two other Zones of Orlu and Okigwe. There is a saying in Igbo land “Okenye anayi ano na ulo eghu amuoo na obu”. As a proud and patriotic son of Igbo land, whose achievements and contributions towards the development of Igbo land, Nigeria and humanity is widely acknowledged. As the Ahaejiagamba of Igbo land, a title conferred on me by the seven states of Igboland – Imo State, Abia State, Rivers State, Ebonyi State, Enugu State, Delta State and Anambra State. As the Chairman of Council of Elders of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide and as a patriot who has been honoured by Imo people as Grand Commander of Imo State, an honour which enlists my name in the Hall of Fame of Imo State, I am constrained to make the following comments:
I wish to state categorically that the public should note that this group have no mandate to speak for Owerri Zone and I will therefore, appeal to our brothers in Orlu and Okigwe to totally discountenance and ignore their libelous and provocative statements.I want to put it on record for the benefit of the younger generation that Orlu and Okigwe helped to make it possible to locate the capital of Imo State in Owerri. There was a fierce struggle to locate the capital at Umuahia. At that time, Umuahia axis had very strong presence in the Armed Forces Ruling Council of Nigeria; but the support of many leaders from Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri Zones made it possible to locate the capital at Owerri. In this regard, mention must be made of the efforts of Chief R. B. K. Okafor, Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe, His Excellency Chief Sam Mbakwe, Chief Collins Obi, Mrs. Chinyere Asika, Chief J.K. Nzerem, Chief Olumba Onyewuchi, Chief Ritchard Onyenobi, Chief Onyeso Nwachukwu, Chief Nnana Ukegbu, Dr. Sylvester Ugo, HRH Eze Onukogu, Dr. Ben Uzoukwu Nzeribe, Chief John R. Anyaehie, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, Sen. Evan Enwerem, Chief Sylvester Enwerem and many others.When Imo State was created, it included the present Abia State and part of Ebonyi State and there was mutual cooperation between Orlu, Owerri and Okigwe. We must acknowledge the efforts of Orlu leaders like Chief R.B.K. Okafor and HRH Eze S.N. Uzor (Nze Obi of Egbema) in preventing part of Ohaji Egbema from being ceded to Rivers State – today Imo State is an oil producing State. Most of these Orlu leaders helped to make this possible.
Today, the Imo State Government, led by His Excellency Sen. Hope Uzodinma, has given political appointment to many men and women from Owerri Zone. So far, in his developmental efforts, he has not discriminated against Owerri Zone. I therefore appeal to him to discountenance all the attack these group made against him in the social and print media and face his governance of Imo State.The Imo Charter of Equity which insists on fairness and equity to all Zones of the State was originated by me. I was the leader of NRC in the whole of Eastern Nigeria. At that time, geo-political Zones had not been created in Nigeria. So, I had considerable influence in all the States in Eastern Nigeria such as Rivers, Cross River, Akwaibom, Imo, Abia, Enugu and Anambra. These were the only states created in the former Eastern Nigeria at that time. His Excellency, Douglas Acholonu was a Front Runner in NRC, he is very sound and a well educated medical doctor and he has an excellent family background. His father, the late Igwe Acholonu, was one of the oldest and powerful Monarchs in Igboland. Douglas was supported by very strong political and economic leaders such as Clement Maduako. We held a meeting and decided at that meeting that Zoning should start from Owerri Zone. That singular decision led to the emergency of His Excellency Chief Evan Enwerem from Owerri Zone as a governor. I therefore, want to state that Orlu and Okigwe people respected this decision and did not go about to abuse me or insult me rather when I contested for President of Nigeria, the three Zones supported me and indeed Orlu gave me the highest vote. The government was toppled by a Military Coup. In 1998, the Military Government lifted the ban on political activities. This Charter of Equity was revisited. This time, at my Corporate Headquarters Oriental Plaza Okigwe Road Ugwu Orji, Owerri, it was unanimously reaffirmed by the Three Zones.
The only resentment was from a few individual from Owerri Zone, who insisted that Owerri should go another term. We however, reminded them that the spirit of the Equity is that any group that got their own should endeavour to keep it, but if however, they are unfortunate to lose it through military coup, impeachment or any other cause, it has to go to another Zone. Eventually, Orlu produced the Governor in 1999 in the person of His Excellency Chief Achike Udenwa. After 8 years, the next Zone to produce Governor was Okigwe.
A lot of things happened, but I fought like a wounded lion to make Araraume from Okigwe Zone to win the PDP Governorship Primary under severe contest by some candidates from Orlu and Owerri. What transpired thereafter is part of history. But, I was satisfied that His Excellency Dr. Ikedi Ohakim from Okigwe Zone eventually won the election from another party because PDP decided to support him in a bye election. He later on decamped to PDP. Ikedi Ohakim needed to serve his second term in order to handover to Owerri Zone, but very much to our surprise, in 2011, some group of Owerri people had a bargain with His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha to work against Ikedi Ohakim. They claimed that Rochas signed an agreement with them to serve only one term and handover to a candidate from Owerri Zone. I warned them that no politician who has an opportunity to serve a 2nd term will abandon it based on any agreement not in consonant with the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria. They completely ignored me. But, undaunted by the forces against Ikedi Ohakim I and some leaders of Owerri Zone mobilised Imo people from Okigwe and Orlu to plead that Ohakim should be given a chance to complete his tenure so that an Owerri man will emerge after his tenure.
I must observe that most Orlu leaders including HRM Eze Dr. Cletus Ilomuanya supported us in our effort to ensure that Ohakim won the election. It is important to mention that Ohakim won in a number of Local Governments in Owerri Zone, but lost woefully in some Local Governments and this resulted in his failure. If all the Local Governments had supported him, he could have won and then handed over to an Owerri person in the spirit of the Charter of the Equity. This action led to practical collapsed of the Charter of Equity. After Rochas first term, I championed the cause of an Owerri candidate in PDP. His Excellency Hope Uzodinma was a very strong contender for the Governorship. He was very close to me. He is part of my political structure and he respects and holds me in very high esteem. But, because of my strong believe that Owerri Zone should be given an opportunity, I did not support the candidature of Hope Uzodinma. It was clear to me that Hope was very strong and if he contested for the primary, he could win.
I prevailed on him to drop his ambition and instead, he should go back to the Senate, which he did in 2015. Our candidate in PDP lost the election to His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Hope Uzodinma on the other hand won election to the Senate. In 2019, our candidate, His Excellency Emeka Ihedioha won election as the Governor of Imo State. I was the leader of the party at that time. After Emeka Ihedioha was sworn in as Governor, in a brief ceremony at his residence, I made it clear to the people that I am getting old and besides I am a Statesman respected and revered by reasonable Imo people of all political persuasions, therefore I will not be able to continue to lead the party in the State. From this point Emeka Ihedioha became the leader of the party in Imo State.From the foregoing, it is clear that Owerri Zone has been given the opportunity by Imo people to be Governor two times and on those two occasions, I played major roles in actualizing them. Ironically, some of the people criticizing me are political travelers and adventurists; one of them since 1999 has gone round the major political parties. He started his journey from PDP, he later joined AC and from AC to APC. In fact, he is one of those who negotiated the agreement with Owelle Rochas Okorocha and persuaded Owerri people to vote for Rochas Okorocha. He later joined APGA from APC and during the last election when he saw the prospect in PDP, he left APGA to join PDP. At the end of the day, he achieved what he wanted by getting a big political appointment in PDP Government of Imo State. I have the benefit of good family background.
I was told by my parents that every elderly person irrespective of his position must be treated with respect. I therefore, take this opportunity as a father to advise every Igbo son and daughter that our forebears taught us the golden rule of respect for elders and I advise the younger generation today to keep to that rule of respect for elders. In Igbo culture, it brings happiness, peace, love and progress.From the above, it is clear that I played major role in making it possible for Owerri Zone to produce two Governors. When a Governor is sworn in, it is his duty to protect his job and not mine. His Excellency Evan Enwerem was removed by a military coup and not by me. His Excellency Emeka Ihedioha was removed by a Court judgment in favour of one of the contestants Hope Uzodinma and not by me.
Hope Uzodinma did not act in consonance with Orlu, Okigwe or even anybody from Owerri Zone. He acted in actualisation of his aspiration to be a governor. This group have said that I don’t have the mandate of our people to speak for Owerri people, but I have the mandate to speak for Igbos as Chairman of Ohaneze Elders Council. If I can speak for Igbos, I can also speak for Ndi-Imo. My advice is that we are Christian, the Holy Bible made it clear that we should pray and support our leaders; it did not say that we should destroy them by words or action. These few people should change their ways and know that a governor of a state has got executive powers; he takes decision on economic and social issues pertaining to the State. I have observed that His Excellency Hope Uzodinma has been fair to the three Zones in the State Okigwe, Owerri and Orlu in allocation of resources. He did not take the part of narrow minded politicians who always try to victimise those who did not support or vote for them.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo president general my role:
On the Ohanaeze issue, it is important to correct many misleading information about my role in the emergence of Prof. George Obiozor as a possible consensus candidate as President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. From the constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Imo State is to produce the next President General in January, 2021. I played a major role in reviving Ohanaeze Ndigbo when President Ibrahim Babangida lifted the ban on political activities. At that time, I was mobilising to contest election as President of Nigeria. I have held various positions in Ohanaeze Ndigbo. When His Excellency, Ikemba Odimegwu Ojukwu, tenure expired as Chairman of Planning and Strategy of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, he handed over to me as the next Chairman of Planning and Strategy of Ohanaeze Ndigbo when he disengaged. I was also the Chairman of the Political Committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, I also was the Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo that produced the Constitution of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and today I am the Chairman of Elders Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. In 2019, at the time His Excellency Emeka Ihedioha was Governor, Prof. Obiozor approached me and said that he wanted to find out if I was contesting the position of President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo; that if I will contest, he will support me, but if I am not contesting, he will like to contest. I told him that I have served Igbos, Nigeria and humanity to the best of my ability both in times of war and in times of peace and at every stage I did my best, my contemporaries are my witnesses. So, I said I will not contest, but I will not make any commitment until I know all the candidates who are interested in the contest. Later this year Prof. Obiozor approached me and meanwhile more than 25 people have indicated interest in the position of President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Most of them were going round distributing drinks and money to people. As a leader, I found this situation very undesirable and embarrassing. In my capacity, I called a broad meeting of Select Imo Leaders which included the Traditional Rulers, the Christian Association of Nigeria, former Governors, and former Deputy Governors, former Speakers, political office holders former Chairmen of all political associations, religious leaders, community and business leaders from Owerri Zone.
This meeting was held at Lady Eudora Iwuanyanwu Hall in my Corporate Headquarters, Oriental Plaza, Owerri on Wednesday 4th November, 2020. The meeting was well attended. The meeting resolved to set up a Committee to screen the candidates. The following were members of the screening Committee: 1) Chief Dr. E. C. Iwuanyanwu – Chairman, Dr. Ezechi Chukwu President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Imo State – Secretary, Rev. Dr. Eche E. Eche – Chairman Christian Association of Nigeria Imo State, Bishop Athan Azubuike, HRM Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri – Chairman Council of Traditional Rulers Imo State, HRM Eze Cletus Ilomuanya – Former Chairman Council of Traditional Rulers Imo State and Chairman South East Council of Traditional Rulers, His Excellency Douglas Acholonu – Former Deputy Governor Imo State, Barr. Eze Duruiheoma,SAN, Mike Okiro rtd IG, Prof. Maurice Iwu – Former INEC Chairman, His Excellency Ebere Udeagu – Former Deputy Governor Imo State, Chief Maxwell Duru – Former Speaker Imo State House of Assembly, His Excellency Amb. Eddy Ohuoha, Sir Ambrose Ejiogu – business and political leader, Chief Sam Obaji – business and political leader, HRH Eze Oliver Ohanwe – a prominent Traditional Ruler.
The Committee called all aspirants to submit their CVs and programs for Ohanaeze Ndigbo during their four years tenure. Many of the aspirants later withdrew on their own, only 6 people sent in their resume and programme of action. The Committee screened the 6 aspirants and Prof. Obiozor credentials and programme were outstanding. We now reconvened a meeting of Imo leaders and they unanimously endorsed Prof. Obiozor and requested that appointment should be obtained from His Excellency Sen. Hope Uzodinma Governor of Imo State to present Prof. Obiozor.
The Governor eventually gave us appointment and we presented Prof. Obiozor. During the presentation, various people spoke, Rt. Rev. Eche E. Eche spoke for Christian Association of Nigeria, HRM Eze Sam Ohiri spoke for the Traditional Rulers, Bishop Asubuike spoke, Dr. Ezechi Chukwu President Ohanaeze Ndigbo Imo State spoke, Retired Inspector General Mike Okiro spoke for Orlu Zone, Ambrose Ejiogu spoke for Owerri Zone and Ambassador Eddy Onuoha spoke for Okigwe Zone. All of them confirmed the endorsement of Prof. Obiozor by Imo Leadership. The Governor finally accepted our recommendation of Prof. Obiozor.
It is very embarrassing to us as Christians that our people have embarked on all sorts of malicious falsehood. Some have presented petitions purported to have been written by one Prof. L. C. Kalu living in Washington USA. Other people forged letter from Meitty Allah. We have investigated the two and found all to be false. In fact the writer of the falsehood is based in Owerri here.
In cause of my assignment, some people from Owerri Zone approached me and insisted that since the governor is from Orlu, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide should be zoned to Owerri. I explained to them that the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo is zoned to Imo State to produce the best irrespective of Senatorial Zone. In effect, if someone of the same mother with the Governor is the best acceptable candidate to the Igbos, he will be selected.They however did not accept my advice and rather prefer to carry out malicious falsehood against me.
Finally, I have received some curious concerns from various people in Imo State and beyond over this incident. Most of them expressed deep sadness and worries in view of what is considered to be my past selfless contributions to the development of Imo State and Nigeria. I want to assure all friends and well wishers that I am not perturbed; everybody has a right of expression. I will however in future prefer in order not to overheat the polity, for people to engage in dialogue before making provocative and insulting statements on me or any other person. Be rest assured that I will continue to serve our people in Owerr Zone, Imo State, Nigeria and indeed the entire humanity.