Orlu Zone, the Making of Hausa/Fulani in Imo Politics

By Prince Stanley U Okoroji

A sociological school of thought opined that man is a product and a maker of history, and as such, history makes man, while man remains a maker of history. Consequently, every human activity is historic. The present distortion of the equity charter in Imo State in my opinion is a brainchild of history. For instance, as a child, I remember the deriding song, “Obodo niile emepechelaa ofodu Okigwe n’Orlu, maka na Eze na-achi Okigwe n’Orlu amaghi akwukwo, Abasi do-o, Eyen Abasi…”

This deriding song is a historic reality that as at the creation of Imo State in 1976, provincial towns of Okigwe, Orlu, Ohaozara, Afikpo, etc., were in very deplorable states, Okigwe and Orlu sectors were worse, while Umuahia, Owerri and Aba were blossoming. Such reality put to song, was ever satirical, and could thus prod a people to awakening; even to a long-term perspective planning (to use Anthony James Catanese’s words).

Similarly, shortly after the war and the innumerable losses Imolites run, especially in housing properties in Port Harcourt, many displaced victims moved to Towns like Owerri, Aba, Umuahia where accommodations were possible but rendered difficult by the middleman who became gainfully employed (as agents). The source of income for these middlemen in the three towns was the “kola;” those who failed to take advantage of their services and the type of agency-arrangement, were openly told to move out of the area if they do not like it.

Chief AJN Nzeribe (in his Emergent States in Nigeria: The Challenges of Development. The Imo Experience: 1976-1986), noted that “the arrogance of a typical home bred Owerri house agent or middle-man while discussing in a beer parlour over the plight of new arrivals in the town could succinctly be summed up in the following words: Onye si naala Owerri ari ya mma, ya kwara lee” (Onye shi a ala Owere arighi ya mma, o kwara lie)

Comments of these sorts as earlier said, could certainly nudge the concerned to alertness. They are nonetheless challenges that result to positive outcomes in nearest future. Today, after the massive loss of properties of Ndigbo after the war in places outside their homelands and ethnic lands, every Dick and Harry seek to develop their lands and thus seize every opportunity meant for the even-development of the entire State to develop their lands in the name of dividends of democracy.

Since after the 1999 era that marks the end of Junta rule in Nigeria and in which many civilians thrilled during the Military regime, the inception of democracy has made politics the shortest means for rapid community development and amassment of wealth. And since who plays the piper dictates the tone, political office holders are conceived as “Our opportunity to develop our area; and the more “we are in-charge,” the more developments we have from the dividends of democracy that power holders divide; notwithstanding whether it denies others of what suppose to reach them or not.

This mentality justifies the constant quest for transfer of higher institutions in Imo and even on Anambra State by every Governor on seat, to his area, as well as the other valuable structures existing before or supposed to exist in his regime. Funnily, these could justify why Okigwe and Orlu Zones who were previously backward in development and celebratedly mocked in Owerri beer parlours 42 years back, have gibbered momentum from 1979 when democracy reached Imo State for the first time, lanced their first strength in Dr Douglas Acholonu (1992-1993) as Deputy Governor of Imo State, experimented their force with Chief Achike Udenwa who paired with an Okigwe man (Chief Ebere Udeagu, instead of an Owerri man, and his Deputy Governorship uninterrupted, unlike what Ohakim and Okorocha did to the Owerri politicians that featured as their Deputy Governors).

Then came another non-Owerri zone Politician, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, who by the Orlu factor in Imo politics emerged miraculously as Governor of Imo State, grace to the ploys of Chief Udenwa. Chief Ikedi Ohakim became Imo Governor, took an Owerri woman than man as Deputy Governor, perhaps, those days Owerri women didn’t appear at Mbaris and beer parlours where Orlu and Okigwe people were mocked. This Deputy Governor did not last for 8 years as Ebere Udeagu, and another woman than man was picked again before the grand chute.

Then came the Imo amiable Governor, Rochas Okorocha, like our northern compatriots, who Prof Wole Soyinka in his The Man Died, called “the power drunk.” Like joke, he snatched away the power from his co-mocked brother (from Okigwe zone) and ruled for 8 years. While in the rule, he has vouched to develop Owerri to the dreams of the maiden broadcast of Commander Ndubuisi Kalu on March 14, 1976 and the dreams of Dee Sam Mbakwe. Yet, perhaps in memory of the past deriding songs in Owerri beer parlours, he picked men as Deputy Governors from Owerri capital territory, the then seat of beer parlour songs and house agents’ boasts, and made them less than the women Ohakim picked. He changed the Owerri in his top cabinet like kids, and none could sing again.

Governor Okorocha knows and asserts it that he is Imo Governor from Owerri zone by proxy. And every well-enlightened politician and historian knows what he means- The alleged N300million that he used to buy the APGA ticket from Chief Martin Agbaso who lost the Owerri zone turn unjustly in 2007 and lost the staying power to fight and conquer even in the clearer coast of 2011. He overtly sold the ticket to Orlu zone man, and added his younger brother, Sir Jude Agbaso, as additional term for the contract (like the transfer deal of Arsenal and Manchester United, where Alexis Sanchez was released to Man Utd on the condition of adding up Makhityran to the huge pay for Alexis).

The deal as alleged also had another pact term as condition- The gross development of Owerri zone (especially the capital territory), which Rochas has been faithful and done what he felt he could do in Owerri as Owerri zone man by proxy, since Rochas by implication of the pact is ruling as Owerri zone man by proxy. By proxy, I mean the authorized capacity of genuine substitute, the authorised power of Chief Martin Agbaso substituting Owerri politicians for Rochas to rule in their stead, which he represented.

Rochas deceived an Owerri man to buy the APGA ticket at 300 million according to Newspaper reports then. He ruled for 4 years, mesmerised the Agbasos within 2 years and brought in his boy as Deputy Governor. And towards the end of his tenure, knowing full well his pact with the Owerri zone in 2011 and 2015, he preferred instead his personal in-law and youth from Orlu zone, to the elderly statesmen, to wit: The Agbasos, Eze Madumere, Jude Ejiogu, Jerry Chukwueke, Chuks Ololo, etc, as his avowed choice for the Imo APC guber come 2019.

By way of ensuring total humiliation of the zone, the legacy of an earlier violence propelled the rekindling of another electoral battle and intrigue between Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha as PDP guber candidate from Owerri in 2015 and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume (as defeated PDP guber primary aspirant from Okigwe zone). This looks like a recycled history of the former problem between Senator Araraume and Engr. Charles Ugwu, which in this historic trend could be seen as same old battle, especially, the emptying of (the Okigwe zone) Araraume-led PDP structure into (the Orlu zone propelled) Okorocha’s APC, than the PDP-led Owerri zone candidate in the person of Emeka Ihedioha. This act is more than mere party politics and intrigues, but zonal politics and struggle for greatness.

Rochas Okorocha thus won Emeka Ihedioha. He also remembered that Orlu zone had been backward in Ministerial appointment, and thus sent his in-law, Prof Anthony Anwuka, on ministerial appointment that the Orlu zone has been marginalised of since the creation of the State in 1976. As a true son of Orlu and perhaps remembering the gibbered songs of Owerri beer parlours’ comforters then, Rochas has demolished the core places in Owerri capital territory where greatest number of voters registration and voting come, to wit: All the tickly populated mechanic villages and markets in Owerri capital territory, have been destroyed, not only for urban renewal but as a perspective planning castration, to deter Owerri zone from having huge voters registration, as most of the people whose properties were destroyed are from Orlu and Okigwe zones and have thus returned to their zones with their businesses and thus repopulate their areas.

These great sons and princes of the King-Governor, Okorocha, are busy mobilising structures and reliable followers that have their own unflinching structures and followers, and the followers of these followers have their own grandeur of structures and followers. That is Orlu zone, the Hausa/Fulani of Imo politics! Thus, while the Owerri zone is busy grooming classical statesmen and best calibre of politicians in the State, the Okigwe zone is busy grooming and exerting the most expensive and deadliest political arsenals, intrigues, scheming and manoeuvrings. The Orlu zone on the other hand is busy moulding most reliable structures that at all times and seasons deliver on trust and without money-politics and hoodwinking, playing the snipers-side of politics, scoring heavy points and dominating the political terrain with their efficient antics that Owerri zone unlike Okigwe zone, falls easy prey to and succumbs always, only to regret later, like the Agbaso-Okorocha saga.

The problematic with the above for most social analysts is that besides the equity charter for power shifts, nothing in this world is permanent, no condition is stable. The cry of marginalisation of Owerri zone today will later turn like the pre and post-Independent conditions of Igbos in Nigeria. How fare the Igbos in Nigerian politics today? According to great Igbo historians, ABC Onwubiko and Okwudiba Nnoli, Igbos dominated the Nigerian politics from 1952 till 1966, and were intimidatingly dominating all spheres of social life and administration in Nigeria, even at the doorsteps of the Hausa/Fulanis and at the home towns of the Yorubas.

Nothing good comes easy, and no earthly good and condition lasts forever. Igbos saw themselves them as Lords of the Flies. Today, after the civil war, where are we? Same thing is applicable to the state of Owerri zone versus Orlu/Okigwe zones, and Orlu zone in particular. Days will come, very soon, when like Igbos in Nigerian politics, Orlu zone will be subjected in Imo politics, and will cry marginalisation and thus recount tales of woes. Now we have the cure to this certain future disaster. Let equity reign, despite Owerri zone’s sale out. Did Martin Agbaso consult the entire zone before doing that? The solution is the equity charter, which remains a reference material for justice in power shift and rotation in the State. Imo cannot and will never be better without equity and fairness; they are features of progress and positive societal advancement.

How fair is it that in 26 years of democracy in Imo State, Orlu senatorial zone has ruled for 16 years, and is determined to continue, Okigwe zone has ruled for 8 years, and is determined to rule for another 4 or 8 years, while Owerri zone has ruled the State for only 2 years and is asked to be contented with the State’s infrastructures at its premises?

In Owerri capital territory today, present and preceding governments, have acquired virtually all land-banks in it and allocated it to ready buyers, most of whom are from Orlu and Okigwe zones. At present, no kindred or community in Owerri capital territory can boast of 20 hectares of land that has not been acquired by Government. What only remains is the expanse in Assumpta Cathedral for the government to acquire, and Jesus Christ will strike which Governor it is with incurable paralysis and blindness.

Virtually these acquired lands were done by the regimes of Udenwa, Ohakim and Okorocha. No Owerri zone-born Governor will demolish his people’s land-banks that are tidied up, motor parks, artisans’ workshops, and ancestral markets, only to allocate them for other projects different from its primordial aims, and thus for personal real estate. All done in the name of not being in the initial Master Plan, which if it were done today, would never contain such dictates. Let’s bring that Fingerhurth and Partners to re-plan Owerri capital territory again today, and see if it will present same plan as before. Of a truth, Orlu zone has lost the concept of equity, fairness, justice, impartiality and brotherhood in their political conscience. They are thus the Hausa/Fulani in Imo politics.