The news about the Imo charter of equity, as recommended by the Imo State Council of Elders after their meeting of Thursday, April 13, 2023, is exciting in many ways. For over two decades, Imo people have clamoured for a zoning arrangement where the governorship and other top government offices are equitably shared among the three zones, namely: Orlu Zone, Owerri Zone and Okigwe Zone based on a charter of equity. The clamour for a zoning arrangement never materialised as previous administrations paid no serious attention to the subject matter. If you paid closer attention to the ways governors emerged so far in Imo, it has always been decided by the votes of the people and not on a charter of equity. If an open contest for the governorship seat continues, it will encourage a rancorous scrambling for power and destroy brotherhood.
To promote peace, enhance unity, and reduce rancour in our politics, therefore, zoning the governorship and other top political offices in Imo based on a charter of equity is imperative. This ideal must have been at the back of the minds of the revered elders who sat on April 13 and fashioned out a workable charter of equity for the first time in our history. The Imo State Council of Elders, in a widely circulated communique signed by HRH Eze Dr. Cletus Ilomuanya (Chairman of the Council) and the Rt. Hon. Maxwell Duru (Secretary of the Council) adopted entirely the report of its strategy committee on the Imo charter of equity, following a motion moved by no other than the erudite Prof. Maurice Iwu, that the governorship of the state will rotate among the three senatorial zones of Orlu, Okigwe, and Owerri for eight years each. The Imo elders also resolved that since Senator Hope Uzodimma, who hails from Orlu Zone, is already the governor, the next zone to hold the office will be Owerri, after which it will move to Okigwe Zone. On this premise, the Elders Council said that Governor Hope Uzodimma should be allowed to complete Orlu Zone’s eight years tenure, after which Owerri Zone will take over.
On December 22, 2022, the Imo State House of Assembly passed the bill for a law to establish the Imo State Council of Elders. The House said that the creation of the Imo State Council of Elders will enable those who have excelled in their different endeavours to contribute meaningfully to the development of the state in their later age. The bill was subsequently signed into law by the governor in January 2023, making the Council a statutory body. Therefore, when the Council of Elders met and unanimously produced the charter of equity and asked the incumbent governor to continue for a second term, they were not speaking for any political party but for the whole of Imo people. Those who are overwhelmed by their own political considerations or suffer a defeat and therefore try to diminish the solution proffered by the Council by tagging it APC Council of Elders are plain mischievous.
Interestingly, Imo people who desired an equitable sharing of political positions now sincerely applaud the Imo charter of equity and agree with the Imo State Council of Elders that the charter of equity is designed and adopted to ensure a just, equitable and seamless transfer of power from one zone to the other and to ensure that the dominance of a zone in the politics of the state comes to an agreeable end. In a recent letter in complete support of the Imo charter of equity, an Igbo leader par excellence, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, said: “I support the charter of equality which gives opportunity to all parts of Imo State to have access to the highest political position of the state…Orlu Zone is currently occupying the position of governorship and will soon complete the first four years. The [elders] council resolved that Orlu should be allowed to complete the next four years and thereafter hand over to Owerri Zone for another eight years [and] at the end of eight years by Owerri Zone, Okigwe Zone will take over for another eight years”.
A few persons have tried to unnecessarily politicise the ultruistic work done by the elders. One of them, Prof. Nnamdi Obiareri, wrongfully questions the Imo charter of equity, wondering: “What happens to the whooping 20 years difference between Orlu Zone and Owerri Zone and 16 years between Orlu Zone and Okigwe Zone already served by Orlu Zone by the end of the incumbent Governor’s first term in early 2024?”. He adds; “If the Imo Elders zoning formula is obeyed willy- nilly, Governor Uzodinma will get another one term [4 years] making it a total of 24 years before Owerri Zone [which has not served any full term] will get 8 years of two terms beginning from 2028. Thereafter, Okigwe Zone [which served one term of 4 years with Governor Ohakim] will get 8 years of two terms after Owerri Zone from 2036 to 2044. Thereafter, Orlu Zone will get 8 years of two terms from 2044.” Prof. Obiaraeri’s kind of faulty permutation, especially coming from a teacher of law, is rather worrisome in many ways.
Prof. Obiaraeri knows that the charter of equity is commendable, but he is not inclined to commend it because it does not have a retrospective effect. He would have had no problem with the charter of equity proposed by the wise Imo elders if they had asked Governor Hope Uzodimma not to run for a second term. This kind of skewed argument coming from a teacher of law raises more questions than answers.
There is a legal principle that laws don’t have a retrospective effect. Laws are made looking into the future. Moreover, Imo people have come together through the Council of Elders and agreed on the best way to resolve the issue of power sharing among the three zones, and Governor Hope Uzodimma agrees to implement the decision of the people, he cannot be made to pay for agreeing to ensure the implementation of the decision of Imo people. The mathematical concerns raised by Prof Obiaraeri rather highlight and exercabate the problems the charter of equity intends to solve and also show the high-horse attitude of some of the commentators. Such skewed narratives will not engender the peace and brotherhood the charter of equity intends to build. Is it better to allow Orlu Zone to God-knows-when due to a scrambling for power, or resolve the issue now, and allow Orlu to complete its current tenure? If we realise that the charterof equity is between the three zones and not politicians in the zones, we will as well realise that the best thing to do now is to allow Orlu Zone to complete two terms in office and not indulge in mathematical calculations, which would rather expose desperation by some people to become a governor. The desperate ones are already considering how old they would be by the time it gets to their zone.
On the other hand, Imo people acknowledge that the deserved reelection of Governor Hope Uzodimma is predicated more on his sterling performance. Those who have endorsed the governor for a second term, including the revered Imo elders, predicated their endorsement on the governor’s performance. The point is that either way you look at the coin, Governor Hope Uzodimma deserves a second term in office, and Prof. Obiaraeri, like most others, does not disagree with the truth that the governor has surpassed the expectations of many.
Equity and justice are for those who earn it, not for one person or group. There is no equity in asking an incumbent governor who has secured the governorship ticket of his party to jettison it because others want to benefit. It is akin to asking a striker with the ball and about to score not to do so because the referee or his coach wants to substitute him. It looks like asking the team with the trophy, the defending champions, to relinquish their trophy so that others would play and win. Eight years for Governor Hope Uzodimma would rather solidify the charter of equity and remove any ambiguities, especially about whether an incumbent should do one or two tenures.
Collins Ughalaa is the Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Communications.