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How traditional rulers’ partiality complicates Ihedioha, Okorocha’s feud

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Imo State governor Emeka Ihedioha

The trending issue in Imo State is the supremacy battle between incumbent governor, Emeka Ihedioha, and his predecessor, Rochas Okorocha. The battle has divided the indigenes along those for and against the combatants and it is said to be creating fear and tension among residents, just as it has become a huge distraction from governance and the ability of the governor to focus on delivering his campaign promises.

It could be said that the ugly backlash took a turn for the worse after the keenly contested election, in which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor, Ihedioha, trounced the ruling All Progressives Congress’s (APC) candidate, Senator Hope Uzodimma and the Action Alliance (AA) candidate, Uche Nwosu, who was supported by the outgoing governor and father-in-law, Okorocha.

However, the squabble took another dimension almost 90 days after Ihedioha’s inauguration, especially the involvement of the state’s traditional rulers. A faction of the traditional rulers, led by the former chairman of the state’s Traditional Rulers’ Council, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, believed to be loyal to Governor Ihedioha, at the weekend threatened to protest Okorocha’s ‘reckless’ statements against his successor.

Eze Ilomuanya and his group also charged heads of security agencies to hold Senator Okorocha responsible for any breakdown of law and order in the state. He was reacting to the former governor’s call on his supporters to rise and resist acts of intimidation by Ihedioha.

While addressing his supporters that came to receive him on his return from Abuja, Okorocha said: “I will no longer tolerate any form of attacks from Governor Emeka Ihedioha and I am charging my supporters to rise up and resist further attacks from the PDP-led government. Nobody should intimidate you; Imo belongs to all of us.”

The response from Ilomuanya was said to have unsettled most Imo people, who have been apprehensive over the post-election bickering between the former governor, who now represents Imo West in the Senate, and his successor.

It was gathered that the current chairman of the state traditional rulers’ council, Eze Samuel Ohiri, who is loyal to Okorocha, refused to support Ilomunanya in his stance against the former governor, who removed him and empowered Ohiri.

Though the Ohiri group had allegedly aligned with Okorocha in the past for using the traditional rulers’ peace summit to defraud citizens of the state of huge funds, the faction has allegedly declared that Ilomuanya and his group have no justification to speak on behalf of Imo monarchs.

The development comes on the heels of over 600 monarchs waiting for the incumbent governor to act on their demand for Ohiri to be sacked and Ilomuanya reinstated.

Based on the underlying clash of interest by the two factions of monarchs, concerns have continued to heighten, particularly as the political and traditional leaders, by their actions and inactions, are getting the people covertly involved in their personal rivalry. The fear is that the division among the traditional rulers might snowball into inter-community chaos if not well managed. Some observers argue that by entangling themselves in partisan politics, the traditional rulers have constituted themselves to be cogs in the wheel of progress.

Others have urged the governor to look beyond vendetta and deliver to the people real dividends of democracy, stressing that while Ihedioha may be aiming at getting the confidence and trust of Imo people by holding the ex-governor accountable, such stories have become boring. Imo people believe that they have spoken with their ballot and expect the governor to do what he was elected to do for the state.

An indigene of the state, Mr. Onuigbo Kelvin, told The Guardian that most people thought the wailing and public search for sympathy was a mere tactic espoused by the erstwhile governor to distract the incumbent. He expressed dismay that the responses and tactics employed by Ihedioha in dealing with issues concerning his predecessor negate proper political engagement, remarking that the governor has continued to be distracted while remaining in the pages of the newspapers to defend one personal slight or another.

Onuigbo stated: “Ndi’Imo want nothing but good governance exemplified by probity, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, rule of law, social justice, and equity. These must reflect in positive development in agriculture, infrastructure, housing and urban development, public service, security, tourism, trade and commerce, health care, among others.

“Our people are in dire need of leadership that will ensure that political, social and economic decisions are based on a broad consensus of the direct beneficiaries and not one who rather speaks to impress a few. Indeed, the last is yet to be heard of their cold war but the governor must focus on his promises, as expectations are high.”

Also speaking to The Guardian, another resident, Mr. Eze Ibekwe, who noted that there is no magic fix to the problems facing the state, warned that politicians must not get traditional institutions involved in their game of politics if peace must reign. He said the monarchs are the closest to the people and getting them to fight themselves is a whistle for breakdown of law and order.

Ibekwe added, “The governor must tread cautiously to avert a situation where villages will begin to hunt themselves in the name of support for the governor. He must bear in mind that the massive turnout at various polling units in the state as well as the self-ordered compulsory surveillance by Imolites at INEC collation centre, Owerri, irrespective age and gender, signaled that indeed the people desired a change in governance, one that would usher them into a glorious era of limitless socio-economic prosperity and security. He must not betray this trust if he is interested in a second term”.

Also, Okey Igbokwe decried the state’s huge debt profile as another monster marauding the state.

“While he is walking the talk, the governor should know that he inherited a backlog of debts, pensions and workers salary,” Igbokwe said. “All these we do not want to hear about because we are aware of the damages done to the state by the previous administration. In fact, this is why we voted him.

“Roads across the state are death traps. Unemployment is at its peak with the youth taking a monstrous position in cybercrime. The state is taking top priority in hotels and leisure centres while its economy is dwindling. The outgoing administration promised to build industries and factories, with a view to creating jobs and drastically reduce the high level of unemployment, but we are worse off today. Ihedioha must set to work immediately with those he has chosen to work with him”.

In his article on what Ihedioha needs to perform, a policy analyst and professor of business and sustainable development at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, Kenneth Amaeshi, opined that the absence of a strong opposition in the outgoing regime of Okorocha gave him the unfettered chance to run the state as an emperor, a mistake Imo State should never make again.

He maintained that a solid opposition would constructively keep Ihedioha on his toes to meet his election promises to Imo people, adding, “It is this constructive tension and competition that will possibly lead to some governance innovations in his regime, which will enhance the welfare and wellbeing of Imo people. But one might be tempted to ask: Where is this opposition in Imo State and where will it come from?”

But Secretary to Imo State Government, Uche Onyeagocha, stressed that there is no tension in Imo, adding that there is normalcy and that the present government has decided to tolerate some measure of lunacy, which some individuals are trying to bring upon the state. Onyeagocha, who made his opinion public in a television programme recently, said Okorocha is finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer governor of the state. 

In his words: “I wish to remind the people of Nigeria that the truth is that former Governor Okorocha is suffering from withdrawal syndrome. He didn’t contest to be governor of Imo State. If he honestly feels that there is a case to be made out on the issue of the governorship seat of Imo State, he should allow the person who was the candidate to go make the case by himself.”

 


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