For Nigerians in general and Imolites (Ndi Imo) in particular, the pandemonium that occurred at the hallowed chamber of the Imo State House of Assembly in Owerri on Thursday, July 8, 2021, has become one ugly event too many.
Political observers can attest that Imo state has been in the news for the wrong reasons since the return of democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999.
In this past 22 years of the Fourth Republic, Imolites have not seen the so-called dividend of democracy just as the successive governments, under Chief Achike Udenwa of PDP (1999 to 2007); Chief (Dr.) Ikedi Godson Ohakim of PPA/PDP (2007 to 2011); Chief Ethelbert Anayo Okorocha of (APGA/APC), 2011 to 2019; Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of PDP (2019 to 2020) and Senator Hope Uzodinma of APC (2020 to Date), have not benefited Ndi Imo.
While many states in the South East geo-political zone like Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra, have made steady progress in terms of infrastructural development, human capital development and youth and women empowerment, Imo state has remained a backward entity no thanks to the type of Governors who have occupied Douglas House Owerri after late Chief (Dr.) Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe.
The neighbouring Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states are luckier than Imo in infrastructural
development as their successive civilian Governors have ensured equal development of every part of their states.
For example in Enugu state, Governorship position is rotated amongst the three Senatorial Zones (Nkanu, Udi and Nsukka). In this way all the three political zones in Enugu state have produced the Executive Governor of Enugu state.
The same method of rotating the Governorship position among the Three Zones was adopted by Ebonyi, Anambra and Abia states, a selection process that have ensured equity, peace, justice, progress and development of the above states, far more than what obtains in Imo state.
In neighbouring Anambra, ex-Governor Peter Obi started a revolution in critical infrastructure and his successor, Chief Willie Obiano from another zone continued where Obi stopped and will next year handover to another person from another zone.
Ebonyi, the least in the South East has surpassed Imo state in infrastructural development because Governor Dave Umahi from a zone different from his predecessor, Chief Martin Elechi, has transformed Abakiliki, the state capital.
But the reverse is the case in Imo state as Imolites have not been lucky to get another Governor that can perform like late Mbakwe just as the state has refused to adopt the time-tested Igbo Charter of Equity of ‘Egbe Belu Ugo Belu’ (meaning Let Eagle perch and Let Kite also perch).
This state of affairs is persisting because Imo state has refused to adopt the same formula other South East states adopted to bring development to their states. Here, one zone is dominating the rest hence there is no love lost with it attendant underdevelopment.
If Chief Achike Udenwa’s eight years reign of 1999 to 2007 did not leave any legacy in his Orlu Zone in particular and Imo state in general, the eight-year regime of Chief Okorocha (2011 to 2019), could be called the years of the locusts.
The 16 years of Udenwa and Okorocha both from Orlu Zone or Imo West failed to bring dividends of democracy inspite of the former Governors being in the ruling national parties PDP and APC during their tenure.
What looked like semblance of “good governance” in the present democratic dispensation in Imo state was the period of 2007 to 2011 when Chief Ohakim tried to transform Imo state by embarking on quality roads construction, maintainance and rehabilitation as well as many other developmental projects.
These include the setting up of Imo Rural Roads Rehabilitation and Maintainance Agency (IRROMA) which saw all the 27 Local Government Areas in the state getting full compliments of roads construction heavy duty equipment.
They include earth movers, graders, payloaders, trucks (tippers), motor rollers, wheel barrows and other road construction machinery to every LGA to embark on roads construction, rehabilitation and maintainance.
Ohakim’s signature pet-project called Clean & Green Initiative which won Owerri the prestigious award of the Cleanest City in Nigeria during his regime (2007 to 2011), was to be discontinued by his successor, Rocas Okorocha who ruled from 2011 to 2019.
His eight years on the saddle in Imo state were just a nightmare for Ndi Imo since the creation of the ‘Heartland State’ in March 1976 and since the first Military Governor, Rear Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi Kanu took charge in Owerri.
Okorocha’s administration destroyed everything that remained of his predecessors’ legacies, especially the legacy of late first civilian Governor of Imo State, Chief (Dr.) Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe, (October 1, 1979 to October 31, 1983), when the military once again struck to remove Dee Sam Mbakwe’s benevolent regime.
Chief Mbakwe of the Nigeria People’s Party (NPP) had during his short regime turned Imo state to El Dorado of sum sort by providing Imo state, then comprising Abia and Ebonyi states, with visible dividends of democracy.
They include the establishments of Imo State University at Uturu, Okigwe which was later annexed by Abia state; Imo Concorde Hotels; Adapalm Plantation at Ohaji, (the biggest of such in Nigeria today) and defunct Progress Bank Limited.
Mbakwe within the short period build world-class stormwater three-layer underground drainage system in Owerri to take care of the annual flooding of the city. He built Dan Anyiam and Grasshoppers International Stadia and Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri.
He with the support of patriotic and loyal great Imo state-born political heavyweights like late Chief RBK Okafor, Ogbu-Eshi of Oguta; Chief (Dr.) Martins I. Awurumibe, Igwe Okaa-Omee 1 of Mbano and Chief Benjamin O. Uwajimogu Snr, Agbawodike Izu of Obowo, also built the first Independent Power Station known as (PDS) at Amaraku, Isiala Mbano LGA.
Ex-Governor Mbakwe left his foot prints in every part of Imo state including building Almuminium smelting company at Inyishi-Ikeduru; Leather and Shoes Industry in Owerri and Avutu Modern Poultry in Obowo and many others within four years in office.
Sadly, no other Governor, 12 in all including Governor Uzodinma has been able to replicate what Mbakwe achieved within a very short period as Governor of Imo State.
Aside Executive arm of government of Imo state which has churned out bad governance over the years the Legislative arm has become “Imo House of Commotion” instead of Imo House of Assembly.
The event of Thursday, July 8 when the unilateral action of Speaker, Rt. Hon. Paul Emeziem to remove a principal officer and suspend six active members of the House confirmed that in Imo state anything is possible.
Imo State has become the proverbial “sick child” of the South East geopolitical zone, as the action of the Speaker negates every democratic practice.
Pandemonium broke out inside the Chamber after that undemocratic action as sporadic gunshots were heard outside the Assembly Complex immediately the Speaker announced the suspension of the six members.
Speaker Emeziem who was still having altercation with one of the suspended Members, Hon. Uche Ogbuagu, APC Ikeduru, was later ambushed by the thugs who took him away to unknown location.
However, it was not the first time this “comedy of errors” have happened in the Imo House of Assembly as this kind of Commotion and other incidents worse than the present one have happened in the House. It dates back to 2011 when Governor Okorocha held the realm of power in Imo state.
Watch out for the story next week.
Harry Awurumibe is a Current Affairs Commentator/Author