Mbaise clan made up of three local government areas of Aboh, Ahiazu and Ezinihitte is an integral and thickly populated part of Imo State.
Since the creation of the State in 1976, people from the area, like those from some other areas, have made several unsuccessful attempts to occupy the coveted number one position in the State. In 1979, Steve Evuleocha then of PRP made a very strong showing but he and Nwakanma Okoro of NPN could not match the large reputation of the NPP, Dr. Azikiwe and Chief Sam. Mbakwe who eventually held sway.
Again, during the Babangida diarchy experiment, Prof. Fabian Osuji and Dr. Alex Obi made vain attempts to secure the governorship position. The eventual candidate of the SDP then, Dr. Alex Obi, lost to the NRC candidate Chief Evan Enwerem.
It is understandable that in every contest, there must be a winner and a loser but I want to recall with regret or rather disappointment, that one of the reasons for the loss then by the young and vibrant Mbaise son was the covertly orchestrated campaign of calumny by a section of the Imo populace targeted at ensuring that an Mbaise man did not emerge as governor. According to the masterminds of that destructive campaign, the Mbaise man is “a crafty and domineering person”. For as yet very inexplicable reasons, that vicious campaign sold, and the SDP candidate lost to the less vibrant and less articulate NRC candidate.
Today, the general view (and rightly too) is that it is the turn of Owerri zone to produce the next governor of the state. Some persons from the zone have shown tacit interest while others have openly declared their desire to run for the position. That politicians from other zones have indicated interest in running for the position is nothing unusual since they have the constitutional right so to do. However, Owerri zone which, going by reasonable precedent, is entitled to produce the next governor, should get their acts together so as not to fall victim to the predatory disposition of Orlu zone.
I do not come from Owerri zone but I believe that for the sake of equity and fairness the zone deserves to produce the next governor of Imo State.
Since all the known political parties, except PDP and APGA, have come together as APC to which party the sitting governor belongs, and since the governor has indicated his intention to run for a second term, Owerri people acting as one united force should give him a fight. It is my considered view that the contest will be an easy one for the simple reason that the Imo electorate have now realised the foolery in allowing the deceit that has prevailed in Imo (in the name of governance in the past two and half years) to continue. All one need do is to walk round Owerri and/or other parts of the state and talk with the man on the street, the civil servant, the opinion moulder and even the average politician of whatever party and it will be clear that the governor’s days are numbered. Indeed, a trader in Owerri market whom I engaged in a long chat said, by way of regret, that while PDP was sharing the money which reached them in the market, ‘the man is eating the money all alone’.
However, I have my fears. These fears stem from the fact that the segregation and divisive campaigns within and among Owerri people have started rearing their heads again. There are at the moment seven known aspirants from Owerri zone, namely: Emeka Ihedioha, Bethel Amadi, Emma Iheanacho, Bethel Zimako, Chris Anyanwu, Jerry Chukwueke and Emma Ojinere. These are all eminently qualified to be governor but in terms of exposure, experience, visibility and public relations, the records of Emeka Ihedioha seem unassailable (that is if available information is anything to go by). His ability to manage himself and not get involved in unnecessary controversies and disagreements in the House of Representatives as well as his continued rise from one leadership position to another in a chambers peopled by equals, speak volumes of the sterling qualities of which he is made.
I have singled out Ihedioha not because of any special interest in him but because I was confronted in a function recently by a politician who, in a bid to canvass my support for the candidacy of a certain governorship aspirant from Owerre, said: “You know an Mbaise man cannot be the governor of this State”. This statement was preceded by an argument between him and a supporter of Ihedioha.
My response to that rather thoughtless remark may not be necessary here but I hasten to say that this misconception, deliberate and unwarranted maligning of an entire clan by the same section of Imo is most unfortunate and condemnable. No doubt, there certainly will be some bad eggs in Mbaise as in other sections of the state but such over generalisation as often perpetrated by the same section of the Imo society not only smacks of crass unenlightenment but also shows pathological hatred with which the rest of us must refuse to be infected. This level of hatred, in my opinion, borders on envy.
Some of my best friends are from Mbaise and I have in my association with them over the years, found them reliable and trustworthy. Mbaise, like Igboland, has a very high population density which suggests that their land mass is hardly enough to accommodate their population. They, like Igbos in general, are therefore outgoing people who work hard for resources to sustain their overflowing population. These are not bad attributes. They are indeed virtues and leadership qualities that we require of the man or woman who aspires to be governor of Imo State. Let us face it, some sections of Imo have the reputation of being unserious and hedonistic. Much as not everybody from such sections can be said to have such laissez-faire attitude to life but would we rather have an unserious person as governor.
Mbaise as a people love themselves. They are their brothers’ keepers, and if we have to reason syllogistically, it follows that if an Mbaise man becomes governor he will show love to Imo people, work hard to develop the state and make life worth living for its people. To make uncharitable remarks about a people and by so doing attempt to deprive them of a fair chance to have a shot at the governorship position in the State is a clear contravention of their right to freedom from discrimination as enshrined in section 42 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which states: “No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth”.
The politician who meant to win my support by that uncomplimentary comment about Mbaise people must learn to hype whatever qualities of which his principal is made instead of running down other aspirants.
Imo State needs as governor, a hardworking, focused, tried and tested person who understands the dynamics of Nigerian politics and can employ his wealth of experience and knowledge for the human, infrastructural and industrial development of the State. Imo people can identify such a person when they see him. Where he comes from is immaterial.
We must learn to celebrate our best and not pull them down (in whatever guise) for sectional selfish interests.
We can ill afford another experiment with an inexperienced and untested person as governor.
Mr John Keke, a political analyst, wrote from Owerri, Imo State