Perhaps more than ever before, the entry of Chief Mike Nwachukwu, the Owerri North born politician and community leader into the race for the Imo East Senatorial Seat in 2019, has brought to the fore one major issue in Imo State, yet hitherto not much talked about. Until his declaration of intention to run for that office a couple of weeks ago, it looked as if the entire Imo polity was headed to once again connive at the perennial injustice to the people of the oldOwerri Local Government Area (comprising, Owerri North, Owerri West, Owerri Municipal and Ngor Okpala Local Government Areas) in respect of that office.
Minus the nine-month stint by Eze Ajoku who completed the tenure of the late Ama Iwuagwu in the Sixth Assembly, the Imo East (Owerri Zone) Senatorial Seat has been the exclusive preserve for the Mbaike (Mbaitoli and Ikeduru) and Mbaise blocs. Although a few individuals from the old Owerri Local Government Area occasionally spoke against this glaring lopsidedness, it was done in hushed tones. Instead, the people of the old Owerri Local Government Area seemed to wallow in the anonymity of the clamour for a governor of Owerri Zone extraction (vis – a – vis the monopoly of that office by Orlu zone especially) whereas they, themselves, suffered a bigger injustice in the hands of their brothers in the Zone.
This State of affairs subsisted in spite of the fact that for the current National Assembly, one or two sons from the old Owerri Local Government Area made some attempts to bring the marginalization to an end, but the efforts failed to yield the expected result. It is not within the scope of this write-up to interrogate why the attempts failed but even the most cursory reference must inevitably point at the fact that all such previous efforts were not transcendental enough to galvanize the support of the majority of the people within the marginalized bloc. In other words, those bids were carried out in such a manner that even a section of the marginalized bloc (old Owerri Local Government Area) still felt that it will itself be marginalized if certain condition were not met.
For example, the people of Ngor Okpala Local Government Area still feel that they are the worse off on not only in the matter of who represents Imo East in the senate, but also in the scheme of things in the entire State. Again, it is outside the scope of this article to go into details here but suffice it to state that the current clamour to end the intra-Owerri Zone marginalization has assumed a more elaborate dimension, thanks to the direct involvement of Chief Nwachukwu, easily the most visible aspirant for that seat in the 2019 general election. Perhaps unlike before, Nwachukwu’s ambition seemed to have reduced the fear of marginalization among a section of the old Owerri Local Government Area bloc, thanks to the robust social and political relationship that exists between him and several other politically exposed young men and women across the old bloc. From Ngor Okpala to Owerri West, to Owerri Municipal to say nothing of his native Owerri North, Nwachukwu’s aspiration enjoys a wide spread support; with the general belief that he has what it takes to break the ranks in both the Mbaike and Mbaise blocs and capture the trophy this time around.
But first, how did things get to this stage and state? or, what are the facts before the rest of the State, and why, indeed, has it become absolutely necessary for both the Mbaike and Mbaise blocs to support the old Owerri bloc in the next dispensation.
It is not a hidden matter that since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the Imo East Senatorial Seat has always alternated between the Mbaise and Mbaike blocs. Between 1999 and 2003, the late Chief Evan Enwerem from the IkeduruLocal Government Area (the other half of Mbaike), occupied the position and, indeed, rose to the exalted office of President of the Senate. After him, the late Ama Iwuagwu, this time from the other half of Mbaike (MbaitoliLocal Government Area) took over. But following his unfortunate and untimely death, Eze Ajoku from Obibiezena in Owerri North Local Government Area (old Owerri bloc) took over to complete the remainder of Iwuagwu’s tenure. This lasted for only nine months.
In the ensuing legislative period beginning from June 2007, Chris Anyanwu from Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area (she is from Ahiazu Mbaise by birth), stepped in; and she held that position for eight years. For the current 8th assembly, the seat oscillated back to Mbaike, with Senator Samuel Anyanwu from Ikeduru Local Government Area emerging after the 2015 general elections. Of course, it needs no exaggeration to State that Anyanwu would have by now been warming up to seek re-election if not for the fact that he voluntarily opted to run for the Office of the Governor instead. Even so, at least three other of his kinsmen, from the same Ikeduru Local Government Area, Rt. Hon. Kelechi Nwagwu, former speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, George Irechukwu, former Commissioner for Finance and Uzoma Obiyo are warming up for the seat.
But that is not the full picture. Between 1979 and 1983, it was Tony Anyanwu from Ahiazu Mbaise that occupied the seat. He was succeeded by Isdore Obasi, also from thesame Ahiazu Mbaise in 1983. During the aborted 3rd republic superintended by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida in the 1990s, it was another Mbaise man, Bright Nwanne, from EzinihitteLocal Government Area to be precise, that occupied the office. Now, the big question is, how long more will the people of the old Owerri Local Government Area continue to stand by as spectators while their brethren from Mbaise and Mbaike act as gladiators. Put differently, when will the people of the two areas, examine their conscience and live up to the old wise saying that “What is good for the gander is also good for the goose.”
In other words still, is it not time for the good people of Mbaike and Mbaise to reciprocate the gesture of their brethren in the old Owerri Local Government Area who all these years effortlessly gave them their support, in the belief that a sense of equity will one day prevail? The answer is simple: There can be no better time than now; especially as the entire Imo polity is currently desirous of ridding itself of all practices and tendencies that have perpetrated injustice, lack of equity and, as a consequence, State-wide animosity. If the entire Owerri Zone is today insisting that the seat of the Governor of the State come 2019 is its own, does it not follow that the Zone has to first and foremost put its own house in order, as in the aphorism that he who goes to equity must go with a clean hand?
In potentially making up their minds to lend support to end this anomaly, the people of the two blocs – Mbaike and Mbaise – should be encouraged by the fact that, as noted above, highly credible people from the old Owerri Local Government Area bloc, notable among whom is Chief Mike Nwachukwu, are currently aspiring for that office. Nwachukwu might not be the best in absolute terms but there is something that excites the people of the entire Owerri zone about his ambition: Yes, Chief Nwachukwu has been around in terms of partisan politics but what stands him aside is the fact that he has beautifully blended his political exposure with his robust background in Nigeria’s business and macro-economic landscape. This is a rare phenomenon that puts any such beneficiary in a very good stead to translate hard budgetary rhetoric, for which politicians are known, to easily recognisable and tangible welfare of the people. Perhaps there can be no better way of summing this up than what the senatorial hopeful himself said while declaring his intentions to run for the office: “I will deploy all the lessons I learnt as a student of political and behavioral science as well as draw on my experience as banker with bias in relationship management and corporate finance to champion the cause of our people in the national assembly and Nigeria body politics…”
Born 53 years ago, Chief Nwachukwu had an outstanding career in banking between 1992 and 2002. With a first degree in Political Science and an MBA degree, Nwachukwu’s career took him through Diamond Bank Plc., Equitorial Trust Bank and Fortune International Bank where he excelled in Operations, Commercial and Investment Banking. Since his retirement from banking in 2002, Nwachukwu has been involved in active politics the highlight of which was as Imo State Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) between 2005 and 2011. Although he has always had a passion for visible and effective representation of the people of the entire Owerri Zone as a senator, Nwachukwu has bided his time. In 2015, he resisted the urge and pressure from well meaning members of that constituency to run. But as they say, God’s time is the best. Thus, on April 21, 2018, Chief Nwachukwu, the Omekadike Obube, Ulakwo and Obibiezena; the Mpi Dike Egbelu Obube; the Otunba Bobasua Iludun Ekiti and the Ekwe Dashie Ike Imerienwe, finally made known his intentions to run for the office at the 2019 general elections on the platform of APGA, the same party he has been with for much of his foray into partisan politics and for which he served as State Secretary for six years.
Hard politics and business apart, Nwachukwu is a community leader and a passionate individual with deep love for culture and his people. He has been involved in community-based activism geared toward uplifting the lot of his people. He was at one time the Financial Secretary of the Port Harcourt branch of the pan-Owerri Socio-Cultural Association, Dozie Owerri, and the founding Secretary of the Abuja branch. He had also served as the Deputy President – General and subsequently, President – General of his Town Union, Egbelu Obube Town Union.
Taken together, Nwachukwu’s exposure and experience make him a pan-Owerri Zone aspirant. Agreed, there is the issue of correcting the imbalance in representation, as noted above, but Mike Nwachukwu’s aspiration transcends the interest of his native “Old OwerriLocal Government Area” bloc. He has a cosmopolitan disposition that sees him quite at home with people from across the State including the very ‘traducers’ of his own people in Mbaike and Mbaise. In other words, in Nwachukwu’s aspiration lies an opportunity for the entire people of Owerri Zone to at once foster oneness among themselvesand as well achieve a representation that will be fair to all.
Austin Madu, a journalist and Public Affairs Commentator wrote from Owerri