By Amby Uneze

The discussions that have enmeshed every part of Imo State today are no less than the Imo Charter of Equity. For the unknown, Imo Charter of Equity is the authentic document prepared by Imo State stakeholders under the auspices of Imo Elders Council, endorsed by the Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma and accepted by Imolites. It is a document that guarantees a seamless rotation of power among the three zones of the State.

In the past, the issue of charter of equity no doubt had resonated in the minds of Imo citizens but without a signed and generally agreed document to support it. Vision and ideas, they say, rule the world, hence it took a visionary leader who currently pilots the affairs of the State to think a way out on how  rancour and acrimony that were associated with governorship race every election year can be eliminated. As focussed and forward-looking, desirous of bequeathing a rotational system that would guarantee every zone to benefit peaceful transition starting from 2027, then a charter of equity becomes the compass.

For no less a group than the Imo Elders Council tasked to churn out a road map for future rancourless method of inclusiveness in the governorship position of the State was not a mere assignment. The council hinged the success of the off-season November 11, 2023 governorship election in the State to the full implementation of the charter that made it possible for Governor Uzodimma to record 27/27 victory. That was a record-breaking feat, where His Excellency won all the twenty-seven local government areas of the State, the first of its kind. That victory was as a result of the widely accepted charter of equity which took off with that election.

As a way of further cementing the endorsement Governor Uzodimma had given to the Charter of Equity, a congregation of Imo Elders, traditional rulers (Ndi Eze), leaders of religious bodies, professionals, presidents general of town unions, women and youth groups, etc had an interdenominational service where the Charter of Equity was handed over to God. This special event took place at the popular Hero Square (now Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu Square).

Furthermore, the Imo State House of Assembly passed a resolution, endorsing the Charter of Equity “as a road map towards political stability, peace and inclusiveness of all the zones in Imo State.”

On the final endorsement, the governor said he was convinced that Imo Charter of Equity will ensure equity, help douse political tensions and ensure peace and promised to ensure that it is applied to the letter.

According to him, the Charter of Equity is not intended to muscle the political ambition of any person, rather it is to ensure harmony, peace and it will enlarge the political space for all.” 

The governor on his final receipt of the clean copy of the document assured that his administration will work with the Elders Council and other Imo State stakeholders to achieve the principles of the Charter of Equity.

He pleaded with all political stakeholders to endeavour to give the Charter of Equity the space to succeed, noting that “it does not in any way go against the tenets of democracy.”

Emphasizing the broader significance of his victory in all 27 Local Government Areas, Governor Uzodimma reiterated the foundational role of the Charter of Equity across various states in Nigeria. He assured the Council of his commitment to governance guided by a sense of responsibility and integrity.

Granted that Orlu zone with twelve local governments have had upper hand as against the other zones of Okigwe and Owerri with six and nine local governments respectively, the time to give sense of belonging to Okigwe and Owerri has to start at the end of the current tenure in 2027. Statistics show that since the advent of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, Orlu zone has had Achike Udenwa (1999 – 2007), Rochas Okorocha (2011 – 2019), and the present governor Hope Uzodimma (2020 – 2028 God willing). In all, Orlu zone, that is Imo West has had governorship slot for 24 years. Okigwe zone (Imo North) had complete four years with Ikedi Ohakim (2007 – 2011) at the governorship saddle. Then Owerri zone, also referred to as Imo East remains the unlucky zone with only seven (7) months under Emeka Ihedioha (2019 – January 2020).

The Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma bearing in mind that equity, justice and fairness brings unity and peaceful coexistence among the people, swore to right the wrongs by making it possible for every zone to have a test of the pie. This is commendable and needs to be applauded in  every ramification. That is leadership and the cardinal mark of a good leader is to carry everybody along without causing injury to one.

At this juncture it therefore becomes expedient to usher in unity and progress in the State by all lovers of democracy to align with the declaration of the governor that power MUST go to Owerri zone after him in 2027/28. Therefore, hitting up the polity now is a way of distracting the governor from remaining focussed of the numerous developmental projects he has and continues to attract for our own collective good of the State. Let us believe in Governor Hope Uzodimma and believe in Imo State.

As a people’s governor (as described by Chief Jerry Chukwueke, following his landslide victory of the 2023 governorship election),  governor Uzodimma in his usual magnanimity to ensuring that power is distributed fairly and equally among the zones of the State, irrespective of any advantage one may have over others gave credence to the Imo Charter of Equity, which is today the talk of the moment.

Governor Uzodimma, who believes in hard work, achievements, development of the state and would want the progress to continue after his tenure, taught it wise to bequeath a system that would create seamless rotation of governorship at every election year. 

Commendable as such novel idea is, the Imo Elders Council made up of top echelon of the society including traditional rulers, the clergy, professors and senior members of the academia, senior labour leaders, senior citizens, captains of industries, and other professionals including women groups, etc after months of painstaking assignment came up with this document called “Imo Charter of Equity.”

Receiving the document of Imo Charter of Equity presented by the Chairman of Elders Council, His Majesty, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya (also from Orlu zone) at the Government House, Owerri in April 2023, the governor,  did not only express joy but he quickly reiterated that nothing on earth would stop the full implementation of the document.

The governor said, “The charter of equity will remove tension and acrimony. We convinced ourselves. We looked at it, and that charter of equity is happening in other states (including our neighbouring States). They control that governorship goes from one zone to the other. I do not doubt that my successor will be produced by the Imo charter of equity.

“The confidence reposed on me is very huge. And I will make sure I do not disappoint you. I am committed to making sure the next governor will not come from the Orlu zone (Imo West) It will come from the Owerri zone (Imo East) Thereafter it will move to the Okigwe zone (Imo North).”

Governor Uzodimma, however, called on the members of the Imo State Council of Elders to work together to ensure the implementation of the Charter of Equity. He assured that his government would use its machinery to defend the document and ensure its implementation.

He emphasized the importance of the Charter of Equity and its potential to bring peace to Imo State. He, however, recalled that the political instability and insecurity that followed his emergence as governor in 2020, were attributed to issues of political manipulation, adding that the Charter of Equity is developed as a means to address grievances related to political inclusiveness and marginalization.

The governor highlighted that the Charter is not just a document but a mechanism to identify merit, competence, and eliminate mediocrity in the governance of the state. He called for collective efforts to implement the Charter fully, thereby ensuring the interests of marginalized groups are addressed. 

Now, if the governor of the state had this taught and he had assured Imolites that he shall implement it to the letter by ensuring that power shifts to Owerri zone (Imo East), then one wonders why the hullabaloo disturbing the State at this point in time.

The governor is the chief security officer of the State. He has our collective mandate to reposition the State for the better and that is exactly what he is currently doing and would want to do in the coming months and years towards a peaceful transition in 2027 election period.

Thank God, the Imo Council of Elders is a product of the act of Parliament, and therefore, with the seal of government on the charter of equity, the matter has come to stay. It is nonetheless naive for any group, zone or persons to continue to heat the polity bothering on which zone the governor would emerge from in 2027/28. The Charter is specific on it and the governor had sworn that he shall implement it to ensure that Owerri zone gets it.

Having done this great sacrifice by ensuring a smooth transition of power in the State starting from 2027, Imolites own governor Hope Uzodimma a huge hug and a standing ovation to complement his good effort. Also, the members of the Imo Elders Council ably led by His Majesty, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya as Chairman and Rt. Hon. Maxwell Duru (Ph.D) from Okigwe zone,  Secretary of the council need to be commended for standing by the wish of the people for equity, justice and fairness.

The notion that Owerri zone is not always united in terms of putting her house in order does not arise this time. With the coming together of leaders and elders of Owerri zone under the auspices of Imo Harmony Project (IHP), the will and zeal to get it right at this time is paramount. Every leader and politician in the zone is more anxious to abide by the rules that the IHP would be rolling out with soon.

Going by the criteria, the governor highlighted to eliminate mediocre from the system of governance, so far Owerri zone can boost of such characters in their numbers. Trusted, tested, bold and transformational leaders with capacity and integrity such as Chief Jerry Chukwueke, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, and Sir Stanley Amuchie, just to mention but a few can guarantee that the foundation already led by the incumbent governor is sustained.

On this note, it is therefore pertinent to support the governor to midwife his second tenure with success. Since the declaration of charter of equity is a product of His Excellency, the Imo Elders Council which was established through the instrumentality of act of parliament, religious leaders and indeed all Imo stakeholders, it now behoves on all zones and people of goodwill to respect the charter by supporting Owerri zone and allow the State move on.

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