By Cliff Ogbede

As the 2011 general elections draws closer, there are concerns that the Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala Local Government Areas of Imo State, may be spoiling for war, over the House of Representatives seat presently occupied by Emeka Ihedioha, as the councils accuse each other of undermining the other.

Meanwhile, there is a need to avoid a needless crisis between the two councils. Ihedioha from Mbutu in Aboh Mbaise council, which co-exists in a federal constituency with Ngor Okpala council, is the Majority Whip of the lower legislative chamber at the federal level. But Ngor Okpala people are agitated that Ihedioha is seeking a third term, contrary to an existing agreement between the councils, to ensure harmonious co-existence of the people of both councils.

A breach of peace in the two councils, especially in Ngor Okpala, will have regional and national implications, opinion leaders in the two council areas have warned. While Ngor Okpala serves as gateway from the South East to the South-South, linking Etche and Port Harcourt, both Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala are respective entrance terrain to the sensitive towns of Umuahia and Aba, which ultimately connect the Igbo enclave with the Niger Delta suburbs of Ikot Ekpene, Uyo and Calabar.

Ngor Okpala, in particular, not only houses oil-producing communities in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area in the same state, but is home to the now popular Sam Mbakwe International Airport, which for a while has been the only serviceable airport in the South East with renovation works on the tarmac of the Francis Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu. Any civil uprising in Ngor Okpala and Aboh Mbaise will not only cut the Igbo heartland off from the South-South, it will also cut the greater part of the South-South from the rest of the country. It will also mean that no eastern airport is open to flights and literally deny the country access to other resources in the dense forestry of Ngor Okpala.

The bond of equity between Ngor Okpala and Aboh Mbaise stipulates a single tenure of four years for every representative of the constituency at the federal House, which would be rotated between the two councils. Aboh Mbaise through Ihedioha has had more than its fair share. The people of Ihedioha’s council are prepared to bequeath the office for whoever their Ngor Okpala counterparts would raise to represent the constituency, not only in furtherance of the bond of equity but because, according to them, Ihedioha is a non-performing representative, as a traditional ruler in Aboh Mbaise who preferred anonymity said, “Before now, Ngor Okpala was regarded as a federal constituency. But there was a merger. This merger led to Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala being in one federal constituency.”

“And immediately the merger took place, Greg Egu from Umuohiagu, Ngor Okpala, went to the House of Representatives. There was no written agreement when Egu was elected but he acted honourably by not re-contesting, thereby paving way for Aboh Mbaise to produce a successor. It was during the build up to 2003 election that a formal written agreement that involved the government and traditional rulers of Aboh Mbaise and Ngor Okpala was reached, where it was stipulated that representation will rotate between them on a single tenure each and it will not be more than one tenure, Ihedioha then benefited from that written accord, violated it again in 2007 so, the question of a third term does not arise at all.
“So, Greg Egu, who was also very strong in the House went and fulfilled the agreement and stepped down for the Aboh Mbaise people to raise somebody to represent them. That person that was raised is Emeka Ihedioha. After he was there for four years, it was also expected automatically that Ngor Okpala should raise somebody else. But we discovered the opposite,” explained the traditional ruler.

“So, the people of Ngor Okpala are very aggrieved. They’re feeling humiliated. Ihedioha is coming out again. He believes he can throw money around. He should forget it. But it will lead to a lot of trouble in the community which may not be easy for the State and the Federal Government to handle. His people, the two local government areas will not take it. The two councils will not be in harmony and peace,” he concluded.

“It must be pointed out that in an interview he granted a newspaper, he did say he will only be in the House of Reps by the grace of God for four years, one term. After that one, ‘I will not re-contest in 2007 for House of Reps. It is expected that Ngor Okpala sons will file out for that position. I can never be associated with betrayal. Those who know me and my community know me very well, will tell you about my belief in fairness and equity,’ but has he kept to it?”

“How honourable is he, when he has twice dishonoured is own words. He sought for second term in 2007 and got it with the slogan, ‘One good term deserves another’. Now, he is haggling for a third term, a man who loudly opposed former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term bid, describing it as evil on the floor of the House,” Mazi Nnamdi Odi, a community leader in Logara, Ngor Okpala said. According to him, “Ihedioha would be defeated at the primaries election of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, should he persist in his recalcitrance and re-contest his seat. He should save his honour by stepping down for an Ngor Okpala son.”

“The only thing he did was the diversion of a road. Greg Egu tarred a road from Enyiogugu to Nnorie, across Nnorie to Aba express road. That was the reason for the road, so that there can be a link road from both sides that will be parallel to the existing Obiangwu-Enyiogugu Road,” he added. Another Ngor businessman, Mazi Phillip Nwaocha, said “immediately Ihedioha entered, he diverted the road through his place, and the road became useless. The main essence of the road was not achieved. That is why there is only one lane from Enyiogugu. But if it had been achieved, it would have been a dual lane from there,” he said.

More so, another traditional ruler from his Aboh Mbaise, advised Ihedioha to contest for a higher position or go home and ‘manage what he has gotten’. “He can do it. He is a strong member of the PDP. He can be a Minister. He can take any other thing. But let him not just stand on the way of the people,” he said.

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