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UZODINMA: Apex court’s verdict re-ignites search for Imo formula

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Imo West to hold power for 20 of 24 years
Imo North, 4 years, Imo East, zero

By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor

 Imo

WITH yesterday’s swearing-in of Senator Hope Uzodinma as Imo State governor on account of Tuesday’s verdict of the Supreme Court, the search for the Imo Formula for sharing of the governorship slot will continue till 2024. So, also is the quest of Owerri zone or Imo East senatorial zone to occupy the prime position.

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, ruled that Chief Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was wrongly returned as the winner of the 2019 governorship election. It held that Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who came fourth in the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, won the poll with addition of results from 388 polling units that were excluded in the first announcement.

Senator Uzodinma is from Oru in Imo West (Orlu zone). His inauguration means that power will remain in Imo West till 2024 all things being equal. It also means that since the return to democratic rule in 1999, Orlu zone will produce the governor for 20 of the 24 years. Uzodinma is the third governor that Orlu is producing after Achike Udenwa (1999-2007), and Rochas Okorocha (2011-2019). The Okigwe Zone (Imo North) had a shot at the governorship for four years through Ikedi Ohakim (2007-2011).

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With the sack of Ihedioha, Owerri Zone (Imo East) technically is yet to occupy the slot and will continue its quest in 2024. Since the creation of the state Imo East occupied the seat for 20 months via late Senator Evans Enwerem during the botched Third Republic of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, retd. In the Second Republic, Chief Sam Mbakwe, from Imo North, was governor for four years.

Imo State has three ‘unbalanced’ senatorial districts of which Imo West (Orlu) is the electoral world bank with 12 of the 27 local  councils. Imo East (Owerri) has nine local councils while Imo North (Okigwe) has six local councils.

Having produced the capital city, Owerri zone enjoyed the bulk of infrastructural development to the disadvantage of the other two zones. Owerri zone has the seat of power with array of infrastructural development but has lost power to other the zones, in terms of governorship position in the last 20 years because of the alleged breach of ‘Imo formula’ by some Owerri politicians.

Birthed on June 9, 1991, at the Iwuanyanwu Glass House, Ugwuorji,  Owerri by leaders of thought, elders, professionals, captains of industry, ex-military leaders of the state and politicians, the Imo Formula was adopted to avert marginalization and dominance of political power by the stronger zones. It was meant to bring equity, fairness, justice, democratic convenience and equality in governance and to ensure seamless rotation and sharing of political political power among the three zones.

The Charter of Equity as agreed resolved that power and ascendency to the position of Imo Governor be rotated among the three zones of the new Imo (Abia State was just carved out then), beginning from Owerri zone.

The agreement resolved that Owerri be allowed to start while Orlu and Okigwe followed respectively. Owerri took its turn till the end of that political era through late Chief Evan Enwerem.

Chief Achike Udenwa from Orlu started the formula in 1999 and he served for eight years. After him,  Okigwe zone, in line with the understanding of 1991 took over through Ikedi Ohakim, who served for four years. He lost re-election on account of the roles of some Owerri political leaders and politicians. Mr. Martins Agbaso, who is from Owrri Zone contested the governorship against Ohakim on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. For three years he was in court challenging Ohakim’s election.

An alliance between Agbaso and Rochas Okorocha (from Ideato, Imo West) meant that Orlu Zone produced Ohakim’s successor in 2011. An alleged agreement that Okorocha would do a term and hand over to Owerri Zone did not work out. The agreement allegedly led to the choice of Agbaso junior as Okorocha’s first deputy governor.  Agbaso was impeached and replaced with Uche Madumere, also from Owerri Zone.

Ahead of the 2019 poll, Okorocha ditched Madumere and sided his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to emerge as his successor. Uche Nwosu is from Orlu Zone. Okorocha’s choice of Nwosu was one of the reasons popular opinion was said to have favoured the emergence of Ihedioha as governor until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise on Tuesday.

As it is, Senator Uzodinma is fast becoming the proverbial cat with nine lives given the number of political conquests he has made in the court room.

His political conquests

Uzodinma was elected Senator for the Orlu (Imo West) in the April 2011 elections. He ran on the plank of the PDP. His election was challenged on the grounds that he was not the valid PDP candidate but on May 5 2011 the supreme court declared that his election was valid.

Senator Uzodinma was a PDP chief in Imo State and friend of then Governor Udenwa until late 2002 when he decided to run against Udenwa at the April 2003 elections. He decamped to the Alliance for democracy, AD, picked the governorship ticket, ran against Udenwa, and lost.

He was readmitted to the PDP in February 2004 and ran in the PDP primaries for Imo State Governor in December 2006, coming second to Senator Ifeanyi Araraume.

Thereafter, Uzodinma was appointed a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, BoT. He was among those who endorsed Ohakim’s the bid to run again for Imo Governor in 2011 after Ohakim returned to the PDP.

Uzodinma won the PDP primary for the Imo West Senatorial race on January 9 2011, gaining 2,147 votes, while then incumbent Senator Osita Izunaso came second with 891 votes.

However, on February 5 2011 a Federal High court declared that Izunaso was the candidate of the party for the senatorial seat since Uzodinma had not been cleared by the PDP’s electoral panel headed by Orji Nwafor-Orizu.

The Court of Appeal issued a stay of execution on March 17 , 2011 while the case was being decided, leaving Uzodinma free to campaign. On April5,  2011 the Court of Appeal upheld the  February 5 high court judgement and declared that Uzodinma was not qualified to run and should not present himself as a candidate. Uzodinma appealed this decision at the Supreme Court.

With the apex court’s decision pending, Uzodinma ran the April 9, 2011 elections, and got 85,042 votes, ahead of Udenwa of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, who scored 64, 228 votes,  and Rajis Okpalan Benedicta of the  APGA, who got 57,110 votes.

On May 5, 2011 the Supreme Court overturned the earlier decisions and declared that Uzodinma was the valid candidate and therefore had been elected.

Vanguard

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