By Collins Ughalaa KSC
Imo West Senatorial Zone, also called Orlu Zone, used to be a very peaceful place made up of very enterprising people. But all of a sudden hell broke loose and unleashed mayhem on us. Orlu has become the proverbial one day one trouble child, the eyesore of the entire State when it should be the envy of the State. Theae days, there are all forms of violent crimes, ranging from kidnapping, armed robbery, arson, rape, vandalism and killings.
Orlu Zone, made up of 12 local government areas: Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema, Oru West, Oru East, Njaba, Orlu, Nwangele, Nkwerre, Ideato North, Ideato South, Orsu and Isu, has huge potentials in many respects. It is the largest senatorial zone and a major deciding factor in the politics of the State. There are several investment opportunities in the area, ranging from oil and gas exploration, chemical plants, brewery plants, hydrochemical, agriculture, etc. Of a fact, Orlu Zone is home to the three local governments that produce oil in the State.
Beyond its natural endowments, Orlu Zone has produced giant political figures, including Chief Arthur Nzeribe, the late Chief K.O. Mbadiwe; the late Ignatius Chukwudi Pats Acholonu, the first Orlu indigene to become a Supreme Court Justice; the late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, Dr. Douglas Acholonu, former Deputy Governor of the State; Chief Achike Udenwa, former two-term Governor of the State and former Minister; Chief Rochas Okorocha, former two-term Governor of the State and now Senator representing the Zone in the Red Chambers; Rt. Hon. Engr. Gerald Alphonsus Irona, the immediate past Deputy Governor of the State; Rt. Hon. Goodluck Nanah Opiah, former Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly and former member of the House of Representatives; Chief Walter Ofonagoro, former Minister; etcetera. With 12 largely populated local governments and politically active people, Orlu Zone can comfortably sway political outcomes.
Orlu Zone has the second most developed city in Imo State (Orlu City), after Owerri, the State Capital. It also played a critical role as the headquarters for the Organisation of African Unity’s (OAU) humanitarian relief agencies during the Nigeria-Biafra War; and the Nigerian headquarters of the British Cheshire Home. Our people are good, hospitable people. And we have all it takes. We do not believe in being spoon-fed but in working out our salvation. That is why the Orlu man has the capacity to climb from the bottom to the top and become the cynosure of all eyes. This has been demonstrated not only in the academic world, business world, music and entertainment but in politics as well. Times were when Orlu Zone was mocked as undeveloped. Yet we surmounted the challenges. But events in recent time leave much to be desired. All those lofty achievements are crashing right before us as the once peaceful place has become the theater of the absurd.
The massive killings, kidnappings, rape, destruction of property we see today in Orlu are alien to us. That is not how we live our life. There are two things that readily come to mind when we talk about how and when things got out of hand in Orlu Zone. One of them is that there are people who appear to be playing dirty politics, plotting to paint Orlu Zone black and to gain political advantage. People in this group think that Orlu Zone has been way too long in the commanding heights of the State. Since 1999 when Nigeria returned to the path of democracy, Orlu Zone has produced three governors. Udenwa and Okorocha already took 16 years. Therefore, Governor Hope Uzodimma’s emergence as Governor on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, was something many consider unusual and unacceptable. With his emergence, Orlu Zone would have another eight years, making it 24 years on the saddle. The Governor alluded to the marriage of politics and the ongoing violent campaign when he noted during the stakeholders meeting on Saturday, July 24, that “The Recovery component of the 3R of this government has expectedly ruffled feathers and thrown up spiral effects which largely fuelled the media flaks on the government and the security challenges in the state”.
Considering how politics is played in Nigeria, those who feel bad about losing power or about the ongoing assets recovery programme of the government may have some point. Largely, Nigerians believe that so much come from producing the Governor or the President. In our clannishness, we believe that our areas tend to develop when we produce the Governor or the President. That is the major reason for the agitation for rotational presidency, governorship – even smaller offices like the Senate, the House or Representatives, House of Assembly, Local Government Chairmanship, Councillor and even party leadership positions. Of course, it is not easy to see things you thought were in your firm grip slip through your fingers all of a sudden.
Nevertheless, the problem in all of this is the introduction of bitterness, violence and the merger with violent campaign. We do not know how and at what point the two merged, but we strongly suspect that dirty politicking has merged with the ongoing campaign. The Indegenous People of Biafra (IPOB) created the Eastern Security Network (ESN). They claimed herdsmen were located in forests in Orlu. Pronto, they moved to communities in Orlu and quartered in one of the forests where they claimed to be fighting armed herdsmen. We have some posers though: How many herdsmen have been arrested by the ESN since they moved to the forest? Is the ongoing carnage in Orlu Zone between armed herdsmen and the ESN or the metaphorical Unknown Gunmen? Are there no forests in Okigwe and Owerri Zones? Are there no herdsmen in those areas? How come the ESN or the Unknown Gunmen is not quartered in any of the forests in other parts of the State? Is Orlu Zone the Center or Capital for Biafra? Why should we be the people to die?
Even if we get the Biafra Republic, is Orlu Zone not a dot in the Center of Biafra? Why then is Orlu Zone the Center of the agitation for Biafra? We can be more reasonable. Politics is about maneuvering and winning. The end game in politics is winning. Provided you do not violate the laws of our land, you are at liberty to deploy your unique strategy to win. That is acceptable and it is fair enough. People from Orlu Zone, especially the youths, should wise up. We should stop lending ourselves to those who do not wish us well. Orlu youths should stop allowing people to come to their place and destroy it for whatever reason. We have unique culture. Killing, kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, etcetera, are not part of them. Cutting off people’s heads is a barbaric act and Orlu sons and daughters frown at it. We are proud people and barbarism is alien to us.
Just on Monday, August 2, the Imo State Police Command announced the arrest of people they said were IPOB/ESN members that attacked Omuma and Njaba Police Stations. The Police named one “Emmanuel Nnaji ‘M’ age 15 years, a native of Awala in Ideato South LGA of Imo State” as one of the bandits terrorizing the State. According to the CSP Michael Abattam, the Imo State Police Command PRO: “On interrogation by the Command’s tactical teams, the suspect gave a vivid discreption of a hotel located in Orlu as where they, the bandits stayed, planned, before they executed their dastardly act on the police stations. He further stated that, the owner of the hotel has been accommodating and assisting them financially. He then volunteered and led security forces to the location of the hotel”. The Police said they recovered dangerous weapons, including one AK47 rifle with magazines loaded with 55 rounds of live ammunition; five pump action guns; two double barrel cut to size guns, four double barrel locally made pistols, three single barrel locally made pistols; live cartridges, etcetera.
This is sad news. We need to turn a new leaf. There is so much more to do, especially now. As youths from Orlu Zone, we have a duty to work collectively to make our land a peaceful place once more. When we have peace our land will blossom once more and we can fully tap into the opportunity of producing the Governor of Imo State for the third time. “This we can achieve by accepting that there is time for politics and time for governance. That vehicle called political party should not be an instrument to destabilize the system, rather a veritable tool to keep the government in check by providing robust opposition”, said the Governor at the July 24 Stakeholders meeting.
Producing three governors in 22 years is no mean feat. It is something not to trifle with. Let us make no mistakes about it. By what we see going on, by the volume of conspiracy going on, if per chance Orlu Zone loses the governorship now, we may have to wait for another 50 years. Let us value our gold while we still have it.