Last week in Owerri, the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, inaugurated the board of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Convention Centre.
The board of the ultra-modern edifice is chaired by Nigeria’s former ambassador to the United States, Prof. George Obiozor, while its director general and chief executive officer, CEO, is the former minister of education, Prof. Fabian Osuji.
The centre which is located in the plush ‘new Owerri’ area has several facilities including conference halls and guests rooms.
Speaking at the occasion, the governor directed that any student seeking admission into any of the state-owned tertiary institutions must possess Igbo language at credit level. The governor hinged his directive on the need to preserve Igbo language and culture. He said the centre would conduct research on the culture and tradition of Ndigbo.
On his part, the Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, announced two weeks the decision of his government to rename the legendary Upper Iweka Road, Onitsha – the commercial and industrial hub of Anambra State – after the late Ojukwu, who was former leader of defunct Biafra, and twice presidential candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. He died in a London hospital on November 26, 2011.
Both Obi and Okorocha, were elected on the platform of APGA, but they seem to be at daggers drawn over who leads the party at the national level.
While Governor Okorocha is believed to be supportive of the Victor Umeh-led faction of the party, Obi has thrown his weight behind the Alhaji Massala group.
The party which experienced similar leadership tussle while Ojukwu was still alive, is today in tatters to the extent that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is said to be considering de-listing it as well as other mushroom parties from its list of registered political parties.
The fear of the party being ran aground apparently led Bianca, Ojukwu’s widow and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, to stress during a recent meeting of some APGA leaders in Enugu, on the need to keep her husband’s legacy – APGA alive.
At that meeting, she also advised Umeh to take active part in the planned restructuring of the party, or else be made a ‘king without a kingdom’. Umeh’s suspension from the party by the Massalla-led group is generally viewed as an outcome of his refusal to heed to Bianca’s advice.
Though Okorocha had started constructing the Ojukwu convention centre, while the famed Ikemba Nnewi, and acclaimed leader of Ndigbo was still alive, not a few say that he is trying to use Ojukwu’s name to gain political pre-eminence during the years leading to the 2015 general elections.
Several Igbo political elites have in the past few weeks harped on their determination to ensure that a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction emerges in 2015, whether or not the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, who became president on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, is interested in contesting for a second tenure or not.
This is where Governor Okorocha comes in. He is said to be working very hard to emerge as the sole Igbo presidential candidate for the 2015 general elections. Even before Ojukwu was buried, he got Umeh to declare him Igbo leader at a ceremony in Owerri, a development which rankled Governor Obi. And a week ago, an obscure traditional ruler in Owerri, reportedly crowned Okorocha as the traditional prime minister of Igboland, a position which many say is non-existent and therefore, offensive to Igbo custom and tradition.
Since Ojukwu’s name opens all securely locked political doors in Igboland, there is a groundswell of opinion that he built the Ojukwu Centre and indeed the Hero’s square, also built in honour of the late Ikemba, to ingratiate the political elites and electorate in the zone.
The Imo governor is expected to flaunt these ‘achievements’ when notable Igbo leaders from all walks of life meet in Enugu in November to concretise the zone’s plan to produce the country’s next president. But some of his unconventional policy decisions in Imo, including the sacking of elected local government executives and alleged award of contracts without following due process may combine to work against his presidential ambition.
Governor Obi is said to have led APGA to the slaughter house following his reported diligent funding of the leadership crises in the party that pitied Umeh against Chief Chekwas Okorie, the party’s founding national chairman. And during the battle for supremacy, the party lost all the major national elections in the state.
For instance, the party in Anambra state where Obi holds sway, failed to produce even one senator during the 2011 general elections. He has not held local government election in the state since he assumed office in 2006, and many say he doesn’t seem to be ready to hold one before his tenure expires in 2014. Some of his associates say grimly that he has done nothing to expand the frontiers of the party in the last seven years. His recent decision to extend logistics to the chairmen of the party in the local government areas is said to be an afterthought and disgustingly belated.
Also, his decision to name a road in Onitsha after Ojukwu is largely seen as a ploy to assuage the anger of all those who are dissatisfied with his “poor” handling of the affairs of APGA – a political party that brought him into limelight – and a legacy which the late Ojukwu left behind.
The consensus in the South-East geo-political zone where APGA is seemingly rooted is that governor Obi should first work towards strengthening the party, if he is serious about immortalising Ojukwu. “The naming of a street after Ojukwu should not be contemplated when the party he left behind is in ruins. Both Obi and Okorocha may simply be playing politics in Ojukwu’s name”, says Okechukwu Ejekam, an Owerri-based businessman.