Arochukwu and the politics of opposition by Ogbonnaya Akoma, Isimkpu, Arochukwu

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Ogbonnaya Akoma

History, in point of fact, shows that the place called Arochukwu and her people have always been associated with playing opposition politics since party politics started in Nigeria. As a result of the worrisome situation, the people have always suffered for this, and this pains me as an individual because I understand what opposition politics always means – as a political scientist and a social crusader.

One of our own and a Nigerian political icon, SG Ikoku, had dwelt much in his days on opposition politics while espousing his Fourth Estate of the Realm political theory; he had summarised and let us know that:  ‘Opposition politics does not pay in Africa,’and I agree with him totally (because of our low level of development.)

In the Second Republic politics (1979 to 1983), the people of Arochukwu were in the opposition.  The people of Arochukwu pitched themselves with the aspiration of their son-lawyer, the late Dr.Nwakamma Okoro, SAN, who was in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN – a party controlling government at the federal level) and had served as its first national secretary. Later, Dr Okoro resigned from his office and became the gubernatorial candidate of the party in the then Imo state, and went ahead to contest the governorship election with Chief Sam Mbakwe of the Nnamdi Azikwe-led Nigerian People’s Party, NPP), the prominent party in the state the and, indeed, in the whole of Igbo land because of the influence of Zik then.

When the results of the election were announced, Chief Mbakwe had been declared the winner with his deputy, Dr. Bernard Amalaha. Dr. Nwakamma Okoro contested the result in the relevant courts and where Mbakwe’s election was upheld while his deputy, Dr Amalaha, was removed from office-because of issues bothering on his resignation or otherwise from his position as an AICE (Alvan Ikoku College of Education) lecturer then.

In the end, Dr.Nwakamma Okoro lost out in his political ambition to rule Imo, ditto Dr.Amalaha while Chief Mbakwe became the governor of Imo State (who later chose Prince Isaac Uzoigwe as his deputy.) That political situation pitched Arochukwu and her people against the NPP-led Imo state government while we (the Aros) were all seen as NPN people, the opposition! In the end, the people of Arochukwu suffered it in all ramifications. Even, Eme Nwakamma Okoro, the famous historian-author spouse of Dr .Nwakamma Okoro, was removed as the then secretary of the Secondary Education Management Board, a post she was holding before the contest between her husband and Chief Mbakwe!

Do I need to relate what happened when the Mbakwe administration created the fifty-nine new LGA’sin Imo state then with regard to the name of our LGA, as he had wanted to favour our neighbours who were in NPP? The political strife and bitterness that erupted in the area resulted, at one time, in the Aros ‘barred’ from plying through some roads while travelling to their town through their neighbouring towns! It was as bad as that; and it happened before all of us! It was the intervention of the military on 31/12/83 that saved the situation – and when IBB created new LGA’s based on existing state constituencies in 1987, all those ‘nonsense’ was put to rest forever as Arochukwu LGA was created and not Ihetia or any other name as coined by the ousted civilian regime of Chief Sam Mbakwe.

In the NRC and SDP days, similar situations happened-during the Transition Period of IBB. The political divide continued, as Arochukwu had continued to be different from her neighbours politically. Even in the First Republic politics, the situation was similar – as our political scion then, SG Ikoku, was in Action Group as led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo (a Yoruba party and which he had even served as its national secretary as elected at its Jos Convention) while his father, Alvan, had disagreed with Zik on issues bothering on Independence of Nigeria, and had gone ahead to form his own party later, while the NCNC (as led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe) was the prominent party in Eastern Region then!

In 2015, PDP was the party at the national level, and Arochukwu had been associated with the party. Suddenly, APGA became the new bride in the town of Arochukwu because of reasons that are not far-fetched. Today, the ordinary Aro man is treated as a saboteur in the affairs of Abia state in Umuahia because of that; because of the recent political tussle between Dr. Alex Otti and Dr.Okezie Ikpeazu. Many people (including those from Ngwa land) have continued to (mis) interpret the tussle to mean a fight between Arochukwu people and Ngwa people! In this regard, nearly every Aro person is now viewed and seen as opposed to Ngwa people and their government, which is not true; and the comments and actions of some Aro people have not helped matters in this regard, really. So, in Abia state today, the people of Arochukwu are seen as being in opposition to the state government! So, it seems the people are now suffering what those in opposition usually suffer anywhere!

When I joined active politics (PDP) in 2015 after my retirement from the Civil Service, a kinsman had ‘admonished’ me to ‘join APGA as the Aro man’s party.’ He went ahead to indicate that ‘Arochukwu is now the centre of APGA in Abia state whether or not you agree.’I can really now sense some iota of truth in the allusion that nearly every Aro man is seen as an APGA man now whether he is a strong PDP faithful or not – all of us are seen and perceived as opposition people now, and this is not good for us. This opposition stand of the Aros could be the reason why nearly all governments have always neglected Arochukwu as a town, though popular!

On one occasion, in fact, one of my kinsmen living in Umuahia had insulted me to the fullest in January this year (before my appointment as an SSA), and went ahead to cajole and said to me (while we were in a bus travelling from Arochukwu to Umuahia) that ‘they have used and dumped you now without any appointment! I told you and emphasised on that; I know they were going to use and dump you later after all you did for them on radio and during the 2015 governorship election in Arochukwu. I had advised you to join APGA and you refused. This serves you better …. They don’t trust any Aro man again in PDP ….’

So, must Arochukwu be in opposition politics always-with its attendant consequences on the town and her people? It is up to us to decide.

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