The removal of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume as chairman of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), has brought to the fore, the dangers of the politics of self-destruction which is currently undermining the socio-political and economic development of the state.
Today, Imo state has become a theatre of war, blackmail and political brigandage which is destroying the economy of the State and preventing the indigenes from coming together to champion the growth and advancement of their State. This worrisome state of affairs assumed a dangerous dimension with the advent of the current Government in the State.
It is unthinkable that the state would allegedly deploy all resources at its disposal to pull down an indigene of Imo state who succeeded in getting one of the most important jobs in Nigeria. At a time when other states are lobbying for their indigenes to assume plum positions at the Federal level, Imo State is busy pulling down its own people who by dint of hard work and reach in the system are able to clinch influential positions for themselves as individuals.
When the Federal Government announced the appointment of Araraume as the chairman of the NNPC board, there was wild jubilation across Imo State by the people who felt that the appointment of their son would attract huge opportunities for economic progress to them. They had also thought that Araraume, with his large following in the state, would influence the lives of the people positively in all parts of the state. The youth of the state, most of whom are jobless University graduates, had also thought that with their son at the head of the NNPC, they would at least find jobs in the Oil Sector. These hopes of the Imo people have been dashed by the forces who massed together to pull Araraume down.
The biggest losers in the plot that brought Araraume down are the Imo people. Also, the revelation that it was the state Government and some indigenes of the state who are occupying important positions at the Federal level that plotted Araraume’s removal, is destroying cohesion and unity in the state. The fear now is whether the chieftains of the APC in the state of which Araraume, is one would be able to work together for the victory of the party in the impending 2023 general elections.
What is happening in Imo is at sharp variance with what happened in the state in the Second Republic under late Chief Sam Mbakwe who was then the Governor. Even though Mbakwe was elected on the ticket of the defunct Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), he never opposed the appointments of Imo indigenes at the Federal level controlled by the National party of Nigeria (NPN). Late President Shehu Shagari who was then the President of Nigeria, elected on the ticket of the NPN, appointed the late Prof. Rowland Anyanwu from Imo state as Presidential Liaison Officer for the state without the consent of Chief Mbakwe. In a similar vein, late Chief Collins Obi was given a prominent federal appointment by President Shagari. Mbakwe, as Governor, never opposed these appointments even though these Imo citizens were his most prominent political opponents.
Similarly, under another former Imo Governor, Achike Udenwa, a lot of Imo state indigenes got Federal appointments without his consent. Udenwa never deployed forces and resources to deny those Imo indigenes the positions. Examples are: Chief Austin Nwigwe who was appointed chairman of the Jos Steel Rolling Mill and Chief Peter Ezenwa who was also the chairman of the French Language Centre Lagos.
Though the PDP which was also Udenwa’s Party never sought his consent before these Imo indigenes were appointed, Udenwa focused more on the advantages that accrued to his state from these appointments than fighting the appointees who were also his political opponents.
Imo state is bleeding and retarded in terms of development. This is as a result of the political acrimony amongst the major political figures in the state. In the case of Araraume, dangerous plots were hatched to portray him as a criminal who cannot hold public office. This is in spite of the fact that he was a Senator for eight years, Director of a bank, a member of the Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and chairman of several Blue Chip Companies with local and international interests. He had undergone security screening for all these positions in the past. If he had criminal records, he would not have been allowed to assume those positions.
Another strategy deployed to pull Araraume down was the deployment of phony Civil Society activists to make public statements against him and make reference to imaginary and non- existent conflicts between him and former President Olusegun Obansanjo. Till date, Araraume and Obasanjo enjoy a very cordial relationship that also involves their family members.
Furthermore, the removal of Araraume as NNPC Board Chairman also has serious implications for the larger Igbo race. It has created the impression that the Igbos hate themselves and cannot support any of their own to attain a very important position in the Land. Those who hold this view refer to how Igbo Senators in the Senate masterminded plots to remove their kinsmen who were elected Presidents of Senate by other Nigerian Senators.
In quick successions, the Igbos produced almost four Senate Presidents in one dispensation.
▪︎ Mbonu wrote from Owerri, Imo state.
By Chike Mbonu