By Gele Agbai
The platforms were birthday anniversaries. One celebrated 80th birthday anniversary of his mother, the other marked his own 50th birthday. Both ceremonies were graced by high net-worth individuals from within and outside the country. Though some would judge the ceremonies from the periphery, pundits are not deceived to understand that the events have some political undertone. Of course, they were organized by politicians.
I am talking about the 80th birthday anniversary celebration of Dame Nsonma Dorothy Ihedioha, mother of Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and the 50th birthday anniversary celebration of Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. For the chief tenant at Douglas House, Imo’s seat of power, it was double celebration as he seized the opportunity to also mark the 10th anniversary of his Rochas Foundation College. Ihedioha also seized the occasion to commission the building which he and his associates erected for St. Peter’s Anglican Church.
While the birthday anniversary celebration of the matriarch of the Ihedioha family held on September 29 at the sleepy Mbutu Community in Aboh/Mbaise Local Government Area, the governor’s event held on Monday, October 8 in Owerri. Within a space of nine days, the Eastern Heartland played host to both local and foreign dignitaries.
One would crave for more of such events owing to their economic impact on the state.  Hotels which have been groaning under serious lack of patronage since the advent of the Okorocha administration smiled to the banks thereafter. All their rooms were fully booked. The era of empty rooms ended even if momentarily during the two events. Traders also had a swell time especially during the ceremony of the Ihediohas. Reason is that unlike during the Okorocha’s bash, markets operated full blast during Ihedioha’s mother’s bash.
Other business people including the ubiquitous paparazzi equally made brisk businesses. Were cab and motorcycle operators left behind? No way. While the motorcycle riders smiled during the Ihedioha’s ceremony (remember the previous administration banished them to the rural areas, a policy sustained by its successor), the cab operators made more money during that of the governor. Yes, you wouldn’t expect the dignitaries to ride on motorcycle or cabs but you should also know that the masses (talakawa) were not left out of the ceremonies even if they attended to enable them catch a glimpse of the movers and shakers.
For the Madam Ihedioha birthday bash, anybody who matters now in the political arena especially at the federal level was present. The roll-call is lengthy. President Goodluck Jonathan was represented by his Chief of Staff and former deputy governor of Edo State, Chief Mike Ogiadhome. It will be appropriate to say that the entire National Assembly emptied into Mbutu in honour of the Ihediohas with the presence of Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, David Mark, his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Speaker, House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
Other senators and honourable members also present included Senators Chris Anyanwu, Abdul Ningi, Chris Ngige, Ita Enang, Andy Uba, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, Hon. Leo Ogor, Hon. Sulaiman Kawu, Hon. Gerald Irona, Hon. John Eno and Hon. Samson Osagie. Also in attendance were Hon. Uche Ekwunife, Hon Abike Dabri, Hon. Nnenna Ukeje, Hon. Isiaka Bawa, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, Hon. Dakuku Peterside, Hon. Jones Onyereri, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Hon. Ibrahim Gusau, Hon. Bashir Adamu and Hon. Nicholas Mutu. Erstwhile members of the National Assembly were not missing at the occasion. Those that came were Senator Ibrahim Mantu, former deputy senate president; Hons. Usman Nafada and Austine Opara, both ex-deputy speakers of the House of Representatives.
State governors present included Peter Obi (Anambra), Theodore Orji (Abia), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta) and representatives of other state governors. Party chieftains also showed strong presence. They included Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progresives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Sam Jaja, PDP deputy national chairman, Chief Olisa Metuh, PDP national publicity secretary, Dr (Mrs) Kema Chikwe, PDP national woman leader and Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, ex-national chairman of the party.
Other guests included former governors of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim and Chief Achike Udenwa, Chief Chris Uba, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Maj-General Ike Nwachukwu (retd), Sen. Ifeanyi Araraume, Chief Walter Ofonagoro, Prof Dora Akunyili, Sen Arthur Nzeribe, His Grace, Revd. Nichola Okoh, primate of Anglican (Nigeria) Communion. From the private sector came Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Ifeanyi Uba and Jite Okoloko.
Okorocha’s birthday bash was not bereft of eminent Nigerians. He also added some African flavour to it.  Former military president, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babngida chaired the occasion. There were also Govs Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) and Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta). The Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai also came. But the former president of Ghana, John Kuffor who was advertised as going to deliver a lecture did not show up. If he had come the lens of paparazzi would have caught him, and he would have also been in the news.
But conspicuously absent at Okorocha’s bash were his brother-governors in the South/East region. And with his ally, Chief Ceejay Ezebuiro blasting Gov. Peter Obi for allegedly plotting Okorocha’s downfall, one could understand the absence of the Anambra State governor from the ceremony which I heard also attracted the presence of deputy president of Kosovo.
An examination of the dignitaries who attended both birthday ceremonies points to the strengths of the celebrants. Though both used birthdays as platforms, they made us to understand their power base. Ihedioha’s sphere of influence now cuts across the country. He also has the moneybags. By this, he is telling us that though it is still in the realm of conjecture, he will keep a date with 2015 as far as the gubernatorial seat of his ancestral state of Imo is concerned.
Some submit that he is yet to impact on the citizens of Imo State. But those in this school of thought refuse to understand that he has not been found wanting in his core duty as a legislator. The duty of a lawmaker is to make laws for the good governance of the state or country as the case maybe. But after making the law, it is the duty of the executive to implement those laws. The legislator does not execute the laws. Even the constituency projects of the legislator are awarded and executed by the executive. The legislator is almost helpless.
I read recently National Assembly members of Abia State extraction lamenting that none of their constituency projects had been executed though they were factored into this year’s federal budget. And the year is three months to end. Such is the dilemma of the lawmaker as far as the implementation of capital projects in his constituency is concerned.
However, those who argue that Ihedioha has not impacted positively on the citizens might have deliberately ignored the numerous projects he had attracted or facilitated in his Aboh/Mbaise/Ngor-Okpala Constituency. They include the Mbutu electricity project with sub-station and solar street light, rehabilitation of water projects at Ogbor Uvuru Water, Ibeku Okwuato, Nguru Nweorie, Nguru Nwenkwo, Amala Mbaisii, Ihitte Okwe and construction of water borehole at Umukohie Uvuru.  This is just to mention but a few of the projects the three-time lawmaker has attracted to his constituency.
Besides provision of potable water, Ihedioha had built and equipped schools, facilitated the construction of primary healthcare centres, libraries and computer centres, rehabilitated roads, bridges and a jetty. By the time he completes this subsisting tenure, his constituents will have enough cause to thank God for giving them the ex-chief whip of the house.
Again, having been playing at the national scene since 2003 and in the mainstream party- the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), it will be difficult to have any other governorship contestant in the state who has a better dossier than him. This is if he chooses to run in 2015.
I could also make certain inferences from the galaxy of dignitaries that graced Okorocha’s birthday celebration. The array of dignitaries shows that his sphere of contact is majorly in the North. Being born and breed in the North, this is not unexpected. And if his presidential ambition is still alive and well for 2015, I don’t think this circle of his friends will help him realize it.
Though IBB is reported to still have some influence in the country, his inability to put his presidential campaign into full throttle twice makes me believe that he is no longer as powerful as many would want us to believe. When he ran in 2007, he dropped mid-way because according to him, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had entered the race. Again, in 2011, he was beaten by former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in a contest conducted by Arewa Consultative Assembly to pick a candidate for the North who would run on the PDP platform.
And for the two times he attempted to rule the country through the ballot box, his aspiration kicked up much dust that was difficult to settle down.  It is yet to be seen whether Nigerians particularly the Yoruba will agree to an IBB presidency. The Northern governors that attended the bash are yet to prove whether their influence will be of any electoral value to Rochas. The two countries, Zimbabwe and Kosovo that graced the occasion could only provide funds to oil an Okorocha campaign. That is the much they could do.
All in all, the state requires such big occasions. They provide avenue to know the power configuration. They are also periods for gladiators to re-unite and socialize. Who would have thought that Ohakim and Okorocha or Araraume and the governor still see eye to eye? The birthday ceremonies helped them to come together and embrace one another. Hard feelings are likely to have been dropped thereafter. Some supporters still find it difficult to fathom.

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