For historic reasons, the governorship candidate of the United Progressives Party, Osita Chidoka launched his campaign in Amorka, a sleepy village in Uli, Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, home to the Uli airstrip that served as the link between Biafra and the outside world during the civil war. David-Chyddy Eleke was there and now reports
Two weeks ago, Chief Osita Chidoka, the governorship candidate of the United Progressives Party, (UPP) flagged of his campaigns to mark the beginning of his journey towards the Anambra government house. The flag off was a symbolic one considering the choice of Amorka, a small sleepy village in Uli community, Ihiala local government area as the venue of the event.
At first, many wondered why he chose Amorka, a border town in Anambra, which is even more Imo than it is Anambra. Every other party would either consider Awka, the Anambra State capital which houses the government house, where the candidate seeks to take over. Others may consider the commercial city of Onitsha because of the large population of people in the city, especially as politics is said to be a game of number. But Chidoka would have none of these.
If he had also considered Nnewi, the industrial hub of Anambra State and the entire Igboland, such move would still have been right especially as Nnewi has come to be a depiction of the enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit of the Anambra man, nay Igboman. But for Chidoka, a brainy young man to choose a remote village with less population, where he would have to incur more expenses transporting his supporters to the event, may look somewhat unwise.
For this reporter who was invited to provide media coverage for the event, I was almost sure it was going to witness a low turn out, and surely others must have reached a similar conclusion. This is because Chidoka hails from Obosi in Idemili North, and equally has the bulk of his followers from there. But Obosi to Ihiala is still a journey of about two hours. For his supporters who would be coming from Awka, the capital city where Chidoka has equally won the heart of a great number of youths, the distance is nothing short of three hours too, especially considering the state of the roads. Onitsha may prove the nearest to Ihiala, but the state of the road leading to there may also be a source of concern, so why exactly did Chidoka settle for Amorka.
The first reality that hit this reporter on arriving Amorka was the large number of people that had assembled at the Town Secondary School’s field for the rally. Not only was a huge crowd gathered, but more vehicles were still conveying people to the arena, and most fascinating was that everyone in the field adorned Chidoka’s branded t-shirts. By noon when the candidate arrived the rally ground with a long entourage, there was not a standing space left in the field, as the crowd spilled across to the other side of the road.
Many have always argued that Chidoka is one of the best brains among those running for the governorship seat of the state. As the Corp Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, he edged his name in stone, such that a commentator once said that Chidoka, even after his exit from the commission, remained to it what Late Prof Dora Akunyili was to the National Agency for Food and Drug Regulation and Control, (NAFDAC), where her name remained synonymous with the agency long after she had left.
When he was eventually called up to the podium, it was with high hope that all in attendance listened, and he did not disappoint. Chidoka, who was first handed the flag of the UPP, with the symbolic Isi agu (the head of the tiger), which is the symbol of the party, and the symbol of strength in Igboland before he was handed the microphone to address the people. Holding the Isi agu flag in his right hand, high above for all to see from the crowd, the microphone in his left Chidoka enthused; ‘today, the journey of the tiger begins.’ The remark was welcomed with a huge ovation before he went further to state why the rally was moved to Amorka.
Chidoka, who was elated at the turn out told his supporters that he opted for Amorka because it was a historic town in Igbo land, having been home to Uli Airstrip where relief materials had reached Biafra land during the civil war. He said every Igbo man who survived hunger during the civil war owed his live to Uli Airstrip from where relief materials were brought down to the area. He described the town as Biafra’s window to the world and hope for survival. He said, “We are gathered here today in the historic city of Amorka to launch a governorship campaign. Many people may be wondering why we chose this ground for this launch. This ground is historic by its significant position as the last standing territory at a great time in the history of a great people and their unconquered resilience in the face of all odds.
“This is the home of the famous Uli Airport – an airport, which at some historic point, was the only link between Biafra land and the rest of the world. It remains a loud testimony and tribute to the Igbo ingenuity, innovation and the resilience for which we are known all over the world. Uli Airport remains one of our finest hours when in the midst of bombardments and gunfire; of injury, pain and death; we held forth and sustained an airport that was our support and our access to the whole world even in the midst of battle. Today, we stand to pay tribute to all those who died in the quest to build a nation out of the regions of Nigeria; we pay tribute to their courage, their valour and audacity of identity and self-expression.
“As we launch our campaign, we lift the “isi agu”(tiger head symbol of UPP), the very Igbo symbol of our courage, pride and undying consciousness as well as our composure and resilience as a people even in the face of adversity. It is therefore symbolic that the isi agu is also the emblem of our great party, the United Progressive Party (UPP), which today is the political vehicle for our new consciousness and engagement as a people in Nigeria and which also has in its manifesto, the quest and right to self-determination.”
The event was also attended by Chief Sylvester Ojukwu, the first son of former Biafran leader, late Odumegwu Ojukwu who concurred with Chidoka’s assertions, saying that he was in Amorka because the town was a significant town which helped Igbos to survive the civil war of 1967. He said his father left Nigeria towards the end of the war through Uli Airstrip, which was located at Amorka, with the message that he was leaving to bring back peace to Igbo land, and that he was happy that peace was at last coming back to Igbo land through the same Amorka, this time in Chidoka and not Ojukwu.
He said, “I left everything I had to do to come here because of the significance of Amorka to Igbo people. My father left Nigeria through Uli Airstrip, here in Amorka, and promised to bring back peace on his return. Amorka gave my father peace and happiness, today you are giving Anambra peace and happiness in the form of Chidoka.”
For the National Chairman of the party, Chief Chekwas Okorie who was also at the flagging off ceremony tackled the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun over his recent comment that the only way Igbos could run away from marginalisation was to join the APC. He said, “Now we know why they are marginalising us. But let me tell you, any Igbo man who was brought up properly would not vote for APC. The only way we can ensure we defeat them is to make sure that no part of Igbo land fall to APC. Our party would continue to talk about marginalisation. We will continue to talk about referendum and Biafra. We will not be intimidated. We are the only party that has referendum in our party manifesto.”
UPP has, since after the endorsement of the party by a faction of the pro-Biafra group, Customary Government of the Indigenous People of Biafra, CG-IPOB, come to champion the cause of the Igbos. Even after the withdrawal of the group from the party after its preferred aspirant, Chudi Ofodile loss the the primary election, the party has continued to champion the cause of the Igbo man, refusing to back down on its agitation, over marginalization.
It was just a stroke of luck for UPP that its delegates settled for Chidoka, a young man who also has a passion for the quest for Biafra. Chidoka it was who as a result of his passion for the Biafra and disdain for the perceived marginalization of the people of the south east helped in perfecting the bail conditions for the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu in May this year.
Though many have argued that Chidoka was only playing the Biafra card to curry favour from both the IPOB and the average Anambra people who feel marginalized by the federal government, only time will tell if he truly means all that he says. If he wins the election, it would be because the people fell for his message of marginalization, and he will be expected to meet their demands. If he losses, it will not also be a reason to dump his belief as the people will still judge him in subsequent elections by his action after now. But what is more important to Chidoka now is that the journey of the tiger has begun, and to ensure that the journey ends at the government house.
This ground is historic by its significant position as the last standing territory at a great time in the history of a great people and their unconquered resilience in the face of all odds.