By Azubuike Ubani
Interstingly, Ikedi Ohakim is making vigorous and calculated attempts at regaining political control of Imo State, after he was mischievously edged out of power by a combination of social forces that were both visible and invincible. The man, Ohakim, made his big break into Nigerian politics when he was elected and later sworn-in as the governor of Imo State in Southeast Nigeria in May 2007, on the platform of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA — a party that was not particularly popular in the country. He later made a switch to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the ruling party at the centre at the time.
He came into politics armed with good formal education from the prestigious University of Lagos, and with over 15 years working experience in the private sector where he held top executive positions. Those who knew him before then and his deep sense of devotion to whatever he applied himself, expected so much from Ohakim as the governor of his state. With this rich academic and corporate background and experience, Ohakim eventually cut his political teeth when he was appointed Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Imo State, from 1992 to 1993, under the administration of Governor Evan Enwerem, a government that was sacked from office in a coup led by the maximum leader, General Sani Abacha. He was later to become one of the founding members of the PDP in Imo State, and remained a PDP member until November 2006 when he relocated to the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, under whose flag he contested for the governorship of Imo State in April 2007, and won.
Ohakim had aspired to be the PDP governorship candidate in Imo state, but had to pull out because of abuses of standing rules on party primaries that offended his sense of justice and fair play. But what must be mentioned was that during his four-year administration in the state, in spite of the many litigations by those that contested with him and lost, Ohakim governed with dedication, foresight and with new ideas — in a business-like manner. From day-one, he hit the ground running with innovative ideas and well-thought projects. He was later to return to the PDP in a grand ceremony in Owerri, the platform in which he contested for re-election and lost to Rochas Okorocha.
Like Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who lost after his first term in office, and later in 2018 returned to win for his second term, Ohakim said he can achieve the same feat, this time on the platform of the Accord Party, AP, having failed to get the ticket in the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA.
But some are questioning his ambition to return to Douglas House, Owerri after his first eventful but ‘controversial’ tenure. The question has become so persistent that the incumbent governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, who apparently considers Ohakim as a strong candidate and a threat to his ambition to turn Imo state into something else, had severally challenged him to list his achievements while in government for four years.
However, the urbane Ohakim has defended his administration stoutly, reeling out many infrastructural developments that happened under his care, ARROMA was conceived and deployed to concentrate on rural development, devotion to education and healthcare, sound security arrangements and networking in the state, handover of schools and colleges to the missions, income distribution and a state economy run with patriotism and was people-friendly. He never fails to add that his second coming will restore hope in the people of Imo State, restore the famous Imo Equity Formula and to conclude his constitutional second term in office because some of his innovative and creative projects that could have leap-frogged the state into economic and social development were mindlessly and jealously abandoned by Okorocha’s government. He always concludes by saying that his bid to return to Douglas House, Owerri is borne out of his desire to rebuild a state ruined by nepotism and in dire need of direction and fresh ideas.
He has only one term to occupy Douglas House and insists that the current state of affairs in Imo State does not require an inexperienced person or a greenhorn who would again use the state as a laboratory for experiments, like the charade going on at the moment in the State. “My desire to lead my people is not borne out of an ambition to be called Governor or former Governor after four years. I have been Governor and no matter how many of my pictures anybody takes down from Government House out of a sense of inferiority, and intimidation by my personality or tries to destroy every legacy Ohakim left behind out of sheer spite, they can never remove my name from history”.
Ohakim says that “it is not a decision I made easily. It was made reluctantly, but it is one I must make for the future of our children. I feel ashamed inviting my friends to my home when there are no roads for them to drive on. Imo children no longer use the showers in the bathroom and enjoy the rush of water because our taps have gone dry.
“The decay and destruction in Imo State today is not what we will leave in the hands of a learner who will take another four years understanding governance. To those asking for fresh hands, this is a fact you have to think about seriously,” he says.
In his four years as governor, Ohakim, popularly called “Ochina nwata”, because of his foray in government at a young age of twenty-eight (28), was able to introduce projects that lifted Imo State economically and infrastructurally. Catch phrases like “IRROMA”, “Clean and Green”, “The New Face of Imo”, and “Let’s Do More” headlined his different creative projects in the state.
He embarked on an ambitious road network, job creation for the youth and the beautification of the landscape of Owerri. In April 2009, Ohakim led a fourteen-man delegation to Taiwan to see what lessons from that resource-poor but dynamic economy could be applied to Imo state.
But in spite of these bright and solid development plans, Ohakim’s re-election was abridged with blatant lies, false accusations and insinuations. Probably, due to some contradictions in the territory he governed and the character of a certain fraction of Imo political elite, political enemies began to emerge in their numbers. The business of pulling Ohakim down began and stories were fabricated and pushed to a gullible and unwary public, which ultimately affected and endangered his ambition for a second term. For instance, the widely publicised allegation of the brutalisation of a Catholic priest for obstructing his convoy created the impression that Ohakim is a local tyrant, which time and events have since dismissed as very untrue and a well-calculated propaganda designed to achieve specific political/election purposes. In the words of an Enugu-based popular Catholic priest: “These baseless allegations have all been found to be untrue, but we have found out it was a crude political propaganda to damage and truncate Ohakim’s ambition”.
On the Accord Party platform, Ohakim supporters insist that he is on a mission to complete his truncated tenure. Not long ago, he apologised to those he may have wronged and asked for forgiveness. With experience as his greatest advantage and the fact that he has just one term to be governor, he has promised to revive “our beloved Imo state and hand over governance to Owerri zone”. That means, in effect, that Ohakim is the only governorship candidate in Imo, as we speak, that would do just one term – constitutionally speaking. Others are gunning for eight years.
“But our candidate has four years to revive the knocked engine, and get our beloved state working again,” his Campaign Organisation said recently in a statement.
•Engr. Ubani retired from an Oil Company in Port Harcourt and now lives in Owerri.