The political climate in Imo is changing fast with contestants taking their campaigns to feverish pitch ahead 2015 elections. In Imo, the intricacies and subtle moves of gladiators seeking public offices are interesting, especially in the main opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. As the umbrella party eyes Douglas House, the seat of power in Imo come 2015, politicians of different characters have joined the fray in what could be branded mother of all governorship primaries in Nigeria for next election.
However, one character that seems to have joined the race and is fast changing calculation in the political firmament is Ikedi Godson Ohakim, the former governor of the state who was unable to get a second tenure chance in 2011. What started like a rumour that Ohakim, a chieftaincy title holder from Okohia in Isiala Mbano LGA of the state is interested in 2015 election has come to reality with a new campaign slogan “Bring back Ohakim”, reminiscent of the Bringbackchibok fame caused by Boko Haram malfeasance in the Northern parts of the country.
A forthnight ago, Ohakim stormed PDP state secretariat on Okigwe road Owerri to officially declare his intention to run for 2015 governorship election. The event would have been held few months ago but for the unsavory actions of unknown arsonists who it was alleged threw in explosives into his private building at Prefab Housing Estate, Aladimma area of the state capital. The incident which caused fire outbreak in the bungalow temporarily stopped the planned declaration scheduled for the next day.
The PDP state office declaration was followed by a meeting at his palatial Burma Retreat country home, Okohia last weekend which was more of home coming for his former appointees otherwise known as Team Ohakim and political acolytes, where he briefed them about his next political destination and plans for Imolites if given the chance again. The climax of the event at the Burma Retreat gathering was the unveiling of a revealing book Imo State; Legacies That Speak Vol 1 and Vol 11; a compendium of his achievements in office and what he has in stock for Imolites ahead.
Ironically, this is the first time I am taking out time to discuss Ohakim since he became governor in 2011, till date. Irrespective of the fact that I served Rt. Hon Goodluck Nanah Opiah, who was speaker of Imo State House of Assembly 2007 to 2011, the same period Ohakim was governor of the state, I restricted my image handling services which took me to the Assembly, to the services to my principal and to an extent, affairs of the state legislature that concerns Opiah only because Ohakim had capable hands to do his biddings. When news filtered in recently that Ohakim was warming up to run again in 2015, I desired to inquire from the politician who has the Ochinanwata title what he forgot in Government House, Owerri to seek another chance to have the mandate of Imolites? My ability to secure the chance to know why he needs a second tenure warrants this commentary.
The last time I had one-to-one contact with Ohakim was during the 2007 bye-election that made him governor. But I will not fail to recollect that I was one of the few Owerri-based journalists who witnessed the former governor’s maiden interactive session with newsmen to herald his intention to run for governor in 2007. Sometime in October 2006, as a correspondent of a national newspaper I got an invitation courtesy of Dr Ethelbert Okere who later became Special Adviser, on Media to the former governor for an interactive session with Ohakim. The session held at the reserved chamber of Crunches fast food on Mbari Street, Ikenegbu, Owerri saw selected correspondents of national newspapers based in Owerri then like Chidi Nkwopara (Vanguard), Chris Isiguzo (Thisday), Fidelis Soriwei (Punch), Emma Mgbeahuruike (Comet), Val Okara (Sun), Emma Ogu (Champion), and at the local front Henry Ekpe (Announcer) and Gele Agbai (Newspoint), in attendance. The next was on the rescheduled day of 2007 election where few journalists around interviewed him after voting at Okohia voting centre.
Expectedly, the question on my lips which I guess would also be in that of average Imo citizen is what Ohakim forgot in Govt. House that would make him seek another chance to return to where he held sway fours ago. In an emotion laden voice, Ohakim regretted that his lofty ideas which were on during his four year- reign was cut short and brazenly dismantled by his successor, Okorocha who took over and ended up destroying enviable legacies left behind. According to Ohakim, the urge to see to the end of this lofty legacies warranted his return to the seat of power.
After losing the 2011 election in a rather controversial circumstance, the indelible landmarks of his New Face of Imo Agenda was submerged in the euphoria that ushered in the new government. The amnesia that gripped residents of the state deleted certain indelible successes that would have been a recurring decimal in the heartbeat of Imolites that Ohakim’s government was sign posted by bold concepts and fresh thinking in development initiative unlike in the present era where what is obtainable are impressionic structures without economic value and altruistic importance to the masses.
Giving an insight into some actions that attracted negative criticisms to his administration between 2007 to 2011, Ohakim cleared the air on the rather dredging of Nworie River which the opposition then exploited to ridicule him. According to him, available archival survey of the state capital indicated that Owerri is the only state capital in located in a valley and therefore susceptible to flooding during rainfall. It was observed that there is downward slope into Owerri from major points of entrance. From Ugwu Orji in Owerri when coming in from Okigwe, Control Post by Nworie River, Akwakuma road by Best Way Hotel, Oando Filling Station, Spot Egbu on Umuahia Mbaise road and West End on Nekede road.
To check the excesses of flood that has returned and ravaging residents of the state whenever it rains in recent times, Ohakim revealed that there are 16-Man Holes created by those who planned Owerri master plan at the creation of the state capital. On discovery of these Man Holes, his government opened it for the purpose of controlling flood in the state capital. It became difficult channeling it into Nworie River when the age long river especially the bank is in bad condition. To actualize this idea of controlling flood into the river, Ohakim explored the sweet relationship with the Presidency led by late former Head of state, Umaru Musa Yar Adua to attract the N8bn worth of contract for dredging the Nworie River with adequate bridges across the two ends.
The disruption of the contract and failure of the state government to keep to the terms of the agreement may have ended that rare chance to give Nworie River a facelift. Instead of opening the Man Hole meant to control flood in the state capital, it was blocked with construction of roundabouts and ancillary structures thereby leading to natural disaster in Akwakuma/Amakohia, Aladimma and other areas of the state capital where flood is ravaging residents. It is for this that Ohakim personally went to sympathize with the family of the dead keke operator from Isu LGA of the state who died as a result of flood on Okigwe road. It was learnt that when flooding became much that fateful day, passengers carried by the deceased kekeman alighted successfully on top of gutter but the trycicle rider was unsuccessful when he slipped and fell into a ditch covered by the overflowing surging flood that also carried him to the IMSU roundabout end of the road where his bloated corpse was found.
Ohakim added that he is driven by pity on the party of the embattled 10,000 job beneficiaries who were one of the first casualties of Okorocha’s dissolution spree, to seek a comeback bid.
The immediate past governor disclosed that since youths are the bedrock of any society, providing the needful to them in terms of social welfare and jobs cannot be over looked. It was based on this that after a careful study of the openings and vacancies at the various ministries, departments and agencies of government that he got the services of a reputable recruitment firms to handle the employment of the 10,000 job beneficiaries.
According to him, even the beneficiaries believed it was a fluke adding that some even said it never existed until the incoming government made a mincemeat of the well-cut out agenda by scrapping the 10,000 job prospect in one full swoop. The idea Ohakim offered was to energse the civil service structure and inject fresh blood following vacancies created by deaths and retirement of workers in all categories.
What disturbed Ohakim more that is said to be propelling him back to Douglas House in 2015 is the sacking of about 200 fresh lawyers among the 10,000 jobs beneficiaries injected into the Ministry of Justice as state counsel. Based on age advantage, the idea is to groom young state counsel to reach the pinnacle of their career as Supreme Court, Appeal Court judges at a reasonable younger age so that the serve long in the system.
On projects, Ohakim revealed that he established legacies that speak volume of heritage through veritable projects and signposts that cannot be wished away no matter how the successive governments try to “reinvent the time and dilute the impact and place in the history of Imo state”.
Ohakim expressed that all his projects were delivered based on impact assessment on the lives of people that are expected to be beneficiaries contrary to what is obtained today in the state where wishful grandstanding and white elephants projects are given undue attention and hailed.
A preface on his book, Imo state, Legacies That Speak Vol 1 States “In the past few years following the exit in 2011 of the government of Ikedi Ohakim (In controversial circumstances), strident attempt have been made by individuals that lack the courage to accept the facts of history to write off the government.
“Tried as they have, certain indelible landmarks remain constant reminders and pointers to the fact that Ohakim’s government was signposted by bold concepts, and fresh thinking in development initiative. Despite monumental challenges inherent in driving change, the government in line with its conviction that Imo State must of necessity embrace a paradigm shift if it would join the league of forward leading states, remained committed to pushing the limits.
“The change that hoists the flag of real development in a political environment definitely comes with the cost especially against the backdrop of resistance threshold of the people to change.
Even against all odds, the government within a short period recorded unprecedented buy-in from the people who could read beyond political gimmicks, that the journey of recreating the economy of the state in order to make the teeming masses self-reliant requires immediate sacrifices, understanding and endurance.
The New Face Of Imo Agenda of the Ohakim’s government delivered on promises in line with the measurable development indices based on the strategic pathways and logical frameworks of the new face development plan.
Infrastructure development policies were not determined or predicated on cosmetics or populism but purely re-creative programmes supportive of real growth and economic value.
“Every project of the government had defined value content aimed at opening up the economy. Local contractors and business men were deliberately empowered leading to circulation of money and economic vibrancy.
This book therefore tried to put on marble, the achievement of the Ohakim’s government within the period 2007 – 2011 in order to refresh our memories in the midst of distortion of facts aimed at rewriting history to settle political scores or puf off a candle that beams as a ploy to allow yours space to shine.
The legacies that speak draw from veritable projects and signposts that cannot be wished away no matter how men try to reinvent the time and dilute the impact and place in the history of Imo State”.
On the recent volte-face of Fr Mbaka, Ohakim noted that he received a call from the Enugu-based Catholic Priest requesting him to attend his church that it would be ungodly to allow him be crucified for an offence he never committed.
Ohakim requested for another to continue his “Lets Do More” train.