Perhaps it may not be out of place to begin this commentary by saying that I am not from Imo State. Though an Igboman, I hail from the land of the birth of the Ojukwus, the Azikiwes, the Achebes, the Adichies and the Ekwuemes. In other words we are Ndi-Anambra, the great state east of the Niger that has Awka as capital city and Onitsha as one of the greatest commercial centres in the world. Anambra and Imo States are like ‘brothers’, and the two states remain the oldest in the history of state creation in Igboland.
Like Anambra, Imo has produced great politicians and eminent Nigerians like the late Chief Sam Mbakwe, late Dr K.O Mbadiwe, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu of ‘Otokoto’ fame, the perfidious Arthur Nzeribe, the elegant stallion Onyeka Onwenu and others. Unlike Anambra State, however, Imo State has had little problem of hijacked state apparatus by immoral godfathers or their lackeys and the citizenry boasts of majority of enlightened electorate who hold their leaders to account. The opposition is well and alive and people are ready to confront evil and call it by its very name damning the consequencies.
Governor Ikedi Ohakim became the Chief Executive of Imo State in 2007 by the grace of PDP’s do or die godfatherism championed by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and Orji Uzor Kalu’s defunct Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). When Senator Ifeanyi Araraume won the PDP gubernatorial primaries clearing the last hurdle for him to contest the governorship election in his state Ohakim was nowhere to be found. Due to serious allegations (of murder, fraud and what have you) flying about against Araraume the PDP thought it inexpedient to field him in the eleventh hour. But the questions are: did Araraume not get cleared by the SSS as morally fit to go for the election in the first place? How did he become a Senator if he had a bad record? The Party withdrew from the contest leaving other parties and candidates to slug it out. Enter Ikedi Ohakim of the PPA.
The then PPA man from Isiala Mbano, 53, was declared victorious but a lot of court cases challenging this victory has raged for years. After Ohakim became Governor on the PPA platform he decamped to the PDP drawing the ire of Kalu, the former Governor of Abia State. Kalu wrote a two-part piece in which he condemned Ohakim’s action portraying him as an ungrateful element. Kalu hit hard by detailing how he had for decades provided for Ohakim and how the Imo Governor had used his office to corruptibly enrich himself by buying foreign properties and stashing state funds away in foreign bank accounts. Ohakim defended his decision to abandon the PPA arguing that the majority of Imo people were behind him. He alleged gravely that Kalu had wanted to decamp to the PDP together with him. That position had been proved right since Kalu has since gone back to the PDP disbanding effectively the PPA party he had created. Even Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State, a ‘mugu’ whom Kalu and his political machinery put to power even when he was in prison has rejoined the PDP too alleging irreconciliable differences with Kalu and the PPA leadership.
Ever since Ohakim came to power in Imo State controversy has been trailing him from Lagos to Abuja to Owerri. Flashback 2008: In Lagos a woman named Mrs Elizabeth Udoudoh and her two kids were assaulted by Ohakim’s security aides as the Governor looked on in approval. Her crime: blocking the Governor’s convoy! Talk of ‘exporting’ executive recklessness from Owerri to Lagos! The scandal sparked a national public outcry and international opprobrium that further damaged Ohakim’s image.
But by far the biggest scandal Ohakim has had to face happens to be one involving him and his accuser. Citizen Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha has been campaigning against Ohakim accusing the Governor of embezzlement and other sundry state crimes. Mr Iwuoha has petitioned the authorities detailing the sleazy way of the Ohakim administration and declaring his readiness to not only testify but substantiate his claims if called upon to do so. When Ohakim could no longer bear the sustained and detailed exposure from his subject with a fixed address he sent his security goons to fetch him. Citizen Iwuoha was ‘kidnapped’ from his home and brought to the Government House where Ohakim in the presence of the State Commissioner of Police and the SSS State Director manhandled Iwuoha administering on him some strokes of ‘Koboko’ (horse-whip). Mr Iwuoha, for poke-nosing too much and bringing his excellency to ridicule before his subjects, was tried and sentenced for few months in prison. But the man is still fighting on refusing bluntly to be cowed or intimidated. I salute his courage and encourage him to keep on challenging evil.
And just recently in Owerri Rev. Father Eustace Okorie of the Catholic faith was molested and detained for having the effrontery to impede the progress of the governor’s convoy. The Reverend gentleman was on his way to pray for the sick when his car fell into a ditch on the road the Governor was passing. Ohakim ordered that he be taken to Government House where he was stripped naked to his underpants, interrogated by the CSO of the Governor before being detained for more than two days!
The Governor according to reports has since apologised to the Catholic church but the damage has been done. How could a sane state governor in a democracy elect to punish the God’s chosen one? I think Ohakim is suffering from some opposition-inflicted fear of the unknown. By accusing the Reverend father dressed in his cassock of having blocked the road on purpose and possibly sponsored by his political enemies Ohakim has thrown a challenge to God and humiliation awaits him.
While Ohakim revels in stewing in one scandal or another (something that should have since led to his exit in a saner climes) he remains the most controversial and least-performing Governor in the South-east (perhaps with the exception of Gov.
Theodore Orji of Abia State whose poor performance thus far could be explained away). Besides Ikedi-nakoboko’s (power in the horsewhip) performance thus far suffers from credibility crisis as everything is tailored towards presenting the rosy bright side of achievements by his many spin doctors. There is a regime of subterfuge, of mendacity, of mischief and crass greed in place in Owerri.
Ohakim is a puny political element standing on the shoulders of giants like the late Sam Mbakwe whose political exploits are legendary. The Ohakim tragedy in Imo state government house can be traced to the general psychology of the average successful Igboman: when economic or political power is obtained or procured then oppression sets in compromising responsibility and morality. In this instance age, wisdom or pedigree no longer counts but grandstanding, unconscious dignity and egoism.
In a space of three years since coming ‘accidentally’ to power in Imo State Governor Ohakim has had chains of chieftaincy titles from various Communities in Imo State and beyond bestowed on him for his ‘great’ works. No doubt some must have been given out on merit but others must have been procured. These include the following ‘befitting’ titles: “Omeudo” (peacemaker) of Anara, “Ochinanwata” (ruler from childhood) of Okigwe zone, “Ikemba” (warrior) of Mbaitoli, “Okaa Omee” (man of principle) of Orlu, “Akajiugo” (hand that beholds the eagle) of Owerri, etc. A visit to his website (www.ikediohakim.com.ng) reveals a man in desperate need of accolades, one in a hurry to make name for himself and leave a footprint, no matter how negatively indelible, in the sand of time. What one encounters therein is an irritating symbol of disguised megalomania.
While knocking this essay into shape few days ago I had cause to call up a good friend of mine from Imo State based in Paris France for his opinion on his home Governor. And what the man told me was both insightful and dreadful! According to him: “Ohakim was a former ‘419’ kingpin based in Abidjan Ivory Coast and when you hand over the destiny of a s
tate to an ex-international con-man then goodbye to morality and accountability.” My pertinent question to my dear friend was: If Ohakim was a former recognised crook then why did the SSS clear him for elective office? Or he bribed his way for a clean bill of health to be issued to him? But my friend laughed heartily and declared matter-of-factly: “You are asking as if you don’t know about the corrupt dynamics of politics in Nigeria; Ohakim is not alone, you have ‘419ers’ everywhere being rewarded with high offices which serve as their immunity from prosecution. From Abuja to Lagos, Owerri to Umuahia they are everywhere!”
Author Prof. Okey Ndibe had castigated Ohakim while reacting poignantly to the brazen physical assault on citizen Iwuoha by asking sometime ago in his column if Ohakim was not a monster? He had declared intrepidly thus: “If Ohakim whipped Iwuoha, then the governor must be regarded and treated as a criminal of the highest order, one that deserves to be stripped of his gubernatorial preferment, arrested, and put to trial”. Rejoinders were penned and published by Ohakim’s paid agents and aides
disputing the conclusions reached by the US-based popular writer.
But the truth is that after Ohakim’s passage in Imo State as the Governor history may well record that an executive monster Imo state never needed nor deserved has just passed by leaving chilling tales of blood, tears and sorrow. For Imo state indigenes therefore the hard choice to make will present itself next year: giving Ohakim another 4-year domineering term to ‘finish’ off what he started or a stunning electoral rebuke that he so much deserves.