Imo 2019: Ohakim Again?

 

A former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim stages a comeback for the governorship seat with a covenant with the people to correct past misdeeds spanning two administrations if…

Until recently, Ikedi Ohakim was seen by many indigenes of Imo State as the worst governor they ever had. His era as governor of the state (2007 – 2011) was indeed, a very turbulent one. Ohakim was accused of mismanaging the resources of the state and not meeting the expectations of the people in terms of social and infrastructural development.

One of the darkest spots of his administration and one of the events that contributed largely to his failure to win an election for a second term in office was the clash with a Reverend Father, which was trailed by outrage. A large number of Imo people are Christians of Catholic denomination. So when the allegation of then Governor Ohakim slapping a Reverend Father began to dominate discussions in the state, it became obvious that the governor was heading for a big trouble with the church. Although he later denied ever slapping the priest, his bid for a second term in office became a payback time. He lost the election. But that was not the only reason.

Nearly eight years after he left office as governor, Ohakim has returned to the political battlefront in the state, seeking reelection as governor on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. In a rather dramatic and unprecedented way, Ohakim, apparently aware that his image has been dented, and how much the people now seem to distrust him, headed for the High Court of Imo State in Owerri where he swore to a 36-paragraph affidavit – a covenant with the people of Imo State. Ohakim is appealing to the people to give him a second chance to govern them, with a pledge to be of good behavior. He also devoted an extensive part of the affidavit to debunking allegations of plundering of the resources of the state leveled against him by both the people of the state and Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration.

No doubt, Ohakim has image problem for which his handlers must go the extra mile. But to what may seem to be his advantage, Okorocha has turned out to be a bigger disappointment to the people. In some quarters, it is believed that Ohakim was emboldened by the dismal performance of Okorocha to come out again for governor.

But while Ohakim is digging in, there are many questions around his aspiration to be governor again. For instance, given his antecedent as a former governor who failed to deliver his electoral promises, can he be trusted? Should he by a stroke of luck get the APGA ticket, does he stand any chance of defeating the candidates of other parties especially, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, to which Okorocha belong? Since Ohakim in his days as governor was severally accused of humiliating people by physically assaulting them, an allegation he has also denied, do the people believe his denial?

One of the main issues that will decide who flags the APGA flag in the 2019 election is the zoning formula otherwise known as Imo Charter of Equity. Ohakim himself acknowledges that Owerri zone is getting impatient while waiting for their turn but he also insists that he needs to do another four years to complete the turn of his Okigwe zone, which was truncated by his defeat in 2011. Can this work in his favour?

In the affidavit, Ohakim did not fail to lash out at the Okorocha administration, which has also been a bone in his neck, describing it as “wasteful, treacherous, deceitful, capricious, autocratic, totalitarian and perceivably draconian malady that has entangled Imo State of Nigeria between 29/05/2011 and the time of this Oath.”

Much like a first-time political office seeker, Ohakim swore to address issues of economic revival; loot recovery; and reconciliation. He said he would, if elected to liberate Imo State from what he called “the rapacious and capricious mismanagement of the affairs as well as the callous and mindless misappropriation of the resources of the state.”

He accused Okorocha of deliberately and ignorantly demolishing all good governance structures in the state, and pledged to restore them. Ohakim captures the mood in the state and appears to be speaking the minds of the people. In other words, he knows what the issues are in Imo politics.

On the sidewalk of a recent gathering in Lagos, held at the instance of one of the governorship aspirants in Imo State under APGA, Ohakim was a subject of discussion among some prominent indigenes of the state who attended the event. One of the opinion leaders was of the view that from all indications, Ohakim seems to have regretted every wrong step he may have taken while in office. He further stressed that Ohakim may turn out to be a better choice than any of Okorocha’s former allies who are now jostling for the governorship seat. The thinking was that someone who has been on warpath with Okorocha for over eight years will be more thorough in rescuing the state from the ruins of the past.

In the last seven and half years, the Okorocha administration has sustained a media and legal battle against Ohakim, narrating with figures, how he plundered the resources of the state. But Ohakim in his new covenant with the people is telling his own side of the story, making frantic effort to extricate himself from Okorocha’s web of allegations of looting.

Ohakim declared that “Okorocha’s allegation that I embezzled a sum of N8 billion through Nworie River dredging contracts is a lie from the pit of hell. The truth remains that the Nworie River dredging with three bridges was an NDDC Federal Government project. That it was one of the projects which I labored to attract from late President Umaru Musa Y’adua with the support of our National Assembly members. That two of the bridges in the contract, at Egbeada and Nekede roads, had been completed before I left office.” Ohakim further alleged that for reasons best known to Okorocha, he neglected or was unable to follow up on the environmentally impactful contract.

“Rather he has ignorantly or deliberately destroyed the flow of Rivers Nworie and Otamiri with poorly constructed culverts instead of bridges in utter contravention of the Engineering Design.”

Like Ohakim stated, some Imo citizens believe that the Okorocha administration is notorious for delivering low-quality infrastructures.
The former governor also denied securing a sum of N100 billion from the Nigerian capital market and embezzling same as alleged by the Okorocha. He explained that his administration secured only N18.3 billion from the market in 2010 for counterpart funding for the re-development of Oguta Lake Resort and Conference Centre designed to create over 2,000 jobs; and that Okorocha only rebranded the project ‘The Blue Lake of Treasure’ and later abandoned it and withdrew the project fund of N13.3 billion from UBA.

Ohakim also claimed that Okorocha misappropriated the money. Not done yet, he highlights the many downsides of the Okorocha administration such as non-payment of pensioners’ and workers’ salaries including serving judges.

Ohakim’s covenant with the people indicates that he stands against virtually everything that Okorocha stands for, which the people are opposed to – demolition of Ekeukwu Owerri market, which the native people of Owerri believe to be their primary means of livelihood, abolition of tricycles within Owerri municipal – a popular means of transportation in the city and several others.

Much like what the people would want to hear and see any government in power actualise, Ohakim promises in the covenant to “ensure that money circulates again in Imo State, by pursuing a development agenda guided by the need to encourage the private sector to participate and leverage the opportunities to grow their businesses.”

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