*”The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. ..In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps”. Psalm 37:23,24; Proverbs 16:9.*
On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, Chief Dr Ikedi Ohakim announced to a jubilant crowd that he was back from sabbatical and would thus resume active partisan politics.
This announcement was sequel to the demands by the leaders of Okigwe Zone who had gathered at his Burma Retreat Country home in Okohia, Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of the state, regarding when the former Governor would return to active partisan politics.
To this demand Dr Ohakim announced: “I am back from sabbatical”. He had in August 2016 announced that he was no longer going to participate in active partisan politics for some time following what had become the irreconcilable differences in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), both at the national and state levels, and the general polity.
In an interview published by Thisday newspaper on August 18, 2016, the former Governor explained the rationale for his decision to withdraw from active partisan politics, what has become known as going on sabbatical.
He said: “The atmosphere [in the PDP and Nigeria generally] has become such that it is now a clear distraction for those of us who believe in law and order and life outside politics. We cannot spend all our time running from pillar to post in the name of playing politics. There is so much recalcitrance and ambivalence in our political environment, and for purely selfish interests. I would have time to look into other things”.
The withdrawal from active partisan politics by Dr Ikedi Ohakim had raised issues, with many asking whether it was appropriate, but with time the discerning knew that there is time for everything, and that there is wisdom in the military tactic of withdrawal. Moreover, there is a popular saying that only those who were not consumed in the war live to tell tales of the war.
It is not overstatement therefore to state that while the sabbatical lasted, Imo people missed their leader, Ikedi Ohakim, who nevertheless did not fail to intervene on their behalf and take the government on on their nauseatingly disappointing and embarrassing performance, at great risk to his person.
Imo people consulted him. They cried to him. They asked him to end the sabbatical. In one-on-one conversations and in their write-ups both in the newspapers and social media, Imo people did not stop asking when Ohakim would end his sabbatical and return to active partisan politics.
One thing about leadership is that no matter how some people pretend, the leader knows the sheep and they know him. He calls them by their names and they follow him. That was why Imo people on January 9 rejoiced that their prayers have been answered with the end of the sabbatical and the resumption to participation in active partisan politics of the former Governor, Dr Ikedi Ohakim, whom they have also asked to seek a second term, so as to return the state to its glorious days.
When Dr Ikedi Ohakim ended his sabbatical and returned to active partisan politics last Tuesday, he did not disappoint Imo people. He told them he would never stop speaking up on their behalf; that nobody would stop him from doing that. He assured he would continue to make himself available for their consultation on any issue that gives them sleepless nights.
Having assured Imo people, he informed them that the task of returning him to the government house would not be job for one man; that he needs all and sundry to make it a success, while further assuring that he would always be committed to standing for the people at all times.
“I will always stand for our people and the future of our children. ‘Let us go is not the journey of one man’. Ohakim cannot ensure that growth and development we desire alone. I need your help. We need each other to take Imo State from the unfortunate present to the desired future”, he said.
But why is Ohakim running for Governor again? What did he forget in Imo State Government House? Should he not give chance for the younger generation? These and more are the questions I have entertained this few days.
In answer to these questions, particularly on the issue of giving space for the younger generation, Dr Ikedi Ohakim had explained that the Imo situation is so bad that it does not require a driver but someone who is both a driver and mechanic, so that he can be able to fix the now malfunctioning vehicle and then drive it safely to it’s destination.
But let us also look at the scenario in the state where 57% of the entire Imo population was out of poverty in 2011 when Ohakim was Governor and the current rating of 19% of Imo population outside poverty. This increase in poverty rate, or better put, this spreading of poverty and its consequent death, was enough reason for Imo people to besiege Ohakim and ask him to return for just one more term of 4 years, so as to provide the escape windows and doors for the urgent escape from the choking room of poverty.
It is well known to Imo people and Nigerians at large that Dr Ikedi Ohakim is not seeking a second term for his personal interests. He had told Thisday newspaper on August 18, 2016: “I am successful in politics. Even though, as I said, I don’t like the circumstances in which I left office as Governor, the truth is that I achieved politically what many people are still struggling to achieve today. Becoming a State Governor may not be the ultimate but it is a great privilege… Outside politics, I was successful in my career and business before I became Governor”.
Few days ago he went on to explain to Imo people that he was not running for second teem for his personal interests. “If the future of my children won’t be affected, why should Ikedi Ohakim bother? If the future of my grand and great-grand children won’t be affected, why then should I care? If the future of your children weren’t to be affected by my silence and indifference, why then should I care? Our silence and indifference when things go wrong would not only be suffered by you and I but our generations yet unborn”, he said.
With a debt burden of N93.27bn hanging on the state, no one needs Rocket Science to know that the future of Imo has been placed on the finishing line.
There are more reasons Ohakim is coming back as second term Governor. For close to 7 years Imo people have endured the Rescue Mission Government that said Due Process, Rule of Law and Accountability breed corruption and are a waste of time, and threw them overboard. For close to seven years no one has seen the audited account or financial statement of the state. Court judgments are flagrantly disregarded. No respect for rules and regulations. Imo has become a state where contracts are not bided for but awarded by words of mouth. The state tenders board has gone moribund. Salaries of civil servants are slashed by 70%. Pensioners cannot get their pensions, even as they had got a 60% illegal deductions. This has led to rise in death toll in the state as the old pensioners could no longer afford decent food and medication. No thanks to the dysfunctional healthcare infrastructure in the state.
There is so much deceit and coverups in the running of the state government. Public funds are diverted for private good while family members and cronies become billionaires overnight.
Civil servants now lament that they get paid with dud cheques. There have been contracts and projects failures, such as the disappearance of billions of Naira belonging to Imo people which was paid to JPROSS, the street gates, the culverts, the abandoned rural roads, the Ikuala Nkwu programme, including the reduction of working days for civil servants to three days against the civil service rules; the CGC and SDC, the Princess Hotel, the Imo Air, selling of government assets such IROMA trucks and other equipment, Mass transit luxurious buses and taxis, water board equipment, land grabbing and conversion of public land to self, family members and cronies, confiscating local government assets (including not conducting LGA elections), etc.
The urgent need to bring back institutions of government back to life is a part of the journey, so that a situation where one man becomes the law to himself and others will no longer obtain. Moreover, the dying Imo economy gives all and sundry sleepless nights, and the task of “Reawakening the ailing economy of the state”, ensure quality and efficiency are part of the reasons Imo people want Ohakim back.
No matter the number of edifices erected at roadsides, why is it that Imo people are not happy, and the state government agrees that that they are unhappy? The reason is that edifices do not solve problems for anybody. Two, to reawake the economy and get things moving again, Imo people need essential services like water, power, efficient transport system, strong institutions and efficient civil service and the bureaucracy, efficient education system, etc.
Another question I have entertained this few days is the question of Ohakim’s current political party membership: whether he has left the PDP, joined APGA, APC or Labour Party. While these questions go a long way to show the level of interest Imo people have in Ohakim and how prepared they are to work with him, the answer is that no Nigerian politician is tied to any political party forever. Ohakim had once won the governorship of this state without being a member of the PDP. He is free like everyone else to leave or stay in the PDP.
But unlike several others, instead of leaving the PDP in the midst of obvious provocations, the former Governor still had the decorum to give the PDP a last chance.
In his meeting with the leaders of Okigwe Zone on Tuesday, January 9, it was resolved that the PDP should be giving a last chance at survival. The leaders set up a committee to negotiate their vexations with the National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Uche Secondus, and find means of resolving the issues they had itemized.
One of the qualities of a good leader is the ability to keep his head above the water and think clearly and not be swayed by changing sentiments. A good leader is also a problems solver who does not keep personal interests above the collective.
That is Chief Dr Ikedi Ohakim. That is the kind of Governor Imo people need in 2019.
It is only “One term, and last term”.