“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” Matthew 5:9.
Various news platforms: the social media and the traditional media, have been awash with Dr. Ikedi Ohakim’s clarion call on his fellow governorship candidates in the just concluded governorship election in Imo State who feel aggrieved and have since filed petitions at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, to withdraw their petitions. Igbo people believe that elders do not sit at home and watch the she-goat deliver her kids in the tethers. As the governorship candidate of the Accord party in the election, Ohakim had more than 1,000 reasons to file a petition against the outcome of the governorship election in the state. But as a foremost leader in the state, he could not sit back and watch things go the wrong way, having fought against the impunity that we had as government for eight years.
Nevertheless, before we go into the meat of this essay, let us digress a little to Governor Okorocha’s change of fortune – which has become an embarrassment to humanity – that the executive governor of Imo State could bring himself so low to be accused of publicly looting petty things such as iron rods. The manner of the carting away of construction materials and dismantling of public properties such as furniture, makes one sick. This is worsened by the lame explanations and shameless counter accusation from the government, that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and their members and supporters are the ones carting away and looting government property.
It is utterly disgusting that a government we called ours could be this cheap. Who sold the idea that contractors own construction materials, apart from their machines, and could move them as they wanted? Who says that the contractor handling a building project for someone now becomes the owner of the cement, sand, gravel, iron rods, etc, on the site? If a contractor could move construction materials at his will, why then does the government supervise the contractors/contracts? Truth is, once a contractor has been paid by the government, the construction materials belong to the government. They cannot be moved by the contractor at will.
It is equally disgusting that the state government is the one defending the unknown contractor. Why can’t the contractor speak up and claim responsibility for his actions? Why was it that when the materials were reportedly intercepted by the police it was the Governor and his aides that were said to have showed up? Why was it that it was the Governor that reportedly made the request for five bundles of iron rods? Sad event as this demonstrates that the Governor’s trajectory from a hero heralded by the people with music and dance in 2011 to a deserted and jeered Governor in 2019 is nothing short of the magical. This is what a leader should not be.
It should be clear therefore that Ikedi Ohakim is not only a good man, but he served Imo State meritoriously, with clean hands and conscience. The reasons are not far-fetched. Ohakim is a man of integrity. He has character. He is not a looter. He handed over more than N26bn to his successor, Okorocha, in 2011. He also handed over the Imo Roads Maintenance Agency (IROMA) and its asset worth over N12bn. Ohakim also handed over 1,952 water schemes, amongst others.
No matter what happens, Ohakim considers the interest of the state to be far more important than his. For him, his ambition to be the Governor of Imo State for a second time did not require the blood of any Imo son or daughter. Ohakim noted this during the governorship campaigns when he declared that nobody should kill, snatch the ballot box or fight for him. He added that he would not share money or buy votes. And he kept his word.
In keeping with his belief in the overall wellbeing of the state as far more important than the political survival of any individual, Ohakim called on the aggrieved governorship candidates in Imo State to sheathe their sword and give peace a chance by withdrawing their petitions from the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal. He made this call on Tuesday, April 9, at the Rockview Hotel Owerri, during the inauguration of the Inauguration Planning and Hanover Committee by the Governor-Elect, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha. He said that the aggrieved governorship candidates would be helping the state when they withdraw their petitions, saying that he suffered similar fate when he faced more than 20 election suits for the period of four years he was Governor, and therefore would not want Ihedioha to pass through same horrible experiences and distractions.
Ohakim explained the need for the aggrieved candidates to heed his clarion call in his recent interview where he said: “I had to put my personal interest backwards. I congratulated Ihedioha even before INEC declared him the winner of the election. No sacrifice is too much for the state and we must have a state first before we will be able to run for any elective position. There comes a time when we have to put the interest of the state before ours, because I know what I passed through when I was governor of the state. I faced more than 20 legal battles and escaped four assassination attempts and they were too much distractions. I don’t want Ihedioha to go through the same thing. I want him to concentrate on the core mandate of governing the state with all the support he can get. If we pull down our state, we have no other place to go”.
As characteristic with politicians, Ohakim’s clarion call has been misunderstood by some of those who are in court. In their responses they argued that what Ohakim preached to them was not what he did in years past. But they did not say that what Ohakim preached to them to do was the wrong thing. Again, they did not take note of the fact that what Ohakim preached to them is what he is doing now. He is not challenging the outcome of the election at the Tribunal. In fact, he has since congratulated the Governor-Elect. He was the first to do that, especially before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Ihedioha winner.
Ohakim’s conviction is that the need to give peace a chance is far more important than any other consideration. There is no need to tear down the house if what we are really seeking is peace and progress of the state. That is what Ohakim meant when he warned that continuing with the court cases would be inimical to the progress of the state. He added that continuing with the cases would scare away development partners and other investors because investors do not invest where there are litigations.
Another seeming misunderstanding of Ohakim’s clarion call is the argument that the aggrieved candidates have the right to table their grievances before the Tribunal. There is no doubt about that. Ohakim understands this. That was why he never argued against it but called on the aggrieved candidates to sheathe their sword in the interest of the state. There is a reason the Americans do not challenge the outcome of their elections in the court. Despite the hullabaloo about Russia’s involvement in the last presidential election in the US, Hillary Clinton never challenged the outcome of the election in court. Not because she did not have the right to do so, but because it was her own immense contribution to the building of the American state. It was a burden, the pain she had to bear.
No one gets peace and progress from adjudication. The court may give you justice but never will it give you peace, progress and brotherhood. No one buys these things but they abound for free. With the defeat of the Dynasty and Familitocracy Imo people have got their collective justice and peace. They have also got back their shared brotherhood. Any attempt, therefore, to truncate this will no doubt be inimical to the collective interest of the people of the state. Ohakim is living by example and does not want to be part of any move to truncate the hard fought collective victory of the people.
We want to see a situation where elections are concluded without anyone challenging it. Not because the process was perfect but because we want it to be perfect. We want a situation where the outcome of an election is accepted not because we do not know what to do, but because it is our contribution towards building the Imo State of our lofty dreams. In the pursuit of a peaceful and prosperous state, we try as much as possible to reduce rancor and make as much sacrifice as we can. It is part of building the nation, and posterity will smile on us.
Ositadimma (meaning, may it become good from today) is a name the Igbo people cherish and give to their children. Claims to rights, or entitlement mentality, does not resolve all issues. What will maintain the peace we all share in the state now is sacrifice from all and sundry. Ohakim captured this point very well in his interview when he said: “Now, the next thing is for us to ensure that the incoming administration is not distracted. After Okorocha, we need not go through another period of uncertainty, for example, where the governor has to face several court cases. Investors don’t go where there are litigations. I am a victim. Our Oak Refinery project could not go ahead because of the court cases I was facing. The investors from Houston withdrew”.
Collins Ughalaa could be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or via telephone:07066222944