The governorship of Ikedi Ohakim at best can only be described as Maurice Iwu´s slap on the face of Imo people. During the brazen days of Obasanjo´s presidency everything was doable on Nigeria´s political landscape, including overtly substituting candidates who won primaries and elections with losers with sickening impunity. Back then in Rivers, Rotimi Amaechi had won the PDP governorship primaries, but on the day he was supposed to be presented the party flag, Obasanjo thumped his ambition with the joke – that his candidacy had small k-leg. There and then he was substituted with Celestine Omehia. But thanks to the Supreme Court that later corrected such primitive injustice.
And in Imo, notwithstanding what the people wanted, the decision was taken in the Presidency that Senator Ifeanyi Ararume should never become governor. So after the gubernatorial elections in Imo, which everybody knows that Ohakim never won, he was declared the winner after he became the only candidate who was willing to accept Maurice Iwu’s conditions – big money and lucrative posts for his daughter, Ijeoma and Cosmos, his brother. Iwu had the license to do whatever he wanted with the Imo governorship thing provided Ararume did not emerge.
The foisting of Ohakim on Imo people was a fraud and he dishonestly accepted an office he knew that Imo people never entrusted to him. He gave Iwu what he wanted. Apart from the windfall he got, Iwu’s brother was undeservedly made the Secretary to the State Government and his never-do-well daughter became an Executive Assistant to an impostor governor who for the next four years illegitimately presided over the destiny of a people. For proud Imo people, it was a slap on their faces by no other person than their own son, Maurice Iwu. He imposed on his own people, who are highly educated, industrious and politically conscious, a man that never merited to be called a governor. Before then, apart from being a commissioner for a few months under the late Evan Enwerem regime when democracy was being experimented by a military junta, Ohakim was more or less a Nobody in Imo State.
I guess the worst disservice Imolites did to themselves was to swallow Iwu’s insult. Instead of vehemently protesting against Ohakim’s emergence as governor, they flaccidly recoiled and accepted the thwarting of their will by the then infamous INEC Chairman, Maurice Iwu. And they paid dearly for it. The man they unwittingly decided to give a chance was not wise either. Instead of grabbing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he got, albeit dubiously, Ohakim fluffed and went on to become a disaster and a monster of a governor. And for four years Imolites suffered like never before. I can not say that when Ikedi Ohakim surrenders office on May 29, he will be the worst governor Imo State has had because he was never one in the first place. Rather he will be remembered as the person who desecrated the office of the Governor and looted Imo treasury the most. He will be remembered as the only governor who did almost nothing for the people while in office, except planting flowers on the streets of Owerri under a bogus “New Face of Imo” project that never left the state capital.
Looking back at the four years of Ohakim, one wonders if he ever sat down for a minute and grasped the task he had as a governor. I suppose as someone who got something he never expected, he did not recover from the over-excitement which almost made him barmy. His task as governor was primarily to take Imo forward. Instead of doing just that, he used money belonging to the state to take himself to the next level. At least, what he thought was the next level. In this direction, he wasted billions of Naira he could have used in developing Imo State in an adventurous attempt to polish, rebrand and sell himself in the media. His misplaced advertorials in CNN, SuperSports etc are legendary. Ohakim was so obsessed with the media that there was hardly a day you picked the newspaper and there was nothing about him to be read. He forgot that at the end people will judge him with his footprints as governor and not by his swanks.
Ikedim Ohakim never had a genuine mandate. Therefore, he could not possess the aptitude to see himself as the servant of the people. Little wonder, he metamorphosed into an oppressive tyrant in Government House. It is on record how he ordered the arrest of a journalist in Owerri, who criticized him and wrote a petition to the EFFC against him for corruption. He was bundled to Government House and there Ohakim personally flogged him on his bare body with a whip made from horse tail. That man still carries till this day the scars that constantly remind him of his encounter with a monstrous despot. Likewise, the record can not be deleted how Ohakim ordered security operatives attached to him to beat up a lady in Lagos for obstructing the movement of Emperor Ohakim’s convoy. These are by no means lesser misbehaviours by a democratic governor who took an oath of office to uphold the rule of law. Nevertheless, his greatest undoing was when he humiliated and assaulted Rev. Father Eustace Okorie openly in Owerri. In serious countries, at that point Ikedim Ohakim would have been compelled to undergo a psychiatric test.
Then you ask yourself how could an “elected” governor who knows that he will face re-election be so imprudent? But then again you remember that, going by how he became governor, he is a man who strappingly believed that he did not need the people’s vote to secure re-election. Ohakim in his delusion failed to capture the changing times and he misjudged President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to free and fair elections. He thought that no matter what was being said and sung, it would still be business as usual. He could not imagine a Nigeria of his time where elections would no longer be fixed.
Once upon a time, a young fish swimming in water with an older and experienced fish told the latter that he had a dream. The older fish was curious to know what the dream was and the small fish said that one day he wished to swim in an ocean. The old fish laughed at the young fish and at the end he told him that he was already swimming in one. The young fish could not believe it! Any way, what I am saying is that Nigerians who have being dreaming of the day their votes would count have already realized their dreams without knowing it – thanks to President Jonathan and Prof Jega who at last has brought integrity into the office of INEC Chairman. Not minding flaws here and there, a view of the post electoral map leaves no one in doubt that the April elections were free and fair, and will go down history as the best election Nigeria has ever had.
For the first time, since June 12 Nigerians essentially voted who they wanted. President Jonathan carried the states he was expected to win and Buhari won in the states where he was also projected to win. The West voted for Jonathan in the presidential election but shunned PDP candidates for other elections. The PDP lost five governorship seats and the PDP Speaker of the House of Representatives failed to secure reelection. On top of it, Obasanjo’s daughter was roundly beaten to deny her a return to the Senate. In the case of Imo, Imolites voted overwhelmingly for Jonathan but said enough of Ohakim. All these are new to Nigeria and could never have happened under Obasanjo’s presidency. To the surprise and chagrin of those who benefited from lawlessness and the days of rigging, democracy is finally taking roots in Nigeria.
In his sweetest days, Ikedi Ohakim, who prides himself as Ikiri, once boastfully likened his governorship of Imo State as a power coin he has swallowed and that before power could be wrested from him, he has to be killed first and his stomach torn. That was when he was living in a fool’s paradise delivered to him by Iwu. But unfortunately for him and faster as he expected, a new Nigeria had dawned and the people’s voice was heard and respected when they said a deafening NO to Ohakim’s bid to retain power he got unlawfully.
But it is startling that Ikiri did not realize that he was a man who was on his way down. If there were a prize for the most unpopular governor in Nigeria, he would easily be a winner. He was seen as a cruel leader who was incapable of governing Imo State. At a point, Imolites resented him like a leper. Yet still, few days to the governorship election, he crowed that he was going to win resoundingly. Could he have been misled by how massively Imo indigenes voted for President Jonathan? No, people close to him say that he bragged that he helped Jonathan to win Imo State. How could he have delivered over a million votes for Jonathan but could not secure a little over three hundred thousand votes for himself? That was the much Ikiri lost touch with reality because he over exaggerated the power of incumbency. Or maybe the gods made him mad because they wanted him to pay for his sins against his people.
Whichever, the fact remains that, since he failed to take advantage of the opportunity fate offered him by being a good governor, Ikiri’s political demise has been signed, sealed and delivered when Imolites took their pound of flesh by voting extraordinarily against him in the Imo gubernatorial election. And he will never again be relevant in the scheme of things, at least never in Imo State. And Imolites will be saying to themselves that never again will they be visited with another plague like Ohakim.
*Charles Ofoji, the author of Illegal in Berlin and A Failure’s Daughter is from Imo State.