Imo people, What’s Gwan?!,’ bellowed Ras Kimono before the mammoth crowd, his chubby face magnified on the giant screen hoisted in the middle of the soccer pitch.
‘Ohakimmm!!,’ roared back the ecstatic multitude.
‘Yeah!,’ the popular Raggae musician continued ‘You know in Raggae, we say when a song is nice you play twice. So, when a governor is good, he gets second term of office’.
Thereafter, Kimono dished out lines from his 90s monster hit, ‘What’s Gwan?’, momentarily getting the estimated 100,000_capacity crowd to boogie down.
Not even the man of the moment, Governor Ikedi Ohakim, flanked by his wife, Barr Chioma, and his deputy, Dr. Ada Okwuonu, could resist the temptation. From his vantage seat in the state box, the Imo governor climbed the bulwark and cast aside all gubernatorial inhibitions as he broke into exquisite dance_steps, to the admiration of all.
Meanwhile, two giant balloons hovered in the air. The weather was warm and bright. The previous day had witnessed a heavy downpour.
Welcome to the Dan Anyiam Stadium. Dateline: November 6. Occasion: Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s expression of interest in a second term of office come 2011.
Ras Kimono was not alone this afternoon. The stadium was literally crawling with other popular musicians like Nigga Raw, Flavour and a galaxy of Nollywood stars who came to endorse the Imo governor for second term for ‘his immense contributions to entertainment industry not just in Imo State, but the nation at large’.
One after another, these screen idols took turn to pour encomium on Governor Ohakim, urging the people of Imo to allow ‘this man of action do more for this great state.’
The roll_call included screen favourite, Muma Gee, Emeka Ike, Rita Edochie and Francis Duru. If Nollywood is pleased with Ohakim, it is easy to see the reasons.
Not only is his administration perceived to have enhanced the entertainment/ hospitality industry by creating enabling atmosphere, the state cabinet today parades popular actor, Okey Bakassi, and, until recently, the ‘elegant stallion of music’, Onyeka Onwenu.
To call the ceremony a carnival would be an understatement indeed. In her own remarks that day, Nigeria ’s Ambassador to Ireland, Dr (Mrs) Kema Chikwe, acknowledged that ‘never in the history of political rallies in Owerri have we witnessed this kind of mammoth crowd. It simply shows that Governor Ohakim enjoys the support of majority of Imo people’.
After her, many other top Imo political actors mounted the stage to pay glowing tributes to the governor, expressing solidarity.
They included the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Goodluck Nana Opiah, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief Arthur Nzeribe, Chief Hope Uzodinma, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha (Chief Whip of the House of Reps) and Senator Osita Izunazo.
Also not left out were the leaders of Tricycle operators, motor dealers, Imo chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress and student union governments. Individually, they praised Ohakim as a man who has changed the fortunes of Imo in the last three and a half years and therefore deserved a second term of office to ‘do more’.
A touch of drama was added when 27 youths sponsored to the last World Cup in South Africa as well some of the beneficiaries of 10,000 new jobs just created by the Ohakim administration, mounted the rostrum to also deliver their messages of goodwill.
Thereafter, the World Cup returnees marched to the state box to present the governor with a present: a life_size painting of Ohakim.
Perhaps, the most moving of all the testimonies was that of Chief Perry Opara on behalf of the coalition of opposition parties in the state.
Seizing the microphone, the leader of the National Unity Party declared that his colleagues in Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Justice Party, MDJ and others had resolved not to present any governorship candidate in the coming general elections as a vote of confidence in Ohakim to lead Imo for another four years.
To this end, he said their structures would be fused into the Ohakim Campaign Organisation for 2011.
Expectedly, Opara’s statement elicited a deafening applause from the multitude.
The gale of plaudits for Ohakim would reach a royal height few days later when the council of traditional rulers in the state endorsed the governor for 2011.
In a communiqué signed by the Chairman of the council, HRH, Eze Dr. C.I. Ilomuanya, CON, and the secretary of the Imo Chieftaincy Council, Chief Jude Okorie respectively, the traditional rulers declared that the governor had rendered “unprecedented achievements” that he deserves to be encouraged to continue in office for a second term.
Indeed, days before the November 6 event tagged: ‘Ohakim Speaks’ with the payoff ‘Let’s do more’, security concerns had been expressed in some quarters, considering that a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP led by ex_Governor Achike Udenwa and Senator Ifeanyi Ararume had been engaged in a running battle with Ohakim for the control of the soul of Imo PDP.
This apparently informed the decision of the security agents to insist that vehicles parked inside the stadium that day were removed as the ceremony progressed.
Thankfully, there was no security breach even though the crowd was simply unimaginable.
Give it to the organisers of the event, public mobilisation was second to none. Colourful posters were hoisted in all strategic points in Owerri township urging people to troop out en mass for the ‘mother of all rallies’.
A foretaste was apparently served at the Banquet Hall of the State House the preceding night as Ohakim hosted party leaders.
It was a testy, if not emotional, moment as Ohakim reviewed his odyssey in the past 42 months at the Douglas House, sometimes deploying Igbo proverbs to drive home his point, detailing his achievements, ‘despite a sustained vicious campaign by political opponents to distract me from serving you, the good people of Imo’.
Concluding, he said: ‘To cap it all, I’m the only governor in Nigeria who has had to function in the last three and a half years without an office. I had barely spent few days in office when my official residence was bombed.
It was God that saved my little children from being killed that night. Now, as I promised from the beginning, I just finished building an ultra_modern Governor’s Office you all will be proud of to tell visitors as the office of your leader,’ he said and, pointing in the direction of the edifice, added rhetorically ‘Will you now say I should not come back to enjoy that office.’
To this, there was a spontaneous applause from the crowd lasting several minutes.
The clincher was finally delivered by Ohakim at the grand finale at the Stadium before the mammoth crowd. If re_elected, he said the people would also be helping to sustain the existing charter of equity which states that each of the three senatorial zones in Imo is entitled to two terms.
Meaning that it would be the turn of Owerri to produce the governor in 2015, the Orlu zone having produced the governor between 1999 and 2007.
His words: ‘My second term would guarantee the sustenance of this equilibrium that has brought justice and fair_play. My second term would equally guarantee that Owerri zone takes its turn in 2015 without further negotiation.’
The governor hails from the Okigwe zone.
On the promises he had delivered, Ohakim said: ‘You all are witnesses to the level of infrastructural decay before the arrival our administration. All facets of our economy were shaken to their foundation without exception. The state could hardly attract federal presence in solving the enormous problems manifest in all local government areas of Imo State .
‘Joblessness peaked the problem with an existing embargo on employment. To many persons and leaders in Imo State , a miracle was required to turn the fortune of the state around.’
His words were echoed by Iwuanyanwu who recalled that ‘Today, if you drive through Owerri, you cannot but be impressed with the transformation of our environment through the Green and Clean Initiatives. But before the governor came, the entire city was filled with refuse heaps and sometimes, even dead bodies.’
Notwithstanding the ‘sabre_rattling’ of political opponents, Ohakim expressed his willingness to accommodate all in order to move the state forward. The climax of the occasion was the release of white pigeons by the governor to demonstrate my ‘commitment to peace’.
Indeed, the November 6 carnival may have come and gone, but its echo will surely continue to reverberate for a long time in Imo.
*Cyril O. Obinna is a freelance journalist based in Owerri.