By Chidi Nkwopara
Chief Ikedi Ohakim is one of the founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State. It is equally not contestable that Ohakim declared his intention to run for the gubernatorial seat on the platform of the party. Until November 2006, Ohakim and some of his political bedfellows found confidence and real comfort In the PDP big family.
Apart from promptly informing his fellow party men about his gubernatorial agenda, Ohakim also invited a few journalists in Owerri, including this writer, to one of the eateries in town and unfolded his plans. He solicited the assistance of these journalists in actualizing his dream. This event took place months before the PDP primaries.
The intervening hours rolled on but before his journalist friends and ardent followers knew what was happening, the PDP intrigue edged Ohakim out of the race. The powerful and mighty took over the party machinery. His dream to fly the PDP flag died after the usual â€œbrief illnessâ€.
It is not very clear to this writer how he found himself in Progressive Peoplesâ€™ Alliance (PPA) but as the chieftains of the party wanted it, Chief Ohakim was given the partyâ€™s gubernatorial ticket. He contested and was declared winner of the election by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Before his emergence as Imo State governor, PPA was an unknown political contraption in the state before and during the gubernatorial poll. The same PDP intrigue must have been put into full force to assist Ohakim during the electoral processes, including the contest. To fully compensate them for their â€œhard workâ€, Ohakim appointedÂ members of the State Executive Council, which was and is still largely peopled by loyalists of the PDP.
Those who were not satisfied with the INEC verdict and they were not less than 18 of them, headed to the election tribunal. Some of the cases were decided at the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt. With all the cases against Ohakim laid to rest by the courts, political jobbers quickly swung into action. They have used several tactics, including the current refrain that he should return to the PDP. Members of Imo State House of Assembly even passed a motion to that effect.
Mbadiwe Emelumba representing Olu West state constituency in the State House of Assembly, fired the first shot, asking Ohakim to dump PPA and join PDP, in the hallowed chambers of the House. The most stringent call however came from the Champion publisher and chieftain of PDP, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, when he recently led a delegation of Imo PDP elders to the governor.
Apart from the visit, Imo PDP elders also directed the State Chairman of the party, Prince Marcellinus Nlemigbo, to make moves towards returning Ohakim to the party. They were happy that over 90 percent of the appointments made by the governor were to PDP loyalists to the detriment of PPA .
The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Achike Udenwa, told Vanguard in a recent interview that his political platform, Redemption 98, was largely responsible for the success of Ohakim at the polls but stopped short of calling for his return to the PDP.
Some PDP loyalists are however thinking differently. An insurance practitioner and PDP chieftain, Chief Angus Onuegbu Uzoamaka, termed the recent call on Ohakim to defect to PDP as â€œwicked and most unpatrioticâ€. He was also of the view that Chief Ohakim would render himself politically irrelevant should he heed to the call.
â€œThe call by Imo legislators of PDP extraction is a calculated attempt to undo Ohakim. It is wicked and something very unpatriotic to the people of Imo. AdoptingÂ Ohakim by PDP is corruption in totality and deceptiveâ€, Uzoamaka told an Owerri based tabloid.
Continuing, the PDP chieftain, who also understands the internal workings and wrangling in PDP said that â€œif he (Ohakim) crosses over, I tell you they are going to disgrace himâ€, adding that joining PDP now will abridge the glory and fame that enhance true democracy as anchored on healthy opposition, which PPA stands the chance of reaping.
The leadership of Imo PPA has equally reacted angrily to the strident calls on Ohakim to jump over to PDP, preparatory to the 2011 general polls. The State Chairman, Chief Leo Okereke said: â€œWe condemn in absolute terms the shameful call byÂ the PDP on our governor to abandon our great party under which umbrella he won the governorship election, to join a party that ruled for eight years and could not deliver democracy dividends to the peopleâ€.
It was the considered opinion of Okereke that the only reason PDP members are wooing Ohakim to their party is because their party is in disarray and bankrupt and needs the governor to finance it out of its pitiably impoverished situation.
Feelers of what Ohakim should expect was manifested when the State Organizing Secretary of the PDP, Dr. Clement Anozie, debunked the story rolled out in a local newspaper that the PDP has given an eligibility waiver to Ohakim to contest election for his second term in 2011.
Anozie expressed regrets that an appointee of the governor, who is not an officer of the party could make such statement that lacked credibility, stressing that party waivers are only given to returnees or new members after they have first obtained forms and formally joined the party.
â€œThe PP Constitution is very clear on membership and possibility of waiver. If the governor decides to join the PDP, he would start from his ward, which has to notify the LGA and subsequently the state from where the national will be informedâ€, Dr. Anozie said.
In his own reaction, the State Chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Chief Vitalis Orikeze Ajumbe, advised Ohakim to shun those urging him to defect to PDP, describing the protagonists of the fabled defection as â€œmercenaries and enemies of the governorâ€.
According to Ajumbe, â€œthe structure of the PDP, as presently constituted, is sponsored by Senator Ifeanyi Araraumeâ€, adding that â€œthe governor will see pepper if he joins the PDPâ€.
The Imo ANPP boss opined that Ohakim has to be very careful in taking his decision, stressing that as a PDP governor, Chief Achike Udenwa could not dislodge Araraume, not to talk of a PPA governor.
â€œIf the Governor defects to PDP, the opposition parties currently behind him will desert him. He wonâ€™t get the PDP gubernatorial ticket in 2011. Let him build his own structure. Those wanting him to join the PDP can now join his structure. They should follow him if they truly love himâ€, Ajumbe reasoned.
He further argued that if majority want him to return to PDP, the same majority will back and vote for him on whatever platform he stands to seek re_election, adding that they will vote for him if he chooses to stand as an independent candidate.
â€œWhy must it be PDP before he can get back to Government House? It must not be PDP, if those singing that refrain are truly sincere to the manâ€, Chief Ajumbe said.
The Okigwe senatorial zone of the PDP flagged off their campaign rally ahead of the 2011 general elections at Isinweke, Ihitte Uboma local government area of Imo State. Most of Governor Ohakimâ€™s aides were present at the event. Scores of placards and banners rented every space at the rally ground, which gave the impression that Ohakim was likely going to attend and make a statement during the rally. This did not happen as the crowd remained expectant throughout the duration of the event.
Most of the placards and banners hoisted at the venue read: â€œIsiala Mbano PDP was founded by Governor Ikedi Ohakim, let him take back his seatâ€ and â€œIsiala Mbano Youths demands that Governor Ikedi Ohakim revalidates his membership in PDPâ€.
Vanguard recalls that the transition committee chairmen of Isiala Mbano and Okigwe local council areas, Chief Tony Black Nduka and Chief Emeka Okoronkwo respectively, recorded the highest level of mobilization. What remains unclear is whether Ohakim will keep to the two_week deadline mentioned by his Adviser on Political Affairs, Ogbonnaya Ezeadi, within which to disclose the political platform he plans to pitch his tent for the 2011 governorship poll. Until he does, the atmosphere will continue to remain a mixed bag.