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Will Ohakim return to roost?

By Ochereome Nnanna
JUST before the nation celebrated 10 unbroken years of democracy on May 29, 2009, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, the Governor of Imo State, moved almost his entire cabinet to Lagos.

Apart from the honour the state was about to bestow on five of its illustrious sons who occupy commanding heights of the Nigerian public service, Ohakim wanted to render the stewardship of his administration before senior media practitioners in Lagos, the most prominent spot in the “Nigerian media radar”, as he would put it.

One of the questions thrown at him was whether he was about to return to his original political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as widely rumoured, or had he decided to stay with his adopted party, the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).

As usual, he made no secret of the fact that his stay or migration would depend on whether his current party will continue to meet with his political needs and aspirations in a dynamic and fluid political atmosphere like Nigeria.

This seems to be the determinant of other carpet crossings that have taken place. In the past 10 years, we have witnessed a pattern of cross-migrations by politicians, which has continued to intensify.

Halfway through every political season, the tendency is for the ruling and largest party, the PDP, to witness an upsurge in the harvest of those coming into its fold from other parties.

These people are positioning for the primaries in a political party that is most likely to bring them victory. Party politics in Nigeria at this juncture is all about prospects of winning, not ideology or party tradition.

But when the primaries are on, the reverse tendency sets in. A lot of people who fail to get PDP tickets desperately look around for just about any party platform that will give them one to enable them try their luck direct with the electorate.

Ohakim found himself in this situation after the PDP governorship primaries in Imo State early in 2007.

Before then, he had aspired for one position or the other over the years but always fell short of nomination as candidate.

It was with the PPA ticket in his hand that Ohakim suddenly became a beneficiary of the internal contradictions in the PDP, which forced it to voluntarily forfeit a candidate for the race and instead put at the disposal of Ohakim the might and numbers of its membership at the April 28, 2007 poll, which Ohakim won and started singing songs of praise.

And now, the smell of the next season is in the air. Like all other first term governors, Ohakim will surely run for a second term.

The question is, on which political party is he likely to do it? If he insists on PPA, he is likely to get the ticket but will the PDP once again forfeit a candidate in Imo State for his benefit?

This is extremely unlikely. Running on PPA platform is a risky venture that he might regret. PDP is ready, waiting and rallying for him to return.

In fact, during the conferment of a Doctorate Degree (Honoris Causa) on one of his friends, Mazi Alex Otti, a First Bank Plc Executive Director by the Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo on June 7, Ohakim had sent a high-powered delegation, though he refrained from attending personally.

The National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Vincent Ogbulafor, attended the reception held at the glitzy Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island but avoided showing up at Ilishan where Obasanjo had come as a Special Guest of Honour.

Ohakim’s ebullient Political Adviser, Chief Elvis Agukwe, was all over the place, and when asked if his governor was returning to the party soon, he grunted: “that is my brief”.

Whether it is actually his brief or not, it will not come as a surprise if Ohakim returns to PDP.

Even though he has neutralised the party factor in Imo politics of today by opening his arms to all political parties in a government of state unity, which helps make Imo one of the most stable polities in the country despite party differences, it is in his own interest that he goes back.

But he has to deal with the threat of a lawsuit that PPA leader, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has hung on his neck, clutching to the Supreme Court ruling that the electorate votes for political parties, not candidates, in its determination of the Chibuike Amaechi versus his cousin, Sir Celestine Omehia dispute.

It will be interesting to see how Ohakim navigates this political marshland.

Ogoni: Not blood money

SOME commentators have resorted to demonising the recent financial settlement out of court that Shell has made by opting to pay $US15.5million (about N220 million) to the Ogoni people.

Some have called it “blood money”. Others have called it a “pay off”.

Shell, on the other hand, says it wants to pay this amount to settle with the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which initiated a suit against it in 1996 because going to court to open old wounds will not be in the interest of amicable settlement, even though it restates its position that it is not guilty of collaborating with the Federal Government to arrest and hang Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni Eight.

I think we should encourage the bereaved families and the Ogoni people to accept and implement this reparation, which is a conventional recourse to take as a palliative for a tragedy that cannot be undone.

My own prayer is that this money should be well utilised, not just for the benefit of the families of the Ogoni Nine but also not forgetting those of the Ogoni Four who were murdered by Saro-Wiwa’s followers.

It should also be deployed to clean up the land and empower the community’s youth.

Let us help to heal the wounds of the Ogoni people and not prick it open again with unnecessary incitements. Reparation is not blood money, please!

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