By Ochereome Nnanna
The event was preceded by an avalanche of spam messages from the governor and his staff workers, who, almost every hour, harassed their contacts with reminders of Sir Ikedi Ohakim’s day to declare for a second term in office at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri.
One of the hallmarks of the Ohakim approach to governance is that he sees it as contemporary corporate venture, and aggressive marketing antics are part of the name of the game.
Come Saturday, November 6th 2010, the venue was packed almost to capacity with guests from within and outside the state, among whom were artistes from Nollywood and the musical community. Okey Bakasi, the governor’s Special Assistant on Social Affairs, lived up to his billing, as he brought the likes of Patience Ozokwor, Ras Kimono, Nigga Raw, Muma Gee, among others, to spice up a purely political gathering.
After a very exhaustively combative first term (which is yet to end) that Ohakim would want to have another go is a testimony to the intoxicating power of party politics.
As he himself said in his formal declaration speech: “It is on record that within the last three and half years, no administration in Africa and particularly Nigeria has (had) the number of cases in court, designed to affect our focus and the mandate of our people.
To God be the glory, most of them are now history…”
As if to accentuate the fact that the pockets of intra_party and inter_party opposition to the political interests of the governor has not yet abated, a number of stakeholders in the Imo State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), such as former Governor Achike Udenwa, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume and the rest of them in that camp, boycotted the event.
Information had it that while the governor was preparing to announce his decision to run for a second to the world through live radio and television, the group was staging an alternative rally in Orlu, and that the national officers of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) were on hand to receive them into their fold.
But a call through to the Udenwa camp debunked the notion of an imminent switchover to another party. A spokesman for the group, Mr Emeka Omeihe, told our correspondent that the group was merely going round and consulting with prominent stakeholders in Orlu Zone with a view to deciding the way forward.
He, however, affirmed that there was no plan by the group to decamp to another political party.
We found out that the governor’s camp took a lot of pleasure in telling people about the so_called planned decamping as if they would wish the rival group to go and mount their challenge from another party. From the look of things, it is very likely that Udenwa’s group is looking forward to tackling Ohakim for the governorship ticket at the election primaries when the time comes.
Meanwhile, Ohakim’s declaration enjoyed the attendance of a commanding majority of stakeholders of the PDP in the state. Important dignitaries and top hats of the party, such as Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (chairman of the occasion), Senator Arthur Nzeribe, Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu, member of the party’s Board of Trustees; Dr Kema Chikwe, former Minister of Transport; Senator Osita Izunaso (who represents Orlu zone at the senate and defeated Nzeribe for the senatorial seat in 2007), Hon Emeka Ihedioha, Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, and a host of others. Chief Perry Opara also led some national officers of a rainbow of minor political parties to the event, where they pledged not to field challengers to Ohakim.
Perhaps keenly aware of the minority status of his zone and in view of plans by the Udenwa group to mobilise the largest zone (Orlu) against him, Governor Ohakim spent time to canvass the need to allow him to complete the eight years that his predecessor, Udenwa, enjoyed. He referred to the pact of the Imo people, which at the outset of the democratic dispensation in 1999, agreed to rotate gubernatorial power among the three senatorial zones.
The arrangement was put into effect and Orlu took the first shot through Udenwa. In 2007, Okigwe was keyed up to have a go, and the three prominent contestants for the spot were Ohakim, Engineer Charles Ugwu and Senator Ararume. Ohakim pleaded with his audience to allow him to complete his eight years in order to clear the ground for an orderly shift of power to Owerri zone in 2015.
Besides the persuasive argument of rotation of power, Ohakim also pointed to a number of advancements recorded in the state since he took over in 2007. According to him, the state has attracted more federal presence and the attention of international development agencies in his three and half years in power more than at any other time in its long history.
It is on record that the dredging of the Nworie River, a multi_million naira project is ongoing. Also, the construction of the Onitsha – Owerri expressway, took on a fast_track motion when Ohakim assumed office and applied sustained lobbying. Today, the Mgbidi/Owerri Imo State neck of the project has been completed, along with the very impressively done Njaba Bridge.
On his own, Ohakim also pointed out that his strategic New Face of Imo and the Clean and Green initiatives, which were aimed at rescuing the state from the past status of a back_wood state into a new one in which it is ready to engage with the world in commerce, industry and modern business are bearing fruits.
According to him, it was under this dispensation that Owerri, which used to have garbage heaps blocking major roads, earned its status as the cleanest city in Nigeria. He also pointed to the roads built or repaired in the rural areas by the Imo State Rural Roads Maintenance Agency (IRROMA) and the many regional water schemes that both presidents Umar Yar’ Adua and Goodluck Jonathan came to commission at various times.
Ohakim boasted that his state’s performance in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) resulted in the emergence of the state as number one nationally in the least cases of child and maternal mortality rates in Nigeria. Also, the administration pointed out that it was able to hold up the state’s number one industry – education – with adequate funding of the its many primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, added to the creation of 10,000 jobs.
Actually, beneficiaries of this job creation scheme were handed their letters of employment, perhaps to douse the scepticism of “Doubting Thomases”, who had dismissed the scheme as “another of Ohakim’s scams”.
With his hat now in the ring for a second term run, Ohakim will soon hit the campaign trail, as we reliably gathered. But the road to the campaigns – and a second term in office – are strewn with thorns and potholes because the internal opposition in the Imo State branch of the PDP, as well as the All Progressives Grand Alliance aspirant, Chief Martin Agbaso challenge, are waiting to tackle him.