By Douglas Anele
Although ikiri is an ugly animal, the metaphor entailed by the tenacity of its grip reflects Ohakim’s belief that the governorship of Imo State is firmly in his hands, such that it would take a political tsunami for the grip to be pried open by any of his opponents in the April 26 gubernatorial election. Lions are known as kings of the forest, because of their strength and ability to subdue any prey.
It follows that before that day, Ohakim was over-confident: he was certain that Rochas Okorocha, Ifeanyi Araraume and others cannot defeat him in a free and fair election. He had unalloyed faith that his well-financed political machine will crush the opposition and return him to power.
Ohakim and some of his staunch supporters thought that he had already won; all they had to do was merely speculate and calculate the margin of landslide victory he will get against his rivals. In addition to all the above, there are allegations that money was shared to potential voters few days to the election. Indeed, one of the beneficiaries of the largesse told me about how a lawyer in his village was the agent sharing N2,000 for people to vote for Ohakim.
It would be foolhardy to argue that all the votes recorded for APGA and ACN were legitimate votes. However, given the way Nigerian politicians exploit the power of incumbency, and the fact that ex-governor Ohakim really wanted to continue in office, the balance of cash-and-carry voting was in his favour.
But, in politics, as in all things, uncertainty is certain. The outcome of the governorship election in Imo, if it is an earthquake, would be ranked seven on the Richter scale, because of Ohakim’s defeat despite his braggadocio.
To some people, Ohakim’s acceptance of defeat and decision not to contest the result in court have restored some of his bruised reputation. But then, the ex-governor took the wrong step of writing a letter to Mr. President virtually begging to be appointed Minister.
The content of the letter portrays him as someone desperate to hang on to the privileges of political appointment, no matter the high price he has to pay in terms of loss of self-respect and diminished stature.
If motivation for public office in Nigeria had not been so distorted to cater for the insatiable greed of the ruling elite, no self-respecting human being should put himself down or allow himself to be put down, just because of political appointment. On a second thought, Ohakim’s letter to the President is in keeping with the any-government-in-power syndrome: even those with high-sounding academic titles, including ‘Professors’, are willing to lick the dirty buttocks of scallywags just to be appointed, or to remain, minister this, commissioner that, special assistant so-and-so. It takes a man or woman of courage, contentment and genuine understanding of the challenging imperatives of public office to resist the tendency towards self-humiliation in the quest for political appointment.
Okorocha, having won the election, will soon discover that it is much easier to defeat Ohakim than to provide good governance to the long-suffering people of Imo State. There is no aspect of public service in the state that does not require urgent attention. Therefore, he needs to put together a realistic implementable plan of action or blueprint that would catalyse optimum deployment of the impressive human and natural resources of Imo. Okorocha must realise that, as a deliberate policy by successive federal administrations to punish Ndigbo for going to war, the South-East geopolitical zone have been systematically marginalised.
Of all the six geo-political zones today, the zone has the least number of local government areas, states, and heavy Federal Government projects. Thus, it is highly-disappointing that, collectively as a result of pure selfishness, so-called Igbo leaders have also been marginalising their own people. Okorocha and governors of other South-Eastern states must work their fingers to the bones to uplift the lives of the people, because Jonathan’s government may continue with the insidious, wicked and unjust policy of “keeping the troublesome Igbo in their place”.
Okorocha must pay serious attention to genuine growth of Imo State’s economy, employment generation, education and rural development. If possible, he should get hold of the development plan designed by the late Sam Mbakwe, adapt it to suit present-day realities, and select men and women of integrity, excellence, professionalism and track record of performance to help him rescue Imo from the black hole of arrested development. If the Governor Okorocha wants to succeed, he should avoid sycophants who will sing his praises in order to be favoured by his administration.
From today, May 29, he must not make the mistake of seeing himself as a tin god, and the state as his private estate to exploit as he pleases. He must be fair and just in all his decisions, guided by the well-being of the people who elected him governor. Okorocha is well- known as a philanthropist; he has a Foundation to his name.
However, there is a world of difference between philanthropy and political leadership, for although it is desirable that a good leader should manifest some degree of philanthropy to connect with those he leads, not every philanthropist can be a good leader. Leadership entails a heavy burden of responsibility for the welfare of people.
Governor Okorocha should never forget the Igbo adage that onweghi onye ma echi (no one knows tomorrow, no condition is permanent). He should learn from the failures and electoral defeat of his immediate predecessor the certainty of uncertainty in human affairs, and dedicate himself to the service of Imo people.