By Collins Chibueze Ughalaa KSC
On Saturday, July 17, 2021, the Imo State All Progressive Congress (APC) visited former Governor Ikedi Ohakim at his Prefab residence, Owerri. The party was led on the visit by the State Chairman, Prince Marcellinus Nlemigbo. Other members of the delegation were: Ugochukwu Nzekwe (Deputy Chairman), Lady Love Ineh (Secretary), Dr. Clement Anozie (Publicity Secretary), Chief Linus Iruoha (Organizing Secretary), Mrs. Josephine Nnoham (Woman Leader), Desmond Ajuluchukwu (Youth Leader), Barr. Chilaka Igidi (Financial Secretary), Engr. Paul Oparah (Owerri Zonal Chairman), Chuks Onuoha (Zonal Youth Leader), Mrs. (Ada Ekekwe (State Welfare Officer), Mrs Clara Njoku (Zonal Woman Leader), Hon. Kelvin Unakalaba, Hon. Kelvin Emele, Hon. Kizito Anyanwu, Hon. Samuelson Emehibe, and Hon. Cajetan Duke (DG APC Media Centre), etcetera.
And their mission? The APC was wooing Ohakim to join the party. The party had seen in the former Governor a strong political asset, a beautiful politician who is articulate and selfless; a man who is not given to the vagaries of wealth acquisition, a man content with what he has; a man overcome by his zeal to better the lot of the people. “We came to know that Ohakim did a lot in the State after he had left office”, said the party’s Deputy State Chairman, Ugochukwu Nzekwe, adding: “Ohakim is now the most wanted man in Imo politics and for us to come here looking for him shows how important he is in Imo politics. We are here to bring our man into the APC fold. Ohakim’s interest is usually the interest of Imo State and that’s why we like him”.
For the State Chairman, “Ohakim’s four years in office remains remarkable in the State. He is not a greedy person and was never interested in acquiring property while he was Governor. He built his three bedroom bungalow apartment here (Prefab) when he was Commissioner under late Chief Evan Enwerem”. He added: “Other states are bringing incumbent Governors to join the party. We need to bring Ohakim to our party because he is a think-tank member of Camphope. The Governor asked us to bring him and we are here to tell him that there is a space for you in our party. We want you to join in reconstructing our State. We need someone like you because you are a beautiful politician. Our visit today to ask you to join our party is the agreement of the leadership of our party and our Leader, the Governor. Today we are talking about Igbo presidency. There are people that will organize it and push for it. There are people that will talk about it. And Ohakim is a coordinated person with ideas. He is not coming alone to join our party, rather he is coming with a lot of people with a lot of ideas”.
The position of the APC that Ohakim is the most beautiful politician in the State validates our position four years ago. In a well published article in November 2017 titled, “Ikedi Ohakim: The Most Beautiful Bride In Imo Politics”, we noted that “heading to 2019, Imo people are now more aware that Ikedi Ohakim is most strategically stationed to the happiness of the generality of the people”. Ohakim did not win the 2019 governorship election but it has in no way diminished his beauty in the political arena. Thus he has continued to shine like the stars.
Ohakim was Governor of Imo State from 2007 to 2011. During the period Imo State witnessed a breath of fresh air in many dimensions. His Clean and Green Initiative was innovative, winning accolades from both the United Nations and the World Bank. To crown it all, the Federal Government awarded the State the cleanest city in the whole of the Federation. Reports show that though the Imo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ISOPADEC) was signed into law on the eve of Ohakim’s inauguration as Governor in 2007, it was established by Ohakim nonetheless. He did not kill the Commission, citing plethora of reasons. Today, ISOPADEC is a success story. Also, it is to Ohakim’s credit that the Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo, was established within his four years in office. Thanks also to the Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly at the time, Rt. Hon. Goodluck Nanah Opiah, who made the two institutions possible through his legislative sagacity.
We cannot talk about the Ikedi Ohakim era without a mention of the novel 10,000 Jobs Scheme. To address the menace of unemployment in the State, the Ikedi Ohakim administration conceived of and implemented the 10,000 Jobs Scheme where 10,000 graduates were employed into the civil service. This was outside the thousands of non graduates earlier employed by that government. There was a global economic meltdown at the time and some “experts” and some media organisations doubted the possibility of creating 10,000 jobs when the world economy was under huge stress. Characteristically, Ohakim trudged on and ensured that the process was concluded and the beneficiaries employed.
Faced with the meltdown, part of the plan was therefore to use the 10,000 jobs to lubricate the economy, as the government was paying N450M monthly in salaries to the beneficiaries. No doubt, part of the plans was to keep money circulating throughout the State. This novel policy has not been beaten across the country in scope, conception, implementation and transparency. The Scheme was so transparent that reports indicated that not even Ohakim’s brothers and in-laws enjoyed any special privilege to get the job. If you were not qualified, didn’t pass the rigorous written and oral interviews conducted by an international consulting firm, you had to kiss the opportunity bye. Speaking on the success of the Scheme, Ohakim on Saturday said that the 10,000 Jobs Scheme “helped the economy of the State so much”. He regretted that “the 10,000 Jobs Scheme was abolished when I Ieft office”.
These, coupled with the fact that throughout his four years tenure Ohakim did not acquire public properties, are why Imo people believe he is not a greedy politician. For example, Ohakim continued to live in his three bedroom bungalow at Prefab while he was Governor and hosted two presidents there. This is unlike what the State witnessed during the eight years that followed, where the State was raped publicly with reckless abandon. Speaking on this, Ohakim said he conquered greed over 35 years ago. He added that his father had advised him to ensure that he did not steal public funds or properties. And he kept to it religiously.
Altruistic, Ohakim has not ceased to serve the people. When necessary he spoke up in defence of the people. And when applicable he offered himself to serve in any given capacity, displaying uncommon humility. It was based on this that he accepted to serve as the Chairman of the monthly sanitation committee established by the Ihedioha administration. Speaking on his tendency to serve the State in any capacity, Ohakim said on Saturday: “I play politics without bitterness. By the time power changed hands in Imo in 2011, if Okorocha had listened to me I would have given him advice. When Ihedioha was Governor I joined him and even accepted to serve as the chairman of a committee to clean up the city. Now Hope is the Governor, it would be anachronistic, unjust for me not to support him. As a statesman, I cannot criciticize a sitting Governor unless he fails to listen. If I want to talk to a Governor I would do that privately. My concern is the welfare of the people.
As Ohakim decides to support Governor Hope Uzodimma, we cannot take away the fact that he has a lot to bring to the table. It is very unlikely that Ohakim will run for the governorship of the State in 2023. This makes it certain that Ohakim is just willing to serve his people in any given role. Ohakim is articulate and full of robust ideas. He brings these to the table. Moreover, as a former Governor, Ohakim has the advantage of institutional memory. This on its own is a huge asset any day, any time. And these will be handy as the Governor continues his policy of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Recovery, anchored on Shared Prosperity.