Ohakim @64: A journey of grace, love and audacity, By Collins Ughalaa

Posted by News Express | 5 August 2021 | 533 times

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On Wednesday, August 4, former Governor Ikedi Ohakim clocked 64 years. At 64 Ohakim has been many things and as well impacted his world positively. Events in his life have shown that God, his Creator, set him aside while he was yet in his mother’s womb for great accomplishments. By the time he was in his mid-twenties he was already occupying leadership positions. His people of Okohia in Isiala Mbano LGA saw the need to elect him as their President General. He was in this position for about nine years, serving his people with unmatched humility, commitment and courage. When they call him Ochinanwata, bear in mind that it is not a guy name. It is a constant reminder that he began to lead and serve his people as a child.

Before delving into partisan politics, Ohakim had recorded exploits in the private sector. He has rich experience in Commercial and Executive Management positions in various Engineering and Manufacturing Companies, spanning over 25 years. During the period, he had the benefit of extensive management training both in Nigeria and overseas, and participated actively in various professional consultancy assignments. While doing those jobs, he showcased unmatched intelligence and class by participating in the Young Managers’ Competition organized by the Nigerian Institute of Management in 1987 and won a coveted prize based on his well researched paper titled “Segmenting the Industrial Market: A Strategic Option for Survival”. He pushed on with a brilliant track, recording meaningful exploits and achievements in the business sector, thereby enhancing his recognition and involvement in major Socioeconomic programmes and projects at State and National levels.

Ohakim's sterling performance in the private sector soon got the attention of many people in the corridors of power. One could safely say that his efforts paid off. And thus in 1992 he was invited home to serve as Honourable Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism in Imo State. That was under the late Evans Enwerem. While serving in the Enwerem administration as Honourable Commissioner, Ikedi Ohakim was instrumental to the designing of the first ever Imo State Industrial Development Blue Print. He also masterminded the First Imo State Forum held in 1992; and successfully packaged a phased Implementation Programme for the rapid industrial transformation of Imo State. Not resting on his ears, he participated as an  active and valued Member of the National Committee on Industrial Development (NCID) whose recommendations led to the establishment of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).

The Enwerem administration was cut short by the military, but with courage Ohakim soldiered on. As Nigeria prepared for return to democratic rule following the lifting of embargo on political activities, Ohakim joined the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State. Touching on this when he publicly declared his membership of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) recently, Ohakim said he joined the PDP at the time because of the interest of the people, adding that his decision was like swimming against the tide at the time. He recalled that “what followed later was almost a political tsunami that consumed the then powerful APP in Imo State”.

Having made the PDP thick and contributing to the Parry's success at the governorship election in 1999, Ohakim threw his hat in the ring and ran for election in 2003 as the deputy governorship candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He paired with his long-time friend, now Governor, Distinguished Senator Hope Uzodimma. Following their impressive outing at the election, the PDP wooed them back to its fold. In 2007, Ohakim declared interest for the governorship position. He eventually won on the platform of the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) and returned to the PDP two years later.

Ohakim’s tenure is remarkable for so many things, particularly the 10,000 Jobs Scheme, Oguta Wonder Lake, amonsgt others. As Governor, he brought a lot of initiatives, purposefulness and positive direction into the governorship of Imo State. His innovative policy thrust, anchored on the “New Face of Imo” philosophy, became the toast of the vast majority of the populace. Added to this was the translation of the lofty policy objectives into practical people oriented programmes aimed at addressing felt needs in the areas of Environment, Job Creation, Socio-economic Empowerment, Educational Emancipation, Rural Industrialization, Qualitative Healthcare, Agricultural Development, as well as Tourism and Investment Promotion, etcetera. Signature programmes such as those implemented under the Clean and Green Initiative, the Environmental Transformation Initiative, the Imo Rural Roads Maintenance Agency (IRROMA), became cardinal awareness issues among the people. The State Capital Owerri, became the cleanest State Capital in Nigeria throughout the period he was Governor.

Ohakim’s Clean and Green Initiative got Imo State the coveted award of the Cleanest City in the whole of the Federation for three consecutive years. It also got the attention of the World Bank and other international bodies of note who have since recommended the Ohakim model to nations and organisations. Ohakim is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Marketing; Founder, Clean and Green Africa Initiative; Founder of the Institute of Leadership Innovation, Okohia, Nigeria. Back in 1998, he was listed in “Thisday Newspaper” as “one of the 50 Leaders Nigeria Needs”. In 2000 he was again listed by “Vanguard Newspapers" as “One of the Notable Young Corporate Leaders of the Future”. He also bagged the “Excellence Award” by Thisday Newspapers as the Governor of the Year 2008 for Innovation and Originality; Kwame Nkrumah African Leadership Award 2008; Zik Leadership Award for Outstanding Leadership 2009; Distinguished Alumni Award of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) – 2011; Distinguished Leadership Award – Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka – 2016, etcetera.

Beyond politics, Ohakim is an Authur. In 1994, he wrote a book highlighting the essence and importance of Marketing and packaging of government programmes to fast-track Nigeria’s developing economy. The book, titled “The Marketing Imperative for Rural Industrialization”, published in 1994 by Africana Educational Publishers, has since proved to be a useful reference material for entrepreneurs,  manufacturers, industrialists and students alike. He also authored four more books, including “The Courage to Challenge: Vision for a New Nigeria” - which he wrote as a sitting Governor. In addition to authoring books, Ohakim has also delivered over one hundred and fifty seminars/conference papers both within and outside Nigeria on Marketing, Leadership and Environmental/Climatic Challenges. 

Ohakim lost his reelection bid in 2011 in controversial circumstances. But he has remained committed to serving the people in various capacities - including what some people considered below his standard as a former Governor and ranking leader in Igbo land. Speaking on this at his Burma Retreat residence, Okohia, Isiala Mbano LGA, on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, when he declared for the APC, Ohakim said he was always guided by the interest of the people of the State when making political decisions. He said that he has "a unique orientation of participatory politics that emphasizes common interest as against personal interest”, adding: “To me, the moment the interest of the people is not factored in any political decision I make, nothing else makes meaning to me.”

Ohakim also “vowed never to abandon the state”, noting that the decision was the reason for his “zeal and willingness to share experiences and ideas with my predecessors, except one”. He added: “If you believe in the State's progress and sincerely understand that seeking power should be for public good, whether as a sitting Governor or not, being part of the discussion on how to grow the state should be a priority”. Ohakim’s commitment to the State is not in doubt. Following his ugly experiences in 2011 and the eight years after it, Ohakim could have said to hell with everything Imo. But not so with him. He has rather chosen to continue to love the State and work for the good of the people. After all, God has seen him through the trying times of his life. And he cannot but continue to show love.

In all, Ohakim’s story is a practical demonstration of grace, love and audacity. As he celebrates 64 years on earth, it is our prayer that God Almighty continues to bless and keep him in good health.

•Collins Ughalaa KSC writes from Owerri. He can be reached via ughalaacollins@gmail.com

Source: News Express

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