Posted by News Express | 29 May 2018 | 1,423 times
“I know all the (good) things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” — Rev 3:8.
Since February 2018, when His Excellency Dr Ikedi Ohakim declared to run for the governorship election of Imo State, the state has not been the same again among the aspirants. To millions of Imo people, Ohakim’s bid to return to the government house to put Imo State back on track, in answer to the years of pressures from them, is Daniel come to judgement.
This group, who appreciates Ohakim’s acceptance to run for Imo State governorship, know that it is not by any man’s power, and that “the race is not for the swift, nor the battle for the strong, neither yet bread for the wise”, but it is God that shows mercy.
These millions of Imo people are delighted that their request to Ikedi Ohakim to run for the election has been granted; and they are sure that the battle is of the Lord’s. This assurance further makes them relaxed in their implicit faith in God, who assures that the “weapons of our warfare are not canal, but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds.” Their implicit faith in God is the reason he has been in charge of the 2019 governorship ambition of Ohakim; because, it is the people’s project and God has been levelling every mountain and making them plain grounds. Yes, when God is for us, no one can be against us.
But in the midst of this heavenly assurance is a group of few Imo people who had bought the 2011 propaganda that ushered in the ruination of the state for eight years running, and are yet to divest themselves of the hangover. These people wonder what Ohakim is looking for again. They think, erroneously, that having lost re-election in 2011 he should be condemned and not run any more, but should rather give way to others to run. To make the matter funny, they ask: what did Ikedi Ohakim forget in government house? There are fundamental questions to ask and answers provided – if we must situate clearly, devoid of emotions – why Ikedi Ohakim is running for the 2019 governorship election in Imo.
First is how well the people of Imo State have faired since 2011, under Governor Rochas Okorocha?
Anyone that have interacted with the people of Imo State would know that there is a deep void in their hearts since Ohakim left office seven years ago. The current government has not met the aspirations of the people, but has rather isolated and distanced itself from the people, so much that the government has closed their ears and eyes to the cries of the people. They have developed thick skin to the extent that they don't feel what the people feel. The best way to describe this pain-inflicting administration of Okorocha is to say that what we have now in Imo is anti-people government, with threatening dictatorship. This was not what Imo people bargained for.
As part of the propaganda against Ohakim in 2011, Imo people were told that Okorocha would take them to the Promised Land, where milk and honey flow. They believed falsely that Ohakim was not doing well. But, seven years after, a deep gulf exists in their hearts and they need the gulf filled up quickly.
Imo people have not forgotten the Ikedi Ohakim era and how it filled their hearts with joy. When you speak with civil servants in Imo State, what you hear are nostalgic tales of how Ohakim touched their lives; how the last time they went on training was when Ohakim was governor. They take you through memory lane of how Ohakim lifted the 15 years embargo on employment into the Imo State civil service and employed thousands of people, culminating in the 10,000 jobs which gulped N450 million monthly. With this money circulating in Imo, not only was security issues addressed reasonably but the joy in Imo people knew no bounds, especially among civil servants and pensioners. It is a continuing pleasant tale of Ohakim’s goodness. The Ikedi Ohakim administration had paid the N4 billion owed Imo pensioners. He also paid the local government councillors and chairmen the billions of naira owed them. The product of these actions was joy, and more joy, and they kept the economy afloat.
Besides, the Ohakim administration was visionary. It was in order to build a robust Imo economy that he went to the Nigerian Stock Exchange and secured funds by bonds, so as to build the Imo Freeway through a public private partnership (PPP) with tollgates. That administration had also embarked on the Oguta Wonder Lake project and the Oguta Deep Seaport project. The Imo Refinery was another wonderful project to take the Imo economy out of the feeding bottle system where the state goes to Abuja with bowl in hand, waiting for the Federal Allocation to drop some crumbs into it. Ohakim knew that Imo people needed a vibrant economy to achieve their dreams, and he came out thinking big, ready to conquer new grounds.
Imo people have learnt from losing the opportunity to actualise those projects in 2011, and they have resolved that they are only going to bring back Ohakim to complete those impactful and revenue-yielding projects. With what Imo people have learnt, it does not matter to them any more whether some greedy politicians think that Ohakim was thinking of the impossible, because they now know that such comments are both selfish and diversionary. These lofty projects having been abandoned by Governor Okorocha with nothing to go home with, Imo people have resolved that they are not going to give anyone else the opportunity to pilot their affairs, except Ohakim, so that he will have the time to actualise thee projects and stand Imo on a strong economic footing, a solid rock.
Imo people are wiser now. Having seen the terrible ruins the state has become since 2011, they know that the job for the next governor will be herculean. They need someone they can trust, someone they can believe to pilot their affairs. And they believe Ikedi Ohakim, a tested hand, is the man. No one else!
Since Okorocha became governor, all public utility infrastructures have been abandoned, or destroyed: for example, water and electricity. The need to have these critical infrastructures in place again cannot be over-emphasised. But among the aspirants gunning for the governorship seat, whom would Imo people trust could fix these problems? Ikedi Ohakim, of course! When Ohakim was governor, he embarked on rural electrification projects in which more than 200 communities benefitted. Within four years, and despite operating with lean resources, Ohakim constructed 1,320 water schemes, with 35 others ongoing by the time he left office. Sadly, Okorocha has abandoned and destroyed all.
To the civil servants whose salaries are paid almost by half, who will they believe to pay them the backlog of their salaries? Ohakim. Because while he was governor, he paid local government councillors and chairmen billions of naira owed them before his time. He did it before and he will do it again. To the contractors who are being owed, they can believe that the Ohakim administration will pay them their due. He can do it because his track record shows he did it before. To the pensioners whose pensions are being owed, or whose pensions are paid in half, Ohakim is the answer. He did it before by paying over N4 billion arrears of pension. He will do it again. To the land owners whose lands have been grabbed, they can be rest assured that an Ikedi Ohakim administration will give them justice.
It is easier for religious leaders in Imo State to believe Ikedi Ohakim than anyone else. Prior to the coming of Ohakim in 2007, religious leaders in the state had clamoured for the return of their schools, which the state took away from them under the military era. It was Ohakim that satisfied that clamour and began a phased hand-over of schools programme. Not only did he return 44 schools in the first phase, his administration took up the payment of salaries in the 44 schools and enacted a law for the payment of grants to the affected schools. Only a listening governor could do this. Ohakim was a listening governor who also consulted the stakeholders at all times.
Ikedi Ohakim has demonstrated competence in running the affairs of Imo State. Despite that his government was hit by the world economic meltdown and oil sold for $8 per barrel at the international market, Imo State did not go bankrupt; unlike under Okorocha, where despite enjoying oil sales at $150 per barrel with N26.6 billion handed over to him, Imo State went bankrupt under him. The bailout fund and the Paris Club Refunds could not take the state out of bankruptcy. Today, Imo State is swimming in over N200 billion debt. No matter what the situation was, Ohakim did not borrow and did not leave the state in debt, rather he was paying back the billions of naira borrowed by previous governments and still left N26.6 billion. It is the excess of the payments of the debts that Okorocha has received back from the Federal Government as Paris Club Refunds.
In the midst of the harsh economy occasioned by the global economic meltdown, Ohakim met all financial obligations of the state. He did not owe civil servants. He did not owe contractors. He did not owe pensioners, yet government continued to function. No government contract failed and no contractor ran away with state fund. This level of competence is unmatched in Imo State.
Imo people need selfless leaders who would put the interest of the people above his personal interests. It is public knowledge that the Okorocha’s government has been selfish and clannish. Self-enrichment has become the norm. Land grabbling has become part of life, with top government officials and Okorocha’s cronies who have become untouchables, like children of the gods. Nothing better illustrates the fact that Okorocha puts his personal interests above the collective than his endorsement of his son-in-law to succeed him, including the recent sharing of elective offices for the 2019 polls among his cronies.
Contrast the foregoing abominations of Okorocha’s regime with Ohakim who neither grabbed anybody’s land nor put his personal interests above those of the people. It is shocking to many people that Ohakim does not own any house or land in Owerri, except the bungalow he built at Prefab in the 1990s. In today's Nigeria, this is almost unbelievable. But Ikedi Ohakim did just that. Another striking revelation is that Ohakim does not own a plot of land at the popular Civic Centre, Owerri. Even the one plot of land mapped out for him by the Achike Udenwa administration was given to a friend of his who was in need of land to build a house in Owerri. Also, despite that he built the Nekede Gardens Estate, Ohakim does not have one plot of land or a building there. This is also true of the Arugo Gardens Estate built during the Ohakim administration. Imo people need someone like this, not some sugarcoated story tellers who see themselves as Messiah but they are vampires.
When Ikedi Ohakim employed 10,000 Imo youths, he did not hand the jobs to his cronies. I have heard some of his relations lament that he did not use his powers, as it were, to give them jobs when they failed the interview. Many of them have lamented that they never got any contracts from the government. But that is selfless service. That is the kind of governor Imo people want.
Ohakim did not achieve this feet alone. He was able to achieve all he did because he assembled the best hands Imo State could boast of. He assembled doctors, engineers, lawyers, professors into his cabinet, and the team produced result. Apart from his cabinet, Ohakim had upon his swearing-in assembled a 164-member team, led by late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa. The team, the best so far, produced the template for Ohakim's government. No wonder he ran a people-oriented government.
Therefore, when Ohakim says he will recover Imo State and grow the economy beyond PAYEE, Imo people can believe him, because he had demonstrated the capacity to do so and he cannot put his interest above those of the state. He also has the capacity to assemble men of calibre to help deliver the goods to Imo people in good time and, within four years everything will be back on track.
But when people who are almost strangers return to Imo during election time and begin to pontificate on the kind of governor Imo people need and begin to present themselves as Mr Perfect, Imo people look at them with scorn. The reason is that there is no basis to believe their empty promises. They are another Rochas waiting to continue the ruination of Imo State. Imo people have travelled this route before in 2011 and believed that Okorocha was the man, but it did not pay them. Imo people are, therefore, cautious of any promise that only distracts them, such as the many fake promises circulating out there.
Imo people believe Ikedi Ohakim. They need him. They want him, and they are happy he accepted their requests to run again to end the era of impunity, joblessness, widespread poverty and hunger, and bastardisation of the future of Imo State.
•Collins Ughalaa writes from Owerri. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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