By Nnanna Ogbuehi
IT IS NOT for nothing that the Igbo advise against watching a man fall from a particular tree twice. The assumption is the man, after the first crash, is usually dazed and in the state of the confusion, would want to risk climbing back the tree. The danger however, is that if he is not restrained from the exercise, his second fall may be fatal.
This is the background upon which the recent letter from former Imo State governor, Ikedi Ohakim, to his successor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, would be properly understood. For the average Imo indigene and resident, the political story of the former governor, is one that does not require elaborate efforts to recall. Imo electorate, had in 2007, given Ohakim a life-time opportunity to preside over the affairs of the state. But because he mistook the patience of the voters for docility, he abandoned the sacred mandate which governance entails between the leader and his people. When therefore his first tour of duty ended and he returned to the people for the renewal of his mandate, he was rightly paid in his coin, losing in the exercise.
To worsen matters, his political organisation, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has not, ever since, offered him the ticket to run on its platform for any other post, despite his vigorous efforts in that regard. Thus frustrated in his efforts to run for any electoral office on its platform and denied of any appointment at local and federal levels, it is not surprising that he has resorted to throwing tantrums at any person or institution that catches his fancy.
He had embarked on this bizarre exercise against the leadership of his party shortly after the 2015 election, throwing blames at some people for its poor outing at the polls. When that did not attract expected attention, he announced that he was retiring from active political engagement to community mobilization. That has also not fetched him the expected rewards. In the process, Okorocha and his administration have become the soft targets. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong in a predecessor drawing the attention of his successor to certain developments in the state that he may not be conversant with. For one, he has unfettered access to the governor and his office. But to make it an open issue shows the level of mischief behind the exercise. Our intention is not to hold brief for the governor. He has competent hands to do so for him. We are, however, concerned that the exercise seeks to degrade the good efforts of the governor in developing the state for no reasons other than flight to fancy and desperate search for cheap popularity by Ohakim.
The former governor’s attempt to reduce the state’s road expansion project to petty politicking, is hardly what Imo residents and indigenes need at this time. Given the conscious agenda of giving the state capital a befitting status 40 years after creation, what is needed from its privileged citizens, including Ohakim, is spirit of statesmanship and not partisanship. What is astounding in Ohakim’s letter is the inability to understand if he was cautioning against the justness of the action or its timing. He also does not seem precise in arguing for properties whose owners built according to specification or those that are clearly illegal structures. But one thing he has not faulted is the fact that development comes with a cost. We hope that the government should do the needful in terms of prompt and adequate compensation to those with genuine grievances. But using the exercise as a launch pad to claw back to public reckoning is certainly not the way to go about it. The road expansion project, for whatever anybody may say, is being handled by experts in the field. In that case, it is expected that all the expected appurtenances will be accommodated in the construction. It is also expected that the project should be a departure from the assault that the former governor unleashed on the psyche of the Imo people by the charade that he regularly flaunts as dualization of Orlu Road, Okigwe Road/Orji Road and Egbu Road. This particular claim remains one of the perfidious engagements of that administration.
Understanding these antics explains the former governor’s attempt at dragging the revered name of late Dr. Sam Mbakwe, the first civilian governor of the state into his argument. But this, certainly, cannot accord creditability to an agenda that is poor in articulation and hollow in content. Credit should be accorded to Mbakwe for laying the solid foundation of the state and Owerri, in this particular instance. Extending the good work he initiated through the road expansion project embarked upon by the Okorocha administration, cannot be said to amount to dismantling his legacies. What is bad is abandoning the good work the late leader started in pursuit of white elephant that added no value to the Imo people but rather enslaved them with debt.
The former governor’s suggestion of continuing with a project commenced by a preceding administration, may not be a bad idea, if delivered with the best of intention for the people and the state. But to imagine that Imo people should continue to be raped in this age by going on with the perfidy that the N9 billion Otamiri-Nwaorie dredging exercise represented, as well as the so-called Oguta Wonder Lake, would amount to taking tomfoolery too far.
It is easy to understand the former governor’s engagement in unsolicited advocacy. He needs to be heard and recognised. There is nothing wrong with that, strictly speaking. But that, certainly cannot be achieved by playing to the gallery. It is rather what can be attained by recourse to one’s pedigree and track record of integrity and stewardship. Examples abound.
Recently, Rotimi Akeredolu, former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), who lost in Ondo governorship election in 2012, was handed back the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), for the November 26 poll in the state, apparently because members of his party see him as having the integrity to fly their flag. In 2011, former governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, was handed Kano PDP governorship ticket after losing re-election in 2003. He obviously won the ticket on account of his performance while in his first term. During the Sani Abacha transition, it took mere indication of interest to run for Okigwe Senatorial election for aspirants in other political parties in the zone, to leave the race for Mbakwe. Even in 2011, former governor Achike Udenwa, effortlessly picked the senatorial ticket of his then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), for Imo West (Orlu) District. Though he did not make it in the election, his party accorded him the honour of flying its flag, apparently on account of his stewardship while in office.
But for Ohakim, the reverse has been the case. PDP in Imo has not given him a second chance either as a governorship candidate or senatorial candidate. He has thus been angry at every body and with everything. But should Okorocha and his administration bear the brunt? When he mentioned the inner and outer ring roads in his letter and advised on the need to save cost, he may on the surface, appear to be passionate with development in the state. But the truth is that if the former governor had attempted or had seen through any of these projects, the current governor would not have been spending his energies on them. In Lagos for instance, Babatunde Fashola, Ohakim’s contemporary, did enough spade work for Akinwunmi Ambode, his successor, to stand and take the state to the next level. Okorocha was not that lucky with his predecessor. He rather inherited debts and other debilitating obstacles in administering the state.
This is why the tongue-in-cheek position of the former governor on relocation of Eke Ukwu Market, Owerri, remains baffling. While speaking on his administration’s still-born agenda of building a new market at the new Owerri capital development area, he at the same time frowns at relocation of Eke Ukwu market that unarguably poses grave danger to the traders and road users in its present site.
Ogbuehi, a public opinion analyst, writes from Owerri