This headline was first broached in this column and in this newspaper on May 7, 2007. An uncommon occurrence had taken place then. Ikedi Ohakim had emerged as governor of Imo State. His emergence was hardly expected. It was against the run of play. The development, naturally, came with cheers and jeers. I deployed this column in my reflection on the subject matter then.
This time, another uncommon circumstance has compelled me to devote this column to the politics of Imo State. As a matter of policy, this column, since it was first published in THISDAY in 1999, tries as much as possible to stay detached from the politics of my state. By its very conception, BROKEN TONGUES is a very elevated and sophisticated platform dedicated to issues of national and international importance. It abhors pedestrianism and the unedifying. That is why I always crave the indulgence of esteemed adherents of the column whenever I dare to tread the not-too-familiar track.
As was the case 12 years ago, the emergence of Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of Imo State in the just concluded gubernatorial polls has got Imo quaking. His victory has heralded a new day. It is fresh and refreshing. It has put the people in a celebratory mood. They are in high spirits. For the people of Imo State, the victory is more than ordinary. It is akin to a supernatural intervention. It approximates to what, in literary parlance, is called the deus ex machina, the god from a machine in Greek theatre providentially introduced into a situation to solve a difficulty.
Why do the people of Imo State feel this way? They do so not because they never imagined that an Ihedioha would ever emerge as their governor but because they feel a sense of relief. They feel rescued from the vice grip of their governor, Rochas Okorocha. Under him, the state has been under siege. The people, before their very eyes, have been reduced to helpless spectators. The Okorocha government has been, at best, a one-man dance drama and, at worst, a family concert in which the dramatis personae repeat their roles for want of diversity. The people for whose sake the government exists have no say and no input. The Okorocha regime has been a long night of drudgery. It has been a bad dream from which the people have not been able to wake up.
The people’s subjugation under the Okorocha governorship was bad enough. But what rankled the most was the governor’s decision to instal his son-in-law as his successor. When Okorocha came up with this idea, the people of Imo thought it was a mere gimmick. They considered it unimaginable. They thought he was merely testing the waters. But what started as mere theatrics played to the receptive audience of some party faithful was to blossom into an out-of-stage concert. It was real. It became a big issue. For the people, the gambit was a jolt. It was an assault on their sobriety. They could not come to terms with it. The effrontery was too much for them to ignore. The audacity was bemusing. The idea sounded like a story from a book. The people did not know what to make of it. They thought they were in a trance. How would this bad dream end? How would they get out of it? That was the quagmire that enveloped the people until the unexpected happened.
Imo is agog at the moment because a rescue has taken place. The people were scared stiff because the governor’s resolve was single-minded. He meant to succeed himself by other means. The people were worried because the Rochas scheme would have amounted to self-succession. Their worry was deepened by the fact that the present order did not accommodate them. They were mere onlookers than participants in the affairs of their state. That was the state of affairs until the rescue came this week. The people are excited because they are about to wake up from a bad dream. That explains the joyous mood. That explains the goodwill that has heralded the emergence of Ihedioha as their next governor. The development has epical dimensions. It is a story that will be told over and over again for a long time to come.
What then does Ihedioha make of this providential responsibility thrust upon him? That should be our focus henceforth. It is a well known fact that the road to Douglas House has been tortuous. It was strewn with rough edges all the way. The major gladiators in the 2019 contest were no pushovers. Each had a dream for the state other than the lack of method the present government is inflicting on it. But one thread held all but one together. They were resolved to dethrone the impunity that has reduced the people to mere proles. The overriding objective was to return government to the people. But as things stand, the mantle has fallen on one of them. The multiple dreams have coalesced into one man’s vision.
While the contest lasted, inter-party differences were rife. But that should not matter anymore at this stage. There was also the problem of intra-party rivalry. There was a surfeit of it from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform that produced Ihedioha as governor. But now that the election has been won and lost, the PDP should be the happier for it. Here is one party that has dominated the politics of the state since 1999 but has failed to win the gubernatorial contest for three successive election years. The party was almost becoming a paper tiger. But its victory in the just concluded governorship election will change all that. The party promises to be repositioned for the task ahead.
All these place a huge burden on the shoulders of Ihedioha. However, what is reassuring is that the governor-elect has been around for a long time. He understands what political engineering is all about. I take it for granted that he will rise above partisan or sectional sentiments. As the product of a machine god, Ihedioha must be properly guided. His role has been redefined by the providential interjection that has taken place. Providence has carved out a testy role for him. He must brace up for the assignment. To succeed, he must, like Caesar’s wife, be above board. Like a Romantic Hero, he must rise above the common herd of his environment. He must assume the big role, that of shepherding his flock. He must bring back the prodigals wherever they may be. Nature has thrust him forward to bring down the Berlin Wall of Imo politics. He has a responsibility to destroy the strongholds and convert Imo into a huge vineyard where a good wine will know no bush.
As things stand, Ihedioha must recognise his new role. He is no longer just a PDP bigwig. He is the father of a people. That means that he must not constrain himself with partisanship or sectionalism. He must have the grace and the large heart to accommodate the people whom the god of providence has handed over to him. As the man of the moment, Ihedioha must recognise that this is his finest hour. What he will make of it lies in the bowels of time. But he must remember that history is always the ultimate judge. May he, at the end of the day, be found on the positive side of history.
I wish you well, Your Excellency, as you step forward to dance to the rhythms of destiny.