By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
It was through my late senior colleague, friend and mentor Pini Jason that I learnt what former Governor of Imo State, Dr Ikedi Ohakim, said on Wednesday, August 22, 2007, during the swearing-in of his commissioners, to wit: “It is not important to me how long I stay in office. What matters to me is the legacy I leave behind even if I stayed four months.”
Dr. Ohakim is once more on the hustings for a march back into Douglas House, Owerri. Outgoing Governor Rochas Okorocha is understandably very worried over the return of Ohakim. It’s quite obvious that Ohakim knows Okorocha’s secrets as he makes bold to stress: “I am the only former governor of the state that is still electable and who has the capacity to fix Imo. I handed over N26.6bn to Rochas Okorocha in 2011. If I am re-elected in 2019, I will use all democratic means to make sure that Imo fund is recovered. I will retrieve Imo Eastern Palm University and make it the Orlu campus of Imo State University. Okorocha has turned Imo to a monarchical place where a father-in-law wants to handover to his son-in-law. I know what was where in Government House in 2011. I have the experience to repair Imo. No matter what it takes, I shall bring back Eke-Ukwu Owerri if I become governor in 2019. I will bring back tricycles in Owerri. I have sworn to an affidavit of assurance to Imo people and I shall use the last drop of my blood to serve Imo people.”
There is the Igbo proverb that says that it is when a woman gets married to a second husband that she gets to appreciate the values of the first husband. It is against this background that Ohakim bowed to the pressure from Imo people to run for the governorship again 2019. There is the song on the streets of Owerri on “Ikiri” being better than a thief!
The former governor is poised to reverse all past wrongs, averring: “We must get it right this time. The lives of our people would no longer be objects for experimentation. Mistakes have been made and lessons have been learned and now, together, we are taking Imo State back into the Hands of God come 2019. We owe our future generations that much.”
As an insider, Ohakim would not have to waste time learning the ropes. It’s a process that is already within his ambit. According to him, “I want to come back to create the right investment climate that would credibly and consistently support current businesses and attract new investments by promoting investors-friendly reforms and providing valuable incentives, building effective partnership aimed at targeting and generating investment opportunities. I am returning to create a system that would place premium on justice, peace and security that would challenge the entrepreneurial and competitive spirit of the Imo people, which is the touchstone of Igbo high achievement. Above all, I will add value to leadership through accountability and responsible governance. I am coming back to complete the Imo Free Trade Zone, Imo Freeway, the Ring Roads, the Housing Schemes, the Wonder Lake Resort and Conference Centre, to rejuvenate the tourism and hospitality sector, to boost agriculture through Agro-nova, complete the Imo Refinery and Petrochemical project in the oil communities of Ohaji-Egbema and Oguta LGAs, and lots of other projects that were abandoned immediately I left office in 2011.”
Governor Okorocha who is poised to have his son-in-law replace him as Imo Governor on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) clearly foresees the danger of having Ohakim as the key opponent from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The permutations are on that Okorocha is determined to sponsor spoilers against Ohakim’s bid. The ruling government’s game-plan is to foist the weakest candidates on the other contending platforms in the bid to make the gubernatorial contest a walkover for Okorocha’s anointed godson.
The clear and present danger in Imo State is for the people to dig deep to understand the undercurrents. Ohakim insists that during his time as governor between 2007 and 2011 all the institutions of government worked like clockwork while he made sure that pensions and salaries were paid duly. It is his regret that most of his projects and policies, notably IROMA, ISIPA and ENTRACO have been neglected. His plan is to re-establish the Eke Ukwu Owerri Market with underground parking. This had been put in the works by his administration before he left office in 2011. He plans to just as well revive all the abandoned water schemes in Imo State. Empowering the private sector is a fulcrum of his manifesto as he is determined to create jobs for the youths and bring back cleanliness to Imo State in the manner of his Clean-and-Green programme.
“If we don’t get it right in 2019, it is going to be calamitous,” Ohakim asserts, insisting that 2019 is not the time for experimentation. Ohakim does not mince words in deposing that he forgot many things in Douglas House which are now going to waste, thus: “I forgot the development of Owerri Masterplan there. My vision is to transform Imo as the heartland for viable and sustainable investment in Nigeria and make Imo a leading provider of value-added support services and human and material inputs to business across Africa; thus spurring economic growth and sustainable job and wealth creation in Imo State.”
There is no escaping the reality that Ohakim remains the ultimate insider who can change the game in Douglas House.