Imo State’s Unending Politics

By Pini Jason
Someone wrote recently that in Imo State there is hardly any politics going on. What he rightly identified was a war among the army of educated but mostly idle and greedy elite for the lean resources of the state. But what many of the “me-too” commentators on Imo affairs forget (we forget too easily) is that the war that seeped into former Governor Ikedi Ohakim’s four dramatic years in office began as far back as 1998.

The combatants are the same. The trophy they fight for is the monthly Federal Allocation to Imo State. The victims are the same Imo citizens who have become refugees in their soporific and numbing comfort zones.

What exacerbated the war during Ohakim’s tenure was his refusal to do business as usual with the combatants. They threw the sink at him. They used rumour mongering, character assassination and religious propaganda against him. But he refused to be distracted and fought like a lion till the controversial “supplementary election” in Imo on May 6, 2011.

As he told Imo people as early as Wednesday August 22, 2007, during the swearing-in of his commissioners: “It is not important to me how long I stay in office. What matters to me is the legacy I leave behind even it I stayed four months”. With that frame of mind, he focused on working for Imo people. Today Ohakim’s traducers cannot assail his performance. Rather they focus on the emotional and irrelevant.

It seems the veterans of politics of conflict are oiling their arsenal for another round of war. The Sunday Independent of August 14, 2011 reported that Udenwa, Araraume and Chris Anyanwu plan to return to PDP. These are the so-called chieftains who, along with Governor Rochas Okorocha, left the PDP and fought the party until they almost destroyed it. These are Rottweiler politicians, who can only be placated with the resources of the state.

Lone star territory

To understand these people is to understand that Imo is a place where everybody is a Big Man! And every Big Man thinks that Imo is a “Lone Star” territory where he is the only onwa (moon) or kpakpando (star) that illuminates the entire universe! In Imo, no Big Man accepts another Big Man. So this is not a state where anybody acknowledges someone else’s accomplishment, particularly if he “made” you. The job is to knock you down!

The Sunday Independent report had a very ominous rider—“Okorocha’s style of governance worries indigenes”. I shall return to that.

But what were the grievances of these PDP chieftains who urinated into the PDP house from inside before jumping outside? Senator Araraume was denied the ticket of the PDP in 2007 by his party, not Ohakim. Remember, Ohakim was also a victim of the crisis in the PDP in 2006/2007. He temporarily relocated to take his destiny in his own hands.

Yet Araraume visited Ohakim with a transferred aggression in the most vicious manner. He could not live down “a small boy” being governor!

Former Governor Achike Udenwa was a man who supported one Iyke Ibe during the 2007 election, never mind he claims that he single-handedly “made” Ohakim Governor. All these PDP “chieftains” nominated people into Ohakim’s cabinet, some of whom were patently useless and had to be thrown out.

That was when Ohakim drew the first blood! Udenwa’s acolytes constituted over 60 percent of that cabinet and Ohakim retained many of them till May 2011! Unfortunately, Udenwa wanted Ohakim’s administration to be his (Udenwa’s) own third term! So Ohakim was never expected to be his own man!

So every landmark achievement of Ohakim was a threat to Udenwa. Ohakim rids Owerri of 10 years old refuse and Udenwa’s veranda boys tell him that Ohakim wants to rubbish him! Why would Udenwa, who should be an elder statesman, turn round to fight a man he claims he “single handedly made governor”?

Hell was let loose when Ohakim returned to the PDP in order to defend himself against these Big Men. As the Governor, and by the PDP constitution, Ohakim is the leader of the party. That is what Udenwa was as Governor. Eeh? How can a “small boy” be the leader of the party? The rest of the story is smudged under the vortex of rumour and hate campaign they unleashed on Ohakim. They destroyed the PDP, and aided by the expansionist design of the Catholic Church in Imo, handed victory to Chief Rochas Okorocha.

Now they are complaining about Okorocha’s “style of governance” and I ask why? Why should anybody in Imo complain? They made their choice, didn’t they? From the day he was declared governor-elect, Okorocha’s actions have bewildered many Nigerians.

His utterances and illegal actions betray a worrying puerility, inexperience and lack of understanding of the workings of government. But the horde of sensation mongering tabloids in Owerri are still cheering him and smiling to the bank! Those favoured by his illegalities are still swearing by his name! I agree with those who say that, perhaps, it is too early to judge Okorocha; except that there is this niggling reminder somewhere that the morning shows the day.

Would the PDP stalwarts who changed camp to fight Ohakim still say now that they did so on any noble political principle or in the interest of Imo citizens? Why have they just woken up to Okorocha’s comical governance and executive rascality? I have not heard them raise a voice in defence of the sacked 10,000 Imo workers many of whom were unemployed for over 10 years before Ohakim wiped the tears off their faces!

They will not, because they were the very authors of the rumour that Ohakim did not employ 10,000 people, even when their own relations took part in the process that took over a year!

Every sensible governor is today scrambling for bond money to develop his state and create jobs. Okorocha said he has cancelled N18 billion Imo bond secured by Ohakim. Udenwa is a chattered accountant, and a fellow of the Institute of Chattered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN.

Yet, he has not asked Okorocha what he means by cancelling the bond? He has not asked Okorocha where the bond money handed over to him by Ohakim is? He will not ask because he was among those who spread the rumour that Ohakim has pocketed the bond money.

It seems Okorocha really believed that you can “chop” bond money, withdraw it from the bank it is domiciled or divert it to other purposes!

These chieftains who now want to return to PDP apparently to fight Okorocha for “his style of government” were there when he unconstitutionally dissolved elected local governments in Imo, installed transition committees in defiance of a court ruling that he has no powers to dissolve the councils, and unconstitutionally removed the Chairman of Imo Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya.

They all applaud as Okorocha labours in vain to dismantle Ohakim’s legacies. Who bears the brunt ultimately? Senator Chris Anyanwu, was reportedly “taken aback by the refusal of Okorocha to carry her along in the running of the state despite being the only APGA Senator from Imo”. What, in English, does she mean by that?

I guess Udenwa, Araraume, Alex Obi and their followers are similarly complaining of not being carried along by Okorocha. They accuse Okorocha of breaching the power-sharing agreement they reached with him before supporting him during the “supplementary election”. Would all his inanities been right if he had carried them along?

I suspect that this scheme to return to the PDP is precipitated by the speculation that Okorocha is also trying to return to the party. They, as Big Men, cannot imagine him as leader of PDP! Imo should prime itself for another round of war. I just wish that political parties would permanently bar members who leave from ever coming back! There will be sanity!