By Collins Ughalaa
"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me ...Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent" Acts 17:30; I Corinthians 13:11.
It is not for nothing that Imo people insist that His Excellency Dr Ikedi Ohakim will return as second term Governor of Imo State in 2019. Imo people have learnt from practical experience that when a woman marries two husbands she takes the better one.
In 2011, dancing to the intoxicating melody produced by the wealthy anti Ikedi Ohakim elements in the state, Imo people unknowingly demanded that Barabas, a "notorious prisoner" be released to them while Ikedi Ohakim, the innocent lamb, be led for slaughter.
Having seen the wrongness of their actions in 2011, with contrite heart Imo people now want Ikedi Ohakim back, not only because of his excellent performance while he was Governor but also because he fits squarely into the kind of person they need for Governor in 2019, and he possesses wonderful array of qualities that have kept them glued to him.
Across the state, and surprisingly among his opponents too, the theme song is that Ikedi Ohakim is better than Governor Okorocha in all ramifications. This judgement that has endured this past harsh seven years of the Okorocha regime is premised on certain assured character traits in Ikedi Ohakim. These days, at any public gathering the discussion has been that Okorocha deserves to be brought to the market square and flogged naked.
The theme song that Ikedi Ohakim is not a sadist has risen to crescendo in recent years. Unlike Governor Okorocha, Dr Ikedi Ohakim is a godfearing man who does not derive joy from inflicting pains on others. Take for example the issue of Ekeukwu Owerri Market. The issue of whether to demolish the ancestral market of the Owerri people, Ekeukwu Owerri, cropped up during the administration of Dr Ikedi Ohakim. He didn't use the powers of his office and force his decision down the throat of the people. He rather embarked on consultation with the people and their leaders. When it became obvious that the people did not buy the idea, he demonstrated his belief in the aphorism that power belongs to the people and that he was merely holding power in trust to the people by dropping the idea.
Contrast this with the situation where the people of Owerri opposed the demolition of the same market under the Okorocha regime. What did the Governor do? In a gestapo style he demolished the market on Saturday, August 20, 2017, leading to the death of 10 years old Somtochukwu Ibeanusi. That the people of Owerri resisted that retrogressive policy with their blood did not natter to the Governor. That the young boy, Somtochukwu, paid the ultimate price did not move him either.
One would think that the traders who were forcefully dislocated from their business premises would get some succour by at least getting a new place to relocate, but not so under Okorocha. The overhyped markets at Egbeada and Naze were largely uninhabitable. Realising that the markets could not accommodate the traders the state government ordered them to relocate to the Relief Market within the town. The traders in search of survival borrowed money and moved in, only for the same government to inform them few months later that it would demolish the Relief Market also. Frustrated, some of the traders who could still pick their pieces went to Nkwo-Orji Market and others they could find, including those in the rural communities. But what did the Governor do again? He pursued them to those places. Today, Nkwo-Orji Market, Amaraku Market, Eke Atta Market, etc, have been demolished, forcing them out one more time. How long would Governor Okorocha snuff life out of the people?
While all this is going on no one is getting compensated. The shop owners have not been compensated. The traders who have severally lost their means of livelihood have not been compensated. Most painfully, the Governor has carried on as if nothing is happening, as if the people are not gnashing their teeth; and it appears that market and property demolition has become a hobby to the Governor and seeing Imo people cry makes him extremely happy.
When you also consider how Ikedi Ohakim stopped commercial motorcycles in the state capital without a complaint, you would only want to clap for him for eternity. Not only did he stop commercial motorcycles in the state capital, he introduced the Imo Municipal Transport Service, rolled out thousands of tricycles (keke), air-conditioned mini buses and cars and luxurious buses. He also strengthened the state owned Imo Transport Company (ITC). The pleasant alternative provided by Ohakim worked in such a way that Imo people did not feel the pain but moved on seamlessly. The success of the banning of commercial motorcycles by Ohakim made other states, including Rivers, Lagos and the FCT to copy it.
Fast forward to the days of Governor Okorocha when he stopped keke operators in the state capital amidst hues and cries from the people. No alternative provided. Transportation now worse than nightmare in Owerri and very expensive. Many families are now forced to the poverty zone, courtesy of Governor Okorocha's obnoxious policies. This happened while the people still bemoaned the demolition of markets and dislocation of traders, etc.
Imo people have refused to be distracted by the cacophony of noise going on in the polity. They remain firm in their conviction that Dr Ikedi Ohakim is not vindictive. Faced by the greatest gang up ever in the annal of the state, Ohakim never went after anyone. No one was killed or kidnapped for political reasons, rather he created the best atmosphere for politicians with even divergent persuasions to go about their businesses without fear. He saw the whole of Imo State as one family where members were allowed to even hold divergent views. No property belonging to any opposition figure, or anyone for that matter, was demolished or his/her land revoked. No business belonging to any opposition figure was demolished or made to suffer. There was peace. There was happiness.
Do Imo people say the same thing of the Okorocha administration? Many people might forget, but the fact is that in 2013 Governor Okorocha demolished a big building belonging to Prince Lemmy Akakem located at IMSU Junction, for the singular reason that he belongs to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He said he was going to build a recreation park there, but years after the ungodly and vengeful demolition, nothing has happened. As if that was not enough, the Governor went after Captain Emma Ihenacho, his opponent during the 2015 governorship election.
Ihenacho was the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2015 and came third in the election. Despite orders of the court the Governor went ahead to demolish his property located at Orlu Road. Today, that house is exposed to all manner of security risk and now rendered uninhabitable. To make matter worse, the government made a deep gulf in front of the building. And on one occasion the Governor supervised the abominable act. This brazen act of impunity is what Imo people loathe so much.
In continuing with his vendetta Governor Okorocha also demolished Ihenacho's business premises at Okigwe Road. Worse still, he took his vendetta on Imo people and demolished their property and markets, which are their means of livelihood as traders. The only reason the Governor took out his anger on Imo people is his claim that nobody voted for him; that he bought his votes.
One other quality for which Imo people love Ikedi Ohakim and want him back in 2019 is that he is not greedy and corrupt. No matter the level of accusations against him, Ikedi Ohakim has not been found wanting. The allegation that he diverted N8bn meant for the dredging of Nworie River has fallen like a pack of cards as it has been proved that the project was purely NDDC project and Ohakim did not award the contract. NDDC does not give state governments or governors money to award contracts on their behalf. It has also become clear to all that Dr Ikedi Ohakim does not own any other property in the whole of Owerri, except the 3 bedroom bungalow which he built while serving as Commissioner in early '90s under Chief Evans Enwerem. Ohakim does not have a house at the Civic Center, and even though a plot of land was allocated to him as Governor, he gave it away to a friend who needed the land. And despite building the massive Nekede Exclusive Garden Estate and the Arugo Garden Estate, neither him nor his wife owns a building there. He did not convert government land or any other property to himself or any member of his family. He did not grab people's land or convert them to his or those of his family members.
But the story is terrible with Governor Okorocha where Imo State has become the Okorocha Incorporated. It has become state policy to scan for lands belonging to the people and convert them to themselves. This is done in the full glare of Imo people, and no matter how the people cry and mourn, nothing happens.
In Imo State under Okorocha government officials are in serious competition as to who owns the biggest land and the best mansion. From the Governor himself to his wife, siblings, children, in-laws and appointees, any land they see belongs to them, just for wanting it
Anywhere you go in Imo today, the Okorocha family that was largely unknown except Owelle Rochas Okorocha, has become millionaires and big business owners overnight. How they came by the stupendous wealth they now display is unknown, except that their brother or in-law, Rochas Okorocha, became Imo State Governor and they became part of the government.
Okorocha's son in-law and Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu who was jobless and picked on Wetheral Road by Governor Okorocha has become a billionaire overnight, just for marrying the Governor's daughter. Nwosu who recently donated N10M to the APC in Imo State, the second highest donor, claims he became a billionaire by owning Ezihe Farms. For those who do not know, Ezihe Farms was incorporated in 2016 while Nwosu was Chief of Staff. Two years after he has become a billionaire and dispenser of favours. Government cannot be more corrupt!
Recently Imo people were shocked to read the exchanges between the Governor and his former Man-Friday, Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu, where the Governor accused him of squandering N5bn meant for contract. Imo people also read the allegations of corruption the Senator returned on the Governor and his former Deputy, Sir Jude Agbaso, particularly as relating to the celebrated J-PROSS contract mess. While many people look forward to more exposures of graft in the Okorocha's government, they note that the conversion of the former IBC premises to Rochas Foundation College and part of the Orlu Road Secretariat to WODDI, an NGO belonging to Okorocha's wife, qualifies the Governor for Grand Master for Corruption Award!
Imo people do not forget that Ohakim ran the people's government, one of the best organised state governments in the whole federation, giving the people exactly what they wanted.
For example, while putting together this piece I was reminded that March 22, 2018, was the World Water Day. But while the rest of the federation joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Water Day, there is no drop of water in Imo State. All the 1,395 water schemes put in place by the Ohakim administration has been destroyed. The Okorocha regime has also destroyed all the water pipes that cost former Governor, late Sam Mbakwe, more than $35M borrowed money, to lay.
Notably, the United Nations uses the World Water Day to raise awareness on global water crisis, including water scarcity, water pollution, inadequate water supply and sanitation issues. The World Water Day is also used to focus attention on universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene in line with Sustainable Development Goal 6.
Because water is an integral part of the the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the United Nation uses the World Water Day to measure achievements in international development targets, especially those of the MDGs. Ironically, the Okorocha regime has kissed bye to water.
While the Governor kisses bye to water other states in the federation budget hundreds of millions of Naira for water, including states in the Southeast. But no matter what Okorocha does, Imo people are consoled that water will run again in the state under Ikedi Ohakim. Water is life, and Ohakim will do anything to give Imo people water again, because in the 21st century, it is the more impossible to survive without water. No meaningful investment can take place without adequate supply of water.