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THE PRICE OF LOYALTY

By Collins Ughalaa

There are so many striking issues raised by Dr. TOE Ekechi in the recent interview he granted a national daily. These issues have continued to engage critical minds. In the interview, the Imerienwe born politician, journalist, publisher and public relations expert, touched on the greedy characteristic of Governor Okorocha, including how he acquired public assets such as the IBC Quarters in Orji, located in Owerri North LGA, the Woddi Wellness Center, located at the Orlu Road Secretariat, and of course, the Governor’s, mansion called Spibat, which, according to Dr. Ekechi and in confirmation of what Imo people have known all along, was a small piece of land before he became Governor.

Dr. Ekechi who served as the Governor’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy also stretched his hands on the free education mouthed by the Governor and his agents, disclosing that the policy has put Imo students to a dangerous disadvantage, where the indigenous students now get 30% admission quota whereas the non-indigenes get the remaining 70%. In all, Ekechi, like Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, predicted that the Governor would end up in jail.

But in as much as some people would want further engagement on the synopsis of the interview presented above, there is yet one issue in the interview many people have called to seek clarifications on, and that has necessitated this outing. The said issue is the false claim that Dr. Ikedi Ohakim who was Governor of Imo State from 2007 to 2011 did not show any liking to former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan becoming President in 2010 following the ill-health of now late President Musa Yar’Adua, to whom he was Vice President. This is how Dr. Ekechi put it: “Ohakim showed signs of dislike against Jonathan when he was transiting from Vice President to President”.

Though President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Dr. Ikedi Ohakim have remained friends, the need to put the facts in straight line so that we avoid a situation where we deliberately or mistakenly distort the facts, cannot be overemphasized. We must ensure at all times that we put the facts very clearly so as to guide future engagements and generations, by providing them only true information about their past. One can only build his future when he understands his past very well, because it is a truism that whenever the facts of history is doctored, distorted or corrupted, we in the same breath misinform and corrupt the future generation.

No doubt, anyone who knows Ohakim very well will state without equivocation that the claim that “Ohakim showed signs of dislike against Jonathan when he was transiting from Vice President to President” is completely a corruption of the facts. If this is not checked, we may inadvertently be feeding the future generation with poison. Ohakim never showed any dislike to the then Vice President. He could not have done so.

The claim of Ohakim’s dislike of the former President does not agree with the facts on the ground. For example, in 2008 Ohakim invited Jonathan to commission his Imo Roads Maintenance Agency (IROMA) equipments worth over N12bn. Writing on the heading: “What Jonathan will see in Imo”, Mr. Uzoma Nwachukwu on Wednesday, October 13, 2010, noted that “The two-day working visit to Imo state by President Goodluck Jonathan between October 15th and 16th 2010 will be his third visit to the Eastern Heartland. President Jonathan first visited Imo state in November 2008, then as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was in the state to represent his then boss, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua at the official launching of the Imo Rural Roads Maintenance Agency (IRROMA) now Imo Roads Maintenance Agency (IROMA). His second visit was in July 2009 when he came in the company of the late President and the entire national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to receive His Excellency, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, the Governor of Imo state back to the PDP.

“By this third visit, Imo could easily pride itself as one of the states most frequently visited by the man Goodluck Jonathan. The instant visit is his first to the state since he became President and again Imo happens to be among the first ten states Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is visiting as President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria”.

Judging from Nwachukwu’s account, it is safe to conclude that the story of Ohakim not liking Jonathan to become President in 2010 was the creation of political jobbers and conspirators in the state who wanted to have access to raw power but decided that the only way to the priced gleam was to have Ohakim out of the way. Speaking on this, Nwachukwu posited that “Imo is also home of several politicians who thrive by laying false claims to closeness to the President. As a corollary, they relish in feeding the nation’s seat of power with false information about the goings-on at home”. He also talked about “a few politicians in the state who try to give the impression that without them, the state cannot move forward”. According to Nwachukwu, some politicians in the state engaged in “deliberate acts of sabotage…in the bid to see that the Ohakim administration is portrayed in bad light or indeed becomes an outright failure”.

It is unfortunate that those who maligned Ohakim against Jonathan had their way, necessitating the setting up a committee to undertake the project of removing Ohakim and installing Okorocha. These people lied to Jonathan that if Ohakim was allowed to stay he would lose his reelection. But the facts show that Jonathan got his highest votes in the presidential election of 2011 in the entire South-East from Imo State. But the job of the committee was simple, which was to do anything under the sun to get Ohakim out of the way. Therefore, the said “activities of the former Governor Ikedi Ohakim” which they interpreted to mean “signs of dislike against Jonathan” which was to cost Jonathan his election in 2011, was just a ruse. It was a cock and bull story, a bait thrown at Jonathan and he fell for it. Having got the ears of the President against Ohakim and with the mandate clearly set out before them, they merely gave a dog a bad name to hang it, by claiming that “it became obvious that Ohakim could not win the 2011 governorship election”. They said this was why they brought Okorocha.

Nobody has asked what made it obvious to the committee that Ohakim could not win the 2011 governorship election. As a sitting President, was it not expected of Jonathan to resolve any issue that might hinder his party from winning the elections? What did he do to resolve the issues? Why did he choose to support a candidate from APGA against his party’s candidate even before the elections were held in 2011? Was that not anti-party? Can one not say that Ohakim was made to “lose” the election before it held? Can one not say that Imo people were rendered helpless in the situation, because a winner had already emerged before the elections held?
 
It should be noted that the said committee that recommended and enforced Ohakim’s ouster was set up in 2010 and in the same year “Okorocha moved to APGA and the committee supported him”. By this time there was nothing suggesting antagonism against Jonathan by Ohakim. From whence then came the conclusion that Ohakim could not win the 2011 governorship election? This question is pertinent because the result from the 2011 governorship election does not show that Ohakim could not have won. The final results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed that Okorocha of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) emerged the winner with 336,859 votes against Ohakim’s 290,490 votes, whereas  Senator Ifeanyi Araraume came a distant third with 107,068 votes. This was without elections in Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema, Nghor-Okpala and Mbaitoli LGAs where Ohakim was said to have gained the upper hand, particularly in Ohaji/ Egbema where he was said to have got more than 28,000 votes. Politicians and historians have remained in awe that despite the confederacy of federal and local powers against Ohakim, he could drag the election to inclusiveness, even though that was a decoy to steal his mandate.

According to a report by The Nigerian Voice on April 27, 2011, “The governorship election conducted on April 26, 2011 in Imo State has been declared inconclusive by the Imo State Chief Returning Officer, Professor Enock Akobundo….The Chief Returning Officer said there were no results in three local governments areas of the state as elections were either not conducted there or that they were inconclusive…He said he took the decision to declare the guber poll inconclusive because the race was very close between the two front runners; incumbent Governor Ikedi Ohakim (PDP) and main rival Chief Rochas Okorocha (APGA)”. The newspaper observed that despite the daylight robbery, “The PDP [Ohakim] was however ahead in the results announced by the Returning Officer in the LGAs” before it was declared inconclusive. It became clear, therefore, that no matter what happened, if the election was allowed to go on smoothly Ohakim would win, they decided to deploy raw federal powers to rob the people of the state their mandate and unleash pains on them.

The Igbo say that when a dog is about to die it would no longer perceive the smell of excreta. Blackmailing and conspiracy were the lethal weapons deployed by the few powerful politicians who ganged up against Ohakim before President Jonathan. Having got the ears of Jonathan they were armed to the teeth to remove Ohakim. Since then, like the elders say, the snake is laying with what it had swallowed.
No doubt, those who told Jonathan that Ohakim could not win the 2011 governorship election brazenly lied to him. Those who also lied to him that Ohakim was not in support of him becoming President told blatant lie. When President Yar’Adua fell sick and was flown abroad for medical treatment, it became an issue after sometime that the President did not transmit a letter to the National Assembly empowering his Vice to act in acting capacity in his absence. There were calls from some quarters that the President should be declared dead. There was so much unnecessary noise and dramatization of the issue. At some point there were calls for a committee to investigate the health status of Yar’Adua, including calls that the Vice President should immediately take over from his boss. Some Nigerians called for caution and argued that it was not proper to hastily take such actions on succession. From what happened, everyone knew that the development we found ourselves in as a nation was strange to us. The country was in a dilemma. But if we find ourselves in a dilemma should we resort to self-help?

Nevertheless, when the National Assembly came to the rescue of the country by invoking the Doctrine of Necessity and empowered Jonathan to become Acting President, Ohakim never opposed it. When Preident Yar’Adua was eventually announced dead by his family, Ohakim never opposed Jonathan being sworn in as President. And when eventually Jonathan declared to run for the 2011 presidential election at the Eagles Square in Abuja, Ohakim was so happy that he took to the podium to sing and dance, calling on Nigerians to rejoice and thank God. “Tuwara ya mamma! Si ya n’ome la! Eze Jisos tuwara ya mamma, si ya n’ome la!”, he sang elatedly. 

Ohakim is a man of principles and strong convictions. He does not run after the wind. He is not blown away by every wind. He believes in his personal convictions of loyalty, friendship, fairness and honesty. He was loyal to President Yar’Adua. This same loyalty he extended to President Jonathan. To protect the 2011 interest of Jonathan, Ohakim even swam against the tide, against what some people said contravened their interests. For example, according to a report on The Nation newspaper of September 27, 2010, Ohakim had to risk it all when he stopped a summit billed to hold at the Concorde Hotel, Owerri because it was anti-Jonathan, planned by Igbo Political Forum (IPF).

The report said: “Following intelligence reports of the likelihood of anti-President Goodluck Jonathan summit today in Owerri, the Imo State capital, security agents have swooped on the town to halt the session….As at press time, security agencies were forcing the management of Concord Hotel, Owerri, to cancel the booking by the Forum to hold a summit on the political future of the Igbo…The Nation gathered that the Forum had about two weeks ago booked for the hall in Concord Hotel and the reservation was receipted”.

There is so much to show that Ohakim showed loyalty to President Jonathan. But despite all those things, those who wanted Ohakim out at all cost were bent on lying against him. Interestingly, four years after, Jonathan needed just loyal people around him but he did not find them. Even those who benefitted from the conspiracy in Imo State, including Governor Okorocha, stabbed him mercilessly in the back. Same way, those who supported Okorocha to emerge the Governor of Imo State have had their share of Okorocha’s use of raw power. Some of them have had their properties demolished, even in disobedience to court orders. As if we now live in a reward or harvest time, Okorocha now is crying that those he trusted for years have betrayed him. He is now in need of loyal people. But the truth is that loyal people are not just picked by the wayside. 

In all, what goes around, they say, has a way of coming around. But no matter what the situation is, God has a way of justifying the just, and prove that those who die in Christ Jesus die not but live forever. Those who commit themselves to loyalty, friendship, honesty, etc, though they may suffer setbacks, God never leaves them. In all, they are more than conquerors.

Yes, Ohakim did not lose the 2011 governorship election. He was robbed. That was the price he paid for his loyalty.
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