By Acho Orabuchi
Interestingly, politics is about competing ideas in a level playing field for the primary purpose of uplifting the citizenry. Informed electorates will always evaluate candidates based on issues. As a result, political debates are necessary!
Generally, when there are two or more Nigerians, more often than not, they are discussing Nigerian politics. The same is applicable when two or more Imo indigenes come in contact, Imo politics dominate the discussion. Listening or participating in the discussions, you will easily notice the respective positions of the discussants. In my recent conversation with someone who recently returned from Nigeria, he stated categorically that Catholics will not vote for Ohakim. I asked him to elaborate. He said, “The Reverend Fathers are telling their congregation not to vote for Ohakim.” He went on to add, “It is because of the incident that happened last time which Ohakim had already resolved with the Catholic Bishops.” Since he had already told me that he was at home for six weeks, I proceeded to ask him if he was in the church when the Reverend Father made the statement. “I’m not a Catholic,” he replied. I immediately cautioned him not to repeat any information he had not taken time to verify. Moreover, Ohakim has demonstrated a high sense of responsibility the way he handled the incident. Additionally, it is reported that the Archbishop of Owerri Diocese, His Grace Most Rev. Bishop Anthony J.V. Obinna endorsed Gov. Ikedi Ohakim because of the governor’s human-oriented programs. Recently, in an effort to show that he is a governor for every Imo indigene, Gov. I kedi Ohakim wisely selected Professor (Mrs.) Viola Adaku Onwuliri, a devout Catholic with an impeccable dossier, as his running mate.
Sadly, the exchanges above are not only typical, but also a snapshot of what Gov. Ikedi Ohakim has been going through in Imo State. Ohakim has not experienced a sustained political peace in Imo State. His detractors have leveled seemingly frivolous accusations of one thing or another, yet none was substantiated. They have consistently smeared him for the sole purpose of damaging him politically. As a matter of fact, it reminds me of Barack Obama’s political struggles in the United States. His detractors have called him all sorts of names and said many unkind things about him. Obama has been called a socialist and a Marxist, a Muslim—he’s a devout Christian; some claimed that he was not born in the United States. However, what they called and said about Obama were blatant lies. The man has many legislative successes—financial reform and landmark health care reform; the stock market is now hovering at or above 12,000, unemployment rate going down, manufacturing jobs going up and consumer confidence is going up. Is Obama receiving credit from some quarters? The answer is no! Obama is definitely doing something good for the country. Like Obama, Ohakim is doing something good for Imo State. Ohakim’s detractors want him to fail because that is their only means of grabbing power. Since their selfish scheme is not working, they are working diligently to nudge the electorate to perceive Gov. Ohakim as a failure in Imo State.
I am not part of Ohakim’s government or administration. I am neither his relative nor from his zone. However, I have a moral obligation to evaluate and report the facts objectively. Gov. Ohakim should be given a chance to govern with relative peace. Ohakim is both a visionary and transformational leader who has encountered incessant distractions during his first term in office. Despite the distractions, the man continues to implement programs and structural changes that would put Imo State in a sustainable economic and political trajectory.
Appreciatively, Ohakim engaged in local government reforms that have yielded phenomenal results. Ohakim stopped unexecuted contracts; in the past people were paid without executing the contract. Gov. Ohakim put a stop to the “Judgment Debt” scheme. This was a scheme through which some businessmen collaborate with the Local Government Bosses and attorneys to defraud the Local Governments billions of Naira. The “Judgment Debt” was a system where some businessmen would take the LG to court knowing full well that LG representative won’t be there to defend the government. With the absence of a local government representative, the court would award judgment to the plaintiff and judgment would pay for the judgment first once the allocation came in. Now, the LGAs in Imo State have over 11 billion Naira worth of assets under the IRROMA and today they are tarring roads and are engaged in other people-oriented activities in their various areas. Also, the local government system and laws in Imo State have erased the need for “godfatherism”. As a result, the local government chairmen and councils are now accountable to the electorate thereby ensuring that the dividends of democracy will be seen and felt at the grassroots level. Gov. Ohakim provided a level playing field in Imo State politics thereby rendering the importance of godfatherism useless. Now in Imo State anyone can run for any political office without being sponsored by a godfather.
Ohakim has created an enabling environment for commercialization of agricultural activities in Imo State through the state Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), which provides technical service training to individuals under the Agriculture Development and Extension Services. The workers that received training in modern agricultural education and technologies in turn train rural farmers for increased agricultural productivity. If this program is fully implemented, Imo State will be a center for commercial agriculture.
Given the shrill partisanship (within the same party and outside the party) gripping body polity in Imo State which has the potential of wilting Gov Ohakim’s progressive policies aimed at lifting Imo indigenes up from poverty, one will be forced to conclude that those out of power are fighting for their own interests. The perpetrators of these seemingly endless attacks on Ohakim may never find success in snarling progressive ideas of the governor. In areas such as public education, poverty alleviation, tourism, environment, and business investments, Gov. Ohakim has worked tirelessly to make Imo State a model state. Therefore, if this gubernatorial campaign is on issues, Ohakim will prevail because of his superior ideas.
Acho Orabuchi, Ph.D. is an Opinion Writer and Educator in Dallas, Texas USA, who has a knack for politics.