Car Bazaar in Imo: As Ohakim Initiates 'Gifts for Votes' Campaign
In a show of undisguised desperation to actualize his re-election bid, Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo state have resorted to desperate 'Father Chrismas' measures to induce political stakeholders, churches and organizations to vote him in the April governorship election in the state. Investigations indicate that no fewer than 25 persons have so far received the governor's car gifts. The largesse was kick-started with the doling out of brand new, 2010 model Toyota Camry cars to about 15 members of the State Working Committee of the People'sDemocratic Party (PDP) in Imo state with the state party chairman receiving a Prado Jeep.
As campaign by opposition parties gathered momentum, the unsettling reality of the wide popularity of his opponents apparently dawning on him, Governor Ikedi Ohakim adopted an aggressive 'gifts for votes' measure to stem the tide. Further checks reveal that names like Chief Paul Nnawuchi, Hon. Alex Emeziem, Chief Sam Oparaku, Chief Tony Grey, Chief Bethel Nzimako, Hon. Godfrey Dikeocha and Hon.(Mrs) Oby Ajoku and a host of other are already cruising the heartland state in their gift cars.
Most of these politicians were derived from the opposition camp in the state and lobbied with car gifts and appointments, though their relevance in the political equation in the state remains largely doubtful. These gifts are presently causing ripples and bad blood in the ranks of the PDP in the state as loyalists of the governor who have so little to show after long years of followership query the rationale behind the gifts to perceived political dissidents.
Another question begging for answer is the issue of the apparently inconsequential political clout of those being lobbied by the governor. Most of those being lobbied are viewed by some disenchanted loyalists of the governor as mere paper tigers and not worth the trouble.
Such persons as Chief Paul Nnawuchi, a known tailor; Nnachebe Ojike, a semi-retired and reclusive politician; Alex Emeziem, a caterer whose only point of relevance is criticizing the governor on the pages of newspapers without any known followership. Also the appointment of Hon. Godfrey Dikeocha who has never been known to compel followership as State Liaison Officer in Lagos is, according to a disgruntled PDP member, 'another pointer to the frantic, if not paranoid effort to garner support by the governor.
The governor is getting all the wrong people for the right reasons.' Some other recipients of the car gift are said to have gone past their prime in politics and brings nothing to the table as far as the April governorship poll in Imo is concerned and thus points to the fact that the governor is fast turning his camp into a panic station.
Similarly, Churches in the state have also benefited from the governor's largesse. Smarting from a lingering face-off with the Catholic community in the state, Ohakim has reached out to Pentecostal and other orthodox churches in the state with donations of cash and musical equipments, as have never been seen before.
Huhuonline.com gathered that most of the Pentecostal churches in the state capital have received the gifts. Also in the list of gift recipients are St. Mary's Catholic Church, Okigwe; St. Fidelis Catholic Church, Njaba; Emmanuel Anglican Church, Avu and the Lifeline Assembly which also got a cash donation of N500,000.
Pastor of the Lifeline Assembly, one Rev. Maxwell Korie, who is also the Chairman of the state chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), had on the said date convened a press conference calling on Rochas Okorocha, a top opponent of the governor, to explain or renounce his involvement in the Ogboni controversy that rocked the state at the time. If the briefing had been designed to ridicule Okorocha, it sure did not achieve that.
Meanwhile, last week, another batch of 12 brand new Kia Cerato cars were seen in convoy being delivered to the Imo state Government House, Owerri. Observers are of the view that the new Kia vehicles may constitute the next round of car gifts.
This is coming in the wake of the N24Billion extra-budgetary spending by Governor Ikedi Ohakim, for which he prevailed on the State House of Assembly to stretch the 2010 budget to March 2011 to accommodate and give retroactive approval to his illegal expenditures.