LESSONS FROM OHAKIM'S DOWNFALL
In the end, his prologue became his epilogue. He went out the way he came in. 'Easy come, easy go'. It was so because, in the first place, like the story Jesus Christ told in John chapter 10.. this man never entered the sheepfold through the door. Rather, he climbed up using some other short-cuts like a thief and a robber would do.
This time his 'tricks' failed him. Also, good fortune which brought him into the sheepfold four years ago refused to smile on him this time around. You see, anyone who enters through the 'door' is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter opens the door and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his sheep by name. And they follow him. It is therefore no surprise that the outgoing governor of Imo State, chief Ikedi Ohakim (a.k.a Ochinanwata, Ikiri) suffered such a humiliating defeat in the recently-concluded Governorship elections held on April 26, and May 6. The election was largely a referendum on Ohakim.
Even key members of the state branch of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Executive Council (Exco) confided in some reporters that they knew the end was near before April 26, and that the supplementary elections on May 6 were the funeral rites completed. As party bigwigs huddled together at the party secretariat on Okigwe road on the last day of electioneering campaigns to review the governor's chances at the polls, the signs were foreboding enough. Only a miracle they hinted, would give Ohakim victory. But when a politician is desperate, he lives in denial. He fails to see the red lights on the traffic. Such is the fate of politicians with fiendish disposition and terminal impoliteness. They are deaf even to inner hearing.
Which was why after casting his vote in his Okohia ward in Mbano, Ohakim sounded over-confident of victory that he gave no margin for error about his re-election. Neither did he give his opponents any chance of an upset. He bragged with a designer's black eye glasses before TV cameras, 'I will win hands down, I have the (political) structures everywhere. The people are with me'. Apparently throwing a jibe at his opponents he delivered the punchline, 'winning an election is not about dancing in front of TV cameras. I will win.. I am on ground, not in the air'. A day after, Ohakim became a folder for the tabloids, the butt of all jokes, a putrid parody of his own words. It was the worst defeat suffered by any sitting governor in the political history of Imo state. The job was done, not necessarily by the Governor-elect and APGA candidate, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, but by the Imo people through the ballot box. It was a comprehensive defeat which has made the ballot box the biggest killer of any bad politician. You can fight your own people, intimidate and even kill them, but you can't fight the ballot box. That's why the ballot box is the clearest voice in a democracy.
When the history of 2011 general elections are written from a dispassionate distance, undoubtedly, Ohakim, his rise, his troubled tenure and eventual downfall will receive a good measure of analysis. Perhaps this is the time to begin such, because the sun has finally set…
Surely, when any administration ends up not getting itself re-elected, the logical thing is for historians to look for the moment when things went off the track. Questions are asked: at what point did the governor make the wrong turn? What are the fatal mistakes that nailed his political coffin? For Ohakim, every layer you scrap in Imo, virtually everyone seems to know someone who has a tale to tell about Gov. Ohakim.
That the governor gallops from one controversy to another makes his political life something to feast on. And in all the controversies he proved himself incapable of touching any kind of emotional cord with Imo people, who will determine his political career. Maybe, he underestimated them, and perhaps was deluded that the people's vote won't count. After all, he boasted he delivered 95 percent for president Goodluck Jonathan at the presidential poll, April 16. Mark you, he never made reference to the people, as the voters that 'delivered' the 95 percent. He likes pleasing the President, claiming in one of his campaigns that he was one of the very few who can enter the President's bedroom. Jonathan was reported to have felt embarrassed by such cheap comment.
That was one of those errors of judgment for which Ohakim has become politically incurable. He wants everything to begin and end with him. Party members allege he refers to the state financial allocation as 'my money'. Wise leaders ought to exercise political judgment by understanding the viewpoints and emotions of others, gleaned through everyday experiences and interactions with the people whom he holds the office in trust. As Napoleon Bonaparte said, 'the men who changed the world never got there by working on leaders'. Rather, he said it was done by moving the masses. Reason: working on leaders is the method of intrigue that only leads to secondary results, but working on the masses 'is the stroke of genius that changes the face of the world'. Perhaps that's the principal reason why the New Face of Imo, the governor's vacuous blueprint sputters in the face for lack of vision. Without vision there is no mission. And a leader can't lead.
It is not unkind to say that Ohakim as governor has never been an inspiration to anybody in Imo, except the band of frivolous gossips and sycophants that held him hostage from hearing the voice of the people. A good leader must be an inspiration for people to achieve their aspiration. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa once said, 'if yes men surround a leader, who will tell him that his policies are useless or dangerous or need to be fine-tuned? Many of the governor's aides behave like con artists, the bolder the lies they tell, the more convincing they think the principal loves them and remains firmly in power. And, you may know, was why, the Ohakim assumed the sobriquet Ikiri, a defiant bird that refuses to listen until he is pinned to the tree by a laser that blinds him. Between Ohakim and his aides, it is the case of the monkey and the cat, that notorious pair that contrived mischief that eventually brought them disaster. With no visible charisma, glamour or radiance that make people glow when they come around their governor, Ohakim has never been leader who can connect with his people and shape their aspirations. That is why he consistently laboured and failed to differentiate the trees from the forests.
He failed to realize that Imo people were searching for a leader who will make good decisions knowing that the outcomes must be good for the state. That's what phronetic leaders are people who must keep a higher purpose in mind in governance. But Ohakim fragmented our state, widened the fault lines that tend to divide the state into religious lines. He humiliated a catholic priest, tortured a journalist, threatened many, including artisans and market women. And they raised their voices to God. His disgraceful defeat is an answered prayer.
Indeed, Ohakim governs like Rehoboam of Israel of old. He wanted to be the 'sun' around which all other planets should revolve. Unknown to him, he lacks the divine awareness to know that success has a pattern, that the essence of governance is to make things happen as well as prevent certain things from happening. Under his watch, the heartland became the den of kidnappers. And Imo became like a company under receivership. What Ohakim's administration gave with one hand, it took away with two hands. That, it must be said, was how he squandered public trust.
Thick and fast, he slided from being a 'prince', to a tyrant, and a clown of sorts. In politics, there is no point embracing a vision when the vision is not in sync with the mood of the people. Before he realized how deep the pain he has inflicted on the people's psyche and his own electoral fortune, it was rather too late. To make matters worse, by bringing to the state, the very unpopular and divisive former president, chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he dug deeper whatever goodwill he had left. The dirty campaign of calumny that the governor's camp mounted against his two main rivals, Rochas and his own kinsman, chief Ifeanyi Araruume portrayed the outgoing governor as a desperate Macbeth.
Altogether, the downfall of Ohakim teaches several political lessons: first, life is like a rapidly rushing river and can drown the swimmer if he does not change his habits, his cravings and work to leave a worthy legacy. It is sad that he is leaving behind no worthy legacy. As a man of grandiose projects, he will only be remembered for his phoney projects, the 'Midwest airlines, Oguta wonder Lake, Oak Refinery, Nworie River Resort, Owerri Ring Road, Imo Int'l cargo airport, Okigwe Int'l Stadium, Imo town Towers', etc. And none of them really took off the ground.
For the incoming administration, the biggest lesson is how not to govern a state, how to get things done, and how to avoid making terrible decisions. For that, governor-elect, Owelle Okorocha should be thankful to Ohakim for providing him (Okorocha) the blueprint on how not to fail. Overall, it is not clear how history will judge Ohakim. We will wait, because historians are always in hurry to pass judgment. But for sure, history will judge his administration harshly, because when all things are considered, what you obtained easily goes same way - easily.