WHY OHAKIM IS UNDER INTENSE ATTACK â€“ EX-PDP STATE SECRETARY
The pioneer secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Imo State, Chief Tony Ifeanyi Igbojekwe, says that those opposing Governor Ikedi Ohakim are doing so because he refused them access to public funds.
He also said that the former governor of the state, Chief Achike Udenwa, has no reason to oppose Ohakim's administration because about 70 percent of cabinet members in the Ohakim government are Udenwa's nominees. He said that Udenwa should see himself as a statesman, who should serve as a stabilizing force rather than a divisive element.
The former state PDP secretary spoke on these and other things.
Not much has been heard about you in recent times. Why is this?
Well, my answer is very simple. I don't believe that politicians should be making noise all the time. This period is not the period for politicking. It is a period for governance. In advanced democracies, politicians withdraw to the background after elections, to allow those who emerged to govern. What we have here is that our people go about rabble-rousing in a bid to distract those in office. It has been particularly worrisome in the case of our state, Imo. There is so much noise. It could be quite distracting. So, some of us feel that we should allow the system to be calm so that the governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, can concentrate.
Don't you think that it might be misconstrued to mean sitting on the fence. You have to be identified with something.
I don't need to have my face on the pages of newspapers everyday for people to know what I believe in and what I can do. As I said earlier, it is not about noise making.
So, are you with Governor Ohakim or with the opposition?
I cannot be in opposition to any administration in this state. At my level, I have gone past the stage I could be in opposition to any administration. I regard myself as a statesman. Even if the incumbent administration is not doing well I would look for ways of giving advice or making inputs, so that, together, we can build the state. I laugh when I see former governor or former senators being referred to as opposition. At that level, you should look beyond the sitting governors to focus on the state. If a former governor is in opposition, he is opposing the entire state, not just the incumbent or his administration. There is a level you get to in life and you can no longer afford to do things the ordinary way. You begin to see things differently from how the generality of the people see it.
So I cannot be in opposition because I am too mature and exposed for that.
That means you are in support of Governor Ohakim?
Again, the matter is not as simple as that. I cannot just be described as a 'supporter.' That's an understatement. I am a big stakeholder. I believe it is incumbent upon me to see to the stability of the state, to the progress of the state. In other words, I believe that stakeholders, like me, should be able to support every administration in the state, so that it can serve the people diligently. If you do not give support, the administration may not find its right footing and the people, as a whole, will suffer.
When that happens, it becomes a collective failure for the political elite. That's the way I see it. Now, the beauty in the case of Governor Ohakim is that he is doing quite well and so, all what we can do is to give him solid backing so that he can give his best to the state. What I am saying is that at my level, I consider it my duty to support the governor so that he can deliver the dividends of democracy to the good people of Imo state.
You worked closely with the former Governor, Chief Achike Udenwa. What was it like working with him?
It was not too exciting because that administration was not as creative and innovative as the present one. Udenwa relied so much on others, but they did not do much to help him.
Are you surprised that he is not in the same camp with the incumbent governor?
My answer would be yes and no. Yes, because, as I said earlier, it gets to a point where you can no longer afford to be seen to be in opposition to a sitting governor. Chief Udenwa is supposed to be a statesman. After governing the state for eight years, what is expected of him is to be a stabilizing factor. So, I am surprised he is not seeing himself that way. At the same time, I would also say No. I am not surprised because Udenwa relies so much on people. I am, therefore, not surprised that people who, ab initio, were opposed to Ohakim have talked him into joining them. You do not destroy what you have helped to build. It is indeed, unfortunate.
However, I must say that Chief Udenwa is good-natured, but he always feels threatened. Udenwa started that talk about people being 100 per cent loyal. This does not make sense because even God Himself could not command 100 per cent loyalty from those He created. Otherwise, the devil would not have existed. It was in that circumstance that he appointed mostly people who could not constructively advice him. These people could not deliver on their assignments.
Have you ever thought of reconciling Udenwa and Ohakim?
That should be paramount in the mind of every stakeholder in the PDP, in Imo State. The two politicians must come together again, so that what happened to the party in Anambra State does not happen here. But much as I would want that reconciliation, I want to caution against any tendencies that would make an incumbent administration vulnerable and dependent on the whims and caprices of those outside or supposed godfathers. Udenwa himself fought against that type of thing throughout his regime. So, he should not come now to give people a dose of what he had abhorred during his own time.
Many observers are really not able to ascertain the real cause of the quarrel between the Udenwa and Ohakim. What is the matter?
In politics, quarrels can arise at any point. You do not rehearse political disagreements. What I am saying is that whatever is the cause, we need to find a solution, to it. The grass suffers when two elephants fight. Imo people have suffered enough for this problem.
Many people are surprised because Udenwa contributed hugely to the emergence of Chief Ohakim as governor. What went wrong?
I do not dispute that. Many other people also made contributions. But no one single person's contribution is more important than those of others. If anybody helped in Ohakim's emergence, such a person merely played a role. As the governor at the time of election, Udenwa surely was expected to play a role, but such roles could not have been more important than that played by other categories of people: Returning officers, clerks, electoral officers, policemen and what have you.
Yes, people are surprised, but the surprise comes more from the Udenwa angle because he is the biggest beneficiary of Ohakim's emergence. It is a well-known fact that over 70 per cent of people in Ohakim's cabinet were Udenwa's nominees. And these are those who had worked directly with him, in his regime. I have heard people say that Ohakim should handle Udenwa with more caution because of the role he played in his emergence. Role, yes, but as I said earlier, no one's role is more important than those of others. It is Chief Udenwa who should handle Ohakim with caution because, unlike what happened during his own period, he is a big beneficiary. You talk of role, but people also played roles in Udenwa's own emergence as governor in 1999. But unlike what happened in 2007, none of those who contributed made any input in the composition of his administration. I was one of them. I was a foundation state secretary of the PDP.
What input did Udenwa allow us to make into the setting up of his administration? Go and ask Greg Mbadiwe, Rochas Okorocha and Humphrey Anumudu. These are people who got persuaded, for one reason or the other, to allow Udenwa to become the party's candidate, even when he did not come tops at the primary election. At the election proper, they delivered the party. But which of them made an input into the composition of his administration?
You were the foundation state secretary of the PDP. What was it like then compared with now, especially as regards the control of party structure?
There was discipline. It was such that the party could ask aspirants who scored higher votes to step down for one that came behind and they complied. It cannot happen now. You know what I mean. Look at what is happening now about control of party structure. The rule is very clear. The leader of the party at the state level is the governor. For a party that controls a state, the governor must be allowed to control the structure of the party. This is why today I can do anything to ensure that Ohakim controls the structure of the PDP. That's purely on principle. I did the same for Udenwa. I fought on his side to make sure that he controlled the party.
So if I could do that for him, or if people could do that for him, on what basis does he expect that the control of the party structure should be outside the sitting governor? This is something he fought hard against. And sentiments apart, it is only the governor that has what it takes to nurse and nurture the party. Only the governor has budget to dispense with. We fought on the part of Udenwa to control party structure.
There is talk that Ohakim has just joined the party and should not control it?
I laugh each time I hear people say Ohakim joined the party newly. Ohakim was among the very few elements that formed PDP in Imo State. That was why, as early as 1998, he served in the national finance committee. Udenwa was not part of that beginning. There was nothing like this Redemption they talk about now. We only had New Era. Senator Ifeanyi Araraume was in the then APP, which later became ANPP. So, it is very wrong to say Ohakim joined PDP newly. He is a co-founder. That he merely stepped aside to run for the 2007 election is no reason we should lose sight of the immense contributions he made. If anything, God used Ohakim to save the PDP. Suppose, it was another fellow who did not have the blood of PDP running in his veins that won the election? There would have been a question of the governor returning to the PDP. And that would have jeopardized the chances of the party winning future elections.
Some observers think that Governor Ohakim is facing more opposition compared with previous regimes. Do you think so?
I do not see Governor Ohakim facing more opposition than previous ones. In fact, if we go by what Chief Ohakim is doing, his revolutionary approach to governance, then I would say he is having a free reign. The level of courage he has shown is such that it is surprising that those worse hit do not carry placards every morning in the streets of Owerri. We suddenly began to have a system where there are no more free funds for political hangers on. Personally, I was skeptical when the governor came up with the 'business unusual' philosophy. I said it wouldn't work because I thought it was impossible to just remove a child's mouth from its mother's breast. All these talks you hear is because the governor is not sharing money. I can understand when those he defeated in election are talking. But we also know those who are talking because it is no longer business as usual. It is not because the governor is not performing.
Would you support Ohakim's second term bid?
Definitely. He deserves it.