2011: IMO STANDS STILL AS OHAKIM DECLARES INTENTION
Barely one week after he successfully conducted party congresses across all party levels in Imo State following the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) directives that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) conduct fresh congresses in eight states or risk not fielding candidates in 2011 elections, Governor Ikedi Ohakim last Saturday, called out the Imo citizenry to the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, where he formally declared his intention for re-election in 2011.
Ohakim is known to have ridden the turbulent waves of the Imo political ocean to arrive at where he is today, having had to contend with an avalanche of court cases that were aimed at sweeping the carpet off his feet.
The governor who came to power riding on the crest of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) is today seeking re-election on the platform of the PDP. But that is an issue still pending.
However, the governor who believes that Imo is in the hands of God had battled his other political opponents head-on and today he has won all his political battles even as he has put in motion machinery that would rail-road him back to the old Shell Camp Government House.
Probably, the first time the governor tested his political might in Imo was when he launched his political structure, the New Face Organisation. Then the Dan Anyiam Staduim was also filled to the brim, as Ohakim popularly called Ochinanwata by his admirers acknowledged cheers and felicitation from the mammoth gathering.
Last Saturday, that same feat was repeated as the Imo people again trooped out to the stadium to watch the governor declare his intention to return in 2011.
The event slated for 10 a.m saw the venue filled to the brim before the scheduled time as the Imo people from all fields, both high and low, stormed the arena most of them in uniform and carrying solidarity banners.
At about noon when Ohakim arrived at the stadium, the event began in earnest as the people representing the various interest groups took turn to mount the podium to speak about the governor and why they had decided to support him.
Some of those who spoke include the President of Keke Riders Association, Comrade Chris Igwesi, whose members were formerly Okada riders.
According to him, his members are now better off than when they were doing Okada business, which made him to urge his members and other Imo people to support the governor.
Similarly, their counterparts in the auto business who were equally dislodged by the government, but were relocated to Egbu Road, thanked Ohakim for the great initiative.
The Motor Dealers Chairman, Chief Ugwuegbu told the Imo people that when the government asked them to quit Wethdral road, they thought their own was finished, adding that today they are better off in their new location.
Equally happy is an Owerri leader, Nze Boniface Anokam who said that the capital city under Ohakim now has some semblance of cities overseas, especially at night.
He, therefore, pledged the support of the Owerri people for the governor just as he urged Ohakim to do more for them when he returns in 2011.
Not left out among the people who filed out to pour encomium on Ohakim and pledging to support him are the members of the organised labour in the state.
According to the spokesman of the group, Nze C. D. Aharanwa, their minimum wage was N6,000 when Ohakim mounted the saddle as governor, but within the last three years the governor, he said, had raised their wage minimum to N7, 000 and later increased this by 12 and half per cent and 15 per cent respectively.
A women representative, Mrs Ihuoma thanked the governor for being gender sensitive, saying that Ohakim besides choosing a woman as his deputy, has so many other women working in his government even as she urged him to do more for Imo women when he returned in 2011.
Other groups who pledged support for the governor included the members of road transport workers, students' unions, town union leaders, traders in the state, Nollywood artistes from across the country, Imo political leaders and the ostensibly happy new workers in the state produced by the 10,000 Imo jobs.
PDP BOT member, Engr Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu who led other prominent members of the party to the declaration urged the Imo people to rally round Governor Ohakim in the 2011 polls, saying that before the coming of the governor in 2007, the state capital was dirty but Ohakim was able to clean up the mess using his Clean and Green Initiative.
The elder statesman told the people that they knew him not to be one who would come out to support someone who has not performed, saying that his throwing his weight behind Ohakim means he had performed creditably well.
Also speaking, former PDP Vice Chairman South-east, Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu, said that he had come to bear witness to the Ohakim success in Imo.
Ozichukwu pointed out that when Ohakim became governor he said that he had come to do something new in the state, but nobody believed him.
'Today, this crowd here is an evidence of his claim. You have done well and you shall do more,' Ozichukwu said, just as he saluted the intuition, knowledge and experience of the governor.
He promised that he would help the governor to appeal to their brothers on the other side since he had extended his hand of fellowship to them to come and join him to build the state.
Also joining in the call was Chief Hope Uzodinma, a Senate hopeful in the state, who appealed to Ohakim opponents to sheath their sword and return to the fold.
He declared that the holiday was over for Ohakim's opponents, saying that the governor's aircraft has survived turbulence and is now on cruising level as all his court cases have ended in his favour.
Also Chief Arthur Nzeribe spoke of the need to support the governor's return in 2011 just as for Minister and ambassador, Mrs Kema Chikwe said that Ohakim is God-sent to the state, adding that God is always on the side of the governor.
Also legislators Osita Izunaso, Emeka Ihedioha and Goodluck Opiah joined the myriad of supporters and speakers who attested that Ohakim had performed and therefore deserves a second term.
Similarly, Elder I. D. Nwoga disclosed that the elders of the state are happy with Ohakim, particularly on how he had been able to manage the 100 per cent legislature he meet when he came in as Progressives Peoples Party (PPA) elected governor.
Nwogu pointed out the as Ohakim was able to negotiate his way amid the daunting circumstance proved him a good administrator who knows how to make peace.
Before Ohakim mounted the podium to make his public declaration tagged Ohakim Speaks, Let's Do More, the artistes present had treated the unprecedented crowd with variety of music which made the dignitaries including Governor Ohakim to try out their dance steps.
After this came the real moment as the governor came forward to speak to Imo people and solicit their support again.
He first went down memory lane on some of his achievements in the state after which he extended the olive branch to his opponents, urging them to now join hands with him in the march to move the state forward.
Ohakim also pleaded with the people to forgive him if he had in any way erred in his relationship with them, saying 'to all who feel offended of our activities, actions and bravados, please forgive and let's work together to do more for our people.'
He assured the people that yesterday was gone, today has come while tomorrow would surely be better, begging them to join him in his quest to do more.
Ohakim reminded the people that about 12 years ago, the elders and stakeholders in Imo State had entered into a gentleman's agreement which allows each senatorial zone in the state to produce the governor in turn.
'This political agreement gave governorship to Orlu zone for two terms of four years each, which was fully enjoyed by Chief Achike Udenwa government, between May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. Orlu zone has, therefore, been supported by Okigwe and Owerri to serve out her term.
'Now, Okigwe zone has held the mantle of governorship from May 29, 2007 till date. Her first tenure expires by May 29, 2011. It is only equitable that the support and treatment given to Orlu zone should not elude either Okigwe or Owerri during their terms, which is not political party motivated. This is why Okigwe should be allowed to complete her second term of four years by 2015. It then becomes the turn of Owerri for next eight years, thereafter,' he said.
He told the people that he has been tested and trusted just as he is determined to serve them better.
Ohakim said that he had performed creditably, honourably and consciously towards improving the lots of the people, promising not to use the state as a laboratory to try out public administration.
He, therefore, said that he decided to run for a second term to complete the works he began in the three and half years he has been in office.
Hear him: 'I have been tried and tested. I am confident, courageous and dedicated. I can be trusted to deliver as promised. My 2007 manifesto is a testimony. We need a credible governor; a well-focused administrator and a people-oriented government. These qualities are the hallmark of Ikedi Ohakim. We all can work together to achieve the Imo of our dream. I declare my intention to run for election of governor of Imo State. We can make it happen.'
He pointed out that it is only his second term that would guarantee the political equilibrium between the three zones of Orlu, Owerri and Okigwe as it is only his second term that cannot constitutionally go beyond 2015.
After his speech that drew loud ovation, the governor released over 20 pigeons which he said was a sign of peace in the state.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) bigwigs from Imo, who graced the occasion included the PDP Board of Trustees member and Publisher of the Champion newspapers, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; Imo Deputy Governor, Mrs Ada Okwuonu; former Vice Chairman of the PDP, South-east, Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu; Chief Arthur Nzeribe; Ambassador Kema Chikwe; Chief Hope Uzodinma; Chairman, Imo Elders Council, Chief I.D. Nwogu; Senator Osita Izunaso; Hon Emeka Ihedioha; Imo Speaker, Goodluck Opiah; Chief Chris Asoluka; House of Reps members, Ernest Ibejiako and Juliet Akano; and former Imo State VC, Prof Thomas Ndubuisi.