IMO ELECTORATE AND ITS EXPECTATIONS
“…I want to remind Imo people that we fought an election, not a war. As a lover of peace, I called for calm and rejected violence… The process of healing must begin now. Every leader who loves this State must help heal the scars of the election. I appeal to all those who have issues with the election…to consider sheathing their sword. I have decided not to challenge the election in court. It is not my wish that my successor in office should suffer the distractions that were my lot for four years. Imo is bigger than all of us.”—Gov. Ikedi Ohakim
The above excerpts aptly captured the essence of democracy and its principles, as well as demonstrated political maturity. Still, they not only ushered in an era that ensures that the will of the people remained solemn and unchallenged (challenge often aided by the judiciary), but marked the beginning of a true manifestation of the ballot as an instrument of power for the electorate.
Without going into the postmortem of the election, which would call for a sober reflection, the excerpts ideally illuminated the utter respect for the will of people who demonstrated their awesome sophistication in their knowledge of issues. The other day, I was discussing with a colleague about the level of sophistication the Nigerian electorate, particularly the Imo voters, exhibited in this past election cycle. Interestingly, not only those voters, at every age and professional level, were very much aware of the issues, but also they were actively involved in the process—they campaigned for their respective candidates with unmitigated prowess. We agreed that the level of awareness of voters were unprecedented, which was a sign of electoral improvement in Nigeria. However, we affirmed that some low information voters were terribly exploited; in some cases, pulpits were used to augment the exploitation. Thus, the electorate became saturated with coded information creating a toxic political environment where truth and facts became secondary as emotions were continuously exploited. Nevertheless, the Imo voters were convinced by a candidate and they adamantly exercised their power—responding with their ballot—thanks to Prof. Attahiru Jega for ensuring that votes were counted.
It is important to note, however, that when coded information and emotional argument took over the body polity in Imo State, the outcome of the gubernatorial election became virtually predictable. Winnowing the din with substantive argument or message to make a dint on the electorate became impossible. Invariably, what may have seemed to be a groundswell of angst against Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, particularly in the press and new media, was a ferocious concocted despair aimed at influencing public opinion and consequently scuttle the governor’s re-election bid did work. Obviously, Ohakim was defined by the unsavory-tinged political commentaries that he never recovered from. It is obvious that numerous wrought politicians and their agents will now be clamoring for attentions as they did during the previous administration claiming their respective parts in Okorocha’s victory. Indeed, the importunate drumbeat to oust Gov. Ohakim had its origin from those politicians who were denied of the status of “godfather”, but resorted to smearing the former governor with alarming innuendos. The brouhaha reminded me of what Albert Einstein once said, "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from weak minds." Nevertheless, time would eventually vindicate the downtrodden. Well, if the same characters are allowed to come and dictate the policies in the present administration, I am afraid the Imo electorate will be left in the heat to sweat it out alone. Thus, Imo citizens would only be dreaming of elusive promises never meant to be kept.
In any case, as I was surreptitiously making mental notes on what my first piece would be post-Imo gubernatorial election, I invoked the muse on the political capital associated with governorship election victory. It is ineluctably true that with the outcome of the governorship election in Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha garnered a huge political capital to dispense after coaxing and broaching the expectations of the Imo electorate.
Billowing in a cloud of confidence reposed in him by Imo voters, Governor Okorocha must now expend his political capital by focusing on governing in order not to fail his fellow citizens; he must harness and expend his political capital to effect change that the common man can feel and touch. The Imo electorate will be watching; their hopes and expectations had been raised and many promises were made during the campaign. There is a considerable expectation of Imo electorate that Governor Okorocha will achieve something big and very soon. At least that was the impression created during the campaign. Soon, disappointment would vividly highlight the difficulties in translating campaign ideals into governing realities. The first 100 days (May 29 – September 6) evaluation of the new governor would be harshly criticized if fifty percent of the promises are not kept or implemented.
For sure there will be no orchestrated efforts to dehumanize Gov. Okorocha with obvious asinine commentaries to blame him for institutions long fraught with fraud. So, his management of his political capital to achieve dividends of democracy for the Imolites would be entirely his making. His success would be overwhelmingly greeted by the heroes, the Imo voters, who would feel a sense of exoneration for heaping Rochas Okorocha with a resounding electoral victory. Also, there was seemingly latent euphoria among Imolites in the Diaspora from all zonal stripes for the election of Owelle Rochas Okorocha. The phenomenal elation could be ephemeral if results did not come sooner.
Idyllically, all well-meaning citizens of Imo State should join hands in building the state. Though the success of Imo State lies in our collective hands, but Gov. Okorocha must do the following to create an enabling environment: unite Imo citizens, provide security, ensure law and order, control activities of thugs, deliver on his promises, and never dump APGA for PDP. Above all, Gov. Okorocha should not be seen as being overambitious or overzealous in his activities; he should surround himself with capable and qualified individuals that would proffer unadulterated advice.
Acho Orabuchi, Ph.D. is an Opinion Writer/Commentator and Educator in Dallas, Texas USA, who has a knack for politics.