Widespread jubilation has broken out throughout Imo State and in other parts of Nigeria after officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission officially announced that Rochas Okorocha of the All People’s Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) had defeated incumbent Governor Ikedi Ohakim at the conclusion of a “supplementary election” ordered by the electoral body.
“The people of Imo have liberated themselves from the hands of an autocratic ruler who also happens to be a criminal,” declared a top politician in the state who recently won election to the House of Representatives. “The will of the people has finally prevailed,” said another source, a former aide to Mr. Ohakim.
Those sentiments were echoed by hordes of exultant demonstrators who fanned out on the streets of Owerri, the Imo capital. Many of the demonstrators chanted that Ohakim should leave Government House immediately instead of on May 29 when Mr. Okorocha and other newly elected officials are scheduled to be sworn in.
Mr. Okorocha’s decisive victory showed the determination of the people of Imo to sweep away Mr. Ohakim, a man whose pedigree as a common criminal was well known before he was smuggled into the governorship seat in a deal brokered by former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State and disgraced former chairman of INEC, Maurice Iwu.
“Professor Iwu awarded the Imo governorship to Chief Ohakim in 2007 in exchange for money and the prominent participation of Iwu’s family in the affairs of the state,” said a member of a civil society group based in Owerri. Mr. Ohakim appointed Cosmas Iwu, a brother to the former INEC chair, as secretary to the state government and made Mr. Maurice Iwu’s daughter a top adviser.
Mr. Okorocha had earlier trounced Mr. Ohakim in the main gubernatorial election held on Tuesday April 26 2011. Despite desperate efforts by operatives of the incumbent governor to snatch and stuff ballot boxes, preliminary results from the earlier polls indicated that Mr. Okorocha led with more than 17,000 votes and had secured more than the constitutionally required 25% of votes in two-thirds of the local government areas.
However, several officials of INEC told SaharaReporters that President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo had exerted pressure on the electoral body not to call the election for Mr. Okorocha. Governor Ohakim had presided over the massive inflation of votes for Mr. Jonathan during the presidential election three weeks ago. Several sources revealed that Mr. Jonathan was determined to reward the now defeated governor for overseeing the operations that gave the president inflated figures in Imo. Asked about that, an election monitor in Owerri said she found it curious that “after delivering more than one million votes for President Jonathan, Governor Ohakim could not convince even up to 300,000 voters to support him.”
Bowing to presidential pressure, rogue INEC officials in the state had declared the election inconclusive, clearing the way for what the commission described as “a supplementary election.” President Jonathan appointed Tony Anenih, a former Minister of Works under the Obasanjo presidency, to take charge of delivering the state to Ohakim. Mr. Anenih has a reputation as one of the most versatile election fixers in Nigeria’s history.
“This time, Imo State voters stopped Chief Anenih and his magu-magu [magic],” boasted an Abuja-based lawyer who is from Imo State.
“This whole business of ‘supplementary election’ was part of a scheme by Governor Ohakim and the PDP to explore the possibility of stealing the election,” said a top APGA official in Imo. “But the people of Imo were alert and have now said a big no to Chief Ohakim and the PDP.” The official said many people from Imo were grateful to SaharaReporters for its series of reports highlighting desperate efforts by Mr. Ohakim and his sponsors to thwart the will of the Imo electorate. “I can assure you that the people were ready to go to war if anybody had wangled Chief Ohakim as the winner of this election. There’s no way we would have sat back and allowed this man to raid the state for another four years,” he stated.
Several Imo indigenes, who spoke to us last night and this morning, accused Mr. Ohakim of engaging in systematic and ruthless looting of state funds and called for his immediate investigation and prosecution. “The amount of public funds this man [Ohakim] spent to steal this election could have given the state a huge facelift,” said a member of another civil society group based in Abuja.
In addition to his financial shenanigans, Mr. Ohakim was notorious for acting as a power-drunk demagogue. He once ordered his orderlies to assault a woman on the streets of Lagos after the woman reportedly failed to steer her car out of the way of the governor’s convoy. He sent police officers to arrest one of his critics, Ikenna Samuelson Iwuoha. Mr. Iwuoha was then taken to the governor’s office in Owerri where Mr. Ohakim stripped him naked and personally beat him with a whip made from a horse tail. Last year, Governor Ohakim shocked the nation when he personally assaulted a Catholic priest in the state.
INEC officials indicated that the tallies from yesterday’s election did not include figures from Oguta Local Government Area where the commission was forced to cancel voting as women in the area shut down attempts by INEC to restart an election that had earlier been marred by logistical failure.
Mr. Okorocha clinched the governorship by polling 336,859 as opposed to Mr. Ohakim’s 290,496.