May I humbly apologize for keeping away from the public space for quite some time? You can be sure it’s for good causes. What could be more engaging than the close observation of the epic gubernatorial drama in my dear Imo State?

During the just concluded guber election in the state, the state governor who has established a reputation for himself as a word smith, caused to be added to his credentials after the “Nshikology” thesis another political philosophy called “Ikirism “being an act of holding tight to  political power till death do them part. He officially adopted the name “Ikiri” a noun derived from politics of Ikirism in replacement of his well-advertised title of “Ochinanwata” which bad belles in the State changed to Ochikanwata. I believe some interpretations will suffice here for the benefit of non-Igbos. First, Ikiri is the name of a bush animal that holds tight to whatever it touches and will never let go even at the point of death. Ochinawata on the other hand is he who rules as a young person while Ochikanwata is he who rules like a child. I believe with these simple explanations, you will flow with the real story of the making of Ikiri.

He invented the philosophy at a political rally in Ahiazu Mbaise in Imo State. There, he reportedly boasted in the middle of his campaign speech that he was Ikiri and that none of his other 19 opponents in the gubernatorial election in Imo is capable of taking power away from him. He was so sure of his hold on power that he requested his distinguished audience to call him and sing with the name while he dances. He danced so much to the music of Ikiri in subsequent campaigns that Imo people agreed to practically replace his real names with Ikiri.

No doubts Ikirism must have driven real fear in the minds of his opponents that most of them started losing steam and traction in their campaigns. The most affected of all the political opponents is Senator Godwin Ifeanyi Ararume of Action Congress of Nigeria who at the beginning of the campaigns has shown real promise such that pundits predicted that the race to Douglas House is a straight fight between him and his kinsman then Gov. Ohakim better known as Ikiri. Everyone was wondering how to contain the marauding Ikiri when Owelle Rochas Okorocha the candidate of APGA suddenly stumbled into a natural solution to contain Ikiri. At the same venue in Ahiara in Ahiazu Mbaise where Ikirism was declared as a new political philosophy, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, a colourful politician who ran a populist and entertaining campaign announced that he had discovered the antidote to Ikiri’s hold tight syndrome. The elated crowd cheered endlessly when he informed them that a simple process of flashing light directly in the eyes of Ikiri is enough to have it loose grip of anything it is holding no matter how tight. Ahiara has come to symbolize the venue for very important historical pronouncements. The famous Ojukwu’s Ahiara declaration of the civil war of “In Aburi we stand” is a ready reference of the potency of declarations made at this town better known as the town that gave Nigerians the famous “Nkwobi” delicacy.

The above scenario may appear incredible to the reader but in truth that was the nature of politics that drove Imo to the cliffhanger. The politics of Imo has always been politics of ideas. Imo as a state is slightly different from most Igbo states. It is different because whereas most Igbo states are enterprising in commerce and the trades, most people from Imo are mainly teachers, civil servants, artisans, petty traders and subsistence farmers. There non mercantile nature seem to have afforded them sufficient time to analyze political issues better than their other Igbo neighbors who careless about politics. Politics to them is a huge distraction to their businesses. It is common to see a huge crowd of artisans and “keke drivers” in vendors’ corners every morning arguing and propounding political theories that may confound a professor of political science. In Imo, It is very easy to brand a politician and once branded, it is foolhardy to attempt re-branding. This fact is usually lost on many politicians from the state. They erroneously believe that with money, one can buy anything including the soul of voters but the Imo story has put an eloquent lie to this unfounded myth. I will expatiate.

Prior to April 2011 election, the then Gov. Ohakim couldn’t be bothered about the electorates whom he perceived as poor, un-informed and primitive. He walked with a certain swagger that bellies President Bush’s Texan walk. He openly boasted to whosoever cares to listen that he has un-restricted access to the President’s bedroom. He asserts that he has chased away all the PDP bigwigs from the party and has seized the structure of the super party hence victory was only a shouting distance away. He had all sizes and colours of billboards all over the length and breadth of the state, all proclaiming super high ways he has built in just four years. Trouble was, when electorates look at the fine billboards and the roads claimed, they seem quite incapable to reconcile what they are seeing on billboards with what is on ground. The Imo electorates labored under the weight of these apparent deceits and prayed fervently that Jonathan and Jega should live up to their promise of one-man, one-vote. By February of 2011, Jonathan, a sitting President with awesome powers at his disposal had toured the entire country round selling himself and his party programs. At this time, Ikiri’s campaign posters were nowhere to be found in Imo. This made some electorates wonder if he was still in the race or knew something they don’t know.

The only logical reason one can deduct from his obvious arrogance was his candid believe in incumbency factor, which literarily translates to bribing the electorates, the electoral officials and godfathers. It also includes compromising the law enforcement officials to supervise obvious electoral frauds at various levels of the election. Suffice to say that all these were employed in large doses to no avail in subsisting elections in Imo.

Ikiri did not start taking the electorates seriously until after the botched 2nd April election where his party did so badly in some of the booths that had gone ahead to cast their votes before the heard of the cancellation. This made him raise the bar and broke the banks just to show a good outing in the first 9th National Assembly election. When he saw that, his party carried the day in the said election, he added a little more inch in his modest height and developed a new swagger of self-delusion. The Presidential election of 16th when the entire South voted massively for President Jonathan made him become ‘ikirically’ giddy. He declared in a National television that he had lived up to his promise to deliver more than 95% of the Imo votes to Mr. President. He further informed his audience that he was not merely a media creation. He assured them that he was on ground and that his re-election was just a matter of fact. While Nigerians, a people that love drama took more than a passing interest in the unfolding soap opera in Imo, each boast seem to energize the Imo electorates to do the right thing: vote out the boastful nightmare called Ikiri and defend the votes with everything they’ve got.

It was a fitting unpleasant departure gift to Ikiri therefore when the early results of the 26th April gubernatorial elections started coming in and showed clearly that Ikiri was losing miserably at the polls. For a guy who had boasted about structure and land slide victory after casting his vote at his Okohia, Isiala Mbano country home, it was a rude shock that needed a quick therapy. One must commend or condemn the efficacy of some of his trusted foot soldiers. What they could not do at the polling booths, they achieved at the collation centres.  A cursory look at the detailed results of the local Governments where he won would easily reveal that selected ward results were desperately altered to achieve determined ends. In Okigwe zone where APGA had hoped that ACN would serve as alternative watchdog, and decided not to send strong Party Agents, Ikiri’s men compromised the other party Agents and used security officials to flog and force out stubborn Agents of the opposing parties who refused to succumb to the dirty lucre.

It took the sheer intervention of domestic/foreign observers who witnessed the carnage that passed for election in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta to stop already written results, which had clearly given Ikiri victory from being submitted. The drama of 26 April Guber race in Imo developed a twist when a grown adult from Federal University of Technology Owerri who served as the Returning Officer from Mbaitolu claimed he could no longer see results already collated, signed by the Party Agents and already announced at the INEC offices at the local Government Area. Earlier that day, the people of Ngor/Okpala local government Area and Oji Ward had stoutly rejected to vote with incomplete materials as they suspected foul play. They stood their ground in spite of intimidation and coercion from the police and some military officials. The anti climax was when the gubernatorial returning officer refused to announce the result referring to it as inconclusive. He was indeed a sorry sight as he struggled before live television cameras to explain to the viewing public why an otherwise transparent l electoral process should become a thriller movie.

The “supplementary” election ordered by INEC is akin to the famous ‘doctrine of necessity ‘during the late President Musa Yar’Adua impasse. INEC who was bent on not allowing Imo gubernatorial election paint her with black tar, decided to carry out a combination of rescue measures including the suspension of the State’s Registered Electoral Commissioner {REC}. Four Federal Electoral Commissioners and four Resident electoral commissioners were deployed to Imo to organize the supplementary election in four local Governments and a ward. The pitiable thing is that Ikiri did not understand the import of this as he still put measures to subvert the process. He failed to understand that the entire World’s attention had been directed to Imo and therefore little room was left for manipulation. For instance, the speaker of the Imo House of Assembly, Chief Opia who was highly dreaded as the Kingpin of rigging in previous elections in the Ohaji/Egbema local government was simply escorted by soldiers {drawn from ‘82’ division Enugu to replace their complacent or perhaps compromised colleagues at Obinze} to his polling unit to vote and escorted back to his house in compliance with the electoral law. That exercise caused him his coveted Speaker seat at the Imo house of assembly, underlining his un-popularity in his own domain.

I have no doubts that Ikiri who loves looking at his own pictures would have done things differently had he known that peoples’ votes would count.

The tragic thing about that election was that immediately the returning officer announced the results and pronounced “Owelle Rochas Okorocha winner, Ikiri lost all his legacy projects in the State to over excited youths who saw to it that all the Bill Boards and his photos were torn into shreds. Then followed by the text message below: “With gratitude to almighty God for a tenure terribly spent, we regret to announce the sudden National disgrace of our dear political Maradonna…Chief, Sir, Dr. Ikiri Imo { Ochi ka Nwata}. Till his sudden disgrace, he was survived By: Oguta wonder lake – Billboard, Oak Refinery Ohaji- Billboard, Nworie River Resort – Magazine, Owerri Ring Road _ Billboard, 10,000 jobs for Imolites – Newspaper, 300 Roads in 30 days – Signboard, Imo Cargo Airport –TV Advert, Okigwe International Stadium –Billboard, Imo twin Towers – Newspaper and a host of other relations….please attach your tribute for publication”. The spontaneous joy, laughter and celebration I saw in Imo on Saturday after the result was announced is unprecedented in the history of the State. The hate emails that followed can only be compared to when Abacha died in 1998. The challenge for the new Governor is to find creative ways to sustain that joy, laughter and celebration. Whereas others are still in celebration mood, I have gone back into my quiet corner thinking and praying that the new Governor gets it right because Imolites have proven that they have capacity to Love and hate just in equal measures. I salute the courage, tenacity and “ Can Do Attitude of Ndi-Imo!.

Chike Orjiako,
08032030557{Text only}
[email protected]

 

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