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The Rot In Imo State: PDP National Leadership Needs To Organise The State's Governorship Primaries

December 13, 2010

This is a clarion call from an impartial observer to all lovers of humanity. The hapless inhabitants of Imo state need your help to raise the siege on the state. An aberrant political phenomenon is at the root of the siege.

This is a clarion call from an impartial observer to all lovers of humanity. The hapless inhabitants of Imo state need your help to raise the siege on the state. An aberrant political phenomenon is at the root of the siege.

In the last three years, the people of the state have been weeping and groaning, they have been petitioning authorities and organisations for help; a lot of their leaders or kit and kin have either been murdered, kidnapped for ransom or still rest captive with kidnappers. Infrastructural development has eluded the state all these years. The topmost political leadership in the state has been riding roughshod over the people. Today, it can be suicidal or risking one's kin, or all that one has acquired in one's lifetime to dare to openly oppose Governor Ikedi Ohakim and his dirty politics in the state. Note: it's not enough to retort: Imo people should use their votes to salvage themselves in the forthcoming elections: Why? The intricate web of official deception long weaved to undermine the people is overwhelming them. It needs concerted efforts from within and outside the state to dismantle the web.
The crux of this appeal is that the PDP national leadership must not be hoodwinked into allowing Governor Ikedi Ohakim to single-handedly impose himself on Imo people for a second-term through the governor's horror-vending New Face Organisation. Beginning with the party's primaries, Imo people must be given the liberty to elect who leads them.  

I am not an apologist of military leadership, but must point out one fact: during the days of Nigeria's military governments, an erring or popularly unacceptable state governor or administrator could be reassigned to another engagement by the reigning junta's Chief of Staff; but from today's constitution, impeachment by the state House of Assembly remains the most feasible avenue to remove an erring state governor. However, all it takes a kleptomaniac state governor of today to continue with his impunity is mere transformation of the legislative arm of the state government to a mere appendage of the state executive arm. A governor can do this through financial or material inducements to a gullible leadership of his state's House of Assembly. And which state Assembly in today's Nigeria can contemplate the impeachment of its erring state governor?

It is not part of this appeal to render details of the plunder of Imo state's treasury and near-total arrest of the state's development by the Ikedi Ohakim administration. Volumes regarding that had been tabled before the relevant offices. So far, Governor Ohakim is constitutionally protected from prosecution by the much-abused immunity clause in the 1999 constitution.
But what today irks lovers of democracy is the extent to which Governor Ikedi Ohakim has used every apparatus of government to enthrone absolute dictatorship in his state.
In Imo state, you can risk from anything to everything when you are not in support of Ohakim's thuggery-infested New Face Organisation. It does not matter to which political party you belong.

Governor Ohakim denies the requests of other governorship aspirants of the PDP in Imo state the use of venues in the state capital to organise their activities. Any association Ohakim deems threatening to his second-term ambition is hardly allowed to congregate its members in the state. A short while ago, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), was denied use of Grass Hopper International Stadium, Owerri, for its state congress; but the party insisted it must bulldoze its way to the venue on the requested date.

In an unfettered gubernatorial election in 2011, Governor Ohakim cannot win any credible opponent, including any from even the least organised political party in Imo state. This is behind the governor's resort to violent suppression of every governorship aspirant in the state irrespective of the candidate's political leaning. In Governor Ohakim's New Face Organisation (which seems to have been mistaken by some observers for Imo state chapter of PDP), there is no single challenger to Ohakim in its forthcoming governorship primaries.

There is no doubt the PDP as a party has a very large number of committed followers in Imo state, but Governor Ikedi Ohakim's New Face Organisation has just a tiny proportion of this number, including two notable self-serving politicians well-known in the state for lacking political scruple and followers, but for a price are ever ready to support whoever is occupying Government House, Owerri. And there is no indication that the vast majority of the party's followers which resides outside Ohakim's New Face Organisation can at any time buy into Governor Ohakim's re-election bid under any circumstance.

Therefore, well-meaning Nigerians need to let the national leadership of PDP realise that:
(1)     in the forthcoming PDP governorship primaries in Imo state, Governor Ohakim must not be made to hide under his tiny New Face Organisation to single-handedly throw  himself up as the PDP flag bearer for the 2011 governorship election in the state;
(2)     if Ohakim through such a manner of non-representative democracy manipulates his way and gets accepted by the PDP national leadership as the party's flag-bearer for the 2011gubernatorial elections in Imo state, the resultant damages on the fabrics of Imo state and its people, as well as on representative democracy in Nigeria, may be regrettable for all thereafter.

Through his New Face Organisation, Governor Ohakim has divided the PDP in the state, enthroned enmity among its members, and used massive force (legally accessible to him only) to successfully select local government officers and the state's PDP executive who are expected to give him the New Face Organisation's re-election  ticket in guise of PDP's ticket with no hassles. How else are dictators made?

To sustain this plot, Governor Ohakim is banking on what he believes is a quid pro quo arrangement with President Jonathan's campaign team in the forthcoming primaries of the PDP; that is, PDP's ticket for Ohakim's re-election, and Imo state official delegates' votes for President Goodluck Jonathan. For now, the governor is basking on the euphoria that this arrangement must leave his New Face Organisation unhindered in PDP's choice for who bears the party's ticket in the forthcoming governorship election. As part of the high-spin machinery in use over the last three-and-half years to deceive even the most discerning by Ohakim and Co., hear Ohakim's spokesman, Rex Anunobi, speak recently to a visiting Jonathan/Sambo campaign team: 'Imo state is totally for Jonathan through Ohakim.' As if without Ohakim, Imo state cannot be for Jonathan. But the truth is: most of Imo state may be for Jonathan, but not through Ohakim.

At this juncture, PDP national leadership is called upon to declare IMO A SPECIAL STATE in its conduct of the party's forthcoming primaries. The national leadership of the party needs to choose from among Imo PDP members (including those in Ohakim's New Face Organisation) the delegates to elect the party's flag bearer in the forthcoming governorship election in the state. It needs to take urgent steps to do this before the candidacy of its flag-bearer in the state becomes a subject of litigations in the law court. Allowing Ohakim to through his organisation impose himself as PDP flag-bearer in Imo state's gubernatorial election in 2011 is an affront to representative democracy. Above all, the PDP cannot afford to be seen as having one of its roots in a rogue organisation. New Face Organisation is not the same thing as Imo state chapter of the PDP.
In any real democracy, the leadership of any political party in concert with concerned members at any level reserves the right to endorse who represents the party at such level in elective contests. At wherever level the party's interests are threatened by underlying man-made dangers, the national leadership of the party unquestionably remains the final arbiter on the way forward for the party regarding the threat. No single individual in the party can be above the party, or act contrary to any decision of the party's national leadership.
What is democracy when individuals and other political associations are denied means of expression through the use of violent means by an incumbent governor of a state? However, it is heart warming to realise that this phenomenon of absolute dictatorship by a state governor hardly exists in any other state in Nigeria. 

Nnanna Onyeso

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