We do not intend to create the platform whereby the aides or supporters of the two former governors of Imo State, their excellencies, Chief Achike Udenwa and Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, would stand on and lampoon themselves, but having read an interview on the Nigerian Horn newspaper of Wednesday, April 19, 2019, by the former Executive Chairman of Orlu Local Government Area, former member of the House of Representatives and Udenwa’s Man Friday, Hon Chukwudi Mayor Eze, where he made unfounded claims, particularly that outside God, it was Udenwa who made Ohakim Governor in 2007, it became very clear that there is need to set the records straight.
Given that it is public knowledge that Udenwa and Ohakim have been in a war of words, which was orchestrated by Udenwa himself when he launched an unprovoked media attack on his successor, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, and Ohakim decided to clarify issues by granting an interview, we thought that the two foremost leaders in the state could sort out their issues at their level. We decided it was unnecessary for us to join the fray, especially for the fact that we have been under strict instructions from Ohakim never to disparage any leader, particular a former governor. He has always told us about a kind of relationship between former governors, especially between successors and their predecessors.
It was therefore obvious that when Hon Mayor Eze joined the fray and began to make baseless claims, he was delving into a subject in which he did not have the requisite depth. He was not part of the critical process that brought Ohakim in as Governor. It was no surprise that he rehashed what his boss and mentor, Chief Achike Udenwa, had reeled out to him. It was equally not surprising that Hon Mayor Eze spoke the way he did. As a major beneficiary of the Udenwa administration and a core supporter of the former Governor, it is taken for granted that he would sing Udenwa’s praise any time. He can even take the bullet for him. Under Udenwa’s magnanimity he became the Executive Chairman of Orlu Local Government for a privileged two terms. During that time he also became the Chairman of ALGON in the state. He went to the House of Reps and attempted a return to the House in 2011 but it did not work out. When he therefore posited in his interview that second term for public office holders is earned based on performance and popularity, one takes the question to him – whether it was poor performance or unpopularity that denied him a return to the House of Reps.
Anyone who has read the interview by Ohakim would notice that Mayor, also known as Ikenga Orlu, did not address the six major issues Ohakim had raised. It was glaring how he uncharacteristically prevaricated sensitive issues by constantly and jocularly asking his interviewer to switch topic. Ohakim had said in his interview that despite the claim of being a Chartered Accountant, Udenwa was not able to produce audited accounts of the state for the eight years he was Governor. Something as simple as audited accounts! This leadership ineptitude on the part of Udenwa inadvertently affected Ohakim’s speed in taking off, in assessing fund from the capital market. This invariably goes to prove that Udenwa should be blamed for not handing over the correct baton to his successor. This has nothing to do with who, outside God, made who Governor, a beer parlour cliche to defend Udenwa’s unwarranted attack on his successor who has been covering up for him since2007.
Apparently because he did not know, Mayor did not provide any answers to the question but rather diverted attention to how Udenwa was ‘transparent’. But juxtaposed against the background of the revelation that Udenwa did not produce audited accounts of the state for the eight years he was governor, the claim of sainthood, particularly on accountability, on the part of Udenwa comes out clearer as cheap lie.
Again having failed to provide answers to the revelation that Udenwa and two other leaders in the state, in his home in Amaifeke, entered into a well crafted agreement with Okorocha in 2011, which paved the way for Okorocha’s emergence as Governor of the state, one did not need further conviction that he did not know most of the things that transpired. Interestingly, some of those who signed the agreement had gone to court and swore to affidavit on the said agreement and other behind the scenes events that took place in their bid to dislodge Ohakim from Government House. It is curious that Udenwa and his group now vehemently deny bringing Okorocha in as Governor but prefer to claim that Udenwa brought Ohakim, the same man they said was a failure in government.
The Igbo say that when someone who was absent when a corpse was being buried is asked to exhume it, he would start digging from the position of the head. This accounts for the doublespeak in Mayor’s claims. Whereas he rigmaroled on the issue of 70% cabinet nomination by Udenwa, he nevertheless admitted that Udenwa gave Ohakimn Dr. Vincent Udokwu, who he described as Ohakim’s best commissioner. Does Mayor know that Udenwa did not leave a dime in the coffers of the state; rather he left a huge debt profile ? When asked by the interviewer to comment on the revelation that Udenwa said that the government house was not a savings account, he did not know whether to agree or disagree.
Caught in this dilemma, his safest route was to evade the issue and rather wondered satirically why Ohakim lost reelection in 2011 since he left billions of Naira for his successor. Imo people know that what stopped Ohakim in 2011 was the gang-up against his government by some members of the elite class led by Udenwa. Can Ndi Imo forget the reported arrest and detention in a hotel in Onitsha, of the then INEC Returning Officer for Ohaji/Egbema LGA, Ngozi Nwoko with 28,000 PDP result. The Ngozi Nwoko is now a traditional ruler and his statement is a public document.
A careful reading of Mayor’s interview would reveal one objective, which was to drop the claim that Udenwa made Ohakim governor in 2007. Having said this he became short of words to explain how, and rather begged that the issue be changed. As far as he was concerned, Udenwa was popular, and being an incumbent he could ride on the strength of his fabled popularity and incumbency nuances to decree a successor. He forgot that as incumbent Governor, Okorocha failed to install a successor, despite his claim of being popular. Was Udenwa a more popular Governor than Okorocha?
Those who followed the Udenwa era know how that government was bugged down by insecurity, unemployment, poor economy, unpaid pensions and gratuity of councillors and civil servants running into billions, widespread poverty, political assassination and high political rivalry. The political rivalry that showed up early in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after Udenwa was given the governorship by the elders of the state is a testimony to how he could not manage people. That crisis lingered, and we hope it will be permanently resolved by the emergence of Governor-Elect Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
Udenwa was grossly incompetent and unpopular in the PDP, let alone in the state at large, where demonstrations – even ones considered diabolical – were rife. It was under Udenwa that a serving Senator in Orlu Zone faced stiff opposition, to the point that he faced a failed recall process. Under Udenwa people from Orlu Zone protested with mock coffins of their opponents and conducted mock burials for them. With that kind of situation Udenwa could not have been loved by the people of Orlu Zone at least. If Udenwa was loved, how come he did not win his Senate bid on two consecutive times, knowing full well that he was running to be the Senator of his own zone, with 12 local governments only? Udenwa left the PDP in 2010 and joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) where he was the leader. He ran for the Senate seat on the ACN platform. It is on the record that not only did he fail to go to the Senate, his party under his leadership failed woefully in the state.
The performance of the PDP in Orlu Zone over the years points to the fact that Udenwa has never been loved by his own people. The Action Alliance (AA) that sprung as alternative party for Governor Okorocha and his group few months to the governorship election had the day in Udenwa’s local government and the entire zone, except Oguta Local Government, where the firebrand politician and a chip of the Nzeribe bloc, Hon Gerald Irona, the Deputy Governor-Elect, comes from. The takeaway from this onslaught by the AA in Orlu Zone is that the people of the area are not happy with Udenwa. This height of dislike is explained by Ohakim when he said that “For eight years [Udenwa] was in office, he could not articulate a concrete program of action for even his Orlu zone, including a master plan which would have, in any case, benefited the entire state, because if he had started something in Orlu, by now we would have a second big city in the state apart from Owerri”.
If anyone was in doubt of anything about Udenwa it was definitely not about the N4.5bn unpaid pension and gratuity and N6.8bn owed the councilors and chairmen that worked with him. And if anyone was in doubt of what Ohakim achieved as Governor, it was not about whether Ohakim cleared those debts in his bid to rejig the battered economy. Yes, rejig the battered economy under Udenwa for which Ohakim never made any noice. Be that as it may, Ohakim’s revelation that Udenwa led the onslaught of petitions, blackmail, propaganda and gang-up against him has not been challenged. Ohakim stated in his interview that “The petition Udenwa and co wrote to EFCC over the Wonder Lake project destabilized that project. It could not proceed as scheduled because the petition was widely circulated among international investors and so they became scared.”
Also, Ohakim’s claim that “the idea of the Oguta Wonder Lake project started during Udenwa’s time” has not been challenged. He said the project was “recommended by the transition committee Udenwa set up himself but rather than pursue it, he leased the Oguta Lake Motel out for pecuniary reasons. We had to retrieve the Motel and expanded the scope of the project to a multibillion dollar Wonder Lake complex”. This incontrovertible revelation about the Oguta Wonder Lake project brings to the fore the motive Udenwa led the onslaught against those projects located in his Orlu Zone.
However, the answer to the question of whether or not Udenwa made Ohakim Governor in 2011 still hangs on Mayor’s lips. But let me offer some help: Udenwa did not make Ohakim Governor in 2007. Granted that the circumstances that brought Ohakim in as Governor in 2007 were clearly beyond Udenwa, even with his incumbency powers, everyone in Nigeria then knew that Ohakim was forced on him. In that circumstance, he had no choice. It was also in keeping with the circumstance of his emergence that some conditionalities were taken to “protect” him.
Part of Udenwa’s helplessness was his inability to clearly map out a succession plan. He was caught up between Rt. Hon. Ike Ibe, a refined gentleman from Okigwe Zone, and others. In this confusion he was forced to settle for Engineer Charles Ugwu who was later removed by the court. Given that his wobbling succession cart had crashed, he moved to support the APGA candidate in the election. This, too, did not succeed because of other forces that weighed his hands down. This was why during a PDP rally in 2009 at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, former President Olusegun Obsanjo told the people of Imo State that Ohakim was “the promise made, promise fulfilled”.
Ohakim’s emergence as Governor was not entirely made in heaven. There are certainly persons who should get the credit for contributing to the emergence of Ikedi Ohakim. Many others contributed to also making Udenwa Governor – or did he make himself Governor? Talking about who Udenwa foisted on Imo as Governor, that person should be Okorocha not Ohakim. Udenwa did not have a choice in the circumstance. Ohakim was a governorship aspirant in PDP when Udenwa was Governor. He did not give him any support whatsoever. Ohakim went to the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and picked the guber ticket without Udenwa’s assistance. Udenwa supported another person instead in the PDP. Even up to the first governorship election, Udenwa had another person up his sleeve and not Ohakim. How did he now become the maker of Ohakim as Governor?
But, for being a sitting Governor of the PDP, those who made Ohakim Governor had to broker a soft landing for Udenwa. It was therefore in protecting his interests that certain conditions were taken, including the nominations he made into the Ikedi Ohakim cabinet, which were not in any way a show of gratitude.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that the ongoing debate between Chief Udenwa and Dr. Ohakim is not about who made whom. Let us even assume, without conceding, that Udenwa made Ohakim; is it enough reason for Udenwa to descend so low to abuse his successor without provocation? Is it not intellectually childish to ignore the critical issues Ohakim raised and begin to talk about who made whom and who is popular and who is not? Imo people expect former Governor Achike Udenwa to address the issues Ohakim raised. Let no one divert Imo people’s attention from the critical issues raised in Ohakim’s interview in defence of himself and his administration.
*Collins Ughalaa could be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or via telephone:07066222944.*