Big masquerades are not those masquerades that win all dance competitions or the ones that win all expeditions, but the masquerade that knows when to keep dancing and when to retire. This masquerade may be compared to a good actor or theatre performer, who knows when to leave the stage- “When the ovation is loudest.” The masquerade who keeps dancing till his audience gets tired of applauding cannot be said to be a good masquerade.
The biggest masquerade in Africa is the Ijele masquerade, and one of its features is that it is usually the last masquerade to enter the arena after all the smaller masquerades must have sweated it out. This means that the big masquerade is not always around, he does not stay on as much as the other smaller masquerades, do. Seeing someone around all the time makes him seem ordinary. Smaller masquerades can be seen everywhere and at all times, even when there is no festival to attend, they turn themselves into minstrels, begging alms from people and running around with children, because outside masquerading, these wearers of the small masquerade have no other means of income, or cannot even do any other thing.
Apart from entertainment, masquerades are also used by the Igbos to wage wars and also scare unfriendly strangers away. When a big masquerade encounters a disturbing or confusing situation, good judgement demands that he retreats in order to bounce back, stronger. Normally, when a big masquerade makes a retreat, the smaller masquerades know that his bouncing back will be eventful. Ohakim is a big masquerade, that is why his retreat from the political field has unsettled the smaller masquerades who sweating it out, trying to show that they are politically relevant. Big masquerades do not struggle to announce their relevance, they radiate relevance..
When the immediate past Governor of Imo State invited some of his friends and supporters to his country home in Okohia, Isiala Mbano LGA of the State for a special lunch session with him, those who are very close to him knew that something was amiss. But very few people could have had the slightest inkling of what the bombshell he wanted to drop was like. Hence, when he eventually dropped it, the large sitting room, where the meeting held went silent for over a minute. Some of us wondered what could have gone wrong, but he gave all the answers anyone needed through his speech and through the official press statement he later gave out to journalists.
No doubt, the way the Nigerian politics has gone in the last one year contributed in no small measure to his decision to temporarily quit politics. From his Party; the Peoples Democratic Party which has been factionalized into two strong and unyielding factions, to the general political atmosphere in the country, which has seen the INEC conducting inconclusive elections with questionable outcomes across the country in the past one year. Politics is like a football match, where INEC is expected to be the unbiased center referee, but when it becomes obvious that the referee is biased against a certain team or some teams, the wisest thing to do is to withdraw and seek ways to survive in such an environment, especially, when there is no election coming up soon.
Some people have suggested that the Governor is not a rugged fighter, for him to have quit in the face of these frustrating circumstances. This is far from the truth. The most respected fighter is that fighter who knows when to throw a punch and when to dodge punches from the opponent. If you keep throwing punches at all times, without withdrawing to duck punches, you would be knocked out without much effort from your opponent.
Through this decision, Dr. Ohakim has also sent a strong message across to the political class that there is life outside politics. There are some people who shamelessly admit that they do not know how to do any other thing outside politics and this is a most unfortunate reality. Politicians who do not believe in having another life outside politics are the most deadly politicians anyone can think of, because it will be like engaging in a fight with someone who believes that his entire life depends on something. They will stop at nothing in ensuring that they get victory, by hook, crook and even through the nooks of the peoples’ bones. For someone who believes that politics is all they can do in life, nothing is too precious to be sacrificed in their bid to get power.
Ohakim has before now shown that he does not believe in the politics of do or die, when as a sitting governor he was ousted out of office in one of the most controversial and unusual circumstances, he did not waste time in putting a call across to his opponent in that election, congratulating him and assuring him that he will not take him through the troubles of unnecessary litigations. He kept to his word. He could not stop his political Party, the PDP, from instituting a case in court against the Independent National Electoral Commission and Governor Okorocha.
Also, after the 2014 governorship primaries of the PDP, Dr. Ohakim, even though felt shortchanged by the Party’s hierarchy and officials of the Party who allegedly connived to manipulate the processes in favor of a particular candidate, he still went ahead to instruct all his followers and supporters to support and vote for the Party in the general elections, this is while some of his fellow governorship candidates had openly defected to the ruling Party, the APC. He was one of the few leaders of the Party who successfully delivered their LGAs to the PDP, against all odds.
Talking about the crisis rocking the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the fact that this crisis seems intractable, the former Governor cannot be accused of abandoning his Party in the lurch, like some people have mischievously suggested. The former Governor till recently was one of those who continued to push for peace and make recommendations for fairness to reign in the Party. However, he also understood that he was dealing with fellow adults, whom he cannot force into something against their will. The two camps within the PDP, remained unyielding. What do you do when two warring factions from the same family refused to listen to elders on the need for peace and unity? You withdraw from them, do other things with your life and if possible look out for other options outside them.
Who is even sure that the key for PDP’s lasting peace does not lie with Ohakim? It is possible that at the time he was in the Party and openly identified with the Sheriff led National Executive of the Party, Party members from the Makarfi group would not trust his genuine intentions. He is freer now as a non-aligned leader to broker peace for the Party. You do not expect Sheriff and his group to pay any heed to peace talks initiated at the instance of a Party NEC, they continuously dismiss as illegal. With Ohakim, it will be easier to bring gladiators from both factions to a round table and both factions would be better assured of his impartiality.
For someone who has spent the better part of the last eight years of his life working and thinking for the people, it will not be a bad idea for him to retreat into himself, take time out to deal with issues of personal interest and spend more time with his family. Who does not know that the Nigerian political setup can be quite draining? However, as a man dedicated to the service of the people, Ohakim is not completely retiring into himself, he has decided to continue serving the people, without the unnecessary distractions of politics and political Party drawbacks. As a Governor, there are few people who will argue against the fact that he pursued the most youth friendly policies by creating jobs for the youths, investing in our educational development and also encouraging entrepreneurship among the youths. His successor, Governor Rochas Okorocha may have done better in engaging more youths in his government, through political appointments, but no one competes with Ohakim in the area of human capital development especially targeting the youths. There are thousands of Imo youths who are today, respectable captains in the cooperate world through as a fallout of their participation in the Imo Finishing School program set up by the Ohakim administration.
This time around, he is set to teach people that one must not always be in power in order to assist the youths or contribute to youth development initiatives. Since he left power, he has continued to render assistance to youths through mentorship programs and leadership training initiatives he has put his weight behind.
The Clean and Green African Foundation is a pet which he has been pushing forward since after leaving office. He intends to devote more time to the project, especially at this time when the effects of climate change threaten to wipe humanity off the surface of the earth. Through this Foundation and in partnership with notable international organizations, the former Governor hopes to be able to contribute immensely to salvaging the environment, through investment in massive education of the populace against habits and actions that are inimical to the sustenance of a healthy environment, and mobilizing the people to take actions against such environmentally harmful practices.
The former Governor also appreciates the importance of involving the youths in the running of government, but he also know that bringing in untrained youths into politics is a bigger disaster than not bringing them in at all. This is why the former Governor has set plans in motion to train as many youths as possible in the serious business of leadership and public administration. One of the biggest problems that the Nigerian nation is suffering from is not corruption, but the dearth of prepared leadership. People jump into leadership positions without having got the necessary trainings on leadership, hence, most of them, even though they might have the best intentions, end up being confused, because they were not trained for the job. This will be taken care of, even if not completely, but to a good extent with the Ohakim leadership development training for Imo nay Nigerian youths.
The former governor will certainly return to the political field, but I do not know when. But like the big masquerade that he is, he will certainly bounce back stronger and better.