Imo 2011 Governorship Election: The Lamentations of Ethelbert Okere – By John I. Mgbe

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This viewpoint is actuated by the comments made in a book written by Dr Ethelbert Okere, one of the media aides to the former Governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim. In the book entitled “Democracy BY Military Tank-The untold story of Imo 2011” which was recently presented to the public, the author made wide ranging allegations of election rigging and related acts of misconduct against the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Police Force and the Catholic Church in Owerri Archdiocese during the governorship elections in Imo State in 2011.The bottom line of the book is that these powerful institutions worked in cahoots with the Governorship candidate of APGA,Owelle Rochas Okorocha, in order to sack  Chief Ohakim from power. I am uncomfortable that in spite of the wide ranging attacks made on these powerful institutions on issues bordering on election rigging by the security agencies (Army and Police), these institutions have remained mum. Is this a case of silence is acquiescence or is it on the grounds that the affected institutions are too busy to notice what is happening in the larger society.

In fact to put it in context, what the author of the book said is that a palace coup took place in Imo State during the 2011 Governorship election in Imo State. In normal societies, this revelation would have caused pandemonium and disquiet. Unfortunately, we are in a political enclave that is populated by a citizenry that has lost a sense of shock, a generation of Homo sapiens with a seared conscience. Or how else do you rationalize a situation where all the accused institutions have maintained sealed lips in the face of such overwhelming indictment in the book. In order to clear any modicum of ambiguity, I wish to emphasize that the institutions that were accused in that damning report include the Catholic Church, the Imo State Government, The Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force. I do not know why the affected institutions have decided to treat such a weighty issue with levity and in a perfunctory manner. In normal climes, they would have issued pertinent clarifications in order to debunk the story in order to restore their integrity in the eyes of the populace.


My concern in all this is that I happened to belong to the Change Regime Advocacy Group which started sensitizing and conscientizing the electorate on the need to vote PDP out of power in the 2011 governorship election. We started work long before Owelle Okorocha indicated an interest to vie for the governorship. We did not know that Owelle Okorocha would ever show interest in the governorship race of 2011. However, when he eventually declared an interest to join the race in November, 2010, we threw our weight behind him on the grounds that he was the only candidate who appeared to have the guts and stamina to tame Chief Ikedi Ohakim’s impunity and impetuosity. In the election which held on April, 26th and May 6th, 2011, the electorate trooped out enmasse to vote their conscience in what was, in our opinion, the freest and fairest election ever conducted in IMO State since Dee Sam Mbakwe left office.DEE Sam Mbakwe, P.HD, was the Governor of Old Imo State from 1st October 1979 to 31st December, 1983.So, I am strongly convinced that the electorate voted massively for APGA candidate, Owelle Okorocha. So, in view of the efforts we took to effect a change of government through the ballot box, it rankles to read from the aforementioned book that it was the members of the security agencies that facilitated Governor Okorocha’s victory. It is provocative that in spite of the weight and vehemence of the accusation, the affected persons have abysmally failed to put the records straight, at least for the sake of posterity.

It was Ohakim’s disdain and contempt to people’s sensitivities that culminated in his ignoble fall from power. Ohakim was a classic case of the Biblical David who God transformed from a shepherd to a King. But while the Biblical David managed his success well by praising, clapping and dancing for God even in the bush while his sheep watched with interest, Ikedi Ohakim was unable to manage his success. He squandered the opportunities which God gave him to become Governor as he was consumed by pride, arrogance and megalomania. God is a jealous God hence He mobilized the masses to chase him out from power. It was God that mobilized the masses that fought for Owelle Rochas Okorocha to become Governor. Most of us who put our lives and professional skill of writing in actualizing the struggle for Regime Change were acting under divine influence; after all, we did not know that Owelle Rochas Okorocha would join the governorship race after several efforts at clinching ASO ROCK. That is the way God works. Long before Owelle Rochas declared an interest for the governorship, the masses had prepared the way for him. In the Book of Ezekiel 36, God said:”I am acting not for your sake, House of Israel (i.e. IMO State) but for the sake of my holy name which has been profaned. I shall give you a new heart (i.e. new governor) and put a new spirit in you. I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead (i.e.  Okorocha).You will be my people and I shall be your God”. This is my Biblical interpretation of Okorocha’s emergence as Governor in the controversial 2011 election. God said “For your sake, I shall give people”. For the sake of Okorocha’s emergence as governor, God mobilized the masses and even the grasses and animals in the bush (including IKIRI who was defamed) to fight for Owelle Okorocha.

It is unfortunate that in their desperation to manufacture reasons to rationalize their election defeat, they have been accusing just everybody, except themselves, for complicity in the defeat of Chief Ikedi Ohakim in the 2011 governorship election. Like the six blind men of Hindustan who had different perceptions of a cow, Chief Ohakim’s group has ascribed disparate reasons for losing the selection. I do not intend to make much comment on the book now in the hope that those whose names were listed there should provide pertinent clarifications. The Catholic Church should read the book and ascertain if it accepts the allegations levelled against her principal clergy. Nonetheless, I advise that in compliance with the Biblical injunction of not touching the anointed of God, those who have the skill of writing should be cautious in making comments against the anointed of God, more so, when there are no verifiable and cogent reasons to so do. Well, although it is a free world, the imperatives of self sanction and ethical communication cannot be overstressed.

While it is not my intention to list out the reasons for the fall of Ohakim in the 2011 Governorship election, I wish to emphasize that the major problem of the Ohakim Camp was a very poor approach to “crisis management”. Crisis management involves taking appropriate measures to either prevent crisis before it occurs or taking steps to control it promptly when it occurs. On the other hand, “management of crisis” literally means managing a crisis that has occurred. It involves taking sporadic, largely uncoordinated actions to quench the crisis. It is fire brigade and reactive in nature” (Nkwocha, 1999:191).In the case of the Ohakim camp, there was neither management of crisis nor crisis management. The second reason was Ohakim’s predisposition to using foul, condescending and vitriolic language on the citizenry. As for the factors that contributed to Ohakim’s defeat in the 2011 governorship election, it is pertinent to state that in my viewpoint entitled”Imo 2011 Election: Why we supported Regime Change “(Nigeria Newspoint, Sept.14-16, 2012), I wrote inter alia:”In spite of Chief Ohakim’s penchant for open display of pride, arrogance and hubris, he did not have any cogent and verifiable projects on the ground to earn the support of those in my School of Thought. In terms of project execution, and implementation, his Administration was a monumental failure which culminated in his being rejected at the polls in the Governorship Election of April 26 and May 6th, 2011. On the strength of the above clarification, it becomes an uncharitable comment for anybody to posit that Chief Ohakim was rigged out of office on account of the combined efforts of the Nigerian Military and the Catholic Church. To insist that the Catholic Church Clergy in the Owerri Archdiocese as well as the Military Establishment is involved in aiding and abetting the ignominious defeat of Chief Ohakim in that election is an ill wind that blows no one any good. The incessant accusation of the Catholic Church in catalyzing the defeat of Ohakim is worrisome because the Bible has advised that we should not touch the anointed of God. Nobody can fight God’s battle. Since both the  accused institutions(Nigerian Military, the Catholic Church and the State Government) are powerful institutions, I do not intend to hold brief for them here, more so, since they can speak for themselves. As a volunteer media consultant, there is a limit to what I can do. It is hoped that they will peruse the book in order to make pertinent clarifications on their various roles in order to situate matters in proper context. This is because the books and reports we write today will be the raw materials for use by the political hagiographers of tomorrow in writing the history of the evolution of the Nigerian Democracy with special emphasis on Imo State.

It is a paradox that Chief Ohakim should be accusing anybody for his defeat in the 2011 election. While he was in power, Governor Ohakim described himself as “IKIRI” (the English name of IKIRI is SLOTH).Look up the word SLOTH in the Encyclopedia in order to be carried along. He boasted in various fora that no person born of woman could take away the governorship from him. He openly challenged anybody to dare him and face the consequences. He was hyperactive, combative and ruthless. He stalked the landscape like a colossus and most of the top politicians in the State fled into hiding. This was the situation until November/December, 2010 when suddenly Owelle Rochas Okorocha declared his interest in the governorship race. Addressing the massive audience at the Wetheral Road Primary School (now City Secondary School, Owerri), Owelle Rochas Okorocha said that he had heard a lot about Ohakim’s stubbornness and impunity and for that reason he had accepted the clarion call by NDIMO on him to throw his hat into the ring. Hear Okorocha:”I have accepted your call on me to be your governor. I assure you that I will not disappoint you. All you need do is to cast your votes for me and leave the rest  of the battle for me. I am capable of protecting my votes. Only a lion can take meet out of the mouth of another lion”. That was when the battle line was drawn. It is both paradoxical and pathetic that after all the boasts bordering on Chief Ohakim’s invincibility, we are now being told that the Nigerian Military and other agencies conspired to topple him from power. We are not aware of any military coup in Nigeria since the last one on November 17, 1993 when the Late General Sani Abacha surreptitiously toppled the Interim National Government(ING) of Ernest Shonekan. Even before Sani Abacha shoved Shonekan aside, a Lagos High Court had declared Ernest Shonekan’s ING unconstitutional, null, and void. The task of confronting a man (Ohakim) who had manifested so much bravado and intrepidity is not a task for the faint of heart. It is a very risky venture and whoever wished to pick the gauntlet must have prepared for a do or die battle. So, why are some people now talking of a ‘Democracy by Military Tank” a rather weird oxymoron. Is it not funny that a man who failed to live up to his profile of  an all-conquering General is today pointing fingers at real and imaginary  groups in a frantic bid to rationalize his humiliation in the 2011 Governorship election.?It’s a classic case of poetic justice. I am told that in the ceremony for the official launch of the book “Democracy By Military Tank”, Chief Ohakim said that he was writing his own book on why he lost the election. Yes, we need more books because there is a need for some explanation on what transpired so that future politicians can imbibe the culture of humility and simplicity while in office. However, I advise that in writing the book, Chief Ohakim should be properly and severely guided and monitored by professionals so that he does not write himself into a firestorm of crisis.

The only people that were shocked at the defeat of Ohakim in the 2011 election were the PDP fanatics, his horde of hero worshippers, and professional sycophants who stuck to him like a leech. I did not need to be a crystal ball gazer or a prophet to know that it would have been the 8th Wonder of the modern World for Chief Ohakim to win in that election. The imminent defeat that stared PDP in the face in the build-up to the 2011 election was overwhelming. It was on account of this that in my viewpoint which was published in The Nigerian Horn newspaper of September 13th, 2010 page 9, I wrote thus:”After taking an exhaustive and dispassionate analysis of the state of affairs in Imo State, I am of the opinion that Governor Ikedi Ohakim should now drop the idea of running for the governorship of Imo State in the forthcoming election. He should toe the line of least resistance; let him run for the Okigwe senatorial seat. Since blood is thicker than water, his brethren in Okigwe may oblige him the senate seat”. Instead of taking the advice in good faith, they threatened to deal with me after inaugurating Ohakim to the second term. But the dream of a second term died in line with my prediction. If Chief Ohakim had considered that advice, he would have picked the Okigwe Senate seat on a platter without any opposition.

It is pertinent to state that in my viewpoint entitled” Imo 2011 Guber Polls: Why We Supported Regime Change (Nigerian Horn Newspaper, Sept 12-13th, 2012 pp 9&12,) I gave reasons why we threw our support behind Owelle Okorocha in 2011.You can Goggle the headline of the topic and read online. For the umpteenth time, I wish to emphasize that none of us  knew that Owelle Okorocha would ever participate in the Governorship election after his several failed efforts at the governorship, Senate, Presidency and the like. Above all, he was not even very visible in the local politics of Imo State; he was indifferent to the politics of Imo State. Suddenly, to our pleasant surprise, he announced to a cheering sea of humanity at Wetheral Road Primary School in November, 2010 that he had accepted the call to run for the governorship election. Since he was the only governorship candidate who assured the electorate that he would cage the then Pharaoh, Governor Ohakim, the masses jumped into his offer in what was a leap of faith. The other politicians in Imo State including Chief Achike Udenwa and Senator Ararume were mortally afraid of Chief Ohakim hence they fled the State only to move under nocturnal cover. They could not match the effrontery and rampaging impunity of Emperor Ohakim. They are all talking now because they know that, in spite of every thing, Governor Okorocha cannot hurt a fly. Owelle Okorocha can bark; he can throw punches and raise eyebrows but he respects the sanctity of human life. Governor Okorocha cannot preside over a regime of state sponsored terrorism and criminality. This is why in my viewpoint entitled:”Imo House of Assembly @ One Month: A Flashback” which was published on Page 10 of the White Paper Newspaper of July 13-14, 2011, I said that “Governor Okorocha sees politics as an entertainment game”. It was the combative and militant posturing of Owelle Okorocha while accepting to join the governorship race that compelled us to adopt him and work for his victory in the 2011 election. We were volunteers who trooped out to kill a snake that had taken over the political space in Imo State. We were not on Owelle Okorocha’s pay roll. Even now, about 18 months as governor, I have not received a KOBO of Governor Okorocha’s money. Governor Okorocha does not pay you a dime for what you have written in favour of his government or emergence as governor. I don’t even think he reads what we write. I am even told that he does not read local newspapers, hence he grants interviews to only the newspapers in the Lagos-Ibadan Zone. Instead of appreciating, working with and empowering trained journalists, he prefers to pick actors from the NOLLYWOOD to work as his media personnel and, above all, he prefers to use comedians in the place of media professionals. We wish him well. So, the bottom line of my thesis is that the election of 2011 was the first time IMO Electorate voted for a governor of their choice since 1999.This is why we still stand by this Administration and not because he is paying anybody any stipends. Only Governor Okorocha and his aides know those who are enjoying his largesse. One does not destroy a house that one built; so we can exercise restraint and walk the walk with Governor Okorocha no matter how rough the road may be. Yes, we are still writing because, to most of us, writing is addictive and not because Governor Okorocha takes notice of what we write or appreciates you. In other political ambience, those who participated in the baking of the political cake must participate in the eating. Whether this is the case in Okorocha’s Government is a matter for personal conjecture. We are encouraged by the inescapable fact that this is the first time after Governor DEE Sam Mbakwe(P.HD) that a governor has manifested so much passion in  developing IMO state. While his modalities and approaches for actualizing his manifesto may not be acceptable to some people , the critical fact is that no normal  and objective analyst will dare compare Governor Okorocha’s achievements ,so far, to that of any of his predecessors from May 29th,1999 to May,29th,2007.All in all, it is provocative that  rather than congratulate the electorate in Imo State for working assiduously in voting out a tyrant in the 2007 governorship election, some people are writing books and making innuendos in which they allege that Chief Ikedi Ohakim was chased out by the Catholic Church and the Miltary.Too bad. So, if what happened in 2011 is not an election, what do we call what happened on APRIL 14th, 2007 when an election which was won by Chief Martin Agbaso of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was swiftly annulled and a Kangaroo election conducted on April 28thin which Chief Ohakim was appointed Governor of Imo State? Think about it and welcome to the NEW YEAR, 2013.

OHAKIM for Senate in 2015? I have been reliably informed that Chief Ikedi Ohakim is now to vie for Okigwe Senate in 2015.Unlike 2011 when I advised  Chief Ikedi Ohakim to pick Okigwe Senate Seat  on a platter of gold or by a voice vote, the Okigwe senate seat in 2015 will be very hotly contested. I can no longer vouch that it will be a walkover for Ikedi Ohakim, more so, since Governor Okorocha has announced that he would personally take control to ensure that some top politicians in IMO State would not win any elective offices in 2015.The masses are solidly on the same page with Governor Okorocha on this issue.. In the Okigwe Senate election in 2015, Chief Ohakim will slug it out with the like of Barrister Ziggy Azike and some others. So, it is going to be a real big energy sapping tussle. Yes, this topic will be elaborately discussed in due time. In a GSM chat with Barrister ZEEK Azike, he confirmed to me that he would be interested in the Okigwe Senate seat of 2015, more so, since Governor Okorocha might wish to do a second term. In 2015, those who are now talking of military tanks will come face to face with Patriot and Scud Missiles and even Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).The 2015 Governorship Election in IMO State will be HELELE!

My grouse about the comments in the aforementioned book stems from the fact that the author, DR Ethelbert Okere, is not just a run-off-the mill commentator; he is highly cerebral and is worth his own weight in gold. He has acquitted himself creditably in the literary and journalism fields with some awards under his belt and about six novels to boot. He does not belong to the group of writers who could be simply waved off as hatchet writers, sycophants and the like. If such a cerebral commentator who knows the implications of what he puts down in a book summons courage to make such damning indictment on some social clusters in regard to their action/inaction during the 2011 governorship election in Imo State, it is my belief that such comments should not be treated with levity and indifference by the affected groups. If however, they choose to remain silent in the face of such indictment, I have nothing to lose. However, there is a need for some clarifications to be made in order to ensure that posterity is not fed with facts that do not represent the truth. Some of us believe that the 2011 governorship election was a free and fair election in which the electorate voted massively for Governor Okorocha. If we are now being told that the integrity of the exercise was tainted by the activities of the security agencies and others, the matter must be investigated in order to keep the records straight.

JOHN I MGBE

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