Ohakim became the Governor of Imo State on May 29, 2007. He took over from his predecessor, Chief Achike Udenwa. At that time the economy of the state was on its knees. Nothing was working. With a comatose civil service on strike, and N4.5bn owed them and their pensioners counterpart, the toll on the state economy was not a fairy tale. Added to the N6.8bn owed the councilors and local government chairmen that worked under the Udenwa administration and an empty treasury amidst massive allegations of corruption, it became obvious that only a competent hand could steer the ship of state to anchor safety. It is on this premise that we understand that the report that Governor Ikedi Ohakim saved and handed over N26.27bn to his successor has been troublesome to some people who have sworn not to accept the facts.
While Hon Mayor Eze, Chief Udenwa’s spokesperson, does not understand, and therefore cannot accept the fact that Ohakim handed over N26.27bn to Governor Rochas Okorocha, he claims that the said money was just bond and not cash anywhere. On the other hand, FCC Jones Onwuasoanya, the Director of Publicity for the Ugwumba Uche Nwosu Campaign Organization and an apologist of the Okorocha led APC government in the state is showing his confusion on what the true position is as regards to the money Ohakim handed over to his paymaster, Governror Okorocha. Characteristically, Onwuasoanya is relying on false figures from those who chose to spread falsehood on what Ohakim was doing and therefore were aiming at deceiving the people. Obviously, Onwuasoanya chose to ignore the facts. We cannot therefore rely on misleading figures from melancholic critics of the Ohakim era to arrive at the truth.
For instance, the article published on Reuters in 2009 which was quoted by Onwuasoanya that the Ikedi Ohakim had “raised a 40billions Naira bond from the capital market” is a lie from the pit of hell. It was part of the propaganda tools used against the Ikedi Ohakim administration with the purpose of misinforming the people and creating bad blood for the Ikedi Ohakim government. Relying on such unfounded and dishonest reports smacks of mischief and intellectual laziness, because a simple check with the Stock Market would show what the true position of the transaction the Ikedi Ohakim New Face Government had with it. Nothing could show the dishonesty in the quoted article than the claim that the Ohakim administration had no “meaningful project the state [was] embarking on”.
We proudly assert that the Ikedi Ohakim administration has not been rivaled in terms of vision, character, prudence, speed, innovation, accountability, due process and the rule of law and happiness of the people since 1999. As we speak, it has become obvious to most people in the state that the best performances of the Achike Udenwa and Okorocha administration fall into infinitesimal when put side by side the Ohakim era. This is why most people believe that Ohakim was stopped by the combined forces of opposition he faced primarily for the fear by certain persons that he has already outperformed them and that if allowed another four years in office, most people would forget their names in the shortest period of time. Sadly, today, the entire Southeast is still lamenting the lack of a seaport in the area.
As stated above and in my previous article titled: “UDENWA VS OHAKIM: THE CRUX OF THE MATTER AND THE DISTRACTIONS”, published on the back page of Daily Nigeria Horn newspaper of Thursday, May 8, 2019, and elsewhere, Ohakim became governor of Imo State without inheriting a kobo from his predecessor. As if that was not enough, he inherited a civil service that was on strike over months of nonpayment of salaries. He inherited a civil service that was demoralized with no training and promotions. Ohakim inherited a civil service that was aging with humongous corrupt practices. For example, it was discovered that a total of 673 workers on the payroll of the state were ghost workers with a monthly payment of N14,553,418. About 60,301 were over aged and 47 civil servants had stayed beyond the required 35 years in service.
It was not possible to leave the government grounded in the face of the empty treasury Ohakim inherited. Thus, believing that government should be the catalyst for economic development, the Ohakm government took on the gauntlet and came up with the magic wand. Part of Ohakim’s magic wand was to seek for development partners, local and foreign. The response from the development partners was encouraging, and this led to the idea of establishing long term revenue centered projects such as the Oguta Wonder Lake Resort and Conference Center, the refinery projects, the Imo Interconnectivity Freeway, the Enterprise Centers, the deep seaport at Osemoto-Oseokwa area, etc. The interesting thing about the Oguta Wonder Lake project was that it was initially recommended to Achike Udenwa by the transition committee he has set up, but he did not look at it for one minute. But Ohakim, knowing that such revenue centered projects were prerequisite for the turnaround of the economy of the state, he chose to tackle such projects, instead of embarking on brick and mortar projects that add no meaningful value to the economy and overall wellbeing of the people.
Since the Ikedi Ohakim government started without a kobo, how could the government meet its counterpart funding obligations with its development partners, especially in the face of the global economic meltdown with its attendant dwindling federal allocations and Internally Generated Revenue of the time? The commercial banks did not provide attractive option. In the midst of this economic quagmire, Ohakim headed straight to the Stock Market where he secured N18.3bn, not N100bn or N40bn as variously claimed by Ohakim’s critics. Despite the initial obstacle faced by this deft move as a result of the fact that Ohakim’s predecessor did not produce audited accounts of the state for eight years and the state government was required by the Stock Market to present audited account of the state for 10 years, Ohakim broke the records and became the first state Governor in the entire federation to raise funds from the Stock Market. Having obtained the N18.3bn, Ohakim ploughed it into the Oguta Wonder Lake project and others for which the funds were sourced in the first place.
Though Ohakim did not have enough time to see some of these projects through to their completion as they did not start on time due to some of the challenges enunciated above, the Oguta Wonder Lake project, the Imo Interconnectivity Freeway with two tollgates linking 19 local governments, the refinery projects, etc, had begun and gone on well by the time he left office. Of significant mention is the Enterprise Centers that begun and were completed at Naze in Owerri North Local Government and Orlu LGA.
Did Ohakim squander the money he raised from the Stock Market? No. Of the N18.3bn, he left N13.3bn in a UBA account and handed same over to Governor Okorocha. Pleasantly, the Okorocha government acknowledged that it got the money. Speaking on the N13.3bn fund in the UBA account, the former Commissioner for Finance, Hon Chike Okafor, told the Daily Sun in an interview on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, more than two years after Okorocha took over, that they got the said money but “channeled the fund into building 305 classroom blocks, building of ultramodern general hospitals in the 27 LGAs and some critical roads”. This admittance put paid to any false claim or supposition that the money Ohakim said he handed over were not cash in any bank. They were cash. On the other hand, that Ohakim did not squander the money but saved them and handed same over to his successor is highly commendable. We have had cases of governors borrowing money and squandering same. A case in point is the bailout fund that has been a subject of litigation in Imo State for years following reports that the money was siphoned and stolen eventually.
Apart from the remnant N13.3bn Stock Market fund left in a UBA account, the Ikedi Ohakim administration saved and handed over the sum of N26.27bn to Governor Okorocha in 2011. This was the money Okorocha saw and shouted that Imo State was rich. In his covenant affidavit of May 10, 2018, Ohakim said: “That in total, I saved and handed over to Governor Rochas Okorocha the sum of Twenty-Six Billion Two Hundred and Seventy Million (N26.27M), excluding various investments”. These monies included those in the Excess Crude Account, ISOPADEC account, IMSUBEB, Monthly Allocation, IGR, etc.
The truth is that Ohakim was the first Governor in the entire South East region to have left money behind for his successor. It is understandable that the loud noise in the state then, especially the loud and false propaganda that the state government under Okorocha had continued to run against the Ikedi Ohakim era, might have drowned the truth for the time being, it was not capable of burying the truth no matter what they did. The N26.27bn Ohakim handed over to Governor Okorocha is also contained in the handover note he handed over to him. Very soon we will be revealing much of the contents of the documents, which the Okorocha government has tried to bury. The Okorocha government felt that it had a reason to continue with the anti Ohakim propaganda because it was a product of false propaganda. The fear was that if Ohakim was not demonized with the instrument of government they now had, it was a matter of time the people got to know the truth and turned against them. But did the people eventually get to know the truth? Yes. Did they eventually disown the Okorocha led government? Yes.
Imo people should note also that for eight years the apologists of the state government had not refuted the sacred fact that Ohakim handed over N26.27bn to Okorocha in 2011. Up to now they are still asking questions and trying to create confusion where there is none. And for Onwuasoanya who has served the state government in the capacity of an apologist, he should have known from government records that Ohakim neither got N40bn nor N100bn from the Stock Market but rather saved and handed over N26.27bn to Governor Okorocha. It is abhorable that he pretended not to have known. It is more abhorable that he is still driving the negative and false narrative against the Ikedi Ohakim government as if Ohakim left the government yesterday.
We reassert that Ohakim remains the best of the three governors that have governed Imo State since 1999, putting all the parameters of governance together. We reiterate that Ohakim served Imo State with amazing integrity and Imo people are happy with him. He remains the only Governor in the state that did not acquire wealth or properties for himself, family or cronies. It is worthy of note that despite the claims that Ohakim owned half of the buildings on Wetheral Road, his 2019 governorship campaign office in Owerri was a rented apartment. Also, despite being Governor of the state, Ohakim lives in his three bedroom bungalow at Prefab which he built in 1992 when he was Commissioner. He still lives happily in this bungalow. This is the only house he has in the whole of Owerri.
In spite of attempts to obliterate Ohakim’s legacies, Imo people still remember the Imo Roads Maintenance Agency (IROMA) with assets worth N12.5bn. Imo people cannot forget the 10,000 jobs with N440M monthly salaries and over N5bn annual salaries. They cannot forget how Ohakim made money circulate in a time of world economic meltdown. Imo people cannot forget the Clean and Green Initiative that earned the state the cleanest city in the whole federation for three consecutive years – 2008, 2009 and 2010. This policy earned Ohakim a Fellowship Award from the Society of Landscape Architects of Nigeria in Abuja on Saturday, April 27, 2019.