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LongRead: Eight times a defector! Ohakim’s ‘politics of stomach infrastructure’ —A timeline

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KIDNAPPING: Ex-Gov Ohakim defends IPOB

When, on Tuesday, July 27, former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, announced his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a few months after denying claims he was contemplating switching camps, the veteran politician made history as one of the most unpredictable politicians in the Nigerian political sphere, as far as cross-carpeting is concerned.

Giving reasons for his defection, Ohakim said it was his desire to offer “unhindered support to Governor Hope Uzodimma to add value and move the state forward.”

He added, “This decision is in response to the pleadings of my admirers and the touching request by the leadership of APC in Imo.

“Gov. Uzodimma has shown zeal, commitment and capacity to provide good governance, and at this point in time, I have to support him to uplift the fortunes of the state and meet the desires of the people.”

To see Ohakim extol the virtues of Uzodinmma, whom he had accused of all manner of infractions, only goes to show the unpredictability and capriciousness of the Nigerian politician who is only concerned with his personal interest above the interest of the people they are meant to serve.

Ohakim’s recent defection makes it the EIGHTH time he will be jumping from one party to the other, placing him in the ranks of Nigeria’s ‘Defector-in General,’ Atiku Abubakar, who, in the past, conveniently cross-carpeted at the drop of a hat.

At the last count, Ohakim has gallivanted from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Accord Party (AP), back to the PDP, back to APGA, then to the PDP, and now back to the APC, all in a “bid to uplift the fortunes of the state and meet the desires of the people.”

What a caring politician, one is tempted to add!

Here is a timeline of the several defections of Ohakim, a politician who would want Imolites to believe he is working for their own good.

1. November 2006: (PDP to PPA)

Ikedi Ohakim was one of the founding members of the PDP in Imo State, and remained a member of the party until November 2006, when he defected to the PPA after he was denied the governorship ticket. At that time, he claimed that the ticket had been ‘commercialized’ and handed over to the highest bidder, and pulled out because he was not “ready to play dirty politics.”

He ran for governor of the state on the PPA platform but after a widespread violence broke out during the gubernatorial election on April 14, 2007, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), cancelled the election and rescheduled it for April, 28, 2007, where Ohakim was declared the winner, defeating Martins Agbaso of APGA.

Agbaso challenged the decision, claiming he was leading when the first election was cancelled, amidst other irregularities. But after a long-drawn-out legal battle, the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on December 16, 2009, ordered a fresh trial and in the end, Ohakim achieved his dream and was declared winner.

2. July 2009: (PPA to PDP)

On July 26, 2009, Ohakim, who had then settled down as the Imo State Governor, did a volte-face and returned to the PDP a few days after former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had disclosed that he had “extracted a promise from the former Progressive Peoples Alliance member that he would return to the PDP,” before he was adopted by the ruling party at the expense of its own candidate in the build-up to the 2007 governorship polls.

Giving reasons behind his return to the PDP in a state-wide broadcast, Ohakim said his move “was a strategic political realignment” to bring the state in tune with the “center” which was then controlled by the PDP.

“It is important for me to remind those who do not know, that I am not a new comer to the PDP. I was a foundation member of the PDP in 1998. As a devoted and faithful member, I made immense contributions to the growth, strength and survival of the party.
“During the period I was away, my commitment and loyalty to the party was never in doubt, even when strange bedfellows infiltrated the party in the state and sought to dismember it,” he said.

3. April 2015: (PDP to APC)

In April 2015, Ikedi Ohakim, alongside prominent politicians in Imo State, including Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Chief Tony Chukwu and Senator Hope Uzodinma, joined Governor Rochas Okorocha to defect from the PDP to the APC at a campaign rally by Muhammadu Buhari who was then the candidate of the APC.

The mass defection was in preparation for the April 11 governorship and State House of Assembly elections as Okorocha sought for a second term under the platform of APC.

Speaking on behalf of other decampees, Ohakim claimed that they were joining the APC because they were badly treated in PDP and they felt their political future lies in APC.

Before then, Ohakim had led Araraume, Uzodinma, and other party bigwigs on nocturnal visits to Okorocha where the defections were perfected.

4. May 2017: (APC to PDP)

In May 2017, Ohakim fell out with Okorocha and the APC hierarchy in the state when he was told he would not get the party ticket to run for the Senate. Feeling betrayed after all he had “done for the party and for the governor,” Ohakim decided to go back to his ‘original home,’ as he called it.

While dumping the APC, the former governor said Okorocha ran the state as a personal fiefdom, appointing family members and cronies into key positions while sidelining those who made it possible for him to become governor in the first place.

5. July 2018: (PDP to APGA)

Following a pattern of defecting in the month of July, Ohakim, once again, dumped the Peoples Democratic Party on July 29, 2018 for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in a bid to contest for the governorship seat in the state in the 2019 general elections after falling out with the hierarchy of the PDP in the state.

Announcing his formal defection while addressing a crowd of APGA supporters at the Kanu Nwankwo Sports Complex in Owerri, the Imo State capital, Ohakim said his wealth of experience as a former governor of the state was what was needed to salvage the state from the shackles of the All Progressives Congress that had taken over power.

Calling on all Imo indigenes both home and abroad to support his cause as he intended to run for just one term and afterwards handover to a credible man from Owerri senatorial district, Ohakim urged his supporters to join hands with him to make the state a pride among other states in the country as “APGA remained the only credible and honest party that could help them achieve his dreams.”

However, critics argue that it was Ohakim’s failure to get the PDP governorship ticket upon the political ascendancy of Emeka Ihedioha, that made him to defect to APGA.

6. October 2018: (APGA to Accord)

Three months after Ohakim defected from the PDP to APGA, he sent shock waves down the spines of his supporters and political watchers when, in October 2018, he again shifted base from APGA to join the Accord Party (AP), in a bid to actualise his plans for a second term.

Some of his political allies then went to town with narratives on why Ohakim dumped APGA for the Accord Party, saying it was “his steadfast love and desire to give Imolites a better life as governor” that made him take the decision which was in the interest of the people.

Read also: LongRead… Nigeria Airways: Recalling Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika’s voyage to nowhere!

While announcing his defection, Ohakim said the APGA leadership in the state was doing a “ponzi scheme, a scam of the highest order, to defraud fellow Igbo men and women, of their hard earned money.”

“APGA, which had less than N5 million in its account before the primaries, now hires private jet for the use of the National Chairman, Victor Oye. Now, the party that was begging yesterday can now afford to abuse everybody,” the serial defector alleged.

7. May, 2018: (Accord to PDP)

In a bid to enter the race for the Imo North Senatorial contest in 2019, Ikedi Ohakim, once again, defected from the Accord Party back to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was won by the late Senator Ben Uwajumogu.

After the sudden death of Uwajumogu, Ohakim, once again, threw his hat into the race to replace the deceased but had to contend with heavy weight politicians from the zone, including Ifeanyi Araraume, who contested the governorship seat on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), but lost to Okorocha.

Yet again, Ohakim fell short and became bitter, accusing Okorocha of being behind his failure to clinch the seat. He then vowed to remain with the PDP and help build a solid ground for the party to thrive and remove the APC come 2023.

8. July 2021: (PDP to APC)

On July 27, Ohakim reverted to his seventh-month cross-carpeting venture when he, once again, dumped the PDP for the ruling APC.

The defection came four months after he denied ever habouring such thoughts after a report emerged in February that he was planning to switch camps.

Ohakim who had dismissed the reports, said there was no truth in such insinuations as they were mere speculations from his political enemies following his romance with Governor Hope Uzodinma.

But while announcing his defection to the APC at his country home in Okohia, Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of the state, Ohakim said the good works of Uzodinmma was what propelled him to align forces with the governor to take the state to enviable heights.

“Gov. Uzodimma has shown zeal, commitment and capacity to provide good governance, and at this point in time, I have to support him to uplift the fortunes of the state and meet the desires of the people.

“Added to the above, I find in Governor Uzodimma a man who is determined to set enviable records that would change the lives and fortunes of the people and the state at the end of the day,” Ohakim said.

What we know

2019: Why I want to be governor in Imo again —Ohakim

Ordinarily, the defection of politicians to different parties should be seen on the point of ideology and the zeal to change things and make lives better for the people.

In other climes, party-switching is mainly driven by ideological differences whereby politicians defect purely for their beliefs, principles and values.

But sadly, this can’t be said of the kind of politics being played in the Nigerian context as such genuine choices do not exist in Nigeria.

What exists in Nigeria is a choice between characters, a personality-based politics which ultimately, undermines the party system and harms democratic development.

Ahead of every election year in Nigeria, the fickleness and inconsistencies of Nigerian politicians always find a way to play out with politicians shamelessly cross-carpeting from one party to the other, which often exposes their quest for power, holding on to power or seeking for where they will get their breads buttered.

The man Ikedi Ohakim

Ohakim was born on August 4, 1957, in Okohia in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. He attended the University of Lagos, gaining a B.Sc. in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Management.

He worked for over 15 years at First Aluminium PLC and then at Tower Groups.

He then became an Executive Director of Alucon in 1997, and later Chairman of Mekalog Group, an engineering firm supplying the defense, security, construction, fabrication, oil and gas sectors.

Ohakim was appointed Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Imo State from 1992 to 1993, under Governor Evan Enwerem before the government was removed from office by the military regime headed by General Sani Abacha.

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