Ochinawata @ 60: The untold stories By Louis Odion, FNGE

Ohakim @ 60

It was a big surprise the poor widow
least anticipated. Since the sudden passing of her loving husband, the
celebrated journalist/columnist, there was one reality Madam Pini Jason had no doubt come to accept: the elasticity of
man’s care and the fickleness of solidarity when the chips are down.
As she must have observed from the diminishing number of her late husband’s
friends still standing by the family as time began to roll by.

Her highly respected journalist
husband died in 2013 of complications arising from a surgery. But not a few
associates would attest that, even before then, he never really fully recovered
from the shock from a bitter experience in 2011.

So, Madam Jason’s emotions could then be imagined last year at the
third memorial of her husband having his former boss, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, among the few of her late husband’s closest
associates that showed up at the family compound in Mbaise, Imo State.

Ohakim & his Successor, Owelle

At the end of the modest ceremony,
the immediate past Imo governor came
over and slipped something into her hand: key to a brand new car!
For the widow, the significance of
the car gift could not have been lost. It obviously counted more not because of
the promise of comfort to her family, but the comforting feeling that someone
still remembered the dependants Pini
left behind. Surely, greater is he who kept our back when we are no longer in a
position to repay than he who abides showily in our presence.

Author, Louis Odion FNGE….A personal friend of the Birthday Boy….


By that gesture, Ohakim only acted true to his character:
fierce loyalty to friendship. 
I knew him long before he became
governor in 2007. His attitude towards me never changed throughout his four
years at Douglas House. We grew even
closer after he left office in 2011.
Four other qualities, in my view,
define the quintessential Ohakim:
community spirit, love of ideas, courage of conviction and grace under duress.

Pini Jason’s book on Nigeria

He was barely 25 years old when he
helped a cluster of communities in his native Mbano in Okigwe broker
lasting peace after decades of bitter conflict. For that, the clan elders came
together and decorated him as the “Ochinawata”
(the boy king).
Politically, his defining moment
would be PDP governorship primaries of January 2007 when moneybags took over
the arena. Unwilling – well, maybe unable – to match others cash for cash, Ohakim sensationally announced his
withdrawal from the race and then resignation from PDP in protest. He decamped to PPA.
As a parting shot, he left a scalding statement: by selling the party ticket to
the highest bidder, party leaders were setting Imo PDP on the irreversible path to perdiction. 
That turned out quite prophetic
barely three months afterward. Before the election, the moneybags had only
succeeded in cancelling each other out in an orgy of legal warfare, eventuating
in the national leadership controversially announcing withdrawal from the
governorship polls in Imo

Late Pini Jason

So, Ohakim became the “consensus
The stone the builders had rejected became the
With his instinctive taste for
politics of ideas, little wonder that Ohakim
was soon able to assembly a team dominated by professionals to drive his vision
for Imo among whom were Pini Jason and Dr. Ethebelt Okere saddled with the task of framing and driving his
public communication. 
Like every mortal, Ohakim no doubt made his own mistakes
and stacked up powerful enemies along the way. But one thing even his most
implacable political foes cannot deny was his passion to make Imo better. It is perhaps a measure of
his tenacity that Owerri was adjudged
the “cleanest city in Nigeria”
by the Federal Ministry of Environment within eighteen months that Ohakim’s bold “Clean & Green
was floated. 

Ohakim with Mrs. Pini Jason

A city once defined by filth and
foul smell transformed overnight. 
The ultimate test of the strength of
Ohakim’s character however came in the heat of the gritty battle for Imo’s political soul in April 2011. As
the collation of results of the April 26 polls peaked, a tie began to
crystalize. But that of critical Ohaji-Egbema
was still being expected. Ohakim’s
Situation Room remained confident, buoyed by the figures already telegraphed by
their field agents there. 
Suddenly, the magic began. The
returning officer bearing the tally indicating wide-margin victory for Ohakim was waylaid few streets to the
collation center by some gunmen and whisked to a popular hotel in Onitsha, Anambra State.
Sensing a plot to deny them victory,
the hardliners in Ohakim’s camp
pushed for war, unwilling to go down without a fight, counting on the power of
incumbency and “federal might” as
a PDP state. But, faced with possible loss of his crown, “Ochinawata” never lost his character. He considered it
beneath him to sanction his supporters to go out on streets and engage Okorocha’s “forces” (euphemism
for the battalions of rough necks) imported into Imo. He could not understand the desperation for power if the real
intention was service.
Eventually, he lost the polls, but
not his values.
“Ochinawata” turns 60 Friday, August 4. Happy birthday in
advance to my big brother, my friend.


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