The Oasis Reporters
August, 29, 2019.
By Sir Don Ubani; KSC, JP, Okwubunka of Asa.
Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe; Dee Sam, as he was fondly called, was sworn in as Governor of Imo State on Monday 1st October, 1979. It was a four-year tenure.
The Imo State that Dee Sam Mbakwe governed was composed of the present Imo State, Abia State and Afikpo geographical areas of Ebonyi State, known as Ebonyi-South Senatorial District. It was, indeed, a very large State, with herculean challenges.
As at 1979; the Igbo, that had merely managed to survive a ferocious war of genocide launched against them by the Nigerian government from July 1966 to January 1970, were contracted into only two States, Anambra and Imo.
It, therefore, meant that whatever happened to either of the States had a direct or indirect bearing on the Igbo.
After the Nigerian Civil War, otherwise known as the Nigerian/Biafran War, the Rivers State Government, headed by Navy Commander Papapreye Diete-Spiff and in conspiracy with the Federal government of General Yakubu Gowon, had come up with an obnoxious Policy of Abandoned Property.
By that inhuman policy, every property hitherto legitimately owned by the Igbo was confiscated and its ownership unlawfully reverted to indigenous people of Rivers State.
Dee Sam Mbakwe was an Aba-based lawyer. He was not only a successful and brilliant lawyer, he was also a patriotic and courageous one at that. On his own, he took up the challenge of Abandoned Property. That, of course, endeared him to the Igbo.
By the time he sought to be the Governor of Imo State in 1979, following the Murtala Muhammed/Olusegun Obasanjo Military Government’s Democratization Agenda, Dee Sam had already become a household name. To add impetus to his acceptability was the fact that he aspired on the platform of Nigerian Peoples Party; NPP, a Party that had Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe; the Great Zik of Africa, as its Presidential Candidate. It was, therefore, very easy for him to be overwhelmingly elected as Governor, beating the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria; NPN, Dr Nwakanma Okorie, to a very distant second.
Chief Sam Mbakwe, being patriotic and altruistic, knew that the people he had been elected to govern were war-torn, with completely devastated infrastructure and an economy that was comatose.
His agenda was visibly clear. He was out to put smiles on his people. Without any equivocation, he embarked on an aggressive road infrastructure in Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Okigwe and Afikpo. His revolution on roads also extended to Asa Local Government Area. For those who do not know, Mbakwe, under the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, created Local Governments and Asa was one of them.
Being satisfied, as could be attested to by Igbo people in general, that he had constructed a large network of roads that could support and sustain the economy of the State, Dee Sam then migrated into Agriculture, Education, Tourism, Aviation and Industrialization.
In his first four years, Dee Sam had established two gigantic farms; Imo Modern Poultry Farm, Avutu in Obowo and Ogwe Golden Chicken in Asa. While Avutu Farm had taken off fully, Ogwe Golden Chicken was close to a take-off before General Muhammadu Buhari; as an enemy of democracy, overthrew the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari on 31st December, 1983. Dee Sam, who had been re-elected and sworn-in for a second term on Ist October, 1983, had his second tenure abruptly and unconstitutionally truncated by Gen Buhari’s coup.
Chief Mbakwe, in full knowledge of what education can do in the advancement of any society, through an affiliation with the famous University of Nebraska-Lincoln, established the University of Imo State, following Law No 4 of 1981. It was designed to be a multi-campus University, with each Senatorial district having a College. The University, in its first term, had taken off temporarily with two campuses, Madonna High School in Etiti and Ngwa High School at Aba.
Still in his first four years, Dee Sam had conceptualized, built, established and commissioned a Five Star Hotel, Concord Hotel in Owerri. It was the best Hotel, East of the Niger. Before his overthrow in 1983, Enyimba Hotel at Aba had almost been completed.
Not done with accumulation of achievements in his first term, Dee Sam built an Airport at Owerri, which is today, Sam Mbakwe Airport.
On industrialization, Dee Sam established Aluminium Smelter Plant in Inyishi. He equally built a Paint Factory at Abo Mbaise. A Power Plant at Amaraku was also established by Dee Sam, though sold by the succeeding military government.
All those achievements were recorded by the Mbakwe administration within his tenure, which lasted for only Four Years And Three Months.
Today, August 29, 2019 makes state governors who were sworn-in on May 29, 2015 come to par in terms of duration, with Chief Samuel Mbakwe as Governor of Imo State.
Chief Sam Mbakwe succeeded in setting a standard any visionary and selfless governor, especially in Igbo land, should adopt as a Standard.
His life style was very simple. He was never known for living a profligate life. He surrounded himself with men and women who could make him feel the real pulse of his people.
As some of our current state governors clock Four years and three months today, they should be sober enough to ask themselves if their achievements are up to 50% of the achievements of Dee Sam Mbakwe as Governor of old Imo State, within the same duration of time.
Any such governor whose performance is below 50% of Dee Sam’s achievement, should not only think twice but change both style and attitude because what happened to Senator Ike Ekweremadu in far away Nuremberg, Germany, could soon become a solution to Insensitivity and profligacy down home in the East of the Niger.
Written by Sir Don Ubani.
A former Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Abia State.