From PETER OKORE, Umuahia
The battle to occupy the Abia Government House is becoming tougher and sour as the D-day approaches. The fight is basically between four front-liners from different political parties, including the incumbent governor, Dr. Victor Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who is seeking a second tenure. He is in the race under the cover of ABIA Charter of Equity of the PDP, which has ceded the position to a candidate from Abia-South Senatorial zone of the state. Second contender is Dr. Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah, the President of Master Energy Group of Companies, who is vying for the 2019 Abia state governorship seat for All Progressives Congress, APC. He is coming-up under the umbrella of competence and survival of the fittest; not under Charter of Equity proposition. In 2015 he opted for same position, but lost at the party primaries under the PDP.
Dr. Alex Otti, a former Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank , Plc, is the next hot cake for the seat. This is his second attempt at the governorship seat, under All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. To his credit, he fought gallantly at the 2015 governorship elections, but lost to Okezie Ikpeazu at the courts. Otti asserts that he is in the 2019 race again to reclaim his lost mandate.
The next serious contestant in the race to the Abia seat of power , is Dr.(Mrs) Blessing Nwagba of the Social Democratic Party, SDP. She is a member of Abia House of Assembly representing Aba-North State constituency. She was denied nomination to vie for Aba North and South Federal constituency in the House of Representatives in this 2019 election; in preference for a former occupier of the seat in the House of Representative, Chief Uzor Azubuike. Nwagba defected to the SDP for a juicy gubernatorial position; and she is making her first appearance at the governorship race in Abia state. Nwagba had all along been the champion of mobilizing women in Abia and fighting the course of women , under the affirmative Gender -Equality platform, even as a member of the House of Assembly. Recently, she led a group of women from Abia to the USA for a one week seminar on Women in Politics.
Indeed, as of now, these contestants have got their Party- endorsements and have launched-out their candidates and campaigns. They are currently in the field selling their manifestos to the electorate and making desired impacts . Political pundits say none of them can be taken for a ride or granted; for whatever reasons. This is more-so, as popular opinions point to the fact that, this time around, Abians have resolved to vote for credible and competent persons of proven integrity, capacity and ability to serve Abia better. It has almost become a consensus that this year’s election in Abia state is likely not going to focus on Party or “business as usual” as had been the case over the years . Based on this assumption, all the contestants are not leaving anything to chance. They are all making waves in the electioneering campaigns, just as Radio and Television stations are awash with their jingles, debates and advertorials; while posters now adorn public structures and places. Paid Bill boards decorate flash points all over the towns and major roads. Investigations reveal that politicians in Abia now hire the services of miscreants (where they cannot do that themselves) to destroy posters and Bill boards belonging to political opponents, where-ever they are seen in the state. The reason is probably to give the impression that Abia is a One-Party state. But both the state Commissioner of Police,Mr. Chris Ezike and INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner(REC) in Abia, Dr. Joseph Ilo , respectively, have confirmed the misbehaviours and condemned politicians for the dastardly acts; while the leading political parties have continued to point accusing fingers on one another for the incidents.
Of course, not only that, we also hear politicians and supporters now carry guns to Party Rallies, as witnessed at Ihechiowa in Arochukwu LGA, some days ago. These and more really show the level politicians in Abia can go, in the name of politics.
Moreover, one trending controversy that had trailed elections in Abia state, since 2015, is the misconception surrounding enforcement of the “ ABIA CHARTER OF EQUITY”. This document was crafted by the founding Fathers of Abia State on power rotations and sustain peace in Abia state. In the Document, the Fathers had spelt out that , on coming to function, this Charter MUST be domiciled by Abia House of Assembly. The essence was for this document to become Law in the state, which should be adopted by all, irrespective of political affiliations.
However, Modalities for the enforcement of this CHARTER of EQUITY reads in part: “Members of the Abia House of Assembly shall be persuaded to introduce a Bill incorporating the provisions of this Charter as Law”.
It may sound funny that till date this has not been done and the surviving members of the founding Fathers are not happy that their hard work to sustain peace in Abia is being taken for granted. As a result, Abians are having divided minds about implementation of the Charter or even appreciating the worth and intentions of the CHARTER. Now, there are only two of the 12-man committee that signed the ABIA CHARTER OF EQUITY still alive today. On their own, they cannot persuade Abia House of Assembly to bring the CHARTER to the floor of the House for legislative processes. Regrettably, these two who are alive today to witness how their brain-child(CHARTER OF EQUITY) is being treated with levity by the present generation of politicians. The inability of the Abia state legislature to look into this proposal is probably, one reason why many hold the opinion that until this Charter becomes Law , the race to the Abia Government House and other positions are still open for the survival of the fittest or highest bidders. It is only the PDP, courtesy of immediate-past governor of the state , who is now Senator representing Abia-Central in the National Assembly, Chief Theodore Orji, who caused PDP to adopt certain provisions of the Charter for the 2015 elections. Other parties are yet on their own.
The implication of this is that Okezie Ikpeazu is the only guber candidate for the PDP in the race, who is resting on the Charter of Equity arrangement in the 2019 election ; while the rest of the parties and contestants are for the other option.
Be- that- as- it-may, all the parties have held their Rallies to launch their campaigns and candidates at various locations. While the PDP held theirs at the premises of the International Conference Centre, Ogurube Layout, Umuahia, the APC held theirs inside the Umuahia central Stadium and other parties at private locations. All the parties have mobilised to the 184 Electoral Wards in Abia with their cash, Rice, cows and other incentives for the poor electorate
A cursory look at the just-concluded flag-off of party Rallies indicate that the APC appeared to have scored another political point in Abia for launching its 2019 political campaigns inside the Central Stadium, Umuahia , where it presented Party flags to their prospective candidates for this 2019 elections. The first political point APC scored in Abia was on Tuesday,9th January,2018, when it became the first opposition political party to host her mega rally inside the Central Stadium Umuahia, since inception this democratic experiment. That rally saw the defection of many prominent Abians from the PDP, APGA, and other political parties to the APC. They included the likes of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Sampson Uchechukwu Ogah, Bob Nwanunu, Dr. Marc Wagbara, former CEO of Hallmark Bank; Nnanna Orji Uzor Kalu and Mascot Kalu; Ben Kalu, Humphrey Azubuike, Emeka Nwaogu, Barr K.C. Ugbaja, Azubuike Udah, Comrade Chris Akomas, former Deputy governor in Abia state and others. Some serving members of Abia House of Assembly, who defected included a former Speaker, Chief Martin Azubuike, member representing Isialangwa-North State constituency. The others are Solomon Chibuzo and Ikedi Ezekwesili, member for Isuikwuato constituency.
Pundits say the mammoth crowd seen within the stadium and adjoining streets to the stadium, at each of the rallies , showed a twist in Abia politics. The 2019 Rally was a roll- call of who- is- who in APC, including the National chairman of APC, Adams Oshomoghle; first civilian Governor of Abia state , Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the occasion; Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Productivity and notable politicians from here and there.
Little wonder then that in the formal flag-off of the 2019 APC election campaigns and the presentation of the Party flags to the flag-bearers for Abia, the National Chairman Comrade Oshimole implored the contestants to use their brooms(Party’s symbol), to sweep away every bit and signs of the PDP in Abia, while voting-in Buhari as President; Uchechukwu Ogah as governor and all other candidates of the party in order to restore the past glory of the state.
The APC chairman, after voice vote of massive support and confidence, formally handed over Party flag to Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah to be APC flag-bearer in the 2019 governorship race for Abia state. Same went for Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu to contest for Abia-North senatorial zone; Senator Nkechi Nwaogu for Abia- Central, Sir Marc Wabara for Abia-South senatorial zone and all the Federal House of Representatives and State House candidates, whose flags were collected on their behalf by Hon Martins Apugo. Oshemole used the occasion to douse the insinuation that APC had two guber candidates in Abia state. He stated that Chief Ikechi Emenike had been disowned by the APC for anti-party activities, alleging that Ikechi Emenike was being sponsored by the Abia PDP to destabilise the APC in the State.
In his explanations, the Abia state chairman of APC, Chief Donatus Nwankpa said that a clearer interpretation of the conflicting rulings on Ikechi Emenike’s matter by two courts , was being awaited from a higher court of competent jurisdiction. He described Emenike’s court actions as mere distraction to satisfy his sponsors, stressing that such stage-managed actions were not having any effect on his party activities.
Speaking after handing over the party flags to the bearers, Oshimole, extolled the virtues of President Buhari, saying Buhari is doing, for the Igbos ,what the immediate-past President Jonathan could not do for Ndigbo, who voted him to power. He cited that while Jonathan’s projects in Igbo-land were ground-breaking , ‘ear-marked’; Buhari’s projects in Igbo-land are execution, ‘eye-marked now as they are all on-going’. Such projects include the on-going construction works on the Second Niger bridge; the Enugu-Port Harcourt Express Highway; the dualization of the Enugu-Onitsha Road, etc, etc. In the words of the APC-boss, for 16 years people of the South-east are still going through pains and agony. For 16 years PDP ruled the South-East with deceit. PDP privatised the Power sector among friends and cohorts. Today we cannot talk of steady power supply. The APC-controlled government, if elected this year, will review power supply across the country , to ensure 24:7 power- supply in the country to boost industrialization and enterprise.”
In the words of Oshomole, Uchechukwu Sampson Ogah is a product of self- efforts, productivity and enterprise ; the one candidate who can easily maintain the people of Abia state.
Said he:”comparatively, Ogah is a self-made- man, who is not coming to Government House to beg for money as if he is broke. Ogah is coming to rekindle the wheel of progress and development of Abia state. When Ogah was first tried to serve, he was cheated- out “and for that reason, he joined APC , where he has emerged victorious through transparent primaries. Abians should grab this chance.
“The reason why Ikpeazu should be voted-out is because he violated the primary aim of governance; which is the welfare of the citizenry. Ikpeazu collected bail-out fund from the Federal Government and diverted it to bail-out himself and family; leaving Abians behind. Again, he collected Paris Club Refund fund and headed to Paris to junket. He also substituted public welfare to his own welfare. In fact, he has treated Abians as slaves”, the National chairman lamented.
“ We have not come here to lament on the failure of PDP- Government, but with a message of hope that Uchechukwu Ogah will restore the lost glory of Abia and her citizens. On February 16th use your PVC to vote- in Buhari, Uche Ogah, and other APC candidates as the elections progress. Abia votes will be protected this time around. No-more writing results in personal houses and bringing them to the Local Government or INEC Headquarters for mere announcement”, he charged.
The Rally also afforded opportunity for the former Governor of Abia state and leader of APC in the state , Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu to narrate the plight of Abia since he left office. According to him, since he stepped down as Governor of the state many years ago, the economy of the state has continued to nose-dive.
He said that he continued paying salaries of workers till the day he left office. He lamented that his predecessors have continued to owe Abia Civil Servants, pensioners and contractors as if such attitude is part of governance.
Said Kalu :” The dilapidated Enugu-Port Harcourt express Road, for which I quarrelled with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is today being reconstructed by President Muhammadu Buhari. Because of the level of love Buhari has shown for the South- Easterners, the President would not get anything less than 70% votes in Abia and other South- East states.
“Our candidate today, Uche Ogah is going to pay salaries, pensions and Gratuities as well as re-enact free education , where children will go to school free because the PDP government has failed the people. The PDP Governor lives in his village to avoid developing Umuahia or Aba. All the roads which are functional today in Umuahia were the ones I built. I built this stadium. It is still as I left it”.
“I left being a governor many years ago, yet nothing has changed. When I was a Governor, there were Street- lights in Abia; the streets were clean. But today, because of the underdevelopment nature of the state, nobody comes here because of its numerous failures, as nobody wants to be identified with a failed state”.
In his acceptance speech, Dr.Uchechukwu Ogah thanked the APC officials for introducing direct primaries in the 2019 elections. He promised to correct the mistakes of the PDP-government over the years in2years,stressing that his immediate task is to put smiles on the faces of Abians after years of sorrows, pains and miseries in the midst of plenty.
In his words:” I will do everything to make sure that good stories are told of Abia State again . We will change the narratives. Let us all give APC all the votes in this 2019 elections!”