PETER OKORE, Umuahia
It is no longer news that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the just-concluded byelection in the Aba-North and South Federal constituency of Abia state, conducted on 27th of March, 2021.
By this result from the area, PDP has toppled the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) to take control. Victory in this constituency had eluded the PDP for many years, and this was why why the party was hell bent on getting it this time around.
Following the election results, the PDP’s candidate, Mr. Chimaobi Ebisike has been given his Certificate of Return; having been declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
As announced by the Returning officer, Professor Felix Obata, MR. Ebisike polled a total vote of 10,322 to beat his closest rival, Mascot Uzor Kalu of the All progressives Congress, APC, who polled 3,674 votes. Other results were APGA,1,554; AA 199; ARM 13 and APM got 8 votes. According to the Returning officer, the total votes cast for that Federal constituency was 16,017votes.
Declaring Ebisike winner, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Abia, Dr. Joseph Iloh explained that that the byelection for Aba-North and South Federal constituency was scheduled by the INEC following the death, in February, 2021, of Chief Ossy Prestige of the APGA.
He hinted that APGA and family-members of Ossy Prestige had petitioned that the INEC should have allowed Ossy Prestige to be buried before ordering for the a byelection to replace their deceased son. Iloh attributed the aparty experienced during the bye-election to the feelings/position of the bereaved family, APGA and well-wishers.
Political pundits, however describe the victory of PDP in Aba-North and South Federal Constituency as a sharp departure from what obtained in the area in the past 22years. In the years past, APGA had controlled the area and did all it could, to provide the necessary amenities and infrastructure to the admiration of a many.
The acceptance of the PDP in the area , this time around, has everything to do with what inhabitants of the town describe as “Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s infrastructural revolution in Aba”, courtesy of the N27Billion World Bank funding for Regional Urban development programme in Aba. Not only that, Ikpeazu had, ahead of the PDP mega political rally in Aba, visited the family of late Ossy Prestige and dolled out the sum of N10Million for the education of the children of late Ossy Prestige.
Aba is a Cosmopolitan city inhabited by Nigerians, non-Nigerians; the wealthy and independent-minded business moguls, who cannot readily be influenced by any financial inducements of politicians. This had been evident in their voting patterns all these years, which usually favour performance and quality delivery. This was exactly what made that constituency to affiliate itself to the defunct All Progressives Alliance (APP), and later APGA; championed by the late Chief Ossy Prestige.
The sudden push in infrastructural development under the present administration, has, however, turned the tide in PDP’s favour. It all had to do with confidence and trust on the person and political party involved. Observers see this confidence –building and trust manifesting in Aba, that Aba people want to place on the sitting government. This confidence was truly demonstrated on Ikpeazu and the PDP in the 27th March, 2021 byelection.
Aside this transfer of confidence to the PDP-government, by the Enyimba city dwellers, the PDP threw-in all it had, at her disposal to ensure they won that byelection. The campaigns and all, including every resource at its disposal, were deployed to ensure victory. Having achieved this milestone, the party is advised to close ranks, unite, re-strategize and sustain the infrastructural developments in Aba so as to restore the City to its past glory.
Aba people only need to be provided with conducive environments for them to go about their legitimate businesses and pay their taxes. Aba needs water, all-season roads, electricity and security to boost their commercial enterprises, as they do not care where the leader comes from.
Late Ossy Prestige was alive to the problems of Aba and did the much he could while alive. This was why he was very dear in the hearts of Aba people and Aba people were prepared to follow him anywhere he went and his party.
Little wonder Governor Ikpeazu affirmed, in his response to the victory, that the victory of PDP in that byelection for Aba-North and South federal constituency was due to the hard work his administration has put into the re-positioning of Aba.
His words:” The bye-election was a first –hand opportunity for Aba people to pass judgment on the efforts of my administration in rebuilding the broken walls of the Enyimba city”.
Indeed, the walls of the commercial hub of the South-Eastern state were broken during the Nigeria/ Biafra war. Insecurity further compelled inhabitants of the town to flee the city for safer areas where they could stay in peace and do their businesses. Since 1999, when democracy was introduced in the governance of Nigeria, it ws only the businessmen resident in Aba who have been representing the municipality in all the tiers of governance.
At first it was Mr Nnanna Uzor Kalu , who representing the Aba-North and South in the National Assembly. Then came Uzor Azubuike; Ossy Prestige and now is the son of the soil- Amaobi Ebisike, who is supposedly going to the National Assembly as a green horn
In the words of the governor, “For all intents and purposes, this bye-election was more appropriately, a referendum by the people of Aba on our work in the Enyimba city. Our (PDP) government has invested lots of effort in providing critical infrastructure in Aba and it is heartwarming to see the people truly reciprocate our efforts. It is also a clear message that our people detest injustice . The people of Aba completely endorsed our message that it was only just, fair and proper to allow the aborigines of Aba an opportunity to represent their people , for the first time in 22 years of our democracy, at the National Assembly”.
Before the election-proper, the fight for Aba-North and Aba-South federal constituency was pitched between the PDP and APC. APGA is still bedeviled with internal crisis, was not keen to enter the battle. Coupled with the indecision was the earlier stance that Ossy Prestige ought to have been buried before the bye-election. APC cashed –in on the situation and pushed Mascot Uzor Kalu to fly the party’s flag, since he is also “an Aba boy”.
The candidacy of Mascot became controversial, as party faithful saw it as an attempt by Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief Whip in the National Assembly and member representing Abia-North in the Senate, to push his junior brother into the House of Representative. Added to this was another controversy surrounding who was actually funding or responsible for the various roads being rehabilitated in Aba; World Bank, Federal or Abia state government? No clarifications have yet come to limelight on this.
However, in a statement he issued after the declaration of the results by the INEC, Mascot Uzor Kalu said he accepted the result in good fate and would not resort to litigations. He, however, appealed to his party and supporters to remain calm and law abiding.
His words:” While the PDP wanted the election, at all cost, we chose life over bloodshed. And we, therefore, won lives and lost the polls. To us, that was a victory. The level of thuggery, violence and rigging that occurred in the bye-election, called for a deeper review of the country’s Electoral Laws, to strengthen our democracy. Again, traders were threatened with TEXT messages to keep away from polling units or lose their lives,” he said.
“In Aba city with over 497,000 voting strength, less than 15,000 votes were recorded in an entire election. Despite the fact that we (APC) have enough evidence to reclaim our mandate, we would not be going to court. This is to allow the declared winner (Ebisike) to concentrate and provide good representation and infrastructure to the people of Aba.”
Meanwhile, it had been jubilation galore in Aba by the aborigines of Aba since after the declaration of election results, though punctuated following the sudden death of the Deputy chief of staff to the governor, Chief Ukpai Agwu Ukpai.