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S’Court verdict: Otti announces new road projects, vows to end divisions in Abia

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S'Court verdict: Otti announces new road projects, vows to end divisions in Abia

From Peter Okore, Umuahia

Amid the continuing celebration in Abia over the ruling of the Supreme Court that upheld the victory of Dr. Alex Otti in the March 18 governorship election, the governor has vowed to end political divisions in the state.

Otti’s mandate was affirmed, Friday, January 12, 2024, by the ruling of a 5-man panel of Supreme court judges.

Following this victory, the state capital, Umuahia and the commercial city of Aba were, respectively agog with spontaneous jubilation and celebrations that started , Friday afternoon and lasted through last weekend with parties, merriment and thanks-giving Church service organized by supporters of Alex Otti and friends as well as residents of the state.

An eye-witness report has it that most open public places, beer parlours and eateries have continued to witness unprecedented assembly of people in festive moods discussing the verdict across party divides; offering free drinks and throwing free-for-all parties, while owners of such public places and their workers have been busy attending to customers; all in the name of celebrating Otti’s victory .

In fact, it could be said, and rightly too, that many supporters of Governor Otti, including some non-members of the Labour Party celebrated the supreme court judgment by declaring free drinks along major streets , while some transporters offered free rides to commuters into –and-out of the cities of Aba and Umuahia to partake in the celebrations at the right venues of their choices.

In Umuahia and Aba metropolis, traders and other interested groups from various markets and other places stormed the major streets of the metropolis in their numbers, chanting songs of solidarity in support of Governor Otti’s victory and justice in the supreme court ruling

As public places were busy with eating and drinking and cities bustling with merriments, there were also sounds of canons and fireworks heard and seen in parts of Umuahia, Aba and environs.

Radio and television stations in the state have equally been awash with paid advertorials and running jingles of congratulations from well-wishers, including governorship candidates in the 2023 general elections, religious and traditional rulers to Governor Otti for his victory and to the Supreme Court for respecting the will of the electorate.

In Aba, the colourful celebration match, which took Aba residents across major streets climaxed at Aba Town Hall, where the jubilant crowd was later addressed by the Governor himself.

Addressing the mammoth crowd at the Aba South Headquarters, Governor Otti put it before the crowd that he has started the process of retrieving Aba from the the shackles of underdevelopment by awarding contract for the construction and reconstruction of many strategic roads in the area.

Otti also announced that the reconstruction of Ohanku and Obohia roads will commence before the end of this month using the rigid pavement technology to ensure their durability.

He explained that his administration has received a design that will take away storm water from Ariaria, Ukwu mango and Ndiegoro to waterside river from experts , in a bid to permanently solve the perennial flooding in Aba. He stated that unless the flooding problem is addressed, some of the roads in the city will face danger in the years ahead.

According to the Governor, the companies would be meeting with him to finalize on the project. He further explained that the idea is to give Aba people new lease of life as well as to elongate the life- span of the roads. He equally assured that the Julius Beger would hand -over Aba- Port Harcourt road this year and thanked the people of Aba for their supports.

In his own remark, the Speaker Abia House of Assembly, Chief Emmanuel Emeruwa thanked Aba people for their support for the LP led administration in the state, stressing that many things would have eluded them if not for the coming of Governor Alex Otti. He pledged that they will complement the efforts of the Governor in a bid to give Abians good governance.

Earlier, the Mayor of Aba South LGA, Chief Uche Wogu commended the governor for achieving so much within the past seven months as Governor and thanked him for many ongoing road projects in the area, including plans to commence the reconstruction of Ohanku and Obohia roads.

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At the Thanksgiving Mass on Sunday, which also coincided with celebration of this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance activities, held at Mater Dei Cathedral, Umuahia, Governor Otti restated his commitment not to disappoint the people of the State in the discharge of his duties as the Governor.

He used the forum to implore the various denominations to continue to remember the leadership of the state and nation, in prayers , day and night.

In his words:” Our commitment is that we will not disappoint you”.

He thanked God for giving him victory at the Supreme Court, stressing that if God did not sanction it, it would not have happened.

He narrated how he and his team rushed to the church (Mater Dei) upon his declaration as the duly elected Governor of Abia State on 22nd March, 2023 and ascribed all to God.

“We may have fought hard, we may have been resilient, we may have worked very hard, but if He did not sanction it, it will not happen. And we have therefore come here to thank God ; thank the men and women of God; thank the children of God who are here”, he said.

In his homily, the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, Most Rev. Michael Ukpong noted that it is God who gives victory, saying that Governor Otti recognizes that fact; hence the need for him to maintain the right track.

Said he: “This knowledge is important for the continued success of the administration. Don’t forget that the God who has given you victory will demand your stewardship. I must say, so far Abians are happy with your government. Now that every other obstacles have been removed, we have the right to get every dividends of democracy.”

While congratulating Governor Alex Otti for the affirmation of his mandate by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Bishop Ukpong noted that God has, through the court victory, proven that He does not give and take back the same time.

At a vote of thanks, the Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia, Rev. Father (Dr.) Henry Maduka, appreciated the Governor and his entourage, asserting that if the Governor had lost at the Supreme court, there would have been crises in the State.

Rev. Father Maduka, therefore, urged Otti to sustain his achievements and carry the people along in his administration.

Political pundits are of the opinion that Otti had never protected his votes at any of the elections in 2015 and 2019 respectively, which made PDP to have field-days at every election.

They also say the mood of the people in Abia has become spectacular because they have never had it so good for 24 years, as the real mandate of the people was (this time) respected by the supreme court. They argue that since the practice of democracy in Abia , supreme court had all- along apparently decided governorship for the people of Abia.

Both the PDP and contestants in the 2023 guber elections, Mr. Okey Ahiwe of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)and Ikechi Emenike of the All Progressive Congress(APC) had approached the courts and the 2023 Abia Governorship Election petition Tribunal (from tribunal, Appeal and Supreme Courts) challenging Dr. Alex Otti as winner of the March 18, 2023 governorship election in the state . They also prayed that either Ahiwe or Emenike, in their separate prayers, be declared winner of that election and governor of the state, instead of Otti.

But, in its ruling on the issues, the apex court criticized the appellants for bringing what was deemed “a frivolous and vexatious appeal before them”.

Justice Abba-Aji, in the lead judgment, conveyed the court’s dissatisfaction with the merit of the appeal.

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It is, however, worthy of note that Alex Otti emerged victorious in the election with a commendable 175,466 votes, surpassing his closest rival, Okey Ahiwe of the PDP, who garnered 88,529 votes. The outcome of the election, which transpired early last year, underscores the electorate’s preference for Otti’s candidacy, unlike past years.

In essence, the ruling of the highest court of the land emphasized the importance of proving substantial non-compliance and underscored the limitations of the court in interfering with internal party matters, describing the appeal as lacking in merit and bearing the characteristics of being frivolous and vexatious.

The apex Court, while delivering judgment on the PDP and Okey Ahiwe’s suit, said the PDP did not have a right to question the nomination of Alex Otti by the Labour Party as its candidate, as such a decision was a political party affair.

In the words of the Court: “the PDP’s appeal is like the proverbial case of crying more than the bereaved and should not have been taken up to the level of the Supreme Court”.

That was not all. The Supreme Court further rejected the prayers of the PDP against the reduction of the controversial Obingwa LGA votes. Politically known as “Obingwa PDP victory -magic”, the party has been using it(the evil practice) to win elections in Abia over the years.

The Obingwa saga/ PDP woes? The plan by the PDP to manipulate the 26,884 voters accredited through BVAS on the election day in Obingwa LGA to correspond with their clandestine evil mission got exposed and truncated.

Again, the plot to allocate a whooping 108,000 votes to PDP, as against the 9,962 votes the party legitimately garnered at the poll, was checkmated by the vigilant and courageous Obingwa LGA Collation officer. And, while the shenanigans were unfolding in Obingwa, the Abia state Returning officer, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri(FUTO), Prof. Nnenna Oti, was also in her best mood at the State Collation centre on the INEC premises in Umuahia, compounding the heat in the PDP camp. This “mago-mago” led to the delay in declaring the 2023 governorship result by the INEC in Abia, till March 22,2023(after 4 days).

However, recalling all the associated hiccups, Including the Kano High court injunction, which made it possible for his inauguration to happen on the 29th of May 2023; and which culminated to his confirmation as being duly elected as Abia state choice- governor by the supreme court, Dr. Otti used his re-affirmation of his electoral victory speech to the people of Abia state, last Friday, to thank God for the victory, which he said actually started in 2015 and affirmed today (Friday, January 12, 2024).

He also thanked Nigerians, Labour Party, the judiciary and the Abia people who have stood solidly behind him and his administration since they took the principled stand of contesting for elections to rescue Abia State from decay and dilapidation, as well as all the governorship candidates of the various parties, particularly those ones that did not go to court.

Otti remarked that by his victory the judiciary has affirmed that really, the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. This is also as he thanked the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for remaining firm to the resolve that the judiciary should be independent; and encouraged him to continue in that light.

According to Otti, “I believe that his(President’s) non- intervention in the judiciary has produced positive results for the country today. A few places people, who were getting ready to burn down places, today, have sheathed their swords because the rule of law prevailed.

“ We will not forget INEC, which in Abia State ensured that the right thing was done. That is why we have this victory. We should not forget that in 2015, we also had the same victory, but unfortunately those at the helm of affairs at that time, succumbed to pressure (money) and declared the wrong results. But for what we are on today, INEC insisted and declared the result as recorded in the different collation centres.”

In the words of Governor Otti: ”Our promise is that we will never get distracted again, now that we have come out of the numerous distractions through litigations. This is the time to give ultimate good governance to our people; to redeem our people; to take our people from the back waters and we must do it because that is why we were elected.

“We want to restore the dignity of the Abia- man. We want any time Abia is mentioned anywhere, people will say good things about us. That is the reason why we are here. Any time we’re building roads, any time we’re retrofitting schools and hospitals, we want our state to reckon positively in the comity of states in Nigeria”.

On the controversial PDP-Obingwa election magic, Otti declared: “ If you followed the adoptions two days ago, our lead counsel, Abiodun Owonikoko SAN, said that he had followed elections in Abia, and actually he had been our lawyer since 2015. Obingwa had lent itself as a place where elections are rigged and where results are manipulated. It is instructive to say that it is not the whole Obingwa. It is a few people in the former ruling party, who had constituted themselves into instruments of manipulation, not because of the benefits that Obingwa would receive but for self interest. I’m happy to announce that a new crop of leaders have emerged from Obingwa and we’re going to support them.

“Some of them attend churches and what the Bible tells us is that righteousness exalts a nation, so if you did not win an election, it is sin for you to pretend that you won an election. Obingwa is a very important place to me because it is part of the places that I grew up in Abia State. I actually finished my primary school in Obingwa. I know that Obingwa people are not fraudulent.

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“ We now send clear message to them that all the so-called stakeholders and evil manipulators, who have put Obingwa in the wrong side of the land, they should now retire because we have a new crop of young people, who want the right thing to be done; who do not want to be known as an empire where manipulations, fraud and scam come from. We are people with dignity and we should maintain and respect that dignity.

“ I must invite everyone, including my opponents, the ones who were in the courts with me, to say, now that the battle is over. You should sheath your swords. I invite you to come with every idea you have; let us sit down and discuss because the most important thing is Abia State and anybody that has anything to contribute to the positive development of Abia State is welcome, irrespective of your political, ethnic and religious leanings. We are one and the same people. From now on, division will not be allowed in Abia State. So, we are now in one boat and this boat is large enough to accommodate us”.

The Governor finally urged his opponents in Abia and in different states of the federation to equally sheath their swords and work together as brothers and sisters for the development of your respective states.

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