South East governors, leaders in dilemma over Obi, LP

By Ori Martins

The Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, are currently considered as nightmares to both the South East governors and top politicians in the zone. Obi and the LP have recently transformed into a humongous political machine that one must have to tread with caution when dealing with them, collectively.

About two months ago, former Imo State governor, Rt Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, while on the invitation of his Mbaise people to felicitate with them in their celebration of New Yam festival in Accra, Ghana, had innocuously called on the South East members of the PDP to vote for PDP. Hell was thereafter let loose as it was interpreted that Ihedioha, revered and respected all over the country in view of his immaculate performance in his seven month reign, had made a veiled attack on LP and Obi.

It took several newspaper, radio, television and social media announcements and posts by Ihedioha’s media aides and supporters before the public was assuaged. Even the former deputy speaker of the Federal House of Representatives had to make a well advertised appearance on Channels Television where he apologized, insisting his intentions were largely misconstrued.

It was the first time in his more than 25 years political career, Ihedioha who is not given to frivolities, would be caught on the wrong foot..

The entire Abia State, in the last one week, had been agog, discussing what was alleged to be an affront of the PDP-led government that attempted to disrupt the proposed flag-off campaign of the LP’s governorship candidate, Dr. Alex Otti, in Aba, the South East commercial hub, billed for Thursday, November 10, 2022.

In a press release made available to Business Hallmark, The Alex Otti Campaign Council, frowned at some press statements credited to Abia State Government which the LP termed as disrupting its campaign rally of Thursday, November 10, 2022, at Ngwa High School Aba.

According to the statement signed, by Iheanacho Obioma, state coordinator, of The Alex Otti Campaign Council, the press statement said to have emanated from the Abia State Government was replete with infantile emotional blackmail.

The LP stated that the school venue for the event was on mid-term break, which was one of the things it took into consideration before the date was chosen. The LP equally observed that the owners and management of the facility were in a better position to comprehend the issues at hand than the Abia State Government hence their approval for the party to make use of the area.

It, therefore, accused the PDP in Abia State of hypocrisy, pointing out that the Abia PDP had held similar rallies a few days ago, at Osusu Amaukwa and Umuakatawom Primary Schools, in Obingwa Local Government Area, while schools were in session.

It added, “Does this not show hypocrisy and double-speak by the same government? Our party had applied to use the Aba Township Stadium (Enyimba Stadium), but the Abia State Government turned down our request on the grounds that the pitch is a synthetic turf and thus will be destroyed if we held our rally there.

“Our governorship candidate, Alex Otti has repeatedly proven his love for education, hence he runs the most professionally organised and sustainable undergraduate scholarship scheme for indigent students in Abia, unlike the present government that continues to superintend the de-accreditation and destruction of our academic institutions; therefore, the government’s insulting pretence of love for education and welfare of Abia students is both hypocritical and provocative.”

It concluded thus; “The government’s false alarm and the negative publicity it is giving to our planned rally is a well-thought-out fraudulent strategy, aimed at causing confusion amongst our supporters with the intention of scaring them away from the rally. It’s a repeat of the devilish 2015 campaign strategy of the PDP, which failed then and will fail again this time.”

It will be recalled that the Abia State Government, through the Ministry of Basic Education, had written to the state chairman of the Labour Party, to find an alternative venue for the party’s rally, noting that the rally, if held at the venue, had every capacity to disrupt the academic calendar of the school.

The commissioner for basic education, Ukwu Rock Emma, said, “It has come to the notice of the Ministry of Basic Education that you intend to hold a political rally in the above-mentioned school.

“While wishing you well in your political activities, may I please advise that you look for another venue for the date you have chosen. Thursday, November 10, 2022, is a school day and Abia schools are in session.

“In Abia, we do not compromise on the welfare and wellbeing of our pupils. This proposed rally will definitely disrupt the academic calendar as learning and political rally cannot go on side by side. Your programme could have been considered if it were on a non-school day or during the holidays when schools are not in session.

“The use of Ngwa High School for a political rally on Thursday, November 10, 2022 is, therefore, denied.”

Responding, the chairperson of the LP in Abia State, Comrade Igara, stated that the government was wrong in its position that the school was in academic session. He said, “The school is not in session. They are to resume on the 13th of November, which is far ahead of time. .

“The Ngwa High School, Aba, where the rally was scheduled to hold, is a private institution owned by the Anglican Church and that the party obtained the approval of the school management before fixing the date for the rally.

“The new twist is a strategy by the government to weaken the LP in the state and frustrate party members from holding the rally. We got the approval from the school management and we have also paid all the necessary fees we needed to pay and students are not in session. So, there is nothing that should hold us down.”

Indeed, there were official government announcement banning use of public school facilities, stadiums and other public places in the state for campaign rallies in Abia State.

A statement signed by the commissioner of information, Eze Chikamnayo, last Tuesday, said no politician or group would be allowed to make use of school facilities, stadiums and other public places in the state without the consent of the governor.

The statement read: “It has been brought to the notice of Government that some misguided Political Parties are now embarking on the wilful invasion of school facilities, stadiums and valuable public premises across the state all in the name of holding rallies and political campaigns.

“Whereas the Abia State Government, as a staunch promoter of participatory democracy and democratic freedoms, will continue to give necessary support to all citizens to exercise their rights, it must be pointed out that the enjoyment of such constitutional rights must be conducted within the ambit of the law.

“Public utilities, school facilities, stadiums and valuable public premises are properties of the people of Abia State entrusted into the care of the Government. Therefore, no responsible government will stand by and watch such Facilities as they are willfully vandalised and degraded by sadistic elements with malicious interests disguised as politicians.

“The unscrupulous acts of these lawless individuals and groups jeopardise the efforts of government at all levels to provide succour to our children and citizens for whom those facilities were established.

In view of the foregoing, henceforth, in addition to notifying the Security Agencies, the written consent of the Education Secretary of a Local Government and the Executive Chairman of that local Government must be duly sought and obtained before the use of any Primary School Premises.

“Groups and individuals seeking to use any Secondary School should direct their applications and obtain their permit via the Secondary Education Management Board and the relevant Local Government Chairman.

“Similarly, because of the sensitive and expensive nature of the modern turf and equipment recently installed in our Stadiums, the consent of the Abia State Ministry of Sports and the relevant Local Government and State Authorities must be formally sought and obtained.

“Applicants wishing to use the Aba s totadium and others must give adequate guarantee to take responsibility for any damage sustained as a result of their activities before being allowed to use that prestigious Monument. This directive has become necessary for the protection of our common good and advancement of decency in our political conduct and takes immediate effect.”

As a matter of fact, what the LP and Obi are witnessing today reared its ugly head in Ebonyi State not quite long ago when it was alleged that the Nigeria Police used teargas on Obi’s supporters at a rally in the state.

According to the story, the police allegedly dispersed and arrested supporters of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Obi, who had gathered for a one-million march in Abakaliki, Ebonyi, that Saturday. The supporters of Obi, otherwise known as Obidients had converged on Pastoral Centre, Abakaliki, before setting out for the march to the other parts of the city.

The Obidients claimed that police officers fired teargas canisters at them in order to dislodge them and stop them from their rally.

“This is inhuman and undemocratic. We have gathered here this morning for our peaceful march, all of a sudden, the police came and started tear-gassing us and arresting our people. They said we can’t hold the march, because Governor David Umahi asked them to stop us, that we can’t hold it. About four of our colleagues have been arrested, one of the supporters who identified himself as Steve told reporters.”

Meanwhile, Governor Umahi denied ordering police to teargas, attack Obi’s supporters in the state. He was responding to the allegation that he ordered the police in the state to stop the supporters who converged at Pastoral Centre, Nkwagu Ugbala Ground Arena, People’s Club, and other locations in the state.

In a statement signed and issued to newsmen in Abakaliki by the Special Assistant on Media and Strategy, Mr. Chooks Oko, the governor said there was no disruption of the Obidient movement in the state.

“The rumours making the rounds that Governor Umahi ordered the disruption of a gathering in support of one of the presidential candidates in the 2023 elections is not true.

“The Governor of Ebonyi State is certainly not aware of any disruption of any gathering as he didn’t order any. He is a democrat who believes firmly in the rule of law. He wishes every contending politician the very best and will insist on a level playing ground for all. If it is true that the police dispersed people, the answer will surely rest with the police,” the stated enthused.

Even Obi’s state governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, seems not to be at ease with Obi and LP. He recently argued that the alleged investment of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, in the state government was worth next to nothing.

“I don’t know about the investment. Our interview is about the 2023 budget. I’m not talking about the investments of any of my predecessors. By the way, the one that you talked about I don’t know about that. I think there was something I read about somebody speculating about whatever investment. With what I’ve seen today, the value of those investments is worth next to nothing. So, let’s leave that aside.”

In his defence, Obi had said that he would not engage in war of words with the current governor of the state, Soludo.

Obi was responding to controversy trailing shares he bought with Anambra State government funds with SabMiller breweries, as part of his savings for the state, during his tenure. But in a statement, the Anambra State government clarified that the true worth of the shares depended on the current exchange rate of the dollars, while also saying that the shares were worth $3.7million or $5.7million in the parallel market.

It is really a sad moment for any established politician in the South East to talk against Obi in any form. “Obi is the rave of the moment in the South East. He is the candidate most of the electorate want to discuss in positive term.

“Mention Obi in good light and you will receive accolades. But talk about Obi derogatorily and you will get instant jeer and boo. Obi is now a signature that shows the way for peace, freedom, good governance and prosperity. It is a symbol of a new Nigeria and how to get things done right”, Amaka Ekene, a politician noted.

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