“In everything, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (2 Thessalonians 5:18)
As I stand before you, I am moved, but nothing moves me more than the continuous show of love, support and solidarity by millions of poor and less privileged Abians who have refused to succumb to the frightening power of injustice, rather have chosen to uphold a life of dignity by expressing their resentment to the injustice that denied them the right to choose who governs them.
The presence of this mammoth crowd today brings back to life the interesting memory of our campaign period when you all trooped out en mass to welcome us and give us that emotional support and solidarity that inspired us to journey on even in the face of difficulties.
I still recall that unforgettable day in this same Etche Road field when you emotionally displayed the outpouring of love that spoke volumes of your irrepressible desire for change.
From you, I got a bag of handkerchief with which to clean my face and brighten my vision while at the battle field.
You gave me a bag filled with Aba made shoes which you wanted me to wear while I traversed the terrible Aba roads. Above all, you blessed me with a portrait of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior whom you wanted to guide and protect us while the Abia battle for freedom lasted.
Make no mistakes about it, Christ was our inspiration, He is our inspiration and will forever remain our inspiration, so none should question the efficacy of his powers. I say this because some of you had sent me texts and mails, almost questioning the existence of God. Someone had threatened that he will not worship God again if He allowed our victory to be so brazenly stolen. I want to use this opportunity to respond to such people by quoting Dr. Ben Carson. He told a story of a man who asked God where he was when the Popular preacher, Myles Munroe, wife and his associates were killed in a plane crash? God answers, “the same place I sat when John the Baptist my Servant was beheaded. When Stephen my Servant was stoned to death. When Paul my Servant was murdered in Rome. The same place I sat when my only son was brutally crucified, wounded, bruised and killed.
I have not moved from my position.” I can assure you that for God to allow this to happen, there must be a purpose. I have no doubt that it will become manifest in no distant future.
You are all aware how this journey started, it is not the usual Nigerian political game where many step out either to be heard, to be seen, to be settled, or to capture political power by all means in order to meet selfish political and economic gains.
Without sounding sanctimonious, my ambition and decision to venture into the Abia political terrain was borne out of a genuine desire to arrest the socio-political and economic rots ravaging our dear State of Abia, and for which our state and people have gained a notorious and laughable status of mediocrity. I felt this should stop before a people once respected for their bravery, hard work and ingenuity are held in perpetual bondage, hence my decision to venture into the battle field.
Initially, friends, associates, and loved ones thought I was taking a crazy decision leaving my exalted position in the bank to come and run for governorship especially when I had over six years left to stay in my position as an MD/CEO of a respected bank in the country, and thus did everything humanly possible to dissuade me. But I insisted on pursuing my divine ambition of salvaging Abia which I consider more honorable, more altruistic, more people oriented, and more humanitarian knowing fully well that I have the capacity, the skill, the exposure and the burning desire to re-write our chequered history.
Gladly I must confess that, while some opposed this life saving adventure of mine, my wonderful wife, my children and many of my loved ones, friends, associates and well wishers were bold and brave enough to urge me to go ahead not minding the challenges ahead, and of course they gave me the necessary support I needed to achieve the little we were able to achieve.
While I never assumed that the battle would be a tea party, considering the virile and formidable structure of the anti democratic cabal holding the state down for years, I never imagined that human beings would exhibit such bestial attitude in a desperate desire to hold on to power against the collective will of the people.
While we set out to pursue the governorship project in the most peaceful, decent and civilized manner, touring every nook and cranny of the state preaching the gospel of change and good governance, the PDP and its agents deployed state apparatus and criminal brigandage to violently stop us from exercising our constitutional and democratic rights. We were stopped from using public facilities and institutions built by tax payers money and collectively owned by Abians. Our campaign billboards, flexes and posters were destroyed on daily basis without just cause.
The state owned radio station that should have been allowed to generate money for itself and become self reliant by collecting money from all parties for adverts and other programmes was seized, personalized by the PDP led government and used to preach hate against me, my party APGA, and our supporters.
Violent attacks were planned and executed against me on many occasions. For example we were attacked at Ikwuano through a high ranking PDP official there, yet we won convincingly in that L.G.A because the people resolutely wanted change and thus resisted the power of the gun.
At Isialangwa North, a notorious political thug and cultist deployed by PDP led the operation that attacked my convoy even without provocation, of course it would have been bloody if we hadn’t shown restraint.
At Isialangwa South, the INEC office there was burnt down just to prevent our House of Assembly candidate from being declared the winner of the election. In many parts of Obingwa like Ogbor-Hill, Seven Up axis and Obikabia areas, my supporters were openly threatened and warned not to come out and vote if they would not be voting for PDP and their candidates.
The impunity in that L.G.A manifested to the fullest on election day when the T.C Chairman of Obingwa and numerous other thugs were caught red handed and arrested by soldiers as they brought in dangerous arms and ammunitions as well as thumb printed ballot papers and ballot boxes stuffed with fake results which was aimed at achieving victory through the back door.
In Aba, they deployed hundreds of thugs and other criminal elements who violently moved round the city brandishing machetes and other dangerous weapons and littering the city with coffins, caskets and fetish objects threatening to kill the very determined Aba electorates if they stepped out to vote for me. These were the PDP sponsored atrocities that manifested in Abia because some agents of darkness wanted to remain in power at all cost.
These series of PDP electoral impunity was climaxed with the violent invasion of the INEC headquarters in Umuahia where former Governor T.A. Orji and other agents of political violence criminally stopped the INEC Returning Officer and the Resident Commissioner from declaring me winner of the election. Pause for a moment and imagine a scenario where my team and I returned fire for fire by invading the same collation centre and countermanding the then governor. It would have resulted in bloodshed.
My people, while we accepted our fate with equanimity after the fraudulent declaration of my opponent as the winner and proceeded to the court to seek redress peacefully, our opponents continued to preach and practice violence.
From denying my supporters the right to peaceful gathering, to burning down of INEC office in Obingwa to ensure we did not have access to the election materials for inspection and forensic investigation as ordered by the tribunal. The climax of their evil plot was the attempt to assassinate me on July 23, 2015 in Abuja. They may think no one saw them, but God saw them. I am 100% sure that the attack was masterminded by PDP in Abia State. I will not disclose more as it is still a subject of police investigation.
I only escaped through the grace and mercy of God who moved me out before over 10 heavily armed men struck, unfortunately my police orderly wasn’t lucky enough as he was murdered in cold blood, leaving behind a poor hapless widow to raise their little children. This is one of the several reasons we organized this thanksgiving service. Because the name of the Lord must be praised. To God Be the Glory.
Considering the procedural nature, the soundness and thoroughness of the judgment of the Court of Appeal which unanimously declared me the winner of the governorship election on 31st December, 2015, eliciting joy and spontaneous celebration in every nook and cranny of the state, all men of good conscience who detest election rigging and violence had thought that the supreme court would toe the same path of honor to give you Abia masses the justice you desperately desired, but for reasons which we are yet to ascertain, they ruled otherwise.
Although the judgment ran contrary to what happened in the election and clearly hurts the conscience of millions of Abians who have remained in a sorrowful mood since after the judgment, we are not like them that resort to self help, criminality, and violence, therefore we must accord our Judiciary its institutional respect. That, however, does not mean that we must agree with them. If anything, we believe and strongly too that the judgement was a miscarriage of justice.
Just like Robert Jackson, the late US Supreme Court Judge and one time Attorney General, admitted , Supreme Court is not infallible even though it is final. We had stated earlier that to the extent that the judges are men, we must prepare for the imperfections of man. It is only in God’s judgement which even the Supreme Court judges will face do we expect perfect judgement which will not be open to the manipulations and influence of man. It is no longer a secret that a day hardly passes without a case of kidnapping being recorded in Aba and its environs.
This dangerous development is not unconnected with the dozens of hoodlums allegedly brought back to the state by the PDP for the purpose of rigging elections. Now that the elections are over, many of them who have been abandoned without settlement, and without being de-radicalized and demilitarized have decided to lay hands on their dangerous weapons to unleash terror on innocent and hapless Abians. It is the responsibility of government to solve this self inflicted problem. We must do everything possible to create jobs for our youths and take them out of the streets.
Arming youths and brainwashing them to embrace politics of extremism, clannishness and violence for the purpose of using them to actualize selfish political ambition is one of the greatest political disservice the PDP is doing to vulnerable Abia youths and Abians as a whole, because every Abian would turn back to become a victim of this terrorist style of politics.
While the PDP and their agents resorted to violence and intimidation against us, we maintained our cool and played by the rules, not because we were cowardly and not because we lacked the courage, the contacts, and the capacity to repel their acts of violence, but because counter acts of violence from us would not only expose innocent Abians to danger, but would put a question mark on our change mantra and philosophy of Think Abia First, therefore our supporters should not worry that we didn’t play dirty like them, it was all for the good of Abia.
To Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, let me state unequivocally that we have nothing against him as a person, but the system and the style that imposed him against all democratic norms and practices, which attached more value to his ambition than to the lives of innocent Abians.
Having accepted the Supreme Court judgement no matter how flawed, we want the governor to succeed because if he does not, it is the Abia people that will pay for it in the final analysis. But to succeed, he must not only repent, but also purge himself of those primitive and primordial practices that have continued to present the state as a theatre of absurdities.
Some of those practices include payment of monthly stipends to some lazy and jobless persons masquerading as godfathers, leaders, and stakeholders. We believe this is evil and should not continue. Willful destruction of churches and other property belonging to persons perceived as Otti supporters. Just recently, the house of one of our leaders was set ablaze by arsonists in Obingwa.
The exploitation of innocent business men and women, traders and motorists with the use of thugs allegedly loyal to the government, for the purpose of settling political thugs and agents used during electioneering. Conducting government business in secrecy should be a thing of the past. It is on this note that we call on government to make public with immediate effect, details of the financial position of the state. We need to know how much the administration inherited in May when it took over. How much loans and bailout funds the state has received. It is our right to know. One thing that this government would need to understand is that democracy thrives on viral opposition. That, we will have henceforth in Abia State. The days where everyone would queue behind one man and sing his praises to high heavens while he is underperforming is over. This opposition will ensure that the government remains on its toes and delivers on the social contract it has with the people.
To the agents of PDP and Abia State government who desperately want to hear us congratulate Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu in the spirit of sportsmanship, my answer is this; you are ignorant of the meaning of sportsmanship. While like I said earlier, we have accepted the unpopular judgment that injures the sensibilities of Abians, we cannot congratulate you as that would amount to endorsement of criminality, so rather than arrogantly be demanding for unjust and undeserved congratulatory message from me and my party, the PDP should rather express remorse, seek repentance, and be humble enough to seek for forgiveness from God and Abians.
Like President George W. Bush said, “Terrorists can attack the foundation of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, but cannot touch the foundation of America”, I say to the agents of election rigging and political violence that though you may have hurt us temporarily, but you cannot stop our collective desire, determination, and drive to reclaim Abia and restore its pride and lost glory to the admiration and appreciation of millions of expectant Abians.
To my party the All Progressives Grand Alliance, the platform upon which I pursued my ambition, I am very grateful and shall remain committed in ensuring the expansion of the party in order to actualize the vision of the founding fathers of this great party.
To my party men and women who worked tirelessly and cooperated with me till this moment, I thank you for sharing in my vision, and may the spirit of Onye Aghala Nwanne Ya continue to radiate in our midst until we get to our destination.
To my supporters who passionately battled from different fronts, both through the electronic and social media, words cannot be enough to describe your heroic commitment and resilience which positively shaped the history of Abia politics. Just like Ruth, I will charge you “ entreat me not to leave you, for wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. (Ruth 1:16-17).
My diaspora Abians and non Abians who lent their voices from abroad in a patriotic move to ensure that things were done better in Abia, be assured that your good intentions and expectations for Abia shall come to accomplishment.
To my immediate constituents, the suffering men and women of Abia, pupils and students, civil servants, teachers, traders, artisans, clergy, the young and the old who persevered in the face of threats, and stood firmly under the scorching sun for hours just to cast your votes and make the Change you believe in, be rest assured that the victory which shall herald your freedom may have been delayed, but can never be denied.
To other Abia compatriots who may be angry and disappointed about the turn of events, while admonishing you to hold your peace, I leave you with the words of Winston Churchill thus “Success is not final, Failure is not fatal, It is the courage to continue that counts.
– Being the text of a speech by Dr. Alex Otti, at a thanksging service in Aba recently