•Abia elders back governor
Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Embattled Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, Tuesday said he was lucky to be alive because if the court judgment that annulled his election had been a death sentence, he would have been executed in a haste without opportunity to appeal the sentence.
He expressed this alarm when he received a delegation of Concerned Lawyers who came to pay him solidarity visit at government house, saying that the attempt to hastily implement the judgment of Justice Okon Abang was suspicious.
“The Abuja High Court ruling denied me of the right to exercise my fundamental human rights, which is the right of appeal. So if it was a case of execution, I would have been killed without giving me time to exercise my right of appeal before a court of competent jurisdiction,” he said.
Earlier, the governor had told members of his cabinet, who came on solidarity visit that he had indeed survived a coup plot hatched by all those involved in the “desperate efforts” to unseat him.
“The plot to remove me as governor was a coup d’état. I can’t imagine that somebody who never contested election is seeking to be made a governor through the back door. I can’t understand the rush by INEC to issue Uche Ogah with a certificate of return. I also can’t comprehend the rush to swear him in,” he declared in bewilderment.
Ikpeazu noted that the inference from the whole circumstances surrounding the bid to remove him was that the motive was not just the issue of tax as implied in the court judgment, alluding that the office of governor was being made to appear as a cash and carry commodity.
“The truth is that it goes beyond the issue of tax. I want to appeal to our Igbo brothers to see politics as a game of a winner and a loser. They should not bring the mercantile business style into politics. It won’t help us,” he said.
The governor told the lawyers that it was regrettable that a peaceful state like Abia was now being presented as a state at war with itself, adding that the political imbroglio had generated so much tension and polarised the state.
Ikpeazu used the forum to thank the lawyers in the state for educating the people of the state on the need to remain calm, “As the desperados had already come into the state to wreak havoc.”
Earlier, the leader of the team, Ogbonnaya Nwannunu said they had come to lend their support to the governor following the political crisis that the state has been plunged into with the attendant unnecessary legal fireworks.
He said the concerned lawyers were aware of the legal summersault that has descended on the state hence “we have come to rob minds with the governor with the aim of finding lasting solutions and the way forward to the current political crisis in the state.”
Nwannunu said having x-rayed the case against Abia governor, the lawyers were of the view that “the whole incident is charade and that it will go in the way of others like it, as it is not the first time such is happening.”
He pointed out that there was no way a person who did not contest governorship election would emerge and become governor, pointing out that the only place where such anomaly occurred was Rivers, adding that the Electoral Act had been amended to prevent future occurrence.
“The case in question made the Electoral Act to be amended, so what is happening in Abia State where a man will dream of being a governor and wake up trying to make his dream a reality, is a rape of democracy and a coup d’état,” Nwannunu said.
According to him, those people planning “this evil” against the state were toying with the lives of Abians, “which we as a group will not allow to stand for the sake of today and the future.”
Meanwhile, prominent political leaders, elder statesmen and traditional rulers from Abia State rose from a high level meeting in Abuja late last night and threw their full weight behind Governor Ikpeazu, in the unfortunate crisis surrounding his mandate.
The meeting which was hosted under the aegis of Concerned Abia Elders by former National Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, had in attendance the three senators representing Abia State in the National Assembly, members of the House of Representatives and other notable leaders from Abia State.
Reading the communique at the end of the meeting, pioneer Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and a former governorship candidate in Abia State, Chief Onyema Ugochuku, the leaders faulted the judgment of Justice Abang as perverse and reckless.
They also criticised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its decision to issue a certificate of return to Ikpeazu’s main challenger in the party primaries which produced the gubernatorial candidate for the April 2015 governorship election, Mr. Samson Uche Ogah.
Leaders said: “We have also noted the unseemly haste of INEC to issue the certificate just a few hours after Justice Abang’s order, and in spite of the fact that INEC had been duly served with a notice of appeal of the said order and the motion for a stay of execution.”
Continuing, the leaders expressed palpable worry at the impression created of a conspiracy involving INEC, to throw Abia State into confusion and anarchy.
Admonishing the federal government not to unwittingly open another flashpoint in yet another geopolitical zone of the country, the leaders condemned in very strong terms, the attempt to set Abia State on fire and create a situation which can only exacerbate the problems which the country is currently contending with in the North-east and Niger Delta.
According to Ugochukwu, spokesperson of the elders, the meeting noted with appreciation the intervention of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN), who has urged the parties to exercise restraint, follow the rule of law and await the conclusion of proceedings from the appellate courts. The elders aligned themselves with the Attorney-General’s appeal for peace, imploring all parties in the matter to calm down and await the conclusion of matters in the court.
While commending the people of Abia State for maintaining the peace in the face of recent provocations and urging them to remain calm, the meeting restated the faith of Nigerians in the judiciary and expressed optimism that at the end of the situation, justice will be done.
The Concerned Abia Elders paid tributes to the memories of two distinguished Abia leaders, Ambassador Ojo Maduekwe, former Minister of Transport and Foreign Affairs respectively, and Senator Onyekachi Okoroafor, a member of the third republic national assembly between 1992 and 1993.
Dignitaries at the meeting included: immediate past governor of Abia State and senator representing Abia Central, Theodore Orji; senators representing Abia North and South, Mao Ohuabunwa and Enyinnaya Abaribe; member House of Representatives for Ukwa East and West, Nkem Abonta and National Vice Chairman- South-east, Col Austin Akobundu (rtd).
Also in attendance were former President of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Wabara; Secretary to the Abia State Government, Dr. Eme Okoro; Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Argentina, Chief Empire Kanu; Prof Herbert Orji; Chief Chukwu Nwachukwu; Elder E.O. Adaelu; Prof S.O. Igwe and Engr Solomon Adaelu.
Royal fathers in attendance included: Eze Mathias Nwoko, Eze J.O. Akaliro, Eze Eberechi Dick, and Eze P.M. Okponku. Chief Uche Ihediwa, Chief Eme Kalu and Hon Darlington Nwokocha, we’re also present.