There is something uncanny about the gush of inflamed propaganda in public discourse that tends to submerge or bury the voice of truth in the cacophony of emotive polemics. And sometimes, if the real truth does not recover its own voice quickly and poignantly enough, lies, falsehoods and half-truths could be easily swallowed by the less discerning. This is most evident especially in political propaganda in an intriguing environment like Nigeria. The loudest always seems to be more credible, but that is not true in reality.
Indeed, the foregoing scenario of the nature of lop-sidedness in political propaganda is quite prevalent in the current Abia State governorship tussle between Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Dr. Uche Ogah, both of the Peoples Democratic Party. Since the June 27 judgement of the Abuja High Court nullifying the election of Ikpeazu and ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission to declare Ogah as the de facto governor of Abia State, propaganda has gone haywire and lent itself to many unwieldy voices of varying sentiments and prejudices.
Suddenly, beyond the strident voices of defendants in the legal case, every interested Nigerian seems to have an opinion. Abia State has been fortuitously thrust into the limelight of national discussions. The national primetime TV stations, newspapers and online news media have become awash with interviews, opinions and analyses on who is right and who is not in the Abia ‘crisis’. Some have questioned the judgement of Justice Okon Abang on the case. Some opined that INEC is wrong to have ‘rushed’ to issue Certificate of Return to Ogah when Ikpeazu had filed an appeal against the Abuja High Court judgement. Lawyers of different shades, too, joined the fray. Indeed, there are many expressions of blatant ignorance about the issue being talked about.
But in the whole din of typically riotous Nigerian political propaganda, the most unsettling of all public discussions on the Abia situation so far is the wrong notion that Ogah is desperate and taking an illegal back door to become governor. Nothing could be farther from the truth! That insinuation that Ogah’s victory at the court is a hurriedly executed legal ambush for the acquisition of political power is nothing but a brazen propagandist concoction of falsehood brewed by Ogah’s opponents to try to discredit him in the court of public opinion. It is simply a diversionary tactic by unscrupulous rabble-rousers meant to mislead Abia State citizens and other stakeholders.
For the purpose of disabusing innocent people’s minds and setting the records straight, it is pertinent to assert that Ogah’s case was a pre-2015 election issue and is strongly anchored on fact. But the refusal of Ikpeazu to respond to the core issues and his resort to propaganda speaks volumes about how political desperation could twist facts to suit mischievous agenda. By the way, at a recent briefing in Lagos through his counsel, Mr Monday Ubani, Ogah confirmed that his case predated Ikpeazu’s swearing-in as governor and the case had even long ago reached the Supreme Court before returning to the lower court.
The real crux of the whole case is that Ikpeazu was not actually eligible to participate in the 2014 PDP primaries on the basis that he failed to pay his taxes as and when due as required by the 1999 Constitution, PDP’s Guidelines and the Electoral Act, 2010. So, on the face of it, Ikpeazu’s tax clearance was indeed questionable. The Tax Clearance form (Code PD002/G), dated November 4, 2014, and sworn to at the High Court Registry, Aba, shows that Ikpeazu’s tax receipt number for December 2011 is 0012849; that of December 2012 is 0012846 and that of December 2013 is 0012847 and 0012848.
Now the question is, going by the foregoing, did Ikpeazu use one booklet to pay tax for three years? Is he the only one paying tax? How come the tax number which ends in 49 came first rather than last?
By the way, Ogah went to court soon after the 2014 primaries because the PDP’s appeal panel failed to respond to his complaints about Ikpeazu’s alleged non-qualification. When Ogah filed the suit in 2014, Ikpeazu challenged the court’s jurisdiction.
The appeal process got to the Court of Appeal until it was decided by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the Federal High Court had jurisdiction to hear the case. The first judge that handled the case, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, withdrew from the case on the ground that he was accused of bias and returned the file to the Chief Judge. The matter was then reassigned to Justice Okon Abang, who delivered the June 27 judgement that gave victory to Ogah.
So it can be clearly seen that Ogah is not undertaking any hasty legal ambush or taking a illegal back door to become governor, as being falsely assumed or propagated by perfidious propagandists. Neither is Ogah also a desperado, as wrongly alleged by his opponents.
In fact, despite the pressure mounted on him to dump the PDP for another party in his quest for justice, Ogah has vehemently refused. Up till today, he maintains that he will stay in the PDP because he has a divine mandate to actualise his vision for Abia State through the PDP. Again, the confirmation here of Ogah’s refusal to defect from the PDP has put a lie to insidious insinuations that he is being backed by Nigeria’s ruling party, APC, to take over Abia State. What a big lie!
As an oil magnate, entrepreneur, investor and president of Masters Energy Group, a conglomerate with over 15 subsidiaries and interests across a variety of industries with over 40,000 employees, Ogah is neither driven by desperation nor in the race for primitive pecuniary acquisitions through political power. His involvement in politics is an opportunity to have more solid and sustainable impact on Abia State, by helping transform God’s Own State with well thought-out ideas to create a life more abundant and egalitarian for the Abia people. It is his relentless passion to see governance in Abia State built on enduring values of accountability, commitment, creativity, credibility and transparency.
Today, if Ikpeazu is convinced of the rightness of his cause, he should vacate the governor’s seat, plead his case in a court of law and, when granted victory, come back to assume office, rather than resort to mindless propaganda to mislead the public. INEC should not be blamed for issuing Ogah with a Certificate of Return because the court ordered that it should be with immediate effect. On why Ogah should be sworn in without delay, his lawyer has confirmed that an appeal does not operate as a stay of execution in pre-election matters, adding that it is absurd for a court of coordinate jurisdiction to arrest an order made by another court.
Whatever happens eventually, Ogah would not take the laws into his hands but would pursue his case to the logical conclusion through the courts, as he is not desperate to become governor. Enough is enough of mischievous propaganda.
––Onwumere, a public affairs analyst and media consultant, writes from Lagos.