Executive director of the Abia Interest Group, a non-governmental organisation, and former commissioner in Abia State, Dr. Eze Chikamnayo, says the current governorship tussle in the state is the manifestation of a selfish struggle by some moneybags to thwart the smooth operation of a power-sharing agreement reached by all major stakeholders of Abia State. Onyebuchi Ezigbo. Excerpts:
Beyond the legal pronouncements, what do you think is behind the current governorship crisis in Abia State?
Like it is always said, conscience is an open wound and only the truth can heal it. The truth of the Abia situation is that all political parties; not one, not two but all political parties are of the agreement that power in Abia State should be made to rotate among the three component senatorial districts of the state: Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South. Dr. Orji Uzoh Kalu, the former governor of Abia State, is from Abia North and he was governor for eight years. Governor Theodore Orji, the immediate past governor, is from Abia Central and he governed for eight years. It is in consideration of this fact, this truth, that all parties, All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, and all the political parties chose their governorship candidate from Abia South.
The contender who is causing all these confusion now, Dr Uche Ogah, is from Abia North the same zone as Dr. Orji Uzoh Kalu, the people who have governed for eight years. It is not the right thing to do. We of the Abia Interest Group are of the opinion that it is an attempt to scuttle the hollowed truth that is causing the tension in Abia today. It is this attempt, either by hook or crook or by the imagination of moneybags, to overrule the general good in favour of personal interest.
What alternatives is your group offering for the resolution of the problem, besides the legal actions?
Let me even address the legal issues you talked about. I am from Abia North. I am a working encyclopaedia of Abia politics. I have served from 1999 till date in various capacities in Abia State. So when I speak, I speak out of practical experience. It is not a sentimental thing. I am providing solutions that I think would bring stability to our people. But coming to the issue in contention, the matter is very simple. A civil servant, a public servant or anybody working under the employment of government went to the tax authority to ask of records of his tax deduction and he was given a paper prepared by that authority. In law and in fact it is very clear, even in the affidavits that we swear it is clearly written that I make this oath even to the best of my knowledge.
If you prepare a document as a professional journalist I can only aver to that document to the best of my knowledge not being a professional in that field. So whatever the people in the Board of Internal Revenue did and brought out as papers, which they have come out to take responsibility for what they recorded, is not within the purview of individuals who are not professionals in the issue of tax and tax returns to come out and give a text book interpretation of the receipt paper.
These matters are still in court and I don’t want us to prejudice the legal aspect, that is why I concentrated more on the issues that are outside the court and the issue is this, when you have three pieces of meat in a plate of soup and you have three men eating from that plate, it would be wrong for one person for whatever excuse to arrogate to himself the three piece of meat at the expense of one of the people in that meal. In Abia State it is given and well known that the position of governing now resides in Abia South, Abia North and Abia Central having tasted that position for eight years each.
What is your advice to the Abia state government and other stakeholders in the state at this point?
First of all, you can’t belong to a group which you have so freely subscribed to and become a deliberate deviant in that group. Abia PDP has said we have zoned Abia governorship to the South. A law-abiding and loyal member of PDP should be able to honour that, that is a gentle man because it is voluntary to join a political party and if you don’t believe in their ideology, manifesto or decision of that party the honourable thing to do is to leave the party and explore your interest in another platform. Uche Ogah is a bull in a China shop.
Ogah is doing what we call a deliberate and despicable disaster to the fabrics of cohesion that bind Abia State together and he must be told in clear terms that this won’t work. Secondly, my advice is for him to withdraw forthwith every legal gymnastic involved in this matter as a clear condition for a political solution. When he has done that the elders will want to have some form of out of court discussion that will aim at the truth and nothing but the truth. And what is the truth? It is that the people from Abia South should be allowed to finish their eight years like the other two senatorial districts have done. If there is anybody to contend for that position it should be from the same senatorial district to which this governorship has been allotted to by the generality of the Abia public.
Then on the part of the governor, I would advise him to be inclusive in all his dealings. He has tried so far to show equity in his appointments, in his projects. Out of the 66 roads he has done so far in less than one year, you can discover the level of parity in the way he has distributed the roads despite the very lean resources of the state. I would encourage him to do more of that.
I also want him to reach out to all the people that contested with him in the past at every level, whether at the primary level or the party level. I want to ask him to reach out to everybody and carry everybody along because he is now the father of the state and must be seen to accommodate all shades of interest and opinion within the state.
Do you think PDP has acquitted itself well in this matter, in terms of initiating dialogue aimed at resolving the issues?
The issue is dialogue between who and who?
Between the contending forces.
The contending forces are not entirely from Abia State, you must know. This is an act of impunity instigated by some moneybags in Igbo land; moneybags from Anambra, Imo and Abia. They have so much money that they can even collect your wife. They just act with reckless abandon, otherwise how would a gentle man wake up and begin to overrule the decision of the Abia collective? To everybody in Abia, it is given and well known that the issue of zoning is sacrosanct, which has been established for public peace. That was why when Orji Uzoh Kalu ran, everybody from Abia South was asked to allow him to go.
Former Governor Orji was there, everybody from the other side cooperated so it would be unimaginable that an adult in Abia State who knows this reality that has given us peace will want to put a spoke in the people’s wheel. We want to ask Ogah to immediately remove himself from this reason that he is giving and join the Abia public to pursue the common good because when you are talking of elders calling them to the round table, elders should at all times call on interest groups and discuss with them. But nobody should be made to look like he is above the collective good.