That Abia has never been lucky with leadership from its creation is a fact. But what is even more factual is that later day leaders of the state have succeeded in making the earlier leaders look saintly, even though they never really performed optimally. This is the reason why people like Orji Kalu now look more like heroes, with their projects towering in the face of onlookers, just because of the abysmal performance of those after him.
This is the reason Abia does not need any sentiment in choosing a leader any longer. Rather, it needs one with proven capacity to deliver, not just the “our man” syndrome. Around the country, governance has been reduced to a thing of where-does-he-come-from. The pertinent questions, which should be: who is he and what are his antecedents, never just get asked again. These two no longer count in Nigeria so long as the man seeking power is from your area. This is the situation Abia has found itself today.
What is even more worrisome is that Abians who wear the shoes and know where it pinches are stuck and have resorted to be where they are, without making much efforts to shake off what is not right about them. They want no one else but the man who is buttering the bread they are eating now. They forget to look beyond the bread and butter they have at hand; they forget that from a position as high as that of a governor, they should get even more; they forget that the bread and butter they eat today can deny them the real goodies that should accrue to them tomorrow.
Very recently, since after the high court judgement which nullified the election of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, lots of falsehood have been peddled against the person of Uche Ogah, most painting a picture of what they conceive in their minds of him. Even though they know it is falsehood, they try to make it stick. It would not be wrong to describe most of the writers as “paid writers”, especially as former INEC chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu had once spoken about the powers available to an incumbent, and how almost impossible it is to win power from an incumbent through whatever means.
That, perhaps, is the position Abia has found itself, and emergency analysts who are thinking from their pockets have moved in to skew facts.
On the Ikpeazu/Ogah matter, which is still before a competent court and equally competent judges, one may refrain from speaking on it, hoping that victory will go to the worthy party when it is due. But what Abia people should do, rather than listening to paid writers who are hell bent on painting Ogah black, to sustain the milk that is presently flowing into their cups is to put Ogah and Ikpeazu on a scale and weigh them, to see which of the options outweighs the other.
Abia people should consider these two sons of theirs and see which of them has the capacity to manage their common resources to better the state’s lot. For Ogah, a man who has risen to reckoning, who has shown his capacity by growing a company from scratch to a high level, who has also proven himself as a philanthropist who cannot hold back when he has, Abians should consider themselves happy to have him.
Without wanting to see Ikpeazu in bad light, the people of the state can look back to how the state was on the exit of the former governor, Senator Theodore Orji, and ask themselves if anything has changed after over one year of the administration of Ikpeazu. One may want to ask what outstanding project stands Ikpeazu tall as a governor? The taste of the pudding, it is always said, is in the eating. So it is time for Abia and its people to begin to ask questions.
They should begin to evaluate the performance of the Ikpeazu government in the last one year and pass the verdict themselves if he has performed well enough for the state to continue to trust him with their resources for another three years. If they adjudge him to have performed poorly, then it is still young in the day for them to seek a change and go for the right man. Only when they have satisfactorily answered this question of the performance of Ikpeazu in the past one year, would they truly know if there is a need for a more competent hand to take up the state and reposition it again for greatness or not.
For me, one year of Ikpeazu’s government in Abia has been a waste. If elections were again to be held in Abia, what would the governor tell the people he has achieved that qualifies him to continue to be the governor of that state? For Abia, it has been a full year of signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), all of which have been paper work and have seen no physical manifestation. What happened to the promise of construction of roads in Aba, the commercial city of the state, which is considered the goose that lays the golden egg for Abia? A visit to Aba will leave one with a sour taste in his mouth for a long time, with the street littered with mountainous heaps of refuse, which emit a poisonous stench.
Is it the state of roads in the commercial city which has caused most of its residents to abandon their vehicles, or is it the near impassable state of 75 per cent of the roads in that city, even by foot. No one is talking of the devastating effect of flooding, which residents of Aba suffer. Which of these has the governor paid attention to, that should qualify him to continue to be the governor?
Even at that, it is well understood, because coming from the background of civil service, Ikpeazu has long been insulated from the people, even before the election, but was foisted on the state by his godfather. What Abia needs, as a state mostly populated by traders, artisans and emerging inventors, is a leadership that understands what it means to encourage upcoming businesses. Abia needs the touch of a man like Uche Ogah who knows what it means to encourage small businesses. The state needs a governor who has been a player in the private sector and knows what it means to encourage economic growth with flourishing business.
Apart from the dearth of infrastructure in the state, workers are today owed several months of salary arrears. For pensioners, it’s a sad story, as both their pensions and gratuities have been completely forgotten, leaving these senior citizens who served the state meritoriously to their fate. Indeed, a state which should be number one in the comity of states not just alphabetically but in practical terms has so much been relegated to the background, to the extent that if the people are not immediately liberated from the present stranglehold of selfish godfathers, the state would continue to degenerate to a decrepit level.
Ikpeazu, as a core civil servant that he has always been, is only approaching leadership with civil service mentality, and that is why paper works devoid of practicals may remain the order of the day in Abia if he continues for another three years. And it is the same reason that Abia needs to wake up now, smell the coffee and start a fresh demand for the right candidate.
Abians must not even forget the basis of the whole litigation, which 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 of 2010. This may remind one of the epic battles Mr Peter Obi fought in Anambra State to regain his victory in the 2003 election of the state, which was then given to Dr Chris Ngige of PDP. Despite all efforts to reach out to Obi to withdraw his suit by elders of the state on the basis that Ngige, who had already been sworn in as governor, was performing well, Obi insisted, saying that if a man stole and used the proceeds to engage in philanthropy, that does not exonerate him from the penalty of stealing.
So in the case where Abians adjudge Ikpeazu as doing well in their estimation, they must also not forget that the process, which is the means that brought about this end, is flawed, and Ogah has a right to contest that flawed means. That is why it is high time the elders of Abia State exonerated themselves from the hate campaign targeted at Ogah for duly pursuing a case in court. Only a civilised person would want to go to court to seek redress for wrong doing against him.
If all the hate campaign can be targeted at Ogah for a civilised act like going to court, one would wonder what would have happened if he took laws into his own hands.
The people of the state must be spared the constant threats by a section of the people that Abia will go up in flames should the matter favour Ogah. Both men are sons of the state, and whether head or tail, Abians still has nothing to lose; better still if they have the best. The judges presiding over the matter must at all times be given maximum security to enable them carry out the task of determining who should be the rightful governor of the state without fear.
And those shouting war at all times must also be made to act with decorum. Abians should feel free to express support for whoever they deem best for them, as the cry of war from certain quarters is only a strategy to deceive the undiscerning. The same right to redress is what Sir Friday Nwosu, who is also in court seeking to benefit from Ikpeazu’s ouster, is expressing. Let the dictum: the more the merrier, be imbibed by all concerned. But for Nwosu, who is seeking to take Ikpeazu’s position instead of Ogah on the basis that Ogah discredited the primary election and ought not to be a beneficiary of the process he earlier discredited, one can only ask when it became a crime to state one’s observation.
Ogah reserves the right to state what he observed in the course of the primary election, even if he had been declared winner. If Ogah had been declared winner by the party to fly its flag, for instance, nothing stops him from stating his observation and even going further to contest that he would have won by a greater margin if the process was fairer.
In all, let the law take its full course, without being impeded with cries and threats of violence should the pendulum swing away from the status quo, and at the end let better reasoning prevail, and only then will Abia have a truly great leadership. This is the time for the people to rejoice and only the Supreme Court will bring about this change which the people of the state desperately need.
––Uba, a public affairs analyst, writes from Ohafia, Abia State