Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
It was a case of different strokes for different folks yesterday as Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, swore in the elected 17 council chairmen and 292 councilors just as the opposition parties kicked and called for fresh poll.
The state capital, Umuahia, was agog as thousands of people poured in to witness the inauguration of the new council helms men that emerged in the December 21 council poll which the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) totally won.
But the All Progressives Congress (APC) said the swearing-in ceremony should not have held because “democratic process neither took place nor observed hence the December 21 charade could not be regarded or described as local government election in the state.”
While addressing the new chairmen, deputy chairmen and councilors after taking their oaths of allegiance and office, Ikpeazu apparently brushed aside the whining of the opposition, saying the election was “a milestone.”
He said in deciding to hold the council poll, he was torn between doing what is right and doing what is convenient, referring to using transition committee chairmen to run the council areas. “We decided to choose that which is right over and above what is convenient,” he said, adding: “The aim is to deepen democracy in the grassroots.”
The governor said despite the harsh economic situation, he still went ahead to keep his promise of returning democracy to the grassroots after more than nine years, adding that the benefits of democratising the third tier of government far outweighed every other consideration.
Ikpeazu charged the new chairmen to exploit the economic potentials of their respective council areas and leverage on their comparative economic advantages to make the local government viable and sustainable. “The challenge is open to us today to take our destinies in our own hands,” he said.
However, kicking against the outcome of the local government poll and inauguration of the PDP-dominated chairmen and their deputies, a forum of APC chairmen and deputy chairmen accused the governor, PDP and the state electoral body (ABSIEC) of conniving to scuttle the electoral process. In the 10-point statement signed by the Chairman of the forum of APC chairmanship and deputy chairmanship candidates, Hon Ebere Uzoukwa, and Publicity Secretary, Chief Ejiofor Okeudo, the forum called for fresh local government election.
“Our stand remains that ABSIEC is yet to conduct local government election as proposed in the state,” the forum said, adding that it was regrettable that the governor was involved “and personally supervised this alleged electoral fraud,” contrary to his earlier promise of free and fair poll. APC had fielded 11 chairmanship candidates in the December 21 council poll but did not win any seat just like other opposition parties as the state electoral body declared all PDP candidates victorious.
The APC candidates specifically called for the resignation of the Chairman of ABSIEC, Justice Igbozuruike Akomas (rtd), “for committing the worst electoral crime in the history of the state and Nigeria. “We are deeply shocked that a retired judge will disband his conscience and integrity of the bench and willingly submit himself as tool in the orchestrated ploy to rob Abians the democratic opportunity to elect their leaders at the local government level,” the aggrieved APC candidates said