As part of the build up to the 2019 elections, Abia State governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has continued to receive endorsements. Is this an approval of the work the governor has done or a campaign gimmick, Tobi Soniyi asks
A couple of weeks ago the people of Ukwa/Ngwa political bloc of Abia State adopted Abia State governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu as a â€œconsensus candidateâ€ for the 2019 governorship election and barred all ‘true indigenes’ of Ukwa/Ngwa from challenging him.
The adoption was the highlight of the second edition of the Great Ukwa/Ngwa Declaration, which held at Okpualangwa, the headquarters of Isiala Ngwa North Local Government and ancestral home of Ngwa people.
The motion for Ikpeazuâ€™s adoption was moved by former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara and seconded by former Director General of the National Directorate of Employment, Dr. Chukwu Wachuku. The event brought together personalities from the nine local government areas that make up the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc, with traditional rulers, politicians, businessmen, among others, backing the decision to adopt Ikpeazu for a second term in office.
Then last week, the people of Bende Local Government Area in Abia North Senatorial District of Abia State, one of the powerful councils in the state also endorsed the governor. The council has produced prominent and illustrious sons and daughters that have made their marks in various sphere of life. Among them are: Late Commodore Amadi Guy Ikwechegh, former military governor of Old Imo State from (1986 to 1989), Chief Orji Uzo Kalu, a two-term former governor of the state (1999 to 2007), Hon. Nnenna Ukeje-Elendu, one of the most brilliant lawmakers that Nigeria parades, a third time member of the House of Representatives where she is brilliantly representing the people of Bende Federal Constituency since 2007 to date.
Bende also parades political and legal heavyweights like Rt. Hon Cosmos Ndukwe, the Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Secretary to State Government (SSG) Dr Eme Okoro, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), Chief Jerry Kalu, Sir JC Ogwo, Hon. Nnamdi Njoku, Chief Ekeoma Eme, among others.
As the people of Abia State will tell you, when Bende as a people decide collectively to do a thing, it is a decision that is not likely to be reversed.
On Tuesday 13, March 2018, the people of Bende gathered at the renowned Practicing School Uzuakoli, where they unanimously and unequivocally declared and endorsed Governor Okezie Ikpeazu for a second term, urging him to re-contest as governor of Abia in 2019.
The roll call included the who is who in Bende. And they spoke their mind with one voice. One after another, they mounted the podium, from Hon. Nnenna Ukeje, to Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe down to the LGA Chairman, Chief Gabriel Elendu, the people of Bende spoke without mincing words.
Also at the event, Chief Ude Eme Obike, Chief Sunday Akachukwu Oko and High Chief Johnny Ukpabi respectively, led hundreds of members of opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), to decamp to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia, thereby breaking the opposition circle in Bende LGA.
But critics have questioned the desirability or otherwise of these endorsements. Are these endorsements motivated by the governor’s performance? Or are they being bought? THISDAY Politics sought answers from the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Eyinnaya Appolos.
He said:”I think it is insulting for anyone to insinuate that. It is insulting to the people who made the endorsements. You want to buy a former President of the Senate and these people who have distinguished themselves in their respective chosen careers? This governor will not buy anyone. He understands the fact that the best way to win people to your side is to govern in a way that pleases the generality of the people. That is what he has done. Besides, I advise you to listen to what the people themselves said.”
In an address by the people of Bende delivered by Chief Ukwu Rocks Emma, former chairman of the council, he sai: â€œWhy Ikpeazu is a governor after our hearts. Bende, the land of warriors, would go to battle in defence of this trusted governor.
â€œBende stands with you Sir. Moreso when you have stood by Bende since you became governor. From the election of the deputy speaker to the appointments of secretary to the state government, two commissioners, special advisers and special assistants, chairmen and members of board of parastatals, this governor carries Bende sons and daughters along in his gubernatorial journey. Why then should we not carry Okezie Ikpeazu along?
â€œIndeed, we have gathered here today from all the nooks and crannies of Bende Local Government and even those sojourning in the diaspora; their royal highnesses and majesties, the presidents-general of development unions, women and community leaders, age grades and youth groups, the clergy and the laity, the work force, all have come to this ancient city of Uzoakoli to give honour to whom it is due.
â€œAs at the last count, over 38 recent road projects are going while some have been completed all over the State, including the Lohum- Nkpa-Portharcourt Expressway, Alayi-Item-Nkporo rehabilitation project, the Akoli Imenyi and Alayi Erosion control projects, the perennial problematic Aba road-Ceramics-Isi Court Umuahia dual carriageway, can bear witness to the fact that Governor Ikpeazu knows what Abia needs- radical road construction and rehabilitation.
â€œWhen you launched the Made in Aba campaign sir, you got us there! That campaign is a promotion of the industry of the Bende man. You are globally expanding our market horizon and increasing thee per-capita income of the Bende Man.
â€œWhen we match Ikpeazu’s giant strides in education where Abia has consistently maintained 1st in WAEC, where the long abandoned Umunnato General Hospital is transmuting to a national hospital before our very eyes and where agriculture is finally getting due recognition, culminating in the Item Poultry Farm Village and the New Rice Mill right here in Uzoakoli, our speech on this occasion could have the most captivating of titles if we pleased.”
While responding to the endorsement, the government said: â€œBende people have spoken, and I thank you for speaking as a people. I also thank you for the endorsement. Bende is among the local government areas in Abia that I donâ€™t need to campaign because I know that I have the support of Bende people. When I look around and see the number of our people hear today, I remember your support to me in 2015 and I have no doubt that I will always have your support. But let me say here that I will come back to Bende to respond appropriately on your demand for me to contest again in 2019.”
He assured them that Abia State would never go back to the days when it was regarded as a pariah state.
“Jointly with Bende people, we will continue to update our state infrastructure and make our people bold in wherever they do. That why we took the made in Aba campaign which Bende people have benefited from. Today our people in Aba are proud of what they do with their hands. We sent them to China and they proved to China that we are very hard working people. As governor, I promised to wear only made in Aba cloths and I have kept my word,” the governor said.