Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
Governorship debate organised for candidates of the major political parties in Umuahia, Abia State, ended in chaos with many people sustaining injuries.
The debate which was organised by Online Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria in conjunction with some private radio stations featured selected gubernatorial candidates.
They included the incumbent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Alex Otti of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Hon. Blessing Nwagba of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Mr. Emeka Uwakolam of Accord Party (AP).
Trouble broke out immediately the debate ended as scores of youths mostly students stormed the venue seeking to have audience with Governor Ikpeazu since they claimed they have not been allowed to meet the state chief executive at the Government house.
As Ikpeazu’s convoy was driving out, the students approached it but the police men attached to him stopped the youths and arrested some of their leaders. In a show of anger, the youths closed the gate of the hotel to prevent the governor from going out.
The police again responded by firing live bullets into the air and shooting tear gas canisters to deter the students and clear the way for Ikpeazu to leave the hotel premises. It was then that chaos took over as people ran for their lives and to avoid inhaling the irritating gas fumes.
Ikpeazu, who was leaving the debate venue in low spirit following the punches he received from Otti, his main rival at the debate, managed to drive out but the women that accompanied him were trampled on in the stampede.
During the debate, the Abia governor had labored to explain his performance which the opposition described as “abysmal”, saying that he has done the best roads in Abia, adding that no previous administration in the state was able to construct any road that lasted up to 10 years.
Ikpeazu was put on the spot over the non-payment of salaries but the governor explained that it was only staff of parastatals that are being owed, saying that the management of the affected parastatals were incompetent.
It was then that Otti fired back at Ikpeazu telling the governor that the problem of the parastatals stemmed from the top because ‘the fish gets rotten from its head’, alluding that the governor was incapable of calling the management of government agencies to order and make them to perform because he lacked the political will.
Ikpeazu claimed that he has so far constructed dozens of roads without putting nay figure on how much he spent on them but Otti countered that the 59 roads said to have been done by the Ikpeazu administration have a cumulative length of 79.38km with questionable cost implication as government appears unwilling to make it public.
At a point, Governor Ikpeazu showed visible frustration as Otti pinned him down on specific statistics to back up his claims that security has improved in Abia and that he has posted good performance to deserve a revalidation of his mandate.
“I hate it when people don’t understand their terrain, their environment,” Ikpeazu blurted out.
The standardbearer of Accord Party, Uwakolam did not spare the Abia governor, saying that his inability to sack the management of parastatals that are not performing only to turn round and blame them for the backlog of salaries owed workers.
He also picked holes in Ikpeazu’s claims that he has performed very well, saying that the projects being touted as having been completed are not visible unlike in neighbouring states where the people can easily see the work of their governors.
“You are a failure; your government has failed. You have institutionalised failure,” Uwakolam said, adding that a governor who is worth his salt should be able to put his feet down and get things done instead of passing the buck.