Political Stakeholders in Abia Move to Rescue State
Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo reports that critical stakeholders in Abia state including politicians across political divides and retired military officers have keyed into the rescue mission programme floated by All Progressives Congress’ Governorship candidate in the state, Ikechi Emenike
Over the years, major stakeholders in Abia State have largely remained indifferent to the electoral process. But the outcome of the governorship polls in past election cycles had always left them with sour taste in the mouth.This is because while they desire for the right person to lead Abia would emerge from the polls, they hardly get involved to make it happen. When their expectations fail to materialise, the passive stakeholders grumble and grumble over poor governance in Abia.
Thus, it has become an unending cycle of frustration and complaints about the retrogression of God’s own state due to bad leaders thrown up at each election cycle since 1999.
Not any more. The stakeholders have been aroused from their years of apparent deep slumber. They are now taking more than cursory look into the affairs of Abia. They have been sufficiently roused to take keen interest in leadership selection process of Abia and 2023 has become their defining year. The change of attitude didn’t come without serious prodding.
It was as a result of relentless efforts of High Chief IkechiEmenike, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abia State. Even before his emergence as the flag bearer of the main Abia opposition party following the May 26, 2022 primary, Emenike had seen the need to galvaniseAbia’s stakeholders to save their state from misrule.
As far back as 2019 the development economist cum politician embarked on his tour of the 17 local governments of the state to rally stakeholders for political participation.
The target groups in the mix included retired top civil servants, traditional rulers, community leaders, religious leaders, ex-servicemen, and professionals in the private sector. Many of these stakeholders had already made it and on their own could afford to enjoy life ensconced in their palatial mansions without caring a hoot about their own state. But in reaching out to them, Emenike impressed it upon the stakeholders that they must get involved in efforts to take Abia to the level where it should be.
The message has struck the right chord among the various segments of Abia stakeholders.
The ex-servicemen are now among the group in the frontline of Emenike’s liberation movement “to rescue and develop Abia(RADA)”.
At the last count no fewer than six retired generals have enlisted in the movement under the banner of APC. Among them are a former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen AzubuikeIhejirika, former GOC 3 Armoured Division, Jos, Maj Gen Jack OkechukwuNwaogbo(rtd), former GOC 2 Division, Ibadan, Maj Gen Chinedum Abraham, former Commandant, Army School of Infantry Jaji, Maj Gen Charles OgbonnaOkoro, and former Director of Training, Nigeria Army, Brig Gen Victor Nnorom.
Top ranked retired police personnel, some in the rank of Assistant Inspector General(AIG), retired personnels of the Department of State Service(DSS) and other retired paramilitary personnels are not left out.
In one of the stakeholders meetings hosted on March 10, 2022 by Ihejirika at his OvimIsuikwuato country home, the ex-servicemen resolved to join forces with Emenike to liberate Abia from the vicious grip of bad leaders. “We are united for one purpose,” Ihejirika had announced. “We are all concerned because whatever concerns Abia concerns us”.
The former COAS stated that prominent Abians like him “are ashamed of how things are going down in Abia”, adding that Abians in the Diaspora were equally worried and have been “calling and asking what should be done to save the state”.
According to him, the condition of Abia “is giving us sleepless nights (hence) we cannot just go home and sleep”. He, therefore, declared that the retired generals have teamed up with the APC to rescue Abia, assuring all concerned Abians that “we have embarked on a victorious journey”.
Gen Nwaogbo (rtd) added that the ex-servicemen of Abia origin decided to take interest in the affairs of the state in order to stop the rot going on in the state. He lamented that Abia has been under the vicious grip of bad leaders whose stock in trade has been the devastation of the state.
Like the retired servicemen, other professionals in various fields of endeavour, who have been enjoying their comfortable retirements have equally responded to Emenike’s clarion call.
For instance, a retired bank executive, Dr Kingsley Ononogbu, has come out of his comfort zone to help in efforts to save Abia and get the state working for the inhabitants. His passion for Abia’s revival propelled him to plunge into politics and he is currently the state chairman of APC in Abia.
In explaining his foray into politics, Ononogbusaid “when things are as bad as they have become in Abia all of us cannot be sitting on the fence”.
The financial expert noted that the neighbouring states of Abia like Enugu and Ebonyi States started experiencing remarkable development “when the right people came into government and started making a difference”.
He said that it was human beings that activated the referenced states to start working, adding that stakeholders in Abia could no longer continue to remain docile. “Until we break the evil hands holding Abia State down, we won’t make a headway,” he stated, adding that 2023 “is now a golden opportunity for us to reclaim Abia”.
The Abia APC chairman pointed out that the only way to change the sad narratives of Abia is to change the government. He said the party has got “strong pillars” with which it would dislodge the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Abia Government House.
Expectedly, Emenike is pleased with the good fruits his mobilisation efforts have continued to yield. It didn’t come easy, though. The Abia stakeholders were unhinged from their walls of indifference following persistent persuasion in the course of the series of town hall meetings Emenike held with them across the state.
He is particularly grateful that the ex-servicemen have come to identify with his Abia rescue movement. The Abia APC leader noted that it was rare in Igboland for retired servicemen to show interest in politics. “It is, therefore, gratifying that people that have served Nigeria (at top levels of their careers) are now showing interest in what is happening in Abia”.
The APC governorship hopeful said this development has encouraged him to hold firm in his belief that God has already ordained that in this year 2023 Abia will be freed “even if the devil is standing on the way”.
To underscore the importance of the critical mass of Abia stakeholders and their political value, Emenike has included and assigned them roles in his campaign council.
The stakeholders are listed among the over 1,740 members of the campaign council described by Emenike as “ambassadors of APC” in all the polling units of Abia.
While some categories of stakeholders are visible and are boldly proclaiming the rescue and develop message of Emenike, some other groups prefer to work behind the scene.
Religious leaders, traditional rulers and some party chieftains outside the APC fold belong to the invisible stakeholders that have keyed into the Emenike-led rescue movement. It has been observed that not a few party chieftains from rival parties have subscribed to Emenike’s message of hope but chose to maintain a low profile to avoid upsetting their own parties.
As the main opposition party’s governorship hopeful told stakeholders in one of his meetings with them, “the time has come for all the good men and women in Abia to chase the evil ones out of government house and end their stranglehold on the state”.
Scores of traditional rulers have chosen to express their feelings openly after hearing Emenike’s message. They broke the government-imposed gag restraining them from partisan politics and are now openly identifying with the APC governorship candidate.
The royal fathers that have apparently thrown caution to the wind said they were emboldened to take a stand on what they consider the best way forward for Abia. They no longer hide their frustration with the slow pace of development that has become the lot of Abia due to what they refer to as the relay race of inept leaders who pass the baton among their ilk.
The momentum keeps building in Abia APC with party leaders and chieftains in upbeat mood in their resolve to break the stranglehold of the ruling party. The commitment of the various segments of stakeholders offers them cause for optimism.
Emenike’s efforts to galvaniseAbia stakeholders into a formidable electoral asset is not lost on the APC faithful. Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon NkeirukaOnyejeocha, said Abia APC owed the party’s governorship flag bearer a debt of gratitude for striving hard to grow the party. The lawmaker representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi federal constituency noted that with the generals and other formidable stakeholders that have come on board Abia would be rescued. According to her, “nobody will be proud to have a state which is not functioning well” hence the need for all to join hands to salvage Abia.
Whether participating in the 2023 electoral process as card-carrying party members or party supporters the roused Abia stakeholders are determined to make a statement.They want a change in the state and are working very hard to achieve their set goal. Their electoral values are not dependent on their individual or collective votes but on their clouts. Stakeholders have the capacity to trigger a chain reaction in their various areas of influence in favour of a particular political choice.