Abia State is one of the few in Nigeria whose contradictions are quite self-evident. It is an oil producing State. Aba, its big city is not only the commercial nerve centre of the east but a potentially huge money spinner in revenue terms. Mineral resources like gas, kaolin lead, limestone etc. abound in commercial quantities in different parts of the state. It also has huge fertile land resources. Above all, it has a high concentration of entrepreneurs, skilled and semi-skilled human resources.
Abia State has all the potentials to be a developed and model state in the country, yet the reverse is rather the case. Aba its commercial city is rated as the least developed city in Nigeria. Umuahia the state capital is often referred to as a glorified village on account of absence of basic infrastructure in the place. Most of its rural areas are characterised by dilapidated infrastructure.
The state ranks least in several development indices. The reason for such an ugly state of affairs is because Abia State government policy formulation and implementation have most often been characterised by a great deal of arbitrariness, inefficiency, lack of transparency, accountability and outright failure.
Abians themselves are quite aware of their peculiar predicament and the most conscientious of their political elite has always struggled against it.
Abians often make a joke of the negative forces that have held their state down including the electoral malpractices that have always militated against their democratic choices by derisively referring to them as “Abia Demons”
The quest to defeat the ‘Abia demons’ have a long history. Some trace the origin to the quest by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe’s “Otu Onu Movement” that sprouted during the 2003 gubernatorial elections while some others refer the origin of a change movement to the quest by Chief Onyema Ugochukwu during the governorship election of 2007.
However, there is a near consensus amongst the intellectual class, that the quest to defeat the Abia demons got a real boost when in 2014, one of its brilliant minds, Dr. Alex Otti, a first-class economist resigned his very lucrative job as the managing Director of Diamond Bank to lead the charge.
He had then reorganised the moribund state chapter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) into a real fighting force. Otti, parading incredible academic and public sector credentials plus very high level of personal integrity did not have much difficulty convincing most Abians about his messianic message of liberating them from the iron grip of the ‘Abia demons’ that had over the years held them hostage.
Even though Abians voted massively for Otti’s APGA in the governorship election that held on Saturday 11th April 2015, some magic humongous figures suddenly sprouted up in three local government of Obingwa, Isiala Ngwa North and Isiala Ngwa South which were areas that both international and local observers held in their reports that elections did not hold.
On the basis of such reports, the returning officer for the election cancelled the magic results and was about declaring Otti as the winner when he was ordered to return the magic figures thereby enabling a PDP Win.
The matter became a subject of intense litigation and dragged up to Supreme Court where the learned Justices held that the card reader, which was the basis of the election was not backed by law. Otti ever so determined tried his luck again in 2019 and the magic figures from the same local governments were yet his undoing in that 2019 gubernatorial election.
The ‘Abia Demons’ were still not done yet. Meanwhile as the demonic forces of electoral malpractices were on full ascent in the elections, which prevented the democratic choices from accessing political power, Abians watched helplessly as their state regressed in all indices of development.
They watched in consternation as their state became the object of rudicle amongst south easterners. They became bemused as the state debt profile, which ballooned in 2015 and kept piling up to the extent that it is estimated to be in the region of N150 billion as at date.
They watched helplessly at the mismanagement of the N27 billion world bank loan, secured to take care of the road and flood problems around Uratta road, Obohia road Porth Harcourt road, Ngwa road etc. Abians watched helplessly as the public sector workers went months after months without any prospect of having their emolument paid to them. The same was also the situation with the pensioners.
The situation was compounded with the first rains that came which saw the major cities of Aba and Umuahia being submerged by floods. These were the factors that induced a more determined quest by Abians led by Otti and his Labour Party to decisively defeat the “Abia Demons” this time around.
The situation was helped by the emergence of Peter Obi as the leader of the change agents in Nigeria
It also has to be noted that Otti with his Labour Party Partisans campaigned very hard in all the nooks and crannies of Abia State to the extent that his acceptability and prospect of winning the election was not in doubt
However, the “Abia Demons” as it relates to electoral malpractices were not yet done and were rather prepared for an overkill just like it happened in 2015 and 2019. The magic figures from Obingwa local Government again surfaced on Saturday march 18th gubernatorial elections, which was intended to cancel majority of the votes cast by Abians. As has been proven now, a figure of 9962 was fraudulently changed to 108,000 and with the help of thugs and other armed groups, the figure was successful uploaded into the INEC IREV Server. This must be the most scandalous malpractices ever recorded in the 2023 gubernatorial election. The ‘Abia Demons’ clearly wanted an overkill.
The orgy of wild celebrations witnessed in all the nook and crannies of Abia following the declaration of Otti as the winner of the Saturday 18th march 2023 governorship election goes to demonstrate the relief which the citizens felt over the defeat of the ‘Abia Demons’ as it relates to electoral malpractices.
It has to be noted though that only one part of the “Abia Demons”, the part dealing with electoral malpractices has been defeated. The other part which might even prove more resilient, which has to do with the maladministration and under development of the state, is still waiting and rearing for a fight.
Abians has over the years queued behind Otti’s Messianic message of liberation from the iron grip of the “Abia Demons” because of their conviction that he has the strength of character, brilliance and exposure to liberate them. So much has been given to him in his quest, so much will be expected of him. He cannot afford to fail. In this quest for good governance, he should be aware of the major albatross of his predecessors and that he is the company of all manner of scoundrels, sycophants and jobbers, the yes men.
The bad governance structure in the state has over the years produced large numbers of such people as an industry.
It is also good to note the congratulatory messages and pledges of not challenging the electoral outcome in court. It is a good omen for the state. Otti clearly needs all the good will he could garner in other to enable his government to take off well. Otti is clearly deserving of all the congratulatory messages he is receiving.
Nnanna, former Chairman,Arochukwu LGA is a Member of Otti Campaign Council