By Ochereome Nnanna
I CAN understand the pains that descended on Dr. Alex Otti, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Abia State during the 2016 general elections. It has nothing to do with the vast personal fortune he sank into the venture. After all, he knew what he was going into and yet went into it, knowing he could win or lose.
It has little to do with not having the opportunity to govern the state. He always emphasised that he wanted to serve and bring good governance. I believed him, and I know that if Governor Okezie Ikpeazu (whom the system favoured to win) continues along the path of promise which has been manifest in the past eight months, Otti will throw his full support behind him (subject to the vagaries of politics).
The pain comes from two main sources. One of them is that he lost his valuable friend who was also my valuable friend and valuable friend to countless people – Prince Otisi Kalu (Abbott) who died of cancer in October, 2015.
Abbott threw himself wholly into the Otti political project and probably (unlike his usual self) neglected his health. The second was the fact that the electorate of Abia State gave majority of their valid and genuine votes to Otti but the system, as I noted before, gave it to someone else.
Both Otti and Ikpeazu, the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), went into the race as political dark horses and neophytes. Otti came from the banking industry, being only savvy at boardroom politics. He was never quite the politician throughout the entire process. He believed that one plus one was two. For instance, he had great faith in Professor Attahiru Jega’s Card Reader and Permanent Voter’s Card as foolproof deciders of winners and losers. The APGA campaign lacked the grit and deviousness of experienced politicians, as the few who were around were regarded with distrust.
On the other hand, Ikpeazu, a former Deputy Director in a state parastatal, was backed by an entrenched and vicious election-“winning” machine whose reputation for achieving power even after losing at the theatre of voting dates back to 1998 when Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, the founder of this hardened political platform, first assembled the machine.
It is my considered opinion that the Abia voter did not know (or even care) who Otti and Ikpeazu’s persons were. They simply transferred their frustration at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) track record of poor governance to Ikpeazu and gave their mandate to APGA’s Otti – whoever he was.
Much of the process happened live on radio, television and the Internet. PDP spent a fortune of the state’s money to depict Otti as not qualified to benefit from the privilege of zoning the governorship to the Ukwa and Ngwa areas of the State. They said he was an Aro man, despite the fact that 140 Ngwa traditional rulers came together to let the world know he was a bona fide son of Ngwaland.
You will recall those coffins in Aba street corners on which were inscribed: “VOTE AGAINST PDP AND DIE”. You will recall the invasion of the INEC collation centre in Umuahia by PDP chiefs led by former Governor (now Senator) TA Orji (Ochendo Global) and the subsequent volte-face by the Abia Chief Returning Officer, Professor Ben Ozurumba. It happened on live TV. You may also recall the burning of the INEC office in Obingwa to prevent forensic experts from ascertaining the genuine votes from the ones thumb-printed to steal the vote. You will recall far much more than I can put in this limited space.
At the end, INEC (even INEC) and the courts agreed that what PDP did was correct and gave victory to Dr Ikpeazu. So, the Card Reader and PVCs were brought by Jega to muscle believers in credible elections out of the contention? When the electoral and judicial systems support the rigging and violent stealing of mandates, who will ever want to submit himself to credible elections?
As it stands now, the election has been won and lost. End of story. The electioneering process is one thing. Governing with the mandate given is yet another. Elections are merely the means through which one obtains the mandate to govern. There are those who say that when a person emerges through a flawed process, it automatically results in flawed governance. A snake can only give birth to a long object, they say. Again, in the game of politics (in which one plus one equals two) this is a simplistic deduction.
We have seen flawed mandates that brought people who changed the template of governance for good. In the case of Dr. Chris Ngige’s Anambra State, this assumption was proved wrong. Ngige went into power, shook off his godfathers, braved abduction by the police and triggered off the good governance that has now become a part of the Anambra political expectation. Once you drive into Anambra State from Imo and Abia States, no one will tell you that you are now in the theatre of good governance.
I am greatly encouraged by testimonies I receive of efforts by Governor Ikpeazu to give, not just Aba, his hometown and the commonwealth of all a new face but all parts of the state (including Abiriba my own hometown). We hope Governor Ikpeazu will continue and not stop along the way like his predecessors. We hope he will not create an idol (such as Orji Kalu’s “Mother Excellency” and TA’s son, “Ikuku”) for his government and the people of the state to worship. I hope BCA Radio of Abia State will start, for once, to broadcast responsible programmes that will inform, educate and entertain the people, rather than praise-singing the governor and his family round the clock.
Our people are very easy to please. They are also very easy to deceive. I believe that if Ikpeazu is able to provide good governance the people will easily forgive and forget what happened to their mandate.
Abia cannot afford to spend another day in darkness.