By Dapo Akinrefon
Following the verdict of the Appeal Court that sacked Mr Okezie Ikpeazu as governor of Abia State in favour of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Dr. Alex Otti, Senior Partner, at The Access Media Limited/Communication and Dirtector, Alex Otti Support Group (AOSG), Mrs. Mary Ikoku, says the verdict has liberated Abians from 16 years of misrule.
Can you share the feeling of Abians over the Appeal Court judgment on the outcome of the April 11, 2015 gubernatorial election?
The Appeal Court judgement came as the perfect New Year gift for the people. As soon as the pronouncement was made, there was jubilation all over the state. It was as if a new birth was announced in every home. The manner in which the people were jubilating, it was hard to identify who was for PDP, APC, APGA or PPA. You could hardly tell because the jubilation was all over and across party lines.
If you have lived or visited Abia in recent past, you will be able to appreciate the joy in the land. These are people whose standard of living and means of sustenance have been steadily eroded in the past 16 years by the successive PDP-led governments.
Their businesses have been ruined by government’s inability to provide the enabling environment for commerce. There has been unprecedented unemployment because businesses have moved from Aba and other cities to other states. Civil servants are owed over one year salaries, hospitals are no longer functional. It appears that, for several years, government was in connivance with all manner of political forces in the state to deny the good people of Abia the right to good governance, prosperity and security of life and property, but thank God, we have taken what belongs to the people back from the hand of the usurper.
We knew all along that Abians voted massively for APGA, but the will of the people was subverted. Our victory today is not just for Alex Otti or APGA but for the people of Abia and it signposts victory and a new era in Abia.
Abians rejoiced because they knew that things will remain the same or even worse if the PDP government remained in power in the state. It was a judgement they fasted and prayed for; so when it came they rejoiced to high heavens.
Why were you so confident in your principal’s election after the tribunal judgement did not favour him?
Anyone who followed the election up to the tribunal process will know that the ruling of the lower court had no basis in law. If you read the judgement versus our submissions and the arguments in court, you will have no doubt that the judges did not understand the case before them. They based their judgement on the wrong assumption that a rerun was held in the three local government areas we wanted to be cancelled and that we participated in the re-run. That of course was a wrong premise because no reruns were held in these LGAs. There are so many other wrong assumptions. You need to read the judgement and the evidences we tendered to see things for yourself. Though they gave judgement, they did not give justice so i had no doubt that justice will prevail in the higher courts.
It is reported that some local government councils and elders in the state have kicked against the judgement. What is your take on this development?
The elders you talk about are PDP chieftains who are worried that a change in government, especially the one led by Dr Alex Otti, will mean an end to the stipend they receive from the PDP government in the state. They are not elders but PDP chieftains mobilized with state funds. Most of them are government contractors. Definitely, you will expect them to be concerned when they know that a change will threaten their means of livelihood. Any well-meaning citizen or resident of the state knows the rot that is going on in the state and will tell you that the judgment of the appeal court is the answer to their prayers.
They have every right to be unhappy with the verdict of the case because you cannot stop a man from crying if he is bereaved, and has lost his bread winner. Where will he get bread to eat again?
But I know Otti is a lover of every son and daughter of Abia irrespective of their political leaning. I am using this medium to invite them to accept defeat and see the victory of Dr. Alex Otti as the defeat of a common enemy that has held us captive for 16 years. To all I say come let us build a better Abia for our generation unborn.
Aba protest was also a watershed post-Appeal Court judgement. What is your view on this?
The protest in Aba was done by a crowd rented by government to put up an appearance. The people you saw on the streets were just there to earn a living for that day. If you talk to most of them, they don’t even know why they were there beyond the fact that they will be paid for being there. Maybe you have also heard about the fight that broke out after many of them were not fully paid. Now compare this to the spontaneous reaction when the judgment was given, that will give you a true impression of the pulse of Abians.
Prior to the Appeal Court judgment, what was your worst expectation?
The expectation was that we saw a sign of victory, because we knew that the truth could not be subverted and, besides, Otti is one man that his faith in the nation’s justice system never wavered and I am glad that today’s judgment has justified that.
In fact, he has firm belief in the efficacy of the system, and, of course, you are aware that despite the clear injustice and provocation, he kept faith with the justice system, believing that he will not be denied justice. The court did not let the common man down in this instance.
What is the APGA expectation at the Supreme Court, should PDP decide to appeal the lower court verdict?
I know that Abians expect the apex court to uphold the judgment as pronounced by the Appeal Court ruling as a fair judgement anchored on the Constitution and appropriate precedence. This I believe is APGA’s expectation. I have been hearing PDP clamouring for a re-run, the truth remains that there is no basis for a re-run. The laws are very clear on this.
What are the things Otti are expected to change in Abia
His policies and programs are people-driven. I believe he will focus on building institutions that will drive his programs. Institutions that will be robust enough to outlive his stay in government. This, I believe will be his legacy. The laundry list is huge but bit by bit Otti will turn the state around, from infrastructure to commerce, to restoring Aba to her earlier glory. When you listen to Otti, you will know that he understands our strength as a people and he has often said, his government will build on the enterprise strength of our people. Before he embarked on this journey Otti and his team already develop a road map to enable him deliver his campaign promises to our people.