By Ojo Maduekwe
SINCE the Justices of the Appeal Court in Owerri arrived at a judgment that has been widely criticised and rightly referred to as being “fundamentally wrong” by Mike Ezekhome (SAN), I have read commentaries siding with Alex Otti of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), and one thing they all brazenly promote is the disregard for the rule of law, which application was recently applied in the conduct of Bayelsa State’s 2015 Governorship election.
On Sunday, January 9, Bayelsans completed a voting process that was kick-started last year, re-electing incumbent Governor, Seriake Dickson. The initial December 5, 2015 election was declared inclusive by INEC and January 9, 2016 slated for the re-run in which Dickson garnered 134,998 votes to defeat Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress who scored 86,852 votes.
A cursory but serious look at the rationale for the initial cancellation of the substantive election of December 5 by INEC, will betray Otti’s apologists as a people with little regard for the rule of law.
The relief that Governor Ikpeazu has always sought from the court is that the law be upheld. Where close to 300,000 voters are being disenfranchised and victory declared on the basis of a 50,000 margin lead, what the law proposes is a rerun election. Anything short of this is a flagrant disobedience to the law, and anyone who supports such is inviting chaos.
Failing to justify the Appeal Court’s judgment on the basis of what the law dictates, Otti’s apologists have resorted to emotional arguments and citing a debateable “private sector management experience” as the reason he remains the best thing to happen to Abians [sic] and how if he’s crowned governor, he won’t go hand-in-cap to Abuja begging for hand-outs.
Any commentator who’s been following development in Abia from the campaign period and since May 29 when Governor Ikpeazu was sworn in as the duly elected Governor of the State will know that he’s been one of the staunchest proponents of an Abia that is independent of a diminishing federal allocation through an improved IGR. Beyond rhetorics, substantial progress continues to be made in improving the State’s IGR.
When his fellow governor’s sought the easier route to handling the dwindling economy by proposing a reduction in the N18,000 minimum wage, Governor Ikpeazu reacted by assuring Abia workers of steady salary and improved IGR, which according to him, was the best way to keep Abia afloat. Abia’s current IGR hovers around one billion naira, and for those who cannot see beyond their prejudice and refuse to hear from both sides before penning their jaundiced copies, there are efforts to ensure it keeps increasing.
Otti’s publicists should know that being exposed and having the ability to read a balance sheet or coming from the private sector, does not place him shoulders above Ikpeazu. These relative attributes are no absolute prerequisite for turning around an economy. Examples abound where some Nigerian Governors, with all their credentials, when entrusted with governing their States, failed in bringing about a change in the fortunes of these states
One notion Otti apologists continue to promote is the fallacy that Aba remains retrogressive. It smacks of ignorance for anyone to allege that changes have not been made in Aba since Governor Ikpeazu assumed office. Abia has witnessed drastic changes since the coming of Governor Ikpeazu. The ongoing development in parts of Aba was what necessitated the graveyard silence that greeted the Appeal Court judgment.
It is important that we set the record straight. The silence was not because majority of those resident in Aba are made up of people with ethnic ties with the Governor, no, rather, Aba comprises of largely non-indigenes, and so there should have been no reason (whether political or ethnic) for the massive support that the administration of Governor Ikpeazu has been receiving from the residents of the city, except that they are pleased with his performance, which is a shift from what used to obtain in recent past.
It is also thoughtless for anyone to attempt to heap the many years of Aba’s neglect on Governor Ikpeazu, who has only been in the saddle for a little over seven months, yet has performed remarkably well. This is inspite of distractions by the opposition APGA.
For the few who prefer to peddle misinformation as commentaries on a government that they’ve not taken time to reappraise is to say the least unfortunate. In all their vituperations, it is comforting to note that when it comes to the development of Aba, Otti apologists and the government of Governor Ikpeazu are on the same page.
Recently, the Governor commissioned the Owerri road, built using the cement pavement technology, following which he inspected the construction of the new Umule and Tonimas roads all in Aba. Aba may not have reached its peak in terms of development, but it’s definitely not “decrepit, an eyesore and insecure”, and Ikpeazu, the man that Abia truly needs, is well disposed to ensure that this once abandoned city fully regains its lost glory.
*Mr. Maduekwe is SA Media to the Abia State Governor.