Barrister James Okpara, a lawyer and former Commissioner for Special Services, Legal Matters and Due Process in Abia State during the administration of  Governor Theodore Orji, in this interview shares his views on the Abia governorship logjam and the way forward.

Okpara

By Clifford Ndujihe

On perceived power struggle within the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP in Abia State

We do not have any power struggle in PDP in Abia. The laws of the party, the laws of Nigeria, the electoral laws, our principles, procedures of legal practice are there and they provide a guide for anybody who wants to follow due process. But we know that not everybody wants to follow due process.

Some people want short cuts to achieve their aims. So, because somebody has made a mistake, jumped the gun or is acting in contempt of the court, doesn’t mean there is a power tussle in Abia. We have a sitting governor in the person of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.

But Ikpeazu’s position as governor is being challenged by Dr Uche Ogar and Friday Nwosu…

We are in a democracy; a democratic contest does not mean power struggle in the sense you are projecting it. It was a democratic contest that was conducted in the PDP primaries and Dr. Uche Ogah and Barrister Friday Nwosu lost while Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu won. Nwosu got about 4 or 5 votes, Ogah got over 100 while Dr Okezie got more than 400, close to 500 votes. So, there was a contest; a legitimate contest, somebody lost,somebody won.

The results of the primaries was a confirmation that Abians want equity. You know that of the three senatorial districts in Abia, Abia North and Abia Central had taken a bite and so the good people of Abia decided that it would be fair to allow Abia South where Nwosu and Okezie come from to produce the governor. Uche Ogah is our brother, he is from Abia North, Old Bende.

 

If all is well with the state chapter of PDP, why didn’t they resolve the matter internally before now?

It is a question of democracy. It’s not a case of forcing somebody. We are talking about party decision. For a loyal party man, if your party takes a decision,you accept it and don’t forget that rotation is in the constitution of PDP. It is not only Uche Ogah, in fact, in Abia State today, some people believe that the old Bende does not want an Ukwa Ngwa man to be governor. Some dismiss this as a mere allegation but when you look at it, all the people that contested the election, apart from Friday Nwosu, are from Old Bende: Uche Ogah, Alex Otti, the PPA’s candidate; they are all from old Bende, Abia North.

Before Otti went to APGA, he was in PDP and contested election. So, the biggest problem we have in Abia now is that the average Ukwa Ngwa person, the average man in Aba, in Obingwa, in Obiohia, etc, now believes that the entire old Bende does not want Ngwa person to ever taste power. That is the biggest challenge in Abia today, not the legal challenge of Dr Ogah, which we know is baseless.

Aba is the commercial heartbeat of Igboland. It is this same Abia South that makes us the oil producing state and it is this same area that the majority of the people from old Bende live and do business in Aba, you can now imagine the socio-political implication of not allowing the area to produce the governor of the state.

Now, if you even want to talk about the legal challenges, you can even say that Friday Nwosu has half leg to stand on because he didn’t reject the result of the primaries but Dr. Ogah rejected the results of the primaries. He refused to sign the result. He wrote a petition to the national headquarters of PDP to cancel the primary and to conduct a new one. It is the same primary he rejected that is the foundation of his purported claim to the governorship of Abia. The law is clear that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. You cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. The mere fact that he rejected the primary disqualifies him; its elementary law.

 

But the party did not heed to his rejection of the primary then…

When primaries are done, they will announce the results, either you or your agent will sign. But he rejected the result of the election, refused to sign and wrote a petition that the primary should be cancelled. Now, it is that same result that he rejected that he has based his claim that he came second and that if Ikpeazu is disqualified, he should be sworn in.

 

Don’t you think this sounds more like a moral issue than a legal fault?

No! This is law. Now, I am not sure this issue was canvassed before Justice Abang. But it was canvassed in Owerri and the judge there said he was disqualified.

 

With the matter at the Court of Appeal coupled with INEC issuing Ogah with certificate of return, some observers are saying that currently, Abia State has two governors…

We do not have two governors in Abia. The truth is that what INEC did was mischievous, it was fraudulent. First of all, INEC gave Certificate of Return to Uche Ogah but the issue at stake is PDP primaries. It is not INEC election that is the issue at stake.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.