By Anayo Okoli
UMUAHIA—FOR one week, Abia State people were in total confusion as to who is their governor. This followed the verdict of an Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang sacking Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu as the Governor of Abia State. Justice Abang’s verdict arose from a pre-election suit filed before him Dr. Uche Ogah, accusing Ikpeazu of providingb false information on oath in respect of the particulars of the tax certificate he submitted to the INEC prior to the April 2105 elections. Dr. Uche Ogah was the runner up in the PDP governorship primary election held on December 8. 2014.
For Abians, Monday, July 1st 2016, would go down as a day they would not forget in a hurry. That Monday, about mid-day, the news came like a thunder bolt. That an Abuja High Court has sacked Dr. Ikpeazu as the Governor of the State and that in his place Dr. Uche Ogah was coming down from Abuja, with his certificate of return already issued him by INEC, to be sworn in as the new Governor of the State. With a new certificate of return from INEC, it means that the one Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu was issued became worthless.
As the news filtered into the state, there was confusion. People did not believe what they were hearing. To confirm the news, they made frantic telephone calls to who ever they believed could provide them authentic information. Naturally they turned to journalists and of course journalists who had converged on Government House to monitor the situation started receiving enquiries. Tension mounted. Confusion increased. Uncertainty took over. Dr. Ikpeazu was in Government House so traffic into the seat of power increased as his cabinet members, associates and friends trooped in to confirm what they were hearing. Tension continued to rise. Even more worrisome was when the third contender to the governorship tussle, Chief Friday Nwosu who has been pursuing the tax certificate issue for long emerged laying claim to the governorship.
Inside the town, the news was received with mixed reactions. While supporters of Ikpeazu were not happy over the development, supporters of Uche Ogah went into wild jubilation. And since then, the state has remained like that with some people supporting either of the two gladiators. Even elders and political stakeholders of the state are now divided in their support. While a section of the elders, including law makers from the State spoke in Abuja in support of Governor Ikpeazu, another group of elders spoke in Umuahia and supported Uche Ogah.
As expected some political appointees have lost their job. A case in point was a transition committee chairman in one of the council areas who was sacked by Ikpeazu because the person who nominated him is supporting Ogah. Of course more heads will roll at the end of the battle. Ikpeazu, embattled by the crisis has accused the Abuja High court of denying him his fundamental right of appeal.
“The Abuja High Court ruling denied me of the right to exercise my fundamental human rights, which is the right of appeal” and accused Ogah of plot “to kidnap judiciary officers in Abia State” to swear him in. “So if it was a case of execution, I would have been killed without giving me time to exercise my right of appeal before a court of competent jurisdiction, which is against the laws of fundamental human rights”, he has lamented. Though Governor Ikpeazu has remained in Government House, no serious governance has been going on since the crisis as his attention, naturally has been shifted to the matter, more so when the certificate of return issued to him by INEC has been cancelled courtesy of the court order.
However, in spite of the tension, peace still reigns as security operatives have taken full control of the situation, with police vehicles stationed at strategic positions in Umuahia, the capital, Aba the commercial and hotbed of the State as well as in other cities. Business and social activities have been going on uninterrupted in the State, though with apprehension of the unresolved crisis. The police have also followed it up with a ban on rallies, demonstrations, public processions and public gatherings.
A statement by the Command’s public relations, NTA OGBONAYA NTA, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said: “This ban is still in force and all interest groups irrespective of personal, political, social, and religious affiliation are enjoined to adhere to it strictly and be law abiding”. “The general public is hereby enjoined to remain calm and desist from any act that would amount to a violation of the laws of the land most particularly concerning threat to peace, public order and state security.
“All the personnel of the command have been directed to bring the full weight of the law to bear on any person or group of persons, whose activities under any guise appear to threaten the peace of the land and security in Abia state. “All citizens and residents of Abia state are advised to be law abiding as always”.