By Peter Okutu, Abakaliki
Ebonyi State Government has described as cheap blackmail, the allegation that it was muzzling the opposition political parties in the State, ahead of the 2023 general election.
The Special Assistant, S.A, to Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State on Media and Strategy, Mr. Chooks Oko who stated this in Abakaliki, stressed that the allegation was not only farcical but was also intended to provide an alibi for the opposition’s imminent failure.
According to him, “the opposition parties cannot substantiate the allegations anywhere across the State. The fact, I think, remains that they have not found any loophole in Umahi’s Administration to capitalize on as subjects of the campaign against him and his Party in the State.”
He said: “Therefore, having been knocked down by Umahi’s superlative performance, they are resorting to cheap blackmail. If you move around the State today, you will see billboards of other political parties standing in strategic locations without disturbance. Even when some of the opposition is busy destroying the APC billboards in some locations across the State, the Governor, in the spirit of fair play has asked his party supporters not to retaliate.
“He believes that what will be will definitely come to pass; the APC is on top of its game with an intimidating track record of performance, not physical confrontation.
“Just a few days ago, the Governor instructed the State Ministry of Youth and Sports never to hinder the Labour party and indeed, other Political Parties from using the stadium and other government facilities for their rallies in the State. Where, therefore, is the muzzling?
“Even in our villages, there are rules guiding the use of village squares. The fact that the Governor has issued an executive order to guide the use of such facilities in the State is for our collective good and the safety of the users. If we jettison the rules and the facilities are carelessly damaged, destroyed or defaced, would anyone use it the next time?
“Just recently, the Governor fined his Party, the APC, the sum of N5m in lieu of the existing Executive order. I guess he will not be accused of muzzling his own party too.
“Governor Umahi is one of the Governors, if not the only one that has created an office in charge of inter-party affairs. This creation is to enable other Political Parties to air their views without molestation, as well as contribute to the governance of the State.
“In his liberal approach to politics, Umahi believes, and constantly asserts that political parties are mere vehicles to take one to a desired position, after which governance should de-emphasize partisanship and treat all as one.
“So, I want to assure you that Umahi has never muzzled nor does he intend to muzzle any opposition party in the State. He has rather demonstrated rare tolerance and equanimity to qualify him as a true sportsman.”
On the achievements of Governor Umahi in the past seven years, the S.A on Media and Strategy added that “I do not think that there is any human description or narration that would effectively answer this question in the affirmative. One of your questions even described his performance as superlative. You really need to take a tour of the State to see things for yourself. If you do, I assure you, you must definitely become a volunteer apostle to spread the gospel of Umahism to remote parts of the world.
“Where do we begin? Is it the road infrastructure, the flyovers and the wonder bridges? Do we begin with his educational investments, health, Agriculture or human capital development and empowerment? If we pick any of the sectors in isolation, we cannot exhaust the Governor’s achievements within the limits of available space and time.
“Governor Umahi has performed far beyond the people’s expectations within these 7 years plus. He has taken good roads to the rural areas. There are no local government areas across the State that does not have several kilometres of road built with 8 inches of concrete pavement.
“The Iyere bridge built to beat the life-threatening declivity in Afikpo South local government area is one of the wonders of the contemporary world. The David Umahi Nweze University of Health Sciences with its world-class teaching hospital has placed Ebonyi on the world map of academic and medical tourism.
“There is also a fully operational State college of nursing built by the Governor
It is also on record that Umahi is the only Governor who built and equipped a standard virology centre and handed it over to the federal government.
“Very soon, the Ebonyi International Airport will begin to receive flight operations. Business is in top gear at the Dubai modelled State shopping mall, the first of its kind in West Africa.
“The cumulative effect of all these investments has remained economic stability, massive employment and increased Gross domestic product which has kept the State strongly afloat in the midst of accruable poor federal allocation.”