Chief John Okiyi-Kalu, the Commissioner for Trade & Investment, and Director of Strategic Communication of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Abia State, in this interview spoke on the on why the PDP lost the governorship election to the Labour Party, LP, and the implications for the party that has never lost the governorship poll in Abia since 1999.
What went wrong with the elections in Abia State that incumbent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu lost the Senate race and PDP lost the governorship?
We are still reviewing data from the elections to better understand what exactly happened. At the same time, we are preparing for seamless handover of power to the incoming administration based on the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. I personally appreciate the democratic credentials of Governor Ikpeazu, who does not see electoral contests as a “do-or-die” affair. Posterity will be kind to him and his family.
Was there issue of internal sabotage in your party? Many government officials were not visible during the elections?
While many people talk about “sabotage,” I prefer to speak to individual choices and protection of personal interest. In politics, people take positions on the basis of personal interest and of course, group interest. I am in no position to know if there are cabinet officials or others in government that did not share in our collective aspiration to install a PDP government led by Sir Okey Ahiwe. I am also not inclined towards propagating unverified rumours and innuendos but I won’t be surprised if there are government officials whose personal interests clashed with our collective position on voting PDP and her candidates. It is the nature of politics, especially during a transition year cycle such as we have just been through.
Looking Okezie’s performance, do you think he paid the price of PDP’s hold on the state since 1999?
Certainly, Governor Ikpeazu performed well in many areas including the primary function of government, which is to secure the people. Abia is today the most peaceful and most secure state in the South-East region and one of the top five in Nigeria. Beyond that, I am proud of the fact that after all said and done, we did not lose a single life during this election cycle.
Governor Ikpeazu’s Abia State came first in performance ranking of Nigerian states by WAEC back to back for four years. He has done many new classroom blocks, improved public school enrollment from about 140,000 to more than 600,000 pupils, established a foreign scholarship scheme that is first of its kind in Abia and remains the first Governor to establish a teachers’ continuous training institute in the state.
When you look at infrastructure development, it is safe to say that no administration before him had done as much as he did with road infrastructure across the state. More than 160 road projects completed. Under his watch, we now have permanent structures for ASOPADEC, ABSIEC, Investment House and he completed ASUBEB building among many. I am also certain he will sleep in the new government house in Umuahia before May 29. Similarly, he did very great work with healthcare, Agriculture, SME development and industrialization. Our trading environment improved tremendously under his watch and our traders are now making more wealth relative to where they were in 2015. When you examine where Abia was in 2015 and where we are today, you can’t help but agree that Governor Ikpezu performed well and I am happy that the recent report on Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index vindicated him by placing Abia among the top three best states in Nigeria. That report came from a federal agency with support from global institutions and nobody can in his right mind say that Ikpeazu sponsored or orchestrated it.
I think what has happened is that while Abia positively turned the development corner under his watch, his opponents managed to frame all the real or perceived failures of the past as his personal fault.
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