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Rotational governorship and political xenophobia in Abia: Matters arising

By S. Akoji on 24/04/2015

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Abia, like every other state in Nigeria, has three senatorial zones. Going by the state’s Charter of Equity (a document on which the state was founded and created), the emergence of a governor from either the three senatorial zones should be by rotation. The first elected governor in the truncated Third Republic, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, was from Abia North, specifically Uburu in Ohaozara, (now in Ebonyi State).

The second elected governor in the Fourth Republic, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, also hails from Abia North. He ruled for two terms: 1999 - 2003 and 2003 - 2007 respectively. The third and incumbent governor, Chief T.A. Orji – who is winding down his second term in office - is from Abia Central. As you can see, Abia North and Abia Central zones have produced governors. Now is the turn of Abia South to produce the next governor. In line with the agreement of Abia Charter, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is supposed to hand over the party's flag to someone from Abia South Senatorial Zone, in compliance with the charter of Equity and the doctrine of rotation of power. This was why Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Chief Chukwuemeka Wogu, and co who stood strong in race, as well as Senator Nkechi Nworgu, who is from Abia Central were compelled to drop their gubernatorial ambition.

Also at the base of all the scheming for power shift, the Ngwa people, who happen to be the biggest clan  in Igbo land and who mostly populate Abia South Senatorial zone, were also aiming to take their shot at the Government House Umuahia. That lame duck Governor Theodore Orji used to be the godfather of all PDP candidates vying for the sole ticket was not in doubt. Ochendo, as the Abia State governor is fondly called, settled for Dr Ikpeazu Okezie from Abia South as his successor. This decision did not go down well with Alex Otti, who dumped the PDP and picked up the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) ticket to contest the election as governorship candidate. But this is not in line with the Abia Charter on rotation of power. The APGA candidate, Dr Otti, a native of Arochukwu Local Government in Abia North was born and bred in Isiala Ngwa in the Abia Central. He did his primary and secondary education in Isiala Ngwa and ordinarily obtained Ngwa indigeneship, which he relinquished in his days of success in the banking industry. He returned to his Arochukwu base, where he built his palatial mansion with No Place Like Home, boldly inscribed on the wall. Otti severed all his relationship with the Ngwa community, where he grew up, and transferred his voter registration from Ngwa to a polling unit in Arochukwu. While still in the PDP, Otti lobbied T.A. Orji endlessly for the PDP governorship ticket and lavished over half a billion naira on ‘Ikuku’, the governor’s son. The romance hit a turbulent storm when the Ochendo told Otti in clear terms, that this time is the turn of Ngwa people to present a governor.

On hearing this, Otti quickly made a u-turn and returned to his Isiala Ngwa base, and built another palatial mansion. He invited the incumbent governor to commission the house last year. Upon building this mansion, Otti suddenly became an Ngwa man again. He promptly deleted the No Place Like Home inscription on his Arochukwu house.

He kept on romancing the incumbent governor to give him the party's ticket, until a few days to the PDP’s primaries, when the governor and his son showed open support for Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, a full-bred Ngwa technocrat from Obingwa in Abia South Senatorial Zone. Upon the endorsement of Dr Ikpeazu, other aspirants like Abaribe, Wogu (ex-minister of labour) and co, accepted the choice, considering the quality of the candidate Dr Ikpeazu, an academic who bagged his PhD at 29. His acceptance by other aspirants was to ensure a hitch-free compliance with the Abia Charter of Equity and the rotation principle.
Dr Otti ran to Chief Victor Umeh in Awka and obtained an APGA gubernatorial ticket to counter this solemn power rotation arrangement. He obtained his ticket from Chief Umeh, even after his tenure had expired (which issue is presently being litigated upon). As a result, Otti was unable to successfully integrate himself with the Abia State chapter of APGA, leading to his rejection as the governorship candidate by the local Abia State chapter. To make matters worse for Otti, the people of Abia South accused him of changing his place of origin just to gain undue advantage. Because of this deceit, he picked a deputy from Ohafia (he is from former Arochukwu/Ohafia LGA), thereby hoisting Abia North/Abia North ticket on the people. This is the bone of contention. The gubernatorial election in Abia State has taken a tribal/ethnic colouration. This has polarised the state, leading to a protest vote against Otti, in favour of Okezie who ordinarily would have been rejected for being sponsored by the incumbent governor T.A. Orji.

With Otti’s gubernatorial aspirations being heavily funded by the likes of former governor, Uzor Kalu, it appears to be aimed at a colonisation of the entire Abia State by the people of Abia North. Alex Otti’s deputy is from Ohafia LGA, a neighbouring community to Arochukwu, Otti's authentic home. So by this arrangement, both the APGA governorship candidate and deputy are from Abia North. The Ngwa community believes that nothing is more criminal and evil than Otti’s inconsistency, as it relates to his place of origin.

For the first time, Abia voters are voting along ethnic lines. All the seven Ngwa local government areas voted for Dr Ikpeazu overwhelmingly, while the nine non-Ngwa areas voted Dr Otti. Luckily for Dr Ikpeazu, the Ngwa area has greater voting strength, with Obingwa having the highest number of registered voters, approximately 140,000 voters. Presently, Dr Ikpeazu is leading with a margin of approximately 80,000 votes, and a re-run is very unlikely to produce a result that will favour Dr Otti, as most of the cancelled units are still within the Ngwa communities.

The incumbent governor’s unpopularity has been made manifest with the trend of events. Ochendo has lost elections to Dr Otti consistently in his Umuahia domain. He lost his polling unit and his ward during the senatorial election, in which he was a candidate and the Abia State House of Assembly election for Umuahia constituency, in which his son ‘Ikuku’ was the PDP candidate. They were both declared winners after the result was manipulated and the stolen mandate awarded to them. The victory of Ochendo at the Abia Central senatorial election, if properly scrutinised, may be upturned by the election tribunal.

Meanwhile, the Abia State gubernatorial politics in 2015 has gone beyond party politics. It is a complete combat between the Ngwa people and the non-Ngwa people of Abia State. Dr Ikpeazu is seen as already victorious, as there was really no cogent reason for INEC to schedule a re-run in the few polling units that have not witnessed 40,000 accredited voters even with 130,000 voters that collected their PVCs. This has brought the Residential Electoral Commissioner (REC) and returning officer (RO) into the spotlight, as it is being rumoured that it was the RO that conferred Otti with an honorary causa doctorate degree. This seems to suggest that the returning officer is a biased umpire.

In the final analysis, if Dr Otti of APGA wins, it will be tied to his manipulation of the electoral umpire. On the other hand, if Dr Ikpeazu of the PDP wins, this will not be about the popularity of the PDP or the support of the incumbent governor. A PDP victory shall be tied to the Ngwa community voting in protest against Abia North domination of the political space, after fielding a governorship candidate and his deputy from the same zone. It is political xenophobia in Abia state!

•Photo shows Ikpeazu and Otti.

Source News Express

Posted 24/04/2015 3:01:13 PM


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