Will history repeat itself again?

By John Okiyi Kalu on 12/11/2014

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“I have left the PDP and to me coming to APGA is like a home coming. I have always said APGA is not a political party but a religion for Nigerians"-Dr Alex Otti, former Managing Director of Diamond Bank Plc and governorship aspirant in Abia State

Did Alex take the right decision when he opted to join APGA instead of slugging it out with others in PDP?

Recent history recalls another banker and erudite scholar, Dr Chukwuma Soludo, toeing similar path. Sensing the political gang up against him in PDP, Chukwuma Soludo, a man after my heart, jumped ship and joined APGA to contest Anambra guber polls. Unfortunately, at least at the personal level for me, he was disqualified by APGA executives led by Victor Umeh with the flimsy excuse of having an un-litigated EFCC case that is even yet to go to court till date. Obviously that was just a convenient excuse to execute the will of the powers that be. And now Dr Alex Otti has gone to same Victor Umeh for political succor in the face of obvious pointers to the effect that PDP will not likely lease out it's platform to him in Abia for the purpose of contesting 2015 governorship election.

Dr Otti, like Soludo, is an accomplished banker, a first class brain and a great Abia son. He is, arguably, the Abia version of "Soludo Solution". But Soludo is additionally a national icon for many young people and inspired thousands into banking as well as set an enviable record in political contests. For instance, when his apparent victory in Anambra 2010 guber election was somehow torpedoed in favor of APGA's Peter Obi, he promptly congratulated the "winner" and opted not to go to court or overheat the polity in the state. That and many more made Soludo a class act in politics and banking.  I suppose Alex is also a recognizable national figure even though not exactly at the same pedestal with Mr Solution.

It must be said that if paper qualification and success in one's chosen field is the only criteria for making it in politics, Alex and Soludo should be up there with the stars of Nigerian politics. But we know otherwise. Political contests hardly favor the "best" among us but rather the "favored" among us take the plum jobs. While some believe that "favor" come from God, others see it as opportunity meeting preparation. Whichever way, it is a fact of our political history that the "best" hardly emerge from electoral contests in Nigeria. A Fayose will almost always beat a Fayemi because of the dynamics of realpoliticks in Nigeria. There are many reasons for that, including the theoretical approach to politics by the "best" contestants. They rely too much on what political science textbooks said while ignoring what street politicians like us call political reality.

I suppose Alex must have weighed his options very well before decamping to APGA from PDP. If there is any party capable of scratching PDP in Abia State, it is APGA. Yet APGA is a party currently in disarray in Abia and will require re-building. The recognized executives of the party in Abia are those from the Umeh faction of APGA whereas the real builders of the party in Abia are mostly those now in Chief Maxi Okwu's faction. Furthermore, there is still the little matter at the Supreme Court to settle who exactly is in charge of APGA between Umeh and like-able Okwu's factions. How the supreme court resolve that issue, and when, might well be key to Otti's political fortunes.

If the supreme court resolves the issue in favor of Maxi Okwu, Chief Reagan Ufomba will most likely become the "Capo di tutti capi" of APGA in Abia. I don't see him giving up his long standing governorship ambition for Alex or anyone for that matter. Depending on the timing of the ruling, it also might be too late in the day, even if he decides to stand down. There is also the issue of parties nomination window, as per INEC,  that is fast closing and it is very likely that the Okwu faction will go ahead and field a candidate in Abia in anticipation of a favorable ruling. Will Alex convince them late in the day to substitute whoever that candidates is with him? In the event that the candidate is the equally qualified and experienced Ufomba, I strongly doubt that possibility and that scenario will naturally leave Alex politically high and dry.

History would then have repeated itself.

But if the supreme court rule in favour of Umeh, then Alex will still have the relatively small hurdle of overcoming whoever is interested in the office from the Umeh faction in Abia. I doubt if he will find that tough because the candidates are simply not there.
The real challenge for Alex, in that case, will be contending with whoever emerges as PDP candidate in Abia. That surely will be a bigger hurdle given the array of Abia stars still remaining in the race for PDP guber ticket. Most of them brandish equally impressive paper qualifications from the best institutions in Nigeria and abroad. They are also high achievers in their chosen fields; be it in the academia, business, public service or diplomacy. Most of them also have the added advantage of being from the preferred Ukwa/Ngwa axis as well as being politically on the ground in Abia.

It remains to be seen if money will play a crucial role in deciding between APGA and PDP in 2015. Alex is well heeled financially and whoever emerges from PDP will likely have the backing of the State and Federal led PDP. The only disadvantage I see for Alex is that a lot of his resources will be spent on re-building APGA's tattered structures in Abia whereas the PDP wheel is currently grinding smoothly. What should work for Alex is the expected resistance to PDP from Aba town. But even that can be mitigated if the PDP candidate is a known "Aba boy". Normally, Aba tends to support their own and hence the saying "Aba ma ndi Aba". I doubt if Aba will see Alex as "one of us" if he is contending  against a current resident of Aba. The only other minor detail is that Aba have never decided Abia's governor. The reason is simple: most vocal members of Aba population don't vote at Aba. They go home to other Igbo states during elections to vote. Those who know should know that Aba remains the only Igbo town owned by all Igbo and hence most of those doing business there are not necessarily from Aba and Abia. If PDP produces an Ngwa man who is resident at Aba, he will likely be tough to beat at Aba because the residual vote on election days are mostly that of Abians of Ngwa origin. This is the same group that have been loudest in clamoring for an Abia governor of Ngwa origin and they see 2015 as their "turn".

That makes old Bende axis of the state the real decider of who becomes Abia's governor in 2015. As an Abian myself, I can tell you that the incumbent Governor, Ochendo TA Orji,  remains very popular among old Bende people. Whoever he backs will have it smooth at Umuahia, Isikwuato, Abiriba, Ohafia etc. Alex' political fortunes will also likely be impacted by the raging debate on his proper place of origin. While his resume points to Ngwa origin, many from Ngwaland see him more as an Arochukwu man given that prior to this election round he allegedly preferred his Arochukwu ancestry to his Ngwa roots. Ngwa opinion leaders readily point to his surname, Otti, as evidence of his being from Arochukwu. The Ngwa version of that name is spelled as Oti. Still, nobody can deny the fact that his father died and was buried at Arungwa in Ngwaland. He also owns a personal house at Arungwa and actually schooled at Ngwa High School Aba.

While political purists will dismiss the issue of origin as inconsequential, especially since his Abia origin is not in doubt, those of us who have followed Nigerian politics at local and national levels will readily point out that such issues are key in making electoral choices. For years the Ngwa axis have agitated to be given a chance to lead Abia and now that the reality of that happening is within reach through the determination of the incumbent governor to ensure that the cause of political equity, as supported by National PDP, is served, it is tough to see Ukwa/Ngwa people gambling with a candidate they can't fully claim as theirs.

Personally, I fancy the prospects of a strong APGA versus PDP political contest in Abia. Whichever party that wins, I will sleep easy. I also know that if the candidate of PDP turns out to be the Psalm 113:7 guy, we will have a great contest. Either him or Alex emerging as governor will be great and also present a solution to the equity challenge, in my honest view. But there is still the small matter of Sampson Ogah's interest in the governorship of Abia State. He appears to be the emotional candidate of most young people who have taken residence at Facebook and is capable of swinging the election one way or another. Sometimes I wonder privately if he shouldn't have remained with his business and become our own Dangote rather than join the murky political field in Nigeria. Even if he must join the political process, I would have preferred him toeing the 1983 Arthur Nzeribe path: "O kwa unu sim puta, aputalam, m ga ebidogodi na senate..". (You asked me to come out and contest, I have listened to you but I will start with the Senate). If the equity problem in Abia was not there, Ogah possibly would have been tough to beat in the guber race. And if he had even opted to go to the Senate in 2015 (Abia North) and later challenge whoever is the incumbent in 2019, I wonder if he won't smile home with the guber trophy. Age is on his side and he has reasonable goodwill.

I suppose politicians are difficult to advice, so I am in no position to advice Ogah or Alex. Like I wrote in another note, politicians are incurable optimists and all of them believe they have won already, even without contesting. Allowing them to contest is the only option as it also gives the common man the opportunity to "chop small" from their deep pockets. Yet if Dr Alex had asked me I would have advised him to slug it out to the end at PDP. He has now taken an "all or nothing" political decision and there is no retreat or surrender. If he loses, it will likely leave sour political tastes in his mouth. Nigerian politics is too complicated and unforgiving especially when you attempt a "coup" against the ruling party and fail. More so when you are considered a political rookie who have refused to join the queue and wait for your turn.

What really can I do but wish all the Abia aspirants well? I know I can't be them because I don't have that type of "liver" needed to engage in the gamble of elective political office. Those who have such liver should therefore be encouraged, especially if they are also eminently qualified, like Dr Alex Otti. Let us see how the unfolding contest pan out while I continue to pray for myself that the promise of God in Psalm 113 verse 7 will be fulfilled in my life.

I just hope that one of  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's famous quotes does not come to haunt some of our more illustrious aspirants. He wrote that "what experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."

 

Posted on November, 13 2014

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