Alex Otti: Time to give it up and put "Abia First"

By John Okiyi Kalu on 03/11/2015

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I have watched Serena Williams square up against Venus Williams in top flight tennis contests. As the game tees off these sisters each give it their all in order to win it. But once any of them win the usually highly charged game the other celebrates with the winner and they hug like siblings and take the trophy and prize money home together. Their parents celebrate as proud parents of exceptional children who have won more than 30 grand slams between them.

It usually ends as a family affair and almost always in praise to God Almighty.

For all intents and purposes, Abia's 2015 Governorship election contest was a family affair. It was mostly a "duel" between two very brilliant Abia children each of whom is fit to preside over Nigeria via the merit route. The major combatants, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu (PDP) and Dr Alex Otti (APGA), parade wonderful educational and career pedigrees that no sane person will have doubt about or ignore. At the end of the day the election came down to one consideration for majority of Abians: equity in power distribution in God's own state.

While Dr Otti is historically from Arochukwu in Abia north senatorial zone but was raised in Abia Central zone, his opponent was born and bred in Obingwa of Abia South senatorial zone. Incidentally nobody of Ngwa origin (majority indigene of Abia South and parts of Abia Central) ever was Governor of Abia or any other state in Nigeria.  There have therefore never been a better time in history than 2015 election round  to redress the injustice of obvious political exclusion of Ngwa people who make up more than half of the population of Abia State.

Okezie's victory at the polls, conducted twice, served the cause of equity and the fact that his personal record of service to Abians and humanity makes him a true home boy who knows where the shoe pinch Nde Abia was the icing on the cake. Whereas Otti is well known within the corridors of power in Abia as a wealthy banker of Abia origin who hobnobbed with the OUK and Ochendo administrations, he has no record of investment or philanthropy in Abia. While we know about his donation of a massive hall to Babcock University in Ogun state and many such donations outside Abia we cannot point to any classroom block at Uturu, Aba or Arochukwu in his name.

Yet one thing nobody should deny is that Otti fought hard and tenaciously to become Abia's Governor even to the point of desperation. That APGA now have at least 10 state legislators and one Federal Representative in Abia is largely to be credited to Otti's efforts. After all APGA was as good as dead in Abia with nothing more than the "Igbo party" brand equity. The party could not even identify and sponsor a candidate within it's ranks and had to literally sell the party's Governorship ticket to PDP's Otti through the political merchandizing activities of it's factional chairman, Chief Victor Umeh.

Many expected Dr Otti to congratulate Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of PDP after the latter won the Gubernatorial run off ofApril 22nd forced by Otti and his party. If he had done that he would have saved Abia-owned funds that were wasted in hiring a largely "foreign" legion of SANs who must now be smiling to Lagos and Abuja banks to spend their Abia windfall. Statesmanship beckoned, but Dr Otti ill advisedly insisted on going to the tribunal to challenge the result declared by INEC in favor of PDP's Okezie Ikpeazu. Not even pleas from men of God in the same 7th Day Adventist Church he and Dr Okezie are members of could dissuade him. More so when he was nudged on by people poised to benefit from the ensuing judicial battle.

"Obodo adighi nma bu uru nde nze".

Today, the Governorship election petition tribunal in Abia ruled in Dr Okezie's favour and dismissed Otti's petition as lacking in merit. They confirmed what people like me have always known: Okezie won the election freely and fairly. with the preponderance of Ngwa votes pushing him accross the finishing line.

Just like some of us pointed out when the details of APGA's suit emerged, there was just no how the tribunal could have ruled otherwise given the way APGA presented and defended their petition. They placed too much premium on card readers with focus on just 3 of the 17 LGAs of Abia. Even with that focus, APGA failed to present a single witness against the Obingwa result whereas they claimed there was no election in Obingwa. INEC records presented to the tribunal at APGA's prompting however showed that the "no election at Obingwa" battle cry lacked foundation as the records presented by INEC officials and accepted by the tribunal showed at least 50,000 successful card reader hits at Obingwa. The rest were incident forms related and even if you subtract the incident forms votes Okezie would still have won. He had a commanding lead from both polls of 83,831 votes.

It is important to note that three Governorship election tribunals and the Appeal court have ruled that card readers are unknown to the 2010 electoral laws and hence it's malfunctioning or non use cannot be a basis for annulment of an election. PDP dully tendered the rulings at the Abia tribunal. The supreme court of Nigeria also agreed via a ruling in the Agbaje versus Ambode Lagos Governorship election case. Consistency of interpretation of the law was at stake.  

There was also the little matter of the quality of witnesses called by APGA. Most of their 20 witnesses were APGA party agents who appeared at the tribunal to make only one statement: "no election, no result". Even though PDP lawyers succeeded in discrediting most of these witnesses, including the APGA star witnesses who did not pass Nigerian law school exams and yet claimed to be a "legal practitioner" in Nigeria, the clincher was obviously the strategy of PDP to call voters from disputed wards and polling units to simply testify that there was election and they voted. Ordinarily, APGA lawyers should have tried to reduce the weight of the testimonies from those witnesses by tying them to PDP membership but they chose to engage in frivolity by focusing on how well they communicated in English so as to make jest of them. In the end, the evidence of APGA's key witness was dismissed as mere hearsay by the tribunal.

To the informed, the tribunal proceedings ended the day the learned Justices decided that APGA cannot have extension of time to call more witnesses. That APGA and Alex Otti rushed to the Appeal court to demand extension of time to prove their case was an obvious sign that Olujimi and Awa have come to the conclusion that the case was not winnable with the presentations made so far at the tribunal. That one paragraph of their Appeal Court pleading interprets to "we have not proved our case" was a bonus to the ever alert PDP legal team marshalled by Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who have already opened their case at the lower tribunal.  There was simply no way the Appeal court would have allowed the petitioners to call more witnesses when the respondents have opened their case. That can only lead to legal anarchy.

 And when the Appeal court threw out the APGA appeal, it was indeed game over.

Today's ruling was merely a confirmation of what every sound mind already knew. APGA presented a bad case and lost woefully, the 3rd time. An authentic APGA Chieftain and former governorship candidate, Chief Reagan Ufomba while accepting the tribunal's verdict aptly stated that "It is not about what PDP did better, but what APGA failed to do".

Ordinarily, I shouldn't be offering this advice to my brother Dr Alex Otti and APGA. But as an informed Abian who still appreciates the good fight my Arochukwu brother fought, I will simply say give it up sir.

Give it up for the sake of Abia state. Give it up and show yourself as putting Abia first.
Give it up and save on lawyers fees. Give it up and end the distraction of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
Give it up and avoid further humiliation at the higher courts.
Give it up and support Dr Okezie to build the new Abia.
Give it up and allow equity to reign in Abia.
Give it up and help your supporters heal faster.
Give it up and rebuild your career.
Give it up and be a statesman.
Give it up and save our people from further political polarization.
Give it up and give thanks to God for taking you this far in life.
Give it up because you can still achieve much more better things without being Abia's governor.

Crucially, Dr Alex Otti, give it up and save your supporters the trauma of losing again and again. Many of them are already hypertensive from failed expectations and promises. That is why they are easily irascible, irritable and abusive. They are all quietly suffering as the lies and propaganda fall like pack of cards. Many of them want to join Dr Okezie Ikpeazu and build the new Abia but are worried that until you give it up they might be seen as saboteurs. They know Governor Okezie is accommodating and will welcome them with open hands but they wish you just say "we have accepted the ruling of the tribunal and will join hands with Dr Okezie to develop Abia".

I know that deep inside you, Dr Alex, there is that conviction that this is the end of the road for your governorship quest in 2015. Your first class degree was merited, by all means. But relying on rogue ministers and/or cash and carry politicians to swing it by arm twisting the judges of the Appeal and Supreme court will not work. Jurists at that level are more concerned with legacy and sustenance of the rule of law than filthy lucre. Just like the nocturnal meetings in Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna failed to sway the tribunal judges who knew the world was watching with keen interest, so also will higher court judges not be swayed by inducement or emotionalization of the law.. The earlier you give it up the more the chances of getting some appointment from your APC friends. Surely Amaechi will not leave you in the lurch for too long after everything you did for him or together as Regional Head of First Bank. Don't worry about those that donated money to your campaign, especially the Owerri cabal. They are gamblers and know they have lost this gamble. They dare not harass you or else we show them "30", Aba style.  Let them eat whatever our sister state governor is giving them, Ala Igbo wu otu.

The whole game is up Dr Alex Otti.

To my readers, before you descend on this post with your preaching on why Otti must continue to fight till the supreme court, let me share with you a few cost items related to pursuing an election tribunal matter. First is that you are unsettled and unable to rebuild your life. Secondly, each of the SANs on parade command a minimum appearance fee of N50m. There were at least 15 SANs involved in the Abia election petition. Everyday that the tribunal seats, buses are hired at a minimum of N10,000 each and dispatched to communities in Abia to ferry chanters to the tribunal vicinity. They mostly do not enter the tribunal venue but are positioned around the venue to sing, "pray" and eat. The chanters also go home with a minimum of N1,000 per person and for an 18 seater bus that will be N18k "appearance fees" per bus. Those who arrange the mobilisation pocket much more per day and each party will likely send at least 50 buses for every court proceeding day. All the lawyers and their support staff are lodged at cozy hotels with food and drinks paid for by the litigants. And then there are the hired propagandists whose jobs are to spread lies and misinformation through the radio, social media and newspapers. Most of them at Facebook were asked to display real profile pictures as identity for collecting their "blogging human right". They are handsomely paid for the job they do and I have no doubt that Abia APGA hired the best liars and propagandists available in Nigeria cybersphere. All the witnesses are also paid and provided with accommodation and food to safeguard them from opponent's influence. For the period of the petition most of those involved disengage from regular businesses. Shops and businesses closed.

I will not mention hired thugs who are supplied with hard drugs to shout from morning to night "nwere weight" and generally attack those who disagree with them. Those ones are on special remuneration for "special duties".

All that run into billions within the 300 days statutory litigation period

More interesting is the cost to the state as a whole. With petitions come uncertainty. The ruling party and their candidate will not be able to settle down totally to work with electoral tribunal distractions. The Governor will have to receive regular briefings from lawyers and spend time that could have been deployed to solve the state's problems. Of course the ruling party will also have to pay Lawyers from whatever sources. Even investors are slow in coming when there is election petition raging. Investors hate uncertainty of any kind. There is also the additional challenge of systematic insecurity. Politicians at tribunals who may have armed thugs for electoral purposes hardly demobilize them or retrieve lethal arms from them. At their "free time" those "thugs" use the arms to kidnap, rob and maim innocent citizens. If the ruling party clamps down on them their sponsors plead arrest of political opponents or political persecution.

Knowing what I have highlighted above and much more I cannot freely discuss in public, it is my position that a challenge at the Appeal court by Dr Otti is not good for Abia. Even if he did not witness the massive crowd that lined up the roads from Umuahia through Isiala Ngwa to Enyimba city today to welcome and celebrate the governor's victory , he must have heard about it from his agents. Only a popularly elected Governor enjoys such massive love and show of solidarity.

Since we have a governor who is determined to execute a paradigm shift in the way Abia state is run for the better, it is my earnest plea to Dr Otti to forgo his right of appeal and make a phone call to Dr Okezie Ikpeazu this night. If Dr Otti, Dr Ogah and Dr Okezie Ikpeazu work together with other progressive elements in Abia we will surely lead Nigeria and Africa. Dr Okezie has demonstrated passion for the job with his uncommon zeal and pursuit of administrative excellence. He is doing what I believe Dr Otti would have wished for Aba and Abia. Over 31 roads are under construction. Drainage ways have been desilted and street lights are helping to extend trading and also securing the people. Outstanding salaries have been cleared and for the first time in the history of Abia and the South East, state of the technology surveillance systems are being installed at flashpoints to prevent and control crimes at Aba and Umuahia. Our traders have been re-energized through business incubation and incentives while  youth unemployment is being tackled through job creation and employment generating education programs. Ghosts have been eliminated from our workforce and the civil service is being re-trained. Even Arochukwu road is under reconstruction by the Okezie's regime to open the town up in the face of Federal government's refusal to fix the federal road leading to the ancient town where Otti's father was born.

What more does Dr Alex Otti wish to do as Abia's Governor? The doors to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu's office are open for him to walk in and discuss without pre-condition. If he suggests good projects and they are not implemented he can then come back in 2023 and run again to implement them. But for now he owes Abians the duty of ensuring that the state moves from political campaign mode to all round development mode. If he has cash to spare for appeal court challenges he should please deploy them to build a factory or open a business at Aba and employ our youths. He is even free to use the billions and help construct roads in his village or Aba. I doubt if the government of Okezie will destroy such roads.

It is time for Abia to make great progress and Dr Alex Otti should support Abia by calling to congratulate Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on his victory at the tribunal.

Oke Ezuola Na Abia! We praise God for that.

 

Posted on November, 3 2015

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