I weep for Abia

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Since the Federal High Court at Abuja presided by Justice Okon Abang ruled on the suit by a defeated Abia PDP Primary contestant  I have been distraught and tearful.

My worries have very little to do with the possibility of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu losing power. I am very certain the judgement will not stand diligent legal scrutiny at appellate courts because of the facts I know about the issues in contention. For personal reasons I also do not intend to engage in debates about the legal aspect of the ruling because to me that is not the most important issue thrown up.

My tears are for my beloved state, Abia, God's own state. If you diligently read this you might also feel my pains.

Since 1999 socio-political stability has been difficult to come by and that has hurt us immensely. Our politicians, elders, elites and even common folks have disappointed my innocent soul. Even when our state is possibly one of the most blessed in terms of human and material resources.

Alongside Anambra State, Abia is the greatest hope of the Igbo man in all spheres of human endeavor. If you talk about commerce, Aba and Onitsha lead the pack. In education, both states are exchanging first and second positions. In terms of human capital development, both states are in the top 5% in Nigeria with Abia producing a preponderance of the best scientists, from Eni Njoku to Prof Anya O. Anya and countless others. In leadership, while ZIK led Nigeria as the first president of the country, General Aguiyi Ironsi was the first military head of the Nigerian state. Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Ojukwu can be said to be the equivalent of Sir M I Okpara born in Umuahia. Just like Dr Alex Ekwueme is the equivalent of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe. Even in commerce, generations of Ndigbo remember Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu and Chief Nnanna Kalu of Abia. Many more positive comparisons of both states in historical terms can be drawn without diminishing other great Igbo from other states like Dee Sam Mbakwe of Imo State. Chief Akanu Ibiam of Ebonyi and Chief Jim Nwobodo of Enugu state.

Yet my concern today is the Abia conundrum.

Political, social and economic instability in Abia has hurt us more than many people cheering the latest signals know or care to know about. After the 1999 elections we ended up with a divided state and our two leading candidates ended up in courts. As can be expected, the wealth of corporate Abia and private Abians were wasted in needless struggle for power. Ego and "imakwa onye mbu" did not give room for any out of court settlement.

The same ugly outcome repeated in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.

In all instances, massive amounts of money were pumped into the struggle for power with non of the key combatants ready to give up for his brother. Our state and people were divided in many ways by politicians with all manner of curious claims as well as exploitation of basic human weakness of "we against them".

As our wealth was being wasted, our elders either watched in paralysis or took sides based on who they think will favor them. We made Lagos and Abuja lawyers and judges multi billionaires from the little we should have used to build roads and strengthen education of our children.

I am not afraid to estimate that from 1999 to date political struggles have cost Abia state and private Abians more than N100b directly. We have also lost countless valuable lives including those lost to political killings and kidnapping. Yes, kidnapping. Many of you might not understand the link between power struggles in Abia and introduction of kidnapping in the state late 2008.

With the emergence of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu as Governor in 2015 I personally thought we have turned a corner. At least we have solved the equity problem in Abia and also gained a committed leader with political freshness and real Abia first mindset and zeal.

My best hope was that our so called elders and leaders will move to unify the state and prevent the cycle of wasteful litigations. Unfortunately, most of those we call elders slept off while others took sides. Not even one Abia elder rose to rally all the winners and losers together for the common good. Instead they were rushing to radio and TV stations in Lagos and Abuja to canvass for their preferred candidates.

How shamefully selfish and sad!!

The people I weep most for are common Abians. They simply don't understand what is happening to them and hence are blown here and there like a yoyo balloon.

After the distractions of the Election petitions were dispensed with the Supreme Court affirming the mandate of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, I personally thought what should happen next is for us to support Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to transit from electoral campaign and court modes and focus firmly on substantive governance.

Much as the world should believe the issues around the judicial challenge of his mandate by his opponent did not distract him, I know for a fact that even the strongest of humans would have been distracted. He personally confirmed what I already knew when in his pre-democracy day interview he stated as follows regarding the court challenges:

"Well! I must thank God Almighty for the strength of character and resilience of our team during that period. Court cases, especially for someone like me who before now has not had any need or reason to go to court, i can’t, I won’t deny the fact that it was a major source of distraction. But we tried to remain focused and as you must have seen, all our projects were on going. We remained committed to our resolute determination because, like we started work on the first day on resumption, while the court case was going on we were busy commissioning roads. I remember that Ex-President  Obasanjo came and commissioned about four (4) roads during that period. So we did not slow down, we did not stop but certainly we also had to take some time and keep in touch with what was happening in the court rooms."

The undeniable truth is that these litigations distract our leaders to a reasonable extent and also time and resources that should have been invested in the well being of Abians are wasted over what can be discussed in a brotherly manner. We have made lawyers, others in the judiciary and media practitioners wealthy while denying the Abia child.

I know how costly a SAN is. I also know how much media wars cost. Just like I know the economics of demonstrations and counter demonstrations, in terms of cost and lost time for productive work.

For how long will common Abians continue to endure these distractions and wasteful political struggles? Is there no man left in Abia that can call our children to order and save the next generation?

While you sit behind computers writing flowery articles for one side or another have you ever considered the cost of the fights you are supporting? I have read many demonize our immediate past Governor but I refrained from joining that train because I understood what he had to deal with. In politics, especially in Nigeria, political survival trumps every other consideration.

Many of us complained about Ochendo being remotely controlled from Igbere and insisted that he liberate himself. What we did not factor in was the cost of doing that in terms of political backlash from the other side. As a result of the very desirable liberation, Ochendo was heavily distracted all through his tenure. I make bold to state that he fought on two fronts: his estranged godfather with his clique on one front and an angry Ngwa nation demanding equity in power distribution on the other side. Even his seeming abandonment of Aba has nexus to the strong opposition to his regime from those two major centrifugal forces.

The consequence was that our former Governor became a hostage of sorts in his bid to survive his powerful enemies. Common folks paid the price. Yet it remains to Ochendo's credit that he was able to deliver on many legacy projects that laid the foundation for rapid development of the state. Most importantly, he exercised strong leadership courage by ensuring that the cause of equity in Abia was served with Dr Okezie Ikpeazu emerging as the first ever Ukwa/Ngwa born governor since God created the world.

With the emergence of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, many of us who understood the issues around Abia heaved a sign of relief. Equity problem has been solved and we have a committed homegrown leader who is at home in Abia north, central and south senatorial zones because of his amiable and humble disposition.

Indeed Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was able to hit the ground running and flagged off reconstruction of at least 4 roads at Aba on his first day at work, armed with the mandate of Abians to focus on Aba as the economic driver of the state. To date he has completed 27 roads and commissioned them with at least 39 other road projects ongoing. He has also done some very good things in other sectors even while struggling with the seemingly endless legal challenges to his mandate by his major opponent then and a massive reduction in state revenue by more than 50%.

Have you ever wondered how much more he would have achieved without the judicial challenges? I leave that to the imagination of those who actually understand the time and money cost of electoral judicial battles in Abia in particular.

I strongly doubt that there is another state that lawyers and others make more money from elections than Abia. If you know any state where a citizen who has never paid one kobo as tax and without a single philanthropic or business investment in his state is ready to invest billions of Naira to win election through judicial processes please tell me. I challenge the opposition candidates who went through elections and judicial processes to honestly come out and tell the world how much they spent on lawyers and others. If you don't hear about multi billions of Naira shared in local and foreign currencies feel free to abuse me.

The Abia tragedy is really not only about sundry wanna be Governors throwing money at the judiciary to over awe the incumbent. It is more about the failure of our traditional structures to recognize that they have failed to deliver on their God given mandate as elders. It is also about the people who do not understand that the pyrrhic victories of politicians in courts they celebrate are actually victories against uninterrupted development of their state. If you think that those spending billions are coming because they love you more than you love yourself something is wrong with you.

Finally, I am reluctant to comment extensively on the legal angle of the latest judicial challenges of Sampson Ogah and F N Nwosu against the incumbent Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. The reason is that while I believe that Governor Okezie will ultimately triumph and complete his tenures uninterrupted, even that triumph will still come at a cost to him, his opponent(s) and most importantly common Abians. I will rather prefer that sons of Abia stop funding others and start investing in our collective well being through the establishment of employment generating factories and vigorous infrastructural development  campaigns.

If only we have real elders in Abia, they will be scrambling right now to arrange a meeting between Governor Okezie, Ogah and Otti. Of course I already know they are all scheming with one combatant  or another. Just like the media and bloggers are singing alleluia in expectation of a massive mainstream and social media wars . Common folks that should be weeping with me are being misled into believing that removing the incumbent or bringing in Mr ABC is the silver bullet that will solve all their  problems while politicians are preparing excuses to give them.

Let me end by saying this to fellow Abians. What we need is full reconciliation of our sons. Any other thing will mean backward movement of the state with likelihood of permanent schism that will finally destroy our recent forward marching. Those currently sponsoring and clapping for one combatant or another will also celebrate, write some more flowery opinions and later laugh at us as foolish people who can't get going in a forward direction. They are the same people that will come back to review how many roads that were not done while they were actively distracting the incumbent.

God pass dem.

Agwachalam unu, o metara buru is both an advice and a warning.


POSTSCRIPT: Farewell Chief Ojo Maduekwe.


Posted on June, 30 2016

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