Sunday, February 7, 2016 6:55 pm
By Uche Onyemandu
There is celebration in Abia State today, and it is likely to go on for weeks to come. And why not? Whenever the wishes and desires of the people are met, there is genuine celebration – that is what is happening in that state that is euphemistically referred to as ‘God’s own State’. The people’s genuine desire was that the man that received majority of their votes in the governorship election of April 11, 2015, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, has been handed back his popular mandate. That desire was obviously met on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 when the Supreme Court upturned the verdict of the Appeal Court, which on December 31, 2015, reversed the earlier verdict of the Abia State Governorship Election Tribunal and gave victory to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Dr. Alex Otti. In voiding the Appeal Court verdict, the Apex Court, in a unanimous judgment by a seven-man panel of Justices headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, said there was merit in the appeal that was lodged by both Ikpeazu and his party, the PDP.
Given the consternation that followed the Appeal Court verdict in the State, it is little wonder that the celebrations going on all over the State today can easily be justified. And judging from the number and caliber of citizens that are leading the celebrations, men like the former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, who was also in the vanguard of protesters against the Appeal Court verdict, it is obvious that this is not just the make-believe type or the popular “rented crowd” that is very common with our politicians, but a genuine desire for a wrong to be corrected.
Although the Apex Court is yet to publish the full text of its judgment, several parameters stand in favour of the judgment and justify the celebration. One of them is what may be called the law of natural justice. Abia State has three Senatorial Districts namely: Abia North comprises Umunneochi, Isuikwato, Ohafia, Arochukwu and Bende, Abia Central Comprises Umuahia North, Umuahia South, Ikwuano, Isiala Ngwa North and Isiala Ngwa South, while Abia South is made up of Aba North, Aba South, Ugwunagbo, Obingwa, Ukwa East and Ukwa West. According to the history of the occupancy of Government House, Umuahia since the return of democracy in 1999, the only senatorial district that has not yet taken its turn in the highest office of the state is Abia South from where Ikpeazu came. So the return of the mandate to Dr. Ikpeazu is clearly in line with the law of natural justice. It is the same law that played out in Delta State where the Igbo ethnic group in that State produced the Governor as a matter of fairness after the other ethnic groups, Urhobo and Itsekiri, had taken their turn.
Another parameter, perhaps, is the popularity of the governor among the people, obviously based on his achievements so far. In less than nine months and in spite of the distractions caused by the Appeal Court judgment, Dr. Ikpeazu has obviously blazed a trail, undertaking projects hitherto abandoned by previous administrations and those never ventured into by his predecessors by opening several doors for rapid development. Such projects include the construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges across the state, establishment of Trade Centres aimed at teaching Abia children the rudiments of the old crafts like carpentry, masonry and the manufacture of local household items, and entire new ideas at boosting education in the state. The health sector is getting a fresh and exciting attention from governor Ikpeazu whose mother was a Nurse all through her working life.
Perhaps, the most ambitious of them all is the Aba Industrial Clusters. Soon to be launched, the aim is to mechanize and automate the process of leather-making and other artisanship works in Abia State. It is estimated to involve 40,000 shoemakers who are capable of producing 1000 shoes daily. Ikpeazu says the goal is, in his words, “to develop the trade sector in Abia so that the state could make all the shoes for school children, the military and the paramilitary in Nigeria, instead of us having to import them”. Anyone who knows the history of Aba as the commercial city of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria will understand the sentiment of the people of Abia concerning that city. The Governor has also spread development to Agriculture with a plan to collaborate with foreign partners in the area of Green House farming. And other projects that affect the life of the people. For example, there is now a Traffic Management Agency which is a replay of LASTMA in Lagos and a Public Infrastructure Management Agency to ensure that criminals and those who abuse government infrastructure are checkmated.
These are some of the reasons why majority of people of Abia wanted their mandate handed back to the victor in the April 11, 2015 governorship election in the state. Above all, the man at the centre of this celebration has, in no uncertain term, proven to be a leader who has come to serve the people. Nothing could demonstrate this more than his level-headed comportment during all the undeserved distractions caused by the machinations of the major opposition party in the state, APGA, after the Appeal Court verdict of December 31, 2015. What should have caused a low morale and dampen the spirit of a leader, became rather an inspirational obsession for Ikpeazu. Instead of losing concentration, his passion for service to Abia People proved unshaken and unwavering. So, to some extent, the on-going celebrations are from a citizenry that have seen a true reformer and innovator; a true servant of the people.
Dr. Onyemandu, a medical practitioner, is the President of Abia Revival Group.