It’s been three weeks or less since the shameful ruling by the Abia Election Tribunal headed by Justice Bwala, a judge who from newspaper reports having been rightly or wrongly accused of receiving a bribe of 90 Million Naira was removed as a judge in the case he was presiding over in Anambra State in 2011. I guess it’s only in Nigeria that a judge who was once removed from adjudicating an election petition was reappointed 4 years later to head another tribunal, once again in another South-eastern state and this time, Abia state. Was his appointment a mistake? I don’t think so. Was his posting to Abia State a coincidence? I doubt it. In my personal opinion, there are no coincidences in Nigerian politics. I believe the PDP government under Jonathan purposefully sent him to Abia State for the sole objective of retaining the state for the PDP knowing his proclivities. That notwithstanding I have issues with the APGA leadership and Dr Otti’s lawyers, who if they had done their due diligence should have discovered this aspect of Justice Bwala’s past and therefore should have protested against his appointment and possibly should have asked for the tribunal to be moved to Abuja under a different judge.
For many of us here in diaspora , we are yet to get over the shock of Bwala’s ruling, even though many were not really surprised considering the corrupt nature of the Nigerian judicial system. It is like watching a car accident happen before your eyes in slow motion. You saw it coming but could not do anything to prevent it. What better evidence does anyone need to know that the ruling was a travesty of justice, than the graveyard silence, the downcast faces and dejected looks that pervaded the state after the ruling was announced. The absence of joyous celebrations and dancing in the streets of Aba and Umuahia was proof positive that it was a tasteless victory for Ikpeazu and the PDP, except for his Ngwa kinsmen who were nevertheless elated. But with Dr Alex Otti, appealing the ruling, I doubt if the Ikpeazu administration can sleep easy. Like in the Shakespearean novel ‘Macbeth’, they murdered sleep when they rigged their way into the Government House and till they are kicked out, they will not be able to find any sleep. As for the millions of Abia citizens who were hoping to see the beginning of the end of the PDP era, hope still reigns supreme and if ever there is a re-run election in the disputed local government areas of Obingwa, Ossissioma and Isiala Ngwa North, voters will see a ballot that captures the turmoil and deep divisions over the state’s future.
Reading the news recently about officials of the Local Govt Employee union asking to know what happened to the bailout money meant to be used for the payment of salaries and pension arrears, it is hard to believe that it’s been 8 months since the Governorship elections and 7 months since the swearing in of this temporary Governor. Amazing how time flies. Once again for the past few months, it’s been one lie or excuse as to why the salary and pension arrears have not been paid. First it was the lack of money. But then after the bailout money was received, it was the biometric exercise, not to mention the Governor’s empty promise to pay salaries before the 24th of every month. One wonders for instance the rationale behind appointing 20 commissioners in a state that is financially bankrupt, when some of the ministries should have been merged together to reduce cost and an inflated workforce and payroll. Why create different ministries for Sports and another for Youth development? Why two ministries for Petroleum and another for Mineral resources or a ministry for Works and another for Housing.
For a man who promised nothing much during the campaign, there is one promise Dr Ikpeazu has kept, which is to continue the legacy of T A Orji. No wonder he is reported to have signed an MOU for an Industrial park , which begs the question , what happened with the four MOU’s Ochendo signed, for projects such as an Abia Airport motor-rail and the like. Even though I do not know Dr Ikpeazu personally, as a Governor he does not really fire my imagination. This may sound weird, but I actually find him rather dull and uninspiring as a character. He strikes me like your standard college professor whose students doubt his intellect and wonder whether he really knows his stuff. They listen to his lectures but wonder why they picked the class in the first place. When you watch him in office even as temporary Governor the one word that again comes to mind is uninspiring. Once again, the Abia people are watching what appears to be, the second coming or the re-incarnation of Ochendo’s regime, only that this time it is a T. A. Orji clone. Once again, the Abia people are asking themselves, how did this happen? How did this guy get away with rigging himself into office against their wish and when will this nightmare end?
Indeed it has is really hard to believe that for the past 7 months, Abia has a new government. Looking at the lack of vision and direction that has characterized the Ikpeazu administration, you get the feeling you’ve seen this movie before. Everything seems to be at a standstill. Their methods, the lies, the reliance on propaganda, all seem so familiar. It would have been a bit refreshing if Ikpeazu was a transitional figure with a perfect resume of administrative accomplishments and managerial competence, but the guy was a failed sanitation chief who failed miserably in the only worthwhile job he ever held. This empty resume has been reflected in the way the state has been run since his swearing in. The state seems to have been frozen in time. Nothing seems to be moving. It is as if Ochendo is still in power. Worker’s salaries are still not being paid. Infrastructures like schools, roads and hospital buildings are still in a dilapidated state of disrepair .Today in Abia, to move from any other part of the country to Abia is probably the most extreme culture shock available in Nigeria. To do it as an Abia citizen visiting from abroad adds an extra twist. In my opinion, Abia state at best can be described as backward and a poster boy of corruption. To live in a city like Aba is for your friends to question your sanity. In most communities, there is rural poverty reminiscent of Haiti after the earthquake of a few years ago. On visiting Aba and Umuahia recently, two cities I once lived in made me want to scream and return to the familiar. Everywhere I turned there were family breakdowns and social dislocation, misery and despair. The result is a mounting feeling of dispossession, a sense of promises broken. A sense of what you were supposed to have has been denied to you. As a consequence the people have developed a resilience, a capacity for dealing with stagnation and disappointment.
The question now is, does the Governor care about the suffering masses? I doubt it. Even if he does, I doubt if he truly knows what to do or has any ideas on how to improve the fortunes of the state. As a matter of fact, the Governor is like a fish flailing around on the deck of a boat with the hook just removed. This is a man who ran for Governor on an empty platform except for the often repeated phrase that it was the turn of an Ngwa man to be Governor. The fact that most of his Ngwa brethren blindly support him and see nothing wrong in his non -performance as Governor is admirable. The only problem with their love and infatuation for this Governor is that the rest of the state which is a majority do not share it. We have all heard the saying, “you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.’ While opinions are sometimes well informed, they can be subjective. Facts on the other hand are out there, separate from us, so it makes little sense to ask people what they think of it. Some Ngwa people have intentionally and willfully refused to accept the fact that the Ikpeazu administration so far is a colossal failure. One would want to believe that most of them are just being skeptics, but it is very easy to distinguish between skepticism and denialism. In other words we should be able to tell when we believe or disbelieve in something based on high standards of evidence and when we are just engaging in motivated reasoning, letting our opinions take over. When we withhold belief because the evidence does not meet the standards we set for the truth, we are skeptical, but when we refuse to believe something even in the face of what most others would take to be compelling evidence, we are engaging denial. Denialist always know in advance what they will like to be the truth and as for some Ngwa folks, they have different standards of evidence for the facts they want to believe. For me doubting the overwhelming consensus of the Abia populace on the failed performance of the Ikpeazu administration is not skepticism, it is the height of gullibility. In my opinion the skepticism and the denialism of some folks must be more than an ethnic reflex to support one of their own. It must be earned. When we cynically pretend to withhold belief long past the point at which ample evidence should have convinced us that something is true, we have stumbled past skepticism and landed in the realm of willful ignorance. Willful ignorance is where most of our Ngwa brethren are right now despite all the evidence around them. By steadfastly supporting this Governor some Ngwa people especially from the Ukwa-Ngwa area have strained their relationship with other non Ngwa communities in the state. There now exists a distrust that will take years to overcome.
There may be some who may label this write up as a hate speech against the Ngwa people, but nothing can be further from the truth. I am just being a concerned citizen who does not begrudge the Ngwa people for supporting one of their own but one who is convinced that the Ikpeazu administration so far is a disaster, and it will get worse if he succeeds in staying in office. As usual rather than acknowledging their mistakes and making amends they have resorted to what they do best, lies and propaganda. The favorite past time of the Governor’s media adviser, Mr Ojo Maduakwe is to write spurious articles against Dr Alex Otti and getting Thisday newspaper, his former employer to publish them for him. First it was one Madubuko Hart during the Ochendo regime who wrote his nonsense from a ramshackle beer joint in Lagos. I laughed hilariously recently when I read a press release by Mr Maduekwe, where he described Dr Ikpeazu as a rare gem, just because he marked his relations house as one of those to be demolished in Aba. What an act of courage, so much so that his media adviser has to crow about it as a major accomplishment? As usual these people have no shame hence I am beginning to get tired of their constant and numerous fabrications and blatant lies. Their bizarre fantasies and careless misstatements or misrepresentations of facts are in the end still untruthful. Unfortunately ours have become a society that would applaud liars and deny facts. Some in the Governor’s amen corner now prefer emotional rhetoric to reasoned arguments. Luckily for them social media outlets readily afford them the forum to display their ignorance and to rain abuses on those who try to tell the truth. As a people the Igbo’s have been renowned for their intelligence and educational prowess but in recent times it appears as if we have turned our state into a Mecca of ignorance and hubris all in the name of politics. The good thing is that those who continue to criticize Alex Otti tend to forget that the Abia people already know all they need to know about him, hence the increasing support for him despite the recent tribunal setback. But hope continues to reign supreme and with God’s help his mandate will be restored and we will see the final demise of these political pretenders in the government house.
- Nnanna Ijomah, former Special Assistant to the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu resides in New York City