Since Monday, May 27, when the Federal High Court, Abuja, nullified the election of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, our God’s Own State, I have been amused by jokes and mixed reactions, trailing the development.
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, ruling on a pre-election suit instituted in December 2014 by Dr. Uche Ogah, a PDP governorship aspirant, declared that Ikpeazu was guilty of tax evasion and, therefore, not qualified to have contested for the PDP ticket and governorship election. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had issued Ogah, who came second in the PDP primary election, a Certificate of Return, as the authentic candidate of the PDP.
Ikpeazu had declared that he remained governor, having given notice of appeal as well as getting a court injunction, stopping the Abia State Chief Judge from swearing in Ogah. Today or next week, Justice Abang will decide, whether to grant Ikpeazu’s application for stay-of-execution, pending the determination of his case at the Court of Appeal.
Now the question is: Who is the governor of Abia State? Well, in the face of the law, Abia State has governor-elect, who has not been sworn in. Ogah’s Certificate of Return and the judgment against Ikpeazu on the tax evasion case have invalidated the Certificate of Return INEC earlier issued to Ikpeazu. Therefore, Ikpeazu, legally speaking, cannot claim to be governor. If, however, the court grants stay-of-execution, this will only suspend Ikpeazu’s removal from office immediately, but does not void the judgment that he’s not governor. If Justice Abang refuses to grant his request for stay-of-execution, Ikpeazu will have no basis to hang on to power.
In all the reactions, the one I found very curious is that of the “Concerned Elders of Abia State.” The men, who claimed to be “Abia elders” are mainly chieftains of the PDP, which means that they are, at best, “Concerned PDP Elders of Abia State.” Indeed, the partisan nature and selfish disposition of the “elders,” who are obviously swayed by sentiment and personal affiliation, are really funny. I do not want to talk about the group’s position that the judgment is flawed. This is because the group is not a court of law. The only institution whose opinion matters in this case is the Court of Appeal, at present. Therefore, the elders’ position on the judgment is a mere intellectual exercise.
However, I am, indeed, worried that “elders,” who claimed that their motive was to ensure peace in Abia State, chose to align with one of the parties in the matter because he has the instrument of office. By their position, the “elders” are supporting Ikpeazu and do not care about the predicament of Ogah, who went to court to seek redress over perceived ploy to cheat him, and got a valid court judgment. If these elders are out to make peace in Abia, as they claimed, common sense demands that they do not take any position favouring one of the contenders. They ought to meet both Ogah and Ikpeazu separately and plea for patience, until the case is finally determined by the last court in the land, the Supreme Court. Coming publicly to make pro-Ikpeazu statements gave them away as partial.
It is sad that history is repeating itself in Abia. During the days of Chief Theodore Orji, the majority of the members of “Concerned Elders of Abia State” supported the governor, even when he was not doing well. Instead of doing their duty as elders, and calling the Governor Orji to order, these “elders” praised him to high heavens. The consequences are that Chief TA Orji mismanaged Abia, leaving an ignominious record. While the “elders” were being sycophantic, other patriotic indigenes of the state pointed out the rot in Abia. In fact, businessmen from Anambra State, Chief Arthur Eze, also looked Chief TA Orji in the face and told him that Abia stank. Today, the “elders” are doing the same, blindly supporting Ikpeazu because he’s in government. If Ogah, eventually, becomes governor, we will see what they would do.
To be sure, Ogah is fighting for his rights, which is legitimate. It is funny that some people would rather accuse him of desperation than see the merit of his action. He cannot be guilty of desperation when he is fighting, using legal process, for his right. However, I will advise Ogah to continue following his matter within the confines of the law. Give or take, by December or thereabout, the tax evasion suit would be decided by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Whenever the case is finally determined and if Ogah wins, his tenure begins to count or run.
If there’s anyone who could be accused of desperation it’s Ikpeazu. He was fired by the court. He did not get stay-of-execution. He frustrated the execution of a court’s order by obtaining an injunction from a court that has the same power as the one that sacked him. He declared a public holiday to paralyse activities in the state. Organised “elders” went to Abuja to make a show/complaint on his behalf. A grand reception was organised for him. And his Ngwa people are threatening fire. These are signs of desperation. Ikpeazu should pray that Justice Abang grants his stay-of-execution. If he fails to stop the execution of the judgment, he should be prepared to do the honourable thing: Hand over. It will also pay him to get his Ngwa people to appreciate the fact that he was elected governor of Abia, not governor of Ngwa land. The singular action of Ngwa youths, threatening to make Abia State ungovernable if Ikpeazu leaves office would only alienate Ikpeazu from Abia people from other areas.
Besides, Ikpeazu should reexamine himself. He should really be worried that whenever he loses in court, the majority of Abia people rejoice and only his Ngwa clan cries. This happened when the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Alex Otti, won at the Court of Appeal, when he challenged Ikpeazu’s election. It also happened the day Ogah got his judgment. The crowd that waited for Ogah at the Abia Towers area the day he arrived Umauahia and escorted him to his campaign office is an indication that many people are not happy with Ikpeazu. This may be owing to the circumstance of Ikpeazu’s emergence, as some people are visiting him with the sins of TA Orji, who supported him for governorship. It could also be because of Ikpeazu’s actions in office.
Today there are complaints and misgivings about the way Ikpeazu’s government is treating Abia residents. Otti accused him of excavating sand in some Aba streets where residents did not vote for him, in the guise rehabilitating them, and abandoning the project, as a punishment. There are also the complaints that he knocked down people’s houses or part of them, in a bid to expand roads, and bluntly refused to pay compensation. I wonder where government destroys people’s property without paying compensation. This is not a mark of courage, but wickedness.
Ikpeazu should, therefore, look at his politics, if he survives this. And as long as he continues to be a TA Orji “boy,” the wrath of the majority of the Abia people will continue to be upon him. (Source: Vanguard)