My Random Thoughts On Abia As We Journey Towards 2023 – Part 1
By Umeh Kalu, SAN
Expectedly, there has been an upbeat or more of a frenzy in political activities in Abia State in the last ten (10) months. The crescendo will continue to increase as we advance towards the 2023 general elections. The elements of these flurry of political activities can be seen in the reactivation of old political blocs and setting up of new ones. The social media has been denied the relative peace and decorum it enjoyed in the past via the setting up of allied WhatsApp groups, Twitter and Facebook accounts along Party, religious, ethnic and even professional divides.
Conmen and fraudsters who now masquerade and adorn the garb of professional politicians professing to be leaders of political structures across the State have been having a field day feasting on desperate power seekers. This is indeed a season of serial meetings. For those of us who have witnessed this season repeatedly for the past two (2) decades, it is nothing new but the normal course of events prior to elections. What stands out however in this season of politicking in Abia is the agitation for power shift between the Ngwa and Bende blocs and/or the agitation for which of the three (3) senatorial zones within Abia State should occupy the Governor’s lodge in Abia come 2023.
A group of professional politicians claiming to have its root in Umunneato from the Ngwa axis, is claiming that the present Governor should hand over to an indigene of their area. There is this other plausible and potent claim from the Abia North senatorial district axis of the State, that the rotation of the Governorship seat commenced from their zone, and that having gone round the three (3) senatorial zones, it should start off again from their zone. There is yet another claim, though in a low tune, from the Ukwa axis of the State who assert that they are the hen that lays the golden eggs. As the oil producing area of the State and having been serially shortchanged by the Ngwa bloc in the allocation of political offices, they claim they should be fairly treated this time. Some other splinter groups from Abia North, particularly in the Isuikwuato area of the State, feel it is their turn to produce the next Governor of the State despite having had the privilege of producing several Military Governors and Administrators during the military era.
Time and space may not avail us in this discourse, to analyze all the mundane agitations from virtually all parts of the State, including my Ohafia clan. While one may not deny these interest groups their rights of agitation and in fact to place their views and demands in the public sphere, these serial demands along ethnic and geographical divides go a long way to show how incohesive and divided we are as Abians. Everyone is fighting for its own people, with the belief that if one of their own emerges as Governor, it will translate to Eldorado for their people, to the exclusion of the other divides.
These agitations and expectations, I dare say, are in sync with our history and the prevailing circumstances in the misgovernance of our State – governance for my people. A peep into all “juicy” and critical government appointments made in our State for the past fifteen (15) years vis – a – viz the occupant of the office of the Governor, will readily avail us the raison d’etere for these agitations. Nepotism and clannishness is getting even more pronounced now than ever before. Check out the Abia State Governor on any official or private trip within the country and even outside the country.
Can we really build a State we can all proudly call our own along these ethnic divides? Where does merit lie in all these? The present Governor must not be set out in condemnation to the exclusion of his predecessors, as they all were equally inclined and in fact paid allegiance to their ethnic enclaves.
While professional political agitators mount their rostrums to be heard on why it is their turn to produce the Governor of Abia in 2023, the self – acclaimed owners of Abia, whose birthright they claim is theirs to produce and choose a Governor for all Abians at every election are at work again. These godfathers, one of whom claims he is the papa ukwu and jagaban of Abia and will be replicating what Tinubu has been doing in Lagos, has reportedly voiced out his choice for an Abia North Governor, with veiled particular interest in Ohafia North State Constituency. The entry of Professor Uche Ikonne into the arena for the contest of the Abia State Governorship, from available sources, is at the prompting and behest of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. Both Governor Ikpeazu and his predecessor have engaged and deployed their traditional political agents into the Abia political space, to canvass and advance their preferences for the Abia Governor’s lodge in 2023.
We have witnessed the unorthodox introduction of libation and calling on the gods for intervention. We have equally witnessed another awkward scene of using a book that looks more like the Holy Bible by another group to counter the potency of the Umuahia libation. The big question that yearns for answer is “where does the interest of the common man lie in all these spectacle and drama that are playing out?”
All the protagonists in the Umuahia libation and the Ngwa Bible display video are all well – known professional politicians. If all Abians do not know them, some of us do and can write a whole book on some of them and their godfathers.
Away from the dramatis personae in this libation and Bible carrying episodes, another group of persons that should be of immense concern to all well – meaning Abians, is the so – called professional politicians in our midst. This group cuts across all ethnic divides in the State. These professional politicians definitely do not have the interest of the common man at heart, although they pretend to be advocates for the common good of the people. All their actions are in furtherance and advancement of their personal interests. They engage in no meaningful economic ventures on their own, but rather feast continually on the common wealth of the State.
They are usually well costumed and smooth talkers, with a good sense of humour. They run from one government to another instigating hatred and divisions amongst Abians, most of them having been in government since the creation of the State, and, navigate themselves and their interests from one government to the next. Their advocacy for their tribesman as Governor has no place in good faith and patriotism, but enmeshed in their desire to ensure their relevance in the affairs of State, irrespective of the fact that they have no value to add to governance.
So much has been said about the Abia Charter of Equity for the purpose of zoning the Abia Governorship seat. While in Government, as the State’s Chief Law Officer, I sought frantically for a copy of the document called Abia Charter of Equity but could not lay my hands on any. Few weeks ago, someone promised to send me a book containing the Charter from Enugu, which I am yet to receive at the time of writing this piece. In any event, I know as a lawyer that an agreement needs not be in writing, but can evolve from oral agreement and even conduct of the parties. Agreements are binding on parties, consequent upon certain conditions like the capacity of the parties to contract and voluntariness in entering into the Agreement e.t.c.
If there is an Agreement as is being postulated in certain quarters, who are the signatories to the Agreement and who do they represent? Was the relevant consent of the parties whom the signatories present themselves to represent obtained? Questions, questions and questions. But as earlier stated, conduct alone can translate into an Agreement, which all contending parties in a civilized society are expected to respect and yield themselves to be bound. However, one thing must be made clear, that Abia Charter of Equity whether in writing, conduct, practice or norm, will at all times bow to the contents of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Our Constitution which prides itself as the grundnorm, confers eligibility on every adult Abian to participate in general elections, subject to certain conditions. This possibly shows that any Charter or Agreement that tends to exclude persons from a particular area of the State from contesting the Governorship of Abia is unlawful. This clearly explains why persons from every area of Abia State have always contested in past elections in the State, without let or hindrance.
I am not unaware of the benefits that may enure to a society that has chosen to abide by a prolonged rotation of electoral offices amongst geographical and ethnic lines, as this may lead to maintenance of peace, order and give all sections a sense of belonging. I make bold to state that any individual or group giving prevalence or emphasizing rotation of the office of Governor of Abia State at the moment is not only blind but equally deaf to the realities of Abia State. I see Abia as a State in severe and dire situation requiring emergency attention. I see Abia as a State that is lying prostrate and therefore cannot afford the luxury of shutting out capable hands that can dig it out of its pitiable situation under the guise of zoning. Zoning no doubt is healthy and should be encouraged by all peace loving individuals, but can only be practiced in a State that has the basic foundation and facilities of a modern State. States like Anambra, Enugu, Akwa – Ibom and even Ebonyi that can boast of certain known institutions of a modern State can afford zoning. The first step in building is to set out the foundation, lay out the blocks and get it up to DPC thereby providing a firm structure, upon which the building will be sustained. We are yet to have the basic structures of a modern State in place as envisaged by the founding fathers despite having been created out of Imo State some 31 years ago.
Those canvassing for zoning in Abia State are doing so with their eyes fixed on the personal gains that will accrue to them, when their preferred candidates win the elections. While I posit that the issue of zoning be down played due to the dire circumstances of our State at the moment, what should be of utmost interest to all well – meaning Abians is for us to rise in unison to stop imposition of Governors and by extension godfatherism in our State. Abia is a pariah State and one of the least developed in our country, occasioned by the sustained imposition of Governors on us by their predecessors. You cannot continue to do the same thing all the time and expect a different result. What has kept Abia at the lowest level and at the bottom of the ladder of development is the penchant of past Governors to impose their chosen successors on us. No Governor ever succeeds with a godfather breathing down his neck.
Those who lay claim to continuity (whatever that term means) as a reason for insisting on a particular individual as their successor, should take their tales to the marines. Why would a Governor be so desperate to impose a successor on the people, if not to cover his tracks and shield himself from public scrutiny after leaving office? The claim of continuity which is bandied about is not only lame but idiotic, especially considering the Abia experience. How many projects, schemes or policies of Governor Orji Uzor Kalu did Governor T.A Orji continue and how many so called Legacy Projects, policies or schemes of Governor T.A Orji has Governor Okezie Ikpeazu continued or concluded. Imposition is not only undemocratic, tyrannical, fascist and a usurpation of the inherent rights of all Abians to choose their Governor and other leaders but a colossal waste of public funds, as most if not all funds expended in the process of imposition from the primaries to the general elections are usually public funds.
(To be continued)
— Chief Umeh Kalu, SAN, who wrote in from Grace Villa, Elugwu Layout,
Okagwe – Ohafia, Abia State, was a former Attorney-General of Abia State