Don Norman Obinna, is media adviser to the immediate past governor of Abia State and a senator representing Abia Central constituency, Theodore Orji. In this interview with DAILY TIMES Obinna unveils all that transpired during and after the Abia general elections and the need for ‘prodigal sons’ in Abia politics to repent and embrace the government of Okezie Ikpeazu. Excerpts:
The Supreme Court just affirmed the election of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), setting aside the Appeal Court verdict; what’s your view and your advice for the governor on how to bring Abians together and forge ahead?
On the Supreme Court judgment, I want to say it is a verdict well deserved in the sense that prior to the ruling by the apex court, there was so much propaganda that Dr Alex Otti actually won the election. They tried to manipulate the psyche of the people into believing that Otti was the winner of the election but I ask: If everybody voted for Otti according to the insinuation, how come he never won the election? The election in Abia State was free; it was also fair, people voted, there was no intimidation whatsoever and people made their choice because they know that the state is a PDP state. There is no way Otti would just come from nowhere and become the governor of Abia State. Like I always say, for you to govern or aspire to govern, we should look at what you have done in the past. Until that is determined and proven, we cannot be sure of what you will do in future and Okezie Ikpeazu, I would say, is the right man for the job. Look at just 100 days in office, look at what he is doing in Aba right now, Aba is taking a new shape. People love him and you could see the euphoria immediately the judgment was announced, there was peaceful celebration in Aba because people voted for him because they wanted him to be the governor. He is a man that listens and who understands the nitty gritty of this job, he is a PhD holder. He is a common man, he has been with the people, don’t forget he started from the cadre, apart from being a lecturer, he served as Deputy Director of ASEPPA. He knows the problem of Aba and apart from that, he knows the state. If you look at Abia State critically, you’d notice it is the only state has about five or six boundaries with other states so it is a blessed state. There is something we have that other states crave to have and that simply means we are the centre of attraction and people come and once you are able to develop Aba, the economy of Abia State will grow and that is what the governor is doing right now and I believe he will achieve it.
Prior to the ruling by the Supreme Court, there was apprehension that it would go against the governor since the Court of Appeal had ruled against the election of the governor. How did his camp envisage the judgment that has now affirmed his election?
Most of us with Okezie Ikpeazu know there was no reason to be afraid because when the Appeal Court passed that judgment in Owerri, they never followed precedents; because there was a judgment in Lagos State: Jimi Agbaje versus Ambode where the Appeal Court ruled that the candidate has no life of its own and cannot be used to nullify election. So it was just propaganda in the media and like I said before, they wanted to use that to create tension, anxiety probably to influence the decision of the Supreme Court because they know from day one that they lost. The truth of the matter is that I don’t want to say the Appeal Court was compromised, I want to believe that probably, they were not well informed. Being a judge does not mean that you would know the whole law like when we were in school, people used to say a good lawyer is that who knows where to find the law. So probably they were under pressure to declare Otti winner, knowing his background and where he is coming from but words like anxiety and apprehension existed only outside our caucus because we knew he was the rightful winner of the election and that judgment would be delivered when we got to the Supreme Court and that is what happened.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the governor, what is your counsel to him on how to bring Abians, either those in APGA and other parties, together so they can contribute to the development of the state?
I want to shock you, what you saw during the election was unreal as APGA was never the real APGA in Abia State. APGA in Abia State was not even active; they had elected their gubernatorial and House of Assembly candidates before Otti crashed in; I wouldn’t want to say he bribed them but he knows what he did. The APGA State Chairman was also removed because of this. In fact, before the election, Megan Ufumba was also campaigning, so was Ude Ahahiwe and as at that time, they had three governorship candidates, so you cannot say who contested election with PDP eventually; it was a faction of the PDP which did not understand the word, loyalty. They felt they could easily catch into the situation because if you look at some of those that contested, somebody like Ahandi Nweke, many of them whose names I don’t want to mention, are from PDP and were never APGA members. And as I speak to you, especially based on the Supreme Court judgment, APGA has died a natural death. It is not about reconciliation; it is about people coming back to say “we are sorry for what we have done, probably we were misled by somebody, let us work together.” Abia State has always been a PDP state, we are one family and there is no problem anywhere.
So you are calling on those guys to come back and rebuild PDP?
Let me put it this way. They never left PDP, they were just opportunists and tried to see if they could actually realise whatever ambition they have through another party because they saw Otti as a man who has money and can throw money around. They forget the fact that in a set up, everybody cannot be appointed at the same time. What actually happened when Okezie Ikpeazu emerged winner of the PDP primaries, Otti contested along with others but the delegates voted for Ikpeazu and this propaganda that T.A Orji actually influenced the outcome of that primary was not true. It is not true but I call those things some of the ingredients of democracy where people say all sorts of things just to woo the electorate.
But that T.A Orji influenced the primary is the view of the founding chairman of PDP in Abia State. Ukasanya who says the former governor just brought Ikpeazu from nowhere and anointed him candidate against the dictates of the party?
Let me start by saying naturally I wouldn’t want to join issues with Ukasanya because when you talk about T.A Orji as a person, he is an institution in Abia State. Just allow me to say any politician that has gone into oblivion and is looking for something to revive his career would look for an institution to lay his blames on. The truth is: it was T.A Orji that revived Ukasanya when he kept disturbing him with phone calls but he never told the masses that T.A Orji bought him a brand new Prado jeep, made the same man his adviser and he was being paid N1 million every month. At a stage, he was also given a contract, an electricity contract at Onyia, Umuahia and that money was paid in full as we have evidence of that payment. Ukasanya is a fair weather politician who always picthes his tent with a party that is making waves. The reason he left PDP is simple, when the caucus members of the party agreed to present Okezie Ikpeazu as candidate, Ukasanya went behind and was fronting another man, which name I don’t want to mention here so when he never succeeded with that, he resorted to causing confusion but a consensus had been agreed. So when Otti came and started throwing money about, he quickly jumped boat and went to Otti’s camp, but he contradicted himself. If you say Abia State people became disenchanted, at what point did you realize that and when you were in government, what did you do to alleviate the people’s suffering if indeed they were suffering? Talking about Ukasanya would make it look like I am comparing him with Senator T.A Orji and that is not possible.
Now that the Supreme Court has affirmed the election of the governor, what areas would you advice him to focus on for the remaining years so as to consolidate on where T.A Orji left off?
As you know, Abia people are industrial people and he has started well by building access roads to Aba. Without roads, you can’t talk about industrial development, you can’t build a mansion in a forest, so Aba must be accessible and that is what he is doing. The main problem of Aba is not even roads but arbitrariness of the people who decide to build illegal structures on the drainages and he has also taken the right step by destroying those structures and he is trying to create a roadmap for development. Secondly, the civil service needs to be reengineered, don’t forget he recently carried out validation whereby he weeded out ghost workers and that is bringing the needed fiscal stability. He is also not going about as Governor of Aba but just flagged off about eight roads in all Senatorial Districts so there is no problem at all in Abia State. What you read in the newspapers is a contrived situation where people want the world to believe there is problem in the state. I urge him to focus on his plans because he is not walking but he is running and in the next two years, people will see the benefit.
What should the people of Abia Central expect with T.A Orji as their Senator?
As Senator representing Abia Central, T.A Orji is very capable and has designed programmes to bring smiles to the people of his constituency. He did not just go to the Senate to while away time; he understands the problem of our constituency and that is why he contested and he was actually voted for as you have seen in the judgment. We want to map out a programme where the less privileged people will be taken care of, where scholarships will be given and we are also working at bringing Federal presence to Abia State. Those are some of our plans but we are not going to do those things without going to the people because they are rational, we want to go to the people and know what exactly their wants are. As I speak to you, T.A Orji has about seven programmes for the youth because he understands they are the strength of a nation. So apart from those that will be empowered, he is working on ensuring different cadres of students in our constituency get scholarships while also calling on the Federal Government concerning federal roads in Abia Central. People voted for T. A. Orji, so we cannot afford to disappoint them and we urge the people to repose their confidence in him.