One of the stakeholders in Abia politics and the leader of Kezie Abia Group, Comrade Ubani Dannie, in this interview with LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPER, explains that unnecessary litigation is distracting governance in Abia State. He adds that the wishes of the people should be respected, having elected their governor.
What’s your take in the turn of events in your state?
I feel terribly worried and even annoyed at the turn of events in our dear State. I feel terribly embarrassed that the vaulting ambition of an individual who is hell-bent on securing immunity from prosecution over the billions he and his cohorts stole from ordinary Nigerians under the guise of round-tripping and bogus subsidy claims is at the verge of setting the entire state ablaze. As a student of history, I see the recent unprovoked and unjustifiable commando-styled invasion of a hitherto peaceful State of Abia by Mr Uche Ogar with troops of heavily armed and dark-goggled security men comprising soldiers in combat uniform, mobile policemen and even men of DSS, as an attempt to replay of the Macrebre dance of shame that culminated in the abduction of a former governor of Anambra State, Chris Ngige, at the advent of this democratic dispensation. What has happened in Abia has the full trappings and attributes of a coup d’être, and should be seen and treated as such with all the dramatic persona brought to justice. The dangers which this ugly event under review portends to our political and judicial system is too gory for words. If the masterminds of this civilian coup are not brought to book and urgently too, what it means is that any schizophrenic patient can arrange or buy judgement from one obscure court from in his village to the effect that the president should vacate office for him, and that will be it.
But Uche Ogar was declared a winner by the federal high court and issued a certificate of return by INEC?
Tell me where such situation has obtained previously in this country. Before I expose the many travesties of justice inherent in the said judgement, let me ask you why the haste in executing the judgement even when the respondent, Dr Ikpeazu has indicated his intention to appeal the judgement, and has of a truth filed the necessary procedures and even served INEC the said processes? Why the rocket speed? Why foreclosing his appellate remedies as constitutionally guaranteed? Now about the judgement itself, it was nothing other than a brazen mockery of justice by a supposed minister at the temple of justice. Here is a man who’s been working and earning his living as a functionary of the state in different capacities for the past nine uninterrupted years.
All of us are aware of the relevant tax laws as it affects payee tax system whereby all taxes are deducted at source before a worker is paid his salary. This law applied to Ikpeazu. Then, when he needed his tax clearance certificate all he did, just like any person in that situation would have done, was to approach the relevant authority (the Board of Internal Revenue) for his certificate, and they issued it to him. Without any modification or alteration whatsoever, he used the said document in the pursuit of his political interest. Like a bolt from the blue someone who did not even participate in the PDP guber primary surfaced alleging that the document is forged and the judge agreed with him without even hearing from the originator of the document under scrutiny. And you think we Abians would accept that? The judge never took into cognizance the relevant extant laws which succinctly foreclose the abnormality of declaring anyone who did not participate in all electoral processes a winner under any condition.
What other evidence do we need to look for in calling on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate Justice Oko Abang for unethical conduct than the just delivered judgement on the same subject matter by an Owerri Federal High Court as Justice Ambrose Allagoa which not only validated Ikpeazu’s tax papers but pronounced him the governor of Abia State? At this point, it is very important to state that it is such judicial rascality that has always torpedoed our democracy. In saying this, I make bold to call our mind to when one infamous Justice Ekpo Ekpo made himself and his court a willing tool in the hand of Arthur Nzeribe and his Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) that nailed M K O Abiola’s presidency.
You said that Uche Ogah did not participate in the PDP primaries. Why?
Yes. That’s what I said, and it remains one historical truth that is too incontrovertible. Ogah staged a walk out and refused signing the result of the election. It is even on record that he wrote to PDP stating that there was no primaries and called for another primary exercise. Even in today’s judgement over the same matter but in another case as instituted by Bar F N Nwosu, the trial judge in his judgement was very unambiguous in stating that Uche Ogah cannot reap where he did not sow. In other words, he did not participate in the said primary as such he cannot benefit from what he is on record to have said never existed. This very transparent and well researched judgement not only makes one wonder what could have informed Justice Abang’s judgement but underscores the need for NJC to investigate the said Judge. Though, we are petitioning him to NJC but the investigation should start now in the interest of the integrity of the bench and our democracy.
If the Supreme Court has pronounced somebody a governor after a long legal battle from election tribunal to court of appeal, is it right for anyone to pursue any litigation under the pretext of Pre-election matter?
Sincerely, I don’t see anything wrong in that if the litigant has a good case, and is acting in good faith. In all, as leaders we should always subsume our parochial, personal interest to the overall interest of the greater majority whom we claim we want to serve. This entails making sacrifice unless if we are not honest about what informs our interest. But in a situation such as we are bedeviled with in Abia today where the governor is slaving out his life in the bid to give our already hungry and traumatized people a future and hope, and all you want to do is lay judicial ambushes for him with the billions you somehow acquired, amounts to unnecessary but costly distraction. Such distraction is very expensive because it squanders both time and resources that should have gone into reducing the sufferings of the common people and ameliorating their plights.
What, in your analysis, would you attribute this political crisis in your state to?
Everyone understands that what is playing out is not this tax nonsense. Every Abian knows that Ikeazu cannot justifiably be said not to have paid his taxes. All Abians know and understand that what is at stake is the very soul of Abia and her meager resources. Make no mistake about it, we know that a certain individual who milked the Nigerian state dry through round tripping and outright subsidy scam know that a new sheriff is in the villa. He knows that this new sheriff is not only incorruptible but means business. As such, the only thing that can stop this young Abian from going to prison is immunity and to him there is no other available immunity other than Ikpeazu’s. So, he needs it at all cost. We all know this hence, the majority of Abians are saying never!
What is the feeling or reaction of your youths in view of the recent political development?
Our people especially, the youths are madly annoyed. We feel insulted. We are being pushed to the wall. Our peaceful disposition and civility are being misconstrued for cowardice and docility. Since the creation of man, nobody from Ukwa-Ngwa has ever held sway as governor. This is even more insulting upon the background that we constitute 2/3 of the Abia population. Oil, that black gold, that fetches Abia all these billions monthly comes exclusively from our land. Aba, the economic nerve center of the state is also in our land. All these notwithstanding, few fiefs still see us as their vassals who should remain the hewers of wood and drawers of water even when the majority of the electorates have decided otherwise. No way. It is not possible and it can’t happen. Over our dead body! Emotions are so high amongst the youths and things would have gone out of control but for the entreaties of our elders especially, Gov. Ikpeazu, Senator Abaribe and Elder Emmanuel Adaelu. Even at that, there is an extent to which the youths can indulge these elders because what is at the verge of being stolen is our collective destiny and even the future of generations unborn.
Within the period, what has been the consequence of INEC’s action on Abia and its economy?
INEC through Lawrence Nwuruku, the electoral commissioner in charge of South East, has succeeded in arresting development in Abia, and also ignited a heinous conflagration which if not handled well and on time too would throw the state into the infamous league of youth restive states of the Niger Delta. As we speak now, it is only natural that the governor would be majorly preoccupied on how to survive the coupists and their cohorts. The time and resources that are going into this are the same resources that would have been applied to bettering the life of Abians. To an average investor or development partner, there is political instability and uncertainty in Abia, and no serious investor or partner would stake his money in such situation. Even the average Aba trader is living and doing business today with fear of unknown because of the serious anger that the youths of Ukwa-Ngwa are evincing.