Executive Director-General of Abia Interest Group and former Commissioner for Information in Abia State, Eze Chikamnayo, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress said in an encounter with THISDAY that the governorship crisis in Abia State might have been designed by God to expose some of the actors in the politics of the state.
He neither belongs to the party in crisis – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – nor is his party, the All Progress Congress
(APC) interested in cashing-in in the crisis in the state. But he says Abia’s interest is overriding and must be protected.
“The truth is that I am the Executive Director-General of a human rights group, the Abia Interest Group. All over the world, when an issue arises that touches everybody – issues like security, terrorism, human rights, natural disaster, epidemics – such issues, when they arise they are handled on a non-partisan basis. That’s why in America, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, once you talk about ISIS, everybody agrees that, oh, Bin Laden, Al-Queda, and all these people should be dealt with. That is how it should be in a sane society.
“In Abia, yes, I am a member of the APC and I am not speaking out because of any partisan interest. I am speaking out in the greater interest of Abia. The name of my organisation is Abia Interest Group. At a very point in time, whenever an issue arises, we ask ourselves, where is the interest of Abia located. Yes, we have seen the PDP interest and we have seen the APC interest, but the question is: what is the over-riding interest of Abia?”
In the debacle between Uche Ogah and Okezie Ikpeazu, Chikamnayo says, “We see one major factor and that is the desperation of Uche Ogah to destroy the fabrics that hold the Abia society together. When Abia State was founded, our forefathers, who sweated it out to see that Abia becomes a state, developed a document they called The Abia Charter of Equity. That document streamlines power sharing within the interest groups within Abia and those interest groups are located in Abia North, the Central and Abia South.
“Like most other states in Nigeria, Abia has three senatorial districts. Orji Uzor kalu who governed from 1999 to 2007 is from Abia North. Chief T.A Orji, who governed from 2007 to 2015, is from Abia Central. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is from Abia South. He is the first governor to ever come from that area. This is why different political parties in the last election fielded candidates from Abia South, because they generally know that Abia North have had their time; central too have had their turn and it is the turn of Abia South.
“It is only a deviant like Uche Ogah, having known that there is an existing peaceful arrangement that will not willfully on account of the hallucination that comes with his unaccountable and unaccounted money – the type of oil subsidy money that is flying here and there. It is only a deviant that will have the impunity to try to destroy this foundation that is holding the Abia society together.
“That’s why our group said, no, we will not allow this bull in the China shop; we had to come in and say no, this is not the way it should be. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to keep quiet. And if we all keep quiet, who knows, evil, darkness will overshadow out land,” he explains.
Asked to address the allegation of forgery against the governor, the former Information Commissioner states that “Uche is not trying to uncover anything because there is nothing to uncover. Everybody knows in Abia State that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was a civil servant, who earns salary. And when that is the case, there is what you call PAYE and everybody knows that taxes are deducted at source for this category of individuals.
“So, what is he uncovering? As for who issued the certificate, whether there were mistakes in the date or time, we have what is called the assumption of irregularity or doctrine of irregularity for government institutions, ministries, department and agencies – that when government agencies prepare a document, they are the ones to say either that this document is fake or real.
“If the government went to the tax office and duly got his tax clearance certificate, any mistake in the time and date as anybody may want to say, the onus is on the internal board revenue to prove. Then, when you look at it from the other angle, they said the governor gave false information under oath. When you give false information under oath, it is no longer a civil matter; it is a criminal matter. It is called perjury. Perjury is a criminal offence. And if it is perjury, how come the judge that gave Uche Ogah that controversial judgment sat in his chamber to determine a case of perjury?”
He notes that “A case of perjury is a criminal matter and which must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. This means that for any judge to do justice in a case of perjury he must invite the makers of the documents; the defendants must be cross-examined and the process of litigation must be robust and total. Perjury, forgery and all criminal matters are not tried in the chambers of the court; they are subjected to rigorous trial of the court process and this has not been the case in this matter. So, Uche Ogah has nothing to uncover, rather, God is using this opportunity to uncover Uche Ogah for the people of Abia; for us to see the real Uche Ogah because the man is full of pretences.”
Reiterating that Ogah is seeking immunity to shield him from prosecution, Chikamnayo says “Uche Ogah is known generally as a young man, who just came out of school, entered into the oil business and boom, money everywhere. Ans that money, when it comes like that – like magic – it is suspect. But then in Nigeria, we know these people who make money in that manner – how they made their money. It is part of what President Buhari is fighting now – the culture of graft, corruption, impunity – the get-rich-quick syndrome. Uche Ogah, either fortunately or unfortunately for him, was around within the period individuals got all manners of channels through which to make money quickly.
“But, the truth is that, in one of his business deals, he actually had issues bordering on alleged forgery of documents; alleged opening of fraudulent bank account; alleged diversion of money that was meant for different individuals and we are saying, if Uche Ogah couldn’t do justice to one woman, whom he did transaction with, how can he do justice to four million Abians because we have to look at his antecedents since he wants to be governor and we said, okay, let us take a peep into this man and what we have seen in this peep we have taken is mind-boggling.
“We are not interested in uncovering him, but God is interested in unveiling him for Abians to see that there is danger beyond the smokescreen; beyond the façade, that the real person is still amongst the people that we all know in Nigeria that believe that with money, you can buy anything including the Government House, Umuahia. The Government House, Umuahia is not for sale.”
Dismissing the story that Ogah bought the alleged contract in question, Chikamnayo argues that “If he purchased the contract in question, let him come forward and show the original documents of the contracts he has. If I purchase a contract, as I am handing over the money to you, I am receiving the original documents, whether it is a land that you are buying, you want to see the original Certificate of Occupancy. They will give it to the man who has paid. There is nobody in the whole world that buys documents based on photocopies. Now, I challenge Uche Ogah to bring out the original documents of this transaction and show it to the press.
“Truth is that he short-changed an innocent poor woman, who got a contract and approached him for some logistic support that has to do with tank farms and all. The woman was negotiating for a loan at Eco Bank, when Ogah moved over to UBA and opened an account, fraudulently and forged the woman’s signature without the woman’s knowledge and transacted this business for years on that same account, changing the official address of that company – all done without the woman’s consent.
“So, that matter is pursuing Uche Ogah like his shadow and he ran to Government House, Umuahia to hide under immunity and that’s why he is desperate. That’s why you heard such military terms like “immediate effect” – give him certificate of return immediately; swear him in immediately in a matter that involves courts of various levels.”
He also holds the view that the development has constituted huge distraction to the government of the day.
“Distraction is the name of this game. When emergency billionaires like Uche Ogah do not know what they do with their money – in Igbo parlance we call them money miss road – Uche Ogah’s money has missed road because if you go to saner climes, people who make money are into philanthropy – in building of schools and helping the government. Bill Gates has never aspired to be the President of America. Rather, you see him in Africa trying to add value. Dangote has never contested for the governorship of his state. Uche Ogah should have borrowed a leaf from other people who have made money genuinely.
“But, you see, easy comes, easy goes. Assuming the man went through the oracle, it would have been easier for him to appreciate the fact that peace is a prelude to prosperity and that any ambition you have that is going to tear your father’s house apart is not worth it. So, for him to say without his being governor, he cannot contribute to the development of the people of Abia State, that is preposterous and completely satanic.”
However, to lay the matter to rest, he canvasses that “Uche Ogah should go and withdraw all the frivolous cases that he filed against Governor Okezie Ikpeazu because it is not the turn of Abia North to be governor.
“And the governor should kindly find a way to accept people like Uche Ogah, if they repent and come back. That’s number one. Number two is that the law will have its course, which is before a court of competent jurisdiction. Now that everybody is awake to the issue, the truth should surface by force and the truth is that Ikpeazu never forged any certificate. That will be proven in court and everybody will be happy.”
Chikamnayo contends that the slant of criminality “does not arise because Governor Okezie Ikpeazu gave the information to the best of his knowledge. Every affidavit is sworn to, to the best of your knowledge. As you are now, you had a certificate from your university when you graduated, you can only attest to that certificate to the best of your knowledge. But when there is closed enquiry, the authority that issued the certificate will be called to question.
“In this case, the authority that is supposed to be in trial is the Board of Internal Revenue and not Governor Okezie Ikpeazu. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is only being made a casualty and making him a casualty of course, distracts him from the onerous task of developing the state in various ramifications.”
Expectedly, he does not rule out conspiracy in the matter, saying “Oh yes, of course, there is conspiracy by some money bags in Igboland. These people have cornered money through all manners of gymnastics. And they are invading various Government Houses and helping one another. So, don’t lose sight of the fact that Uche Ogah is only the face of the worst that could happen to any state; he is just the forerunner and that’s why we must resist him so that this cancerous outreach of trying to destroy the mandate of Abia people, based on vaulting personal ambition, we want to make sure it does not happen in Abia State and does not spread to other states.”
He maintains that the only way out is “prayers, dedication and commitment to civic responsibilities. He (God) will solve this problem. Uche Ogah is not a problem; God will take care of him sooner than later because conscience is an open wound that only the truth can heal it. Let us tell ourselves the truth: Uche Ogah has not contributed anything but crisis to the people of Abia State and we are not happy about it.”