Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia State governor in this interview, speaks on issues surrounding the just-concluded general elections. The governor, who lost his senatorial ambition, described the BVAS deployed by INEC as a monumental fraud, saying Nigerians did not interrogate it enough.
You lost your senatorial ambition and your party lost the governorship. What is the feeling; was that a big disappointment?
I feel very well and I thank God that I’ve run this race to this point and expecting the next phase of my life. For me, I’m a man of very modest expectations and public office is a call to serve. If I offer myself to serve and the people say no or wait, it’s not a personal loss. It gives me the opportunity to open other doors and do other things.
I had a manifesto, I had an agenda which I thought was going to bring about some paradigm shift in the way things were done especially having been here for a couple of years and seen what I felt were gaps that needed to be filled and I offered myself.
I congratulate myself for the courage to offer myself and also for the courage to run that race. Maybe the people think otherwise or something happened because what comes to play in an election is not entirely about what the people want. Whatever thing it is, I feel sufficiently bold to put myself together and move on.
I won my last elections at the biggest league in the state. This one for me is not a do-or-die thing or a question of life and death. Ultimately history and posterity will make things clearer.
Did you just allow the system to run, given that in this part of the world, it’s difficult for a governor to want something and not get it?
To be frank with you, I’m one of the people that the BVAS deceived. I’m one of the people who believed the stories around BVAS. No two elections are the same and this particular season of the election was difficult. I give you an example, at some point, more than 102 polling units with more than 100,000 registered voters could not vote in one of the LGAs in our senatorial district.
The margin of lead for the first three candidates was not up to 30,000. Ordinarily, when the margin of lead is not up to what is outstanding, the right thing should be done. Again, the same election was declared inconclusive at some point by the same INEC returning officer who later came back to say she was now ready to declare the results as directed from “above”. That is obviously neither here nor there.
The Nigerian system creates victims and creates scenarios of varying victory, but I said to myself, that I needed to teach Nigerians that, though an incumbent, if you try an election and it doesn’t work, you can move on. Especially if you really think that it is a call to serve.
As governor, even with very tight schedules, I was able to write a book in Biochemistry. So I’m certainly not a man of combat. I can get busy doing other things and I have callings in other spheres of human endeavour.
I think I have given my eight years, no vacation, and never slept anytime earlier than 2am. My family needs me too and I need to take a break, so, I have moved on.
You talked about being deceived by BVAS, in what way?
Yes, because of all the advertisements about the BVAS, the human element and interferences in the entire process is still above 90 per cent. We thought it was super technology, but it’s nothing. They’ve taken it to a point where somebody sits back to say I feel like I should look at the BVAS but under a different circumstance, the same person will say I don’t feel like looking at the BVAS now or the results are still uploading. So, if you look at the scenarios you see opportunities for people to be mischievous.
Unfortunately, also, characters within INEC advised some of the ad hoc staff not to bother about the BVAS. Some of us believe that there was something like that. From our situation room, what we got and the tumbling results that eventually manifested on the result sheets do not tally. It’s a monumental fraud.
With all these, why did you advise that aggrieved people should not bother the governor-elect with litigations?
That is because this same governor-elect took me through hell when he lost in 2015. He’s been in this race for eight years and for me, I feel he must have an agenda. He must be desperate to begin to work for Abia and I’m still serious with my advice to candidates to let him be.
Whatever the case, the money that will be thrown into the tribunal belongs to Abia. The energy and time would have been deployed to other things and the governor-elect would have sufficiently been distracted. I know that some people take others to court just to distract them so that at the end of the day, they’ll be sufficiently weak and become vulnerable as they attack them the next time. But I do not think that is necessary.
Unfortunately, nobody wants to heed my advice. Even the Labour Party is taking some PDP candidates to court. So, nobody wants to listen. It’s only in this country that you want to expect what you can’t offer. Somebody says to you, I’m not going to take you to court, you tell the person thank you and then you go home and brief your lawyers to take the same person to court.
I can’t understand where people are coming from. But I still think that in Nigeria, we must learn to walk away and say I’ll need to fight another day.
After the presidential election, didn’t you feel that the Obi wave would make LP do well here?
Peter Obi was a huge factor. People became very sentimental and emotional and a lot of things contributed to the cultic image that Obi has in this part. One of them is that there’s hardly anything you can preach in favour of the established political parties that will excite Nigerians.
Whatever you’re doing, if you touch on security, everyday life like food and access to money for my people here, you’ve touched on their jugular. So, people became extremely sensitive, frustrated, and angry and they voted and reacted out of frustration. But we know that very soon, the scales will fall from their eyes because there can only be one Peter Obi.
In the days ahead, Nigerians will interrogate the Peter Obi personae on one hand and also look at all those who rode on his back to become something and put them side by side with the Obi personae and the question will now come naturally, was this what we went in for?
But I pray that some of the aspirations of Nigerians will be assuaged in the coming days because I don’t think we still have the energy for further experimentation because our elasticity has elapsed.
Don’t you think people got tired of 24 years of PDP in Abia State?
You see, the growth curve is a dumbbell. It has a point where it begins to experience diminishing returns and input will no longer be commensurate with the output. So, it flattens out and now begins to nosedive. The established parties have come to that point. The question is who’s not from PDP in Abia?
I pray that what happened to Nigerians in 2015 will not be the case here because I don’t think the change we subscribed to in 2015 met our expectations. Most times we change into something that will make some people in the PDP become heroes.