New Telegraph

Abia Guber: Lessons from PDP’s loss to LP

IGBEAKU ORJI reports on the fallout of the March 18 governorship election in Abia State in which the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost to his Labour Party (LP) counterpart.

It is curious that several centuries after the same set or combination of hubris trapped and deflated great men, many are yet to learn to beat them. The same reasons have consistently knocked and dimmed the spark of greatness among otherwise promising aspirations which would have left indelible footprints in the sand of human progress and development. Sadly, not only in politics but in other departments of human endeavour, men have frittered away potential greatness that would have made positive impact on human progress on the altar of impunity, greed and overreaching ambition. In his prescient piece in the early days of the Okezie Ikpeazu administration, Ebere Wabara said Ikpeazu would be the worst governor amongst his predecessors and the governor did not disappoint the pre- diction. The reason for the crash of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State in the 2023 elections is not farfetched. It obvi- ously arose from the deliberate amnesia of leaders of the party who became blinded until the belated rescue mission yielded nothing, a clear case of when a man’s cup is full. The PDP ignored the warning signals since 2015, when it almost lost the governorship election after losing 11 of the 24-member House of Assembly seats to the opposition All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), and came so close to losing the governor- ship to Dr. Alex Otti at the time. The ruling party in the state went on or rather sank deeper in the mire of mis- governance, dashing the high hopes the people had that Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu would be a game changer. Instead, the administration crashed into abysmal irredeemable debauchery that made Abia a laughing stock among the comity of states regard- less of its economic potential and enviable resource base. Under the PDP hegemony, Abia fared so worse that the people saw the party as their common enemy. The spontaneous burst of jubilation on Wednesday, March 22, when Otti was declared the Governor-elect attest to this assertion. It was a celebration of in- dependence; the yoke of PDP had finally been broken and the people could celebrate their freedom. It is worthy of mention that not all the people that poured out to the streets to celebrate Otti’s victory were members of Labour Party. It was an expression of re- newed hope, of a bright future, a new dawn, where wages would not be seen as favour to those who have legitimately earned them; where retirees would look forward to freedom from beggarly existence; where infrastructural decay would no longer be an existential reality. It was a celebration of freedom from the heartless oppressor, who had no apology for converting the commonwealth of the state to enrich a few individuals, who would brag that they are the landlords and would remain so, while the rest are tenants.

consigned to the boys’ quarters. It was a scenario where the reprehensible conduct of officials hardly earned a caution. Officials of the state government could do anything and get away with it. For instance, those appointed as heads of departments and parastatals could become millionaires overnight and civil servants became richer than businessmen. Education secretaries became overnight millionaires and will, with impunity cut the salaries of toiling primary school teachers at will and for personal reasons, just be- cause he/she is a party loyalist and appointed by the government and nobody raised a brow. Appointment as a head teacher was unabashedly based on how much one can offer rather than on merit. In the local government system, the case was not different. Though their monthly allocations come as regularly as the state, yet the local government employees are owed. And when they are paid the inexplicable deductions would make nonsense of the salary, yet no questions are asked. And since this had gone on unchallenged, the present ad- ministration was encouraged to increase the two or three months’ arrears of salaries and pensions it inherited to between one to three years without justification. And to prove that the government is primed in oppression, would insist that even without salary the workers must be at their duty posts regularly with evidence of thumb print or login. Its potent tool of governance was oppression, suppression, greed and impunity. Like they say, evil has an expiry date. PDP ignored the warning signs to its peril. It might be necessary to attempt to trace the ignoble path that led to the present predictable inevitable denouement. Like some of the neighbouring states, Abia State PDP had abundant goodwill and prospect of driving the development of the state unchallenged. But unlike its neighbours the leadership failed to exploit the opportunity in the interest of the State and party. Now it has crashed on their heads humbling the hitherto false sense of invincibility. Over time a few individuals hijacked the party apparatchik and once they had consolidated their position they forced others out. They felt nobody was in- dispensable. The party is greater than any individual, they would say, yet the truth is that the party is made strong by equally strong individuals. That was how PDP lost its valuable human as- sets, those strong foot soldiers, who could stake their lives and resources to ensure the party’s victory. Unfortunately, this state of affairs was presided over by Ikpeazu as he was caught in the hubris that had been the undoing of many great men. Many expected the governor to be smarter than the mess he plunged himself and the party. Ikpeazu shocked everyone when, contrary to the principle of the Abia Chatter of Equity, he chose to foist on the people a candidate from the Ngwa axis of Abia Central, rather than from Abia North. This action caused a deep hurt to the sensibility of even the party members, who not only openly rejected but worked against it. They argued that the Chatter of Equity, which Ikpeazu himself was a beneficiary, was the basis of peace and security and the fulcrum of political equilibrium and balance. The governorship candidate of Action Peoples Party (APP), Hon. Mascot Uzor Kalu, also interro- gated the rationale for fighting for equity at the national level with G-5 governors, while dis- carding same at the state level. He warned that Abia people would reject Ikpeazu’s double standard at the polls. That exactly happened. Again, the governor surrounded himself with sycophants and appointed those who cannot speak truth to power. He should have known that as the leader of government, he takes all the blame, the credit and responsibility of all actions and inactions of the government. His media handlers were not media professionals. Some of those appointed to strategic offices had only name calling as credential but no value to add. They were merely government at- tack dogs, who rather than address issues descended to the low level of name calling. Their presentations were bereft of logic and conviction, always left govern- ment image worst. Also, Ikpeazu came with promises that were never fulfilled. Even his apologists were embarrassed that the few projects ex- ecuted were of half-hearted delivery. The governor promised to make salary pay- ment, a first line charge. He endeared himself to the people by announcing that he would take half salary until the outstanding arrears he inherited were cleared. But, surprisingly, rather than clear the arrears, he increased them. He also said his works would speak for him; that he would not be a media project governor. All these were jettisoned. Abia under PDP was a state, where street lights were celebrated, and for seven years, the Osisioma flyover was a singsong, whereas his counterpart in Ebonyi State had transformed the landscape and sky- line of Abakaliki, the state capital, with numerous flyovers and magnificent edifices including an international airport, a new government house, King David international diagnostic centre/teaching Hospital, an international market, among other outstanding projects. There is hardly any community in Ebonyi State without a road built with rigid pavement technology. But Umuahia, the Abia State capital has remained like the provincial capital of the colonial era. Ikpeazu failed to complete the projects he inherited from his immediate predecessor such as the ASUBEB building, the Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs and the government house. The government lodge in Aba is still the same old decrepit colonial building. The media hyped Enyimba Economic City can- not be found anywhere. The Port Harcourt Road in Aba in which houses were demolished for reconstruction as well as the Ari- aria and Ahia Ohuru markets demolished to be remodelled before now are left to be inherited by the incoming administration. Worst of all, the government is owing local and international financial institutions huge sums in local and foreign currencies. In the blind resolve to retain the governor- ship and Abia South senatorial slots, he sacked a former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara as chairman of council of Abia State University Uturu, who openly opposed the move. After the death of the first governorship candidate, Prof. Uche Ikonne, the party insisted on taking the governorship slot to the Ngwa area of Abia Central rather than the North favoured by equity. In the process, the party lost diehard stake- holders including a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Eme Okoro, Chief Charles Ognonnaya ans Chief Chuku Wachuku, among others. The internal wrangling had earlier robbed the party of stalwarts like Chief Henry Ikoh, Hon. Sam Onuigbo, Hon. Ginger Onwusibe, Hon. Darlington Nwokocha and a host of others. Events of days, leading to the election evidently exposed the fact that there was a deep crack and confusion in the party contrary to denials from its of- ficials and the government. While the chairman of Media and Publicity of the campaign organisation and Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Eze Chikamnayo, said the deputy governorship candidate was Dr. Jasper Uche, the PDP state Deputy Chairman and acting Publicity Secretary, Chief Ama Abraham, insisted that Hon. Philip Okey Igwe was the deputy governorship candidate. Frankly, the confidence PDP had going into the election was the Obingwa magic result, which actually pulled Ikpeazu out of the pit of defeat in 2015, which was dashed.

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