By S. Akoji
Abia state like every other state in Nigeria has 3 Senatorial Zones. Going by the State’s Charter of Equity (a document on which the state was founded and created) the emergence of governor from the 3 senatorial zones is by rotation.
The first elected Governor in the truncated third Republic, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu is from Abia North, Ohaozara specifically Uburu, (now in Ebonyi State).
The second elected Governor in the fourth Republic, Chief Orji Kalu also came from Abia North. He ruled for two terms, 1999 – 2003 and 2003 – 2007 respectively.
The 3rd Governor the incumbent, Chief T.A Orji from Abia central, who is winding down his second term in office.
As you can see, Abia North and Abia Central zones has produced governors. Now is the turn of Abia South to produce the next governor. In line with the agreement of Abia charter, the ruling party (PDP) is supposed to over the party’s flag to someone from the Abia South Senatorial zone in compliance with the charter of Equity and the doctrine of rotation of power.
This was why Senator Abaribe, Emeka Wogu and co stood strong in race and Senator Nkechi Wogu who is from Abia Central was compelled to drop her gubernatorial ambition.
Also at the base of all the scheming for power shift, the Ngwa people who happen to be the biggest clan in the entire Igbo land and who mostly populate Abia South Senatorial zone were also aiming to take their shot at the Government House Umuahia.
That lame duck Governor Theodore Orji used to be the godfather of all PDP candidates vying for the sole ticket was not in doubt. Ochendo as the Abia state governor is fondly called settled for Dr Ikpeazu Okezie from Abia South as his successor. This decision did not go down well with Alex Otti, who dumped the PDP and picked up the APGA ticket to contest the election as governorship candidate.
This is not in line with the Abia charter on rotation of power. The APGA candidate Alex Otti, a native of Arochukwu Local Government in Abia North was born and bred in Isiala Ngwa in the Abia Central. He did his primary and secondary education in Isiala Ngwa and ordinarily obtained Ngwa Indigeneship, which he relinquished in his days of success in the Banking Industry.
He returned to his Arochukwu base where he built his palatial mansion with “NO PLACE LIKE HOME,” boldly inscribed on the wall.
Alex Otti severed all his relationship with the Ngwa community where he grew up and transferred his voter registration from Ngwa to a polling unit in Arochukwu.
While still in the PDP Alex Otti lobbied Governor T.A. Orji endlessly for the PDP Governoship ticket and lavished over half a billion on Ikuku, the Governor’s son.
The romance hit a turbulent storm when Governor Ochendo told Alex Otti in clear terms that this time is the turn of Ngwa people to present a Governor.
On hearing this, Alex Otti quickly made a U-turn and return to his Isiala Ngwa base and built another palatial mansion. He invited the incumbent Governor to commissioned the house last year. Upon building this mansion Alex Otti suddenly became an Ngwa man again and he promptly deleted the “NO PLACE LIKE HOME,” inscription on his Arochukwu house.
He kept on romancing the incumbent Governor to gift him the party’s ticket until a few days to the PDP primaries when the Governor and his son showed open support for Dr. Ikpeazu a full bred Ngwa technocrats from Obingwa in Abia South senatorial Zone.
Upon the endorsement of Dr Ikpeazu Okezie, other aspirants like Senator Abaribe, Emeka Wogu the minister for labour and co, accepted this choice considering the quality of the candidate Dr. Ikpeazu, a academic who bagged his Ph.D at 29. His acceptance by other aspirants was to ensure a hitchfree compliance with the Abia charter of equity and rotation principle.
Dr. Otti instead ran to Chief Victor Umeh in Awka and obtained an APGA gubber ticket to counter this solemn power rotation arrangement. He obtained his ticket from Victor Umeh even after Umehs tenure had expired(which issues is presently being litigated upon) and Alex Otti was unable to successfully integrate himself with the Abia state chapter of APGA, leading to his rejection as the Governorship candidate by the local Abia state chapter of APGA.
To make matter worst for Otti, the people of Abia South accused him of changing his place of origin just to gain undue advantage. Because of this deceit, he picked a deputy from Ohafia (he is from former Arochukwu/Ohafia LGA) thereby hoisting Abia North/Abia North ticket on the people. This is the bone of contention. The gubernatorial election in Abia state has taken a tribal/ethnic coloration.
This has polarised the state leading to a protest vote against Otti, in favour of Okezie who ordinarily would have been rejected for being sponsored by the incumbent governor T.A Orji.
With Otti’s guber aspirations being heavily funded by the likes of former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, it appears to be aimed at a colonisation of the entire Abia state by the people of Abia North. Alex Otti’s Deputy is from Ohafia LGA a neighbouring community to Arochukwu Otti’s authentic home. So by this arrangement both the APGA Governorship candidate and Deputy are from Abia North.
The Ngwa community are thinking that nothing is more criminal and evil than Otti’s inconsistency as it relates to his place of origin.
For the first time, Abia voters are voting along tribal lines. All the 7 Ngwa local Government Areas voted for Dr. Ikpeazu overwhelmingly while the 9 non Ngwa areas are voted Dr Alex Otti.
Luckily for Dr Ikpeazu, the Ngwa Area has greater voting strength with Obingwa having the highest number of registered voters, approximately 140,000 voters.
Presently Dr. Ikpeazu is leading with a margin of approximately 80,000 votes and a rerun is very unlikely to produce a result that will favour Dr. Otti as most of the cancelled units are still within the Ngwa communities.
The incumbent Governor’s unpopularity has been made manifest with the trend of events. Ochendo has lost elections to Dr. Otti consistently in his Umuahia domain. He lost his polling unit and his Ward during the Senatorial election in which he was a candidate and the Abia State House of Assembly election for Umuahia constituency, in which his son Ikuku was the PDP candidate. They were both declared winner after the result was manipulated and the stolen mandate awarded to them.
The victory of Ochendo at the Abia central Senatorial election if properly scrutinised maybe upturned by the election tribunal.
Meanwhile, the Abia State gubber politics in 2015 has gone beyond party politics. It is a complete combat between the Ngwa people and the non Ngwa people of Abia state. Dr. Ikpeazu is seen as already victorious as there was really no cogent reason for INEC to schedule a rerun in the few polling units that have not witnessed 40,000 accredited voters even with 130,000 voters that collected their PVCs. This has brought the REC and RO into the spotlight as it is being rumoured that it was the RO that conferred Alex Otti with an honorary causa Doctorate degree. This seems to suggest that the Returning Officer is a biased umpire.
In the final analysis, if Dr Alex Otti of APGA wins, it will be tied to his manipulation of the electoral umpire. On the other hand, if Dr Ikpeazu Okezie of the PDP wins it, this will not be about the popularity of the PDP or the support of the incumbent Governor. A PDP victory shall be tied to the Ngwa community voting in protest against Abia North domination of the Political space after fielding a Governor candidate and his Deputy from the same zone.
It is political xenophobia in Abia state!