April 11, Elections: A Clarion Call To All Abians
Finally the long awaited Governorship election is only but a few days away. A day many have termed a date with destiny, of salvation, of reclamation and the beginning of the dawn of a new era. After 16 years of misrule, mismanagement, criminal neglect of the city of Aba, Godfatherism and the worst manifestation of poor governance, and malfeasance ever witnessed in the annals of modern day Nigerian politics, the good people of Abia (Gods own state) finally have a chance to reclaim their government , set a new template and possibly paint a new portrait of the kind of state they want for themselves, their children and for posterity.. On that day, they will have another opportunity to prove to the nation and to the world that they are capable of rectifying their past political mistakes hence they are determined to make a better choice this time around on who will lead them.
After the last presidential and federal legislative elections , a day which will remain in infamy, when the ruling party unleashed the worst public display of the power of incumbency, hooliganism and graft on an unsuspecting electorate by rigging the election, Abia voters I would want to believe are in no mood to tolerate a reoccurrence of the events of that day, this coming Saturday. The outgoing governor may be in control of all the levers of government, all the media outlets, security, billions of stolen state funds, control of INEC officials, yet there is no power on earth that is stronger than the will of a people, since where there is will , there must also be a way. We are Igbo's for Gods sake. We are nobody's fool and have never been one and should never allow anyone to treat us as such. We have and should be masters of our own destiny, no matter the criticisms that have come our way in the past and in recent times . As an aftermath of our voting preference in the last presidential elections, the Igbo's have been severely criticized and second guessed by arm chair political analysts who are of the opinion that the Igbos are no longer part of the country's political equation.
In an attempt to gain political favor from their new APC Lordships, people like, Imo State Governor, Okorocha, Ogbonna Onu, former senator Ngige have been quick to join the bandwagon of Igbo abusers. Recently the Oba of Lagos , on a blind mission in search of political relevance was reported to have threatened the Igbo's domiciled in Lagos with death , should they exercise their conscience by voting for the PDP governorship candidate. All of a sudden , it is not like history coming alive, rather it is more like being revisited by it. The igbo's it appears are now fair game, yet what people like Okorocha fail to mention is that, the Igbo's by voting they way they did were not the first to show their preference for a particular candidate for whatever reason such as sentiment or pure political calculation as regards as to what they consider is in their best interest . In the 2007 and 20011 elections, the Yorubas showed their voting preference for AD and ACN. Consequently they did not produce the Speaker or the Senate president , but yet they did well politically. They even did better than the Igbo's. Today they are the new adoring bribe , back in the saddle of power.
The point here is that the Igbo's should not feel depressed, regret or remorse by the way they voted, and as such fail to turn out next Saturday, which is exactly what Governor okorocha is hoping for as a key to winning his re-election. Sentiments apart, we in Abia state have nothing to be ashamed of. You voted your conscience. The igbo's generally may be laughed at or made mockery of ,but the truth is that the political landscape in the South south and South East has changed irrevocably. Our neighbors in the south south have now realized that the Igbo's are not fair weather friends and that we can be trusted with our word and commitment. That we are true ,loyal, share the same political destinies and that we can form a new political alliance to our mutual benefit.
Which brings me back to the issue of voting and the importance of voting in large numbers, when one considers the poor turnout recorded by all the south eastern states in the presidential elections, especially in Abia state, where out of a registered voters list of over 1.3 million, less than 400,000 Abians came out to vote. Which begs the question. What happened to the remaining 700,000 who did
not vote?. It is true that there were some mitigating circumstances that brought about the poor turnout, such as the uncooperative attitude of local Government officials in helping people collect their PVC cards, the late arrival of INEC officials at their polling stations, the absence of voting materials , the malfunctioning card readers etc. That notwithstanding, this is not the time for excuses and to bemoan the past. The true test of an Igbo man is the ability to overcome obstacles and rectify past mistakes. Next Saturdays election is the election we have been waiting for. It is an election that will determine our resolve as a people to effect the change we desire , make amends for our past voting mistakes, seek a new kind of leader and leaders, start anew, secure a prosperous future for generations to come and to say to all those naysayers who have prematurely declared our political obituary that we are still alive and that we are still masters of our destiny.
This is our long awaited opportunity to elect Dr Alex Otti as our new Governor. Over the last couple of months we have watched him crisscross the length and breath of the state spreading his message of deliverance, change and good governance. We have listened and acknowledged the many promises he has made . We have seen and admired his honesty, his breath of knowledge, his varied intelligence, his administrative abilities and we have come to universally agree that he is the man of the hour, the man for the job. What else is left for us to do come April 11, than to come out in the thousands or possibly a million and vote for him. So on that day drag your friends, parents, wives, concubines to the polling booth. Offer free rides to the elderly who cannot get there on their own. Carry them on your back if you have to. It has been said that the worst kind of political death is that occasioned by lukewarm friends. The kind of friends who let Jonathan down after promising him they will deliver their states. Let us not be such lukewarm friends to Dr Otti. You have attended his many town hall meetings and rallies, but if you do not come out to vote, all those meetings and rallies will be just wasted efforts.
The worst expression of reality that confronts Abia today is that Ochendo and the PDP will try to duplicate what transpired in the last presidential elections and will leave no stone unturned to secure victory. They will attempt to do so with the help of the temporary local Government chairmen , bribed INEC officials and the connivance of the military through the new defense minister of state, Col Akobundu. Events of the last election have proven that it is no longer enough to vote and stand guard over the voting box. Voters must this Saturday march to the collation centers and secure the election results by preventing any changes made to the figures. In doing so they must resist any attempt to be intimidated by security officials or hired thugs. Every community must hold their local government chairmen accountable and exile them from their communities if they are found to have compromised their position by tampering with the results. They should not be allowed to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth. They must be treated with disgust and made to realize that the communities will not tolerate their presence or associate with them. After the voting, APGA polling agents must post immediately on the internet pictures of the result sheet of each polling booth before they are sent to the collation centers. This can be done with the camera's on their cell phones. Where possible, they should use the same cell phones to film the counting process . Nothing must be left to chance this time around. What happened in the presidential elections must not be allowed to repeat itself.
This is also the time for all our Abia elite to speak up and condemn any attempt to rig the elections. Where are people like Ike Nwachukwu, Ebitu Ikiwe, Ndubuisi kanu, Gen Ihejirika , just to mention a few? This is the time for them to speak up, or forever hold their peace ,bearing in mind that as in the words of Martin Luther King, “in the end we will not remember the words of our enemies , but the silence of our friends”. They must not only condemn the rigging of elections but also the offering of bribes to INEC officials and the collection of same by polling agents.
All Abians must seize the opportunity of next Saturday's election to reclaim our image, our self respect, our sense of pride ,our political astuteness and our collective integrity as a forward looking people. We must continuously remind ourselves that like the Jews we are a special people in this political arrangement called Nigeria and that we are despised and disliked by others not for any reason
other than our accomplishments, our self dependence, our industry and our educational attainment. The truth is that we are exceptional, and let no one tell us we are not. We have survived as a defeated people after the civil war and we will continue to survive and prosper because we are a resilient people. However we must strive to make ourselves politically relevant and indispensable in the new Nigeria. One way to achieve that goal is always to vote in large numbers. As I have said before, politics is a game of numbers. Politicians court you when they recognize your voting strength and your willingness to demonstrate it. Here in the United States the Jews make up just a little fraction of the voting population but they command a lot of power and attention. As a community they have a strong voting record. They have never produced a president and may never do so in the near foreseeable future. Right now they do not have a Jewish senate president or speaker, yet both the Republican and Democratic parties trip over themselves and each other to please them. The state of Israel can always get the United States to accede to their wishes because of the Jews in diaspora. We can do the same in the context of Nigerian politics. But it has to start with our continuous emphasis on education, our voting strength and commitment to unity. We may not always agree on the same candidate but whoever we chose to support we must do so in large numbers. Let us learn to reject anyone who tries to use us as a stepping stone for personal gain. With Alex Otti's victory next Saturday, a bright future awaits us. We in diaspora, from all over Europe, Asia and the United States are counting on you to deliver on April 11. We desire the same change you have been longing for and we need your help since we cannot come home to vote. We are therefore making a clarion call to all Abia citizens to come out and vote and not to let us down Long Live APGA. Long live Alex Otti, next Governor of Abia State.
A former Special Assistant to Emeka Ojukwu Teaches Political Science In New York