ABIA LG POLL: CAN IKPEAZU RIGHT THE WRONGS?
By Ebere Uzoukwa
It is a well known that Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu rode on a tripartite
crest of equity, justice and fairness to become governor of Abia state. The
election of the first Abia governor of Ngwa extraction is undisputedly the
most keenly contested with endless but mind-threatening litigations. The
ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some progressively-minded
stakeholders had argued and backed the zoning of its governorship ticket to
Abia south ahead of 2015 general elections. The unified stance of the party
was purposefully tailored to promote equity, justice and family hence an
Ngwa person from Abia south was protectively billed to clinch the ticket.
The gubernatorial ticket was later won by Dr. Ikpeazu though not without
permutations and high-powered political intrigues. It also took the
uncommon resilience of Ukwa-Ngwa people who as a matter of urgency and
necessity tagged Dr. Ikpeazu/PDP gubernatorial ticket “Ngwa Project” to
narrowly defeat Dr. Alex Otti, of the All Progressives Grand Alliance
(APGA) who unexpectedly showed enormous strength, sweeping the entire LGAs
in Abia north, Aba north and south LGAs as well as Umuahia south and
Ikwuano Umuahia LGAs. The people of Ukwa-Ngwa demonstrated a rare courage
and consensus painstakingly exemplified and displayed in the well organized
resilience to break the age-long ‘political marginalization’ and ensured
the realization of Dr. Ikpeazu’s governorship.
Upon taking over the mantle of leadership as governor of Abia state, Dr.
Ikpeazu began to showcase his qualities especially in the areas of
governance and political leadership. The ongoing infrastructural
transformation in Aba and other parts of the state, the economic and
entrepreneurial revolution, the sponsored campaign aimed at promoting
locally made-in-Aba products, the revival of moribund and ailing state
owned industries, the ongoing revolutionized agricultural scheme, the human
capacity development programmes such as Education for Employment(E4E) and
the ongoing transformation in the education sector are presently showing
signs of greatness as a new era evolves under Dr. Ikpeazu. Though still
engulfed with threatening litigations, Dr. Ikpeazu has sufficiently proven
his capacity to take Abia to higher heights.
Beyond infrastructural and socio-economic accomplishments, Dr. Ikpeazu also
appears ready and willing to demonstrate a rare political will and courage
to entrench a new democratic culture in the state. This is evidently
portrayed in the ongoing preparations for local government election in less
than two years he assumed office. The last council election took place in
Abia eight years precisely in 2008. The immediate past governor, Chief
Theodore Orji for whatever reason(s) delayed reconstituting the councils
democratically and ingloriously exited without conducting another council
election. Under his administration, the 17 local government areas were
balkanized and regrettably reduced to non-productive entities. The former
governor conspired with his family and close allies to hijack the councils.
They criminally diverted allocations running into several billions and
overpopulated the workforce with unproductive elements mostly drawn ‘Ibeku
clan’ without recourse to due process and administrative procedure. They
mismanaged and corruptly destroyed the councils as they stirringly dished
out orders and directives from the comfort of their cozy offices in Umuahia
to the so-called TC chairmen who were merely stooges and administrative
robots. By so doing, Ochendo and his ‘men’ crippled the 17 council areas
and pitiably rendered them unproductive.
However, Dr. Ikpeazu’s plans to conduct council election appear to have
elicited fresh hope for possible revival of the councils. Yet, there are
still posers. Many Abians still doubt if Dr. Ikpeazu can ever muster the
‘political will’ and ‘sincerity’ to achieve the onerous task. Many are
still clutched to the notion that Dr. Ikpeazu is and remains part of the
system that decimated and destroyed the local government system in Abia.
Those upholding such belief may be 50% right and probably 50% wrong. This
may be largely substantiated as Dr. Ikpeazu was Ochendo’s ardent loyalist
and one of his son’s dreaded foot soldiers who paraded themselves as eleven
wise men. Dr. Ikpeazu enjoyed a privileged status in Ochendo’s government
and was deeply knowledgeable to most salient actions of that very
government. This is ultimately the reason his government is largely
perceived as a product or extension of Ochendo’s era hence his emergence as
the PDP candidate was politically midwifed by the former governor and his
son, Chinedu also known as Ikuku.
On the other hand, the proponent of that notion may be wrong as Dr. Ikpeazu
may have ‘disguised loyalty’ or ‘played the fool’ to grab power. A
political interpretation to Dr. Ikpeazu’s ‘good man role’ and loyalty to
Ochendo and his son dramatizes that simple adage that says” If you bend
down, you see Aba”. Dr. Ikpeazu’s roles in Ochendo’s government can hardly
be interpreted to portray, brand or suggestive of Ochendo’s elongated era.
Though he remains grateful to the former governor, his son, Ikuku and other
allied power players from Umuahia, the governor is, however,
constitutionally empowered to summon the needed political will to redesign
approaches to governance and rewrite the wrongs in the state.
While preparations for the council election intensify, many expect Dr.
Ikpeazu to assume certain steps aimed at sanitizing the system and to
dismantle Ochendo’s undemocratic template entrenched and promoted for
self-aggrandizement. He is also expected to remove all impediments that may
further destroy democracy at the local government level. In clear terms,
there will be guided limit to which the state or governor tampers with
council allocations. If not so, the scenario may be catastrophic as the
incoming council chairman, elected by the people, may within their
constitutional powers dismantle obstacles and encumbrances that may inhibit
their performances. Dr. Ikpeazu’s political future may be jeopardized or
shattered if that becomes the scenario.
Therefore, Dr. Ikpeazu should begin to rehearse and possibly acquaint
himself with the right democratic culture and administrative pattern to
harmoniously and purposefully relate with the incoming council chairmen. He
should realize that the 17 council areas will against the unconstitutional
practice begin to run fully on their individual strengths and
administrative wheels immediately the chairmen and councillors are sworn
into offices. The inglorious era of diversion of council funds and criminal
mortgage of their revenue nets will automatically cease for good. The
chairmen expectedly will run the councils by prudently deploying accruable
resources to provide basic and infrastructural needs of the rural dwellers.
They must be given freehand to deliver on their campaign promises within
their two-year tenure.
But, can Dr. Ikpeazu yield to this reform? Can he change the bad story? Can
the councils run independently under him? Has Dr. Ikpeazu upon assumption
of duty demonstrated the much expected political will suggesting a radical
departure from Ochendo’s days? Are Abians likely to experience a credible
council election that will provide a level playing ground to all political
parties? Is the governor ready to release council allocations as drawn from
the federation account? Is he ready to change the bad story Abia councils
with regard to hijacked revenue nets? Is he ready to sanitize the evidently
corrupt ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs by moderating
its overbearing influence and control on council areas? Or, is the election
a mere exercise aimed at re-packaging the transition committee system under
the pretenses of democracy? Is Dr. Ikpeazu sincerely entrenching a new
democratic culture in the third tier of government of Abia state? Is the
governor truly sincere to the people? Do he posses the political will to do
the right thing including offending Ochendo and Ikuku, his son, when it
becomes necessary to satisfy Abia people?
Well, only Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and time will answer these nagging and
pertinent questions. But suffice to say that the governor has two options
staring at his face. The option of continuing with the old style and
secondly, dismantling the old, unproductive and corrupt system to free the
local government councils in the overall interest of Abia people. The
governor should patriotically champion the redemption and ultimate freedom
of these areas from the administrative hostage of the state with utmost
sincerity and honesty to further endear himself to the people. This should
begin with free, fair and acceptable council election scheduled for December
Dr. Ikpeazu should appease Abians with good governance and utmost sincerity
in his official dealings as governor. It will be more charitable and
politically rewarding as the governor migrates to the side of the people
than remain in the good book of his political ‘godfathers’. He should
demonstrate the political will and sincerity in leadership by rewriting the
wrongs in the administration of local government in the state.
Ebere Uzoukwa, a media consultant writes from Umuahia.
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