A CALL FOR ISSUE-BASED POLITICS
Last week, that is precisely in the second week of December, I traveled to Aba, Abia State as part of the four – member delegation from our organization to assess the security and human rights situation following the ongoing operations by the Nigerian military to crush the sophisticated gangs of kidnappers, armed robbers and miscreants who had earlier in the year unleashed a coordinated regime of anarchy and unprecedented state of insecurity.
Forty eight hours after arriving in Aba, I was glad just like any other member of our delegation, to discover that peace and some semblance of stability and security have gradually returned to this city which obviously is the commercial hub of the entire South Eastern Nigeria. My interactions with residents came up with the cheerful findings that the people are impressed that the federal government took action to combat the break down of law and order.
A greater percentage of the people spoken to also have harsh words for the current administration in Abia state for not doing anything tangible to improve the harsh economic and living condition of most people who are engaged in legitimate business and are indeed paying all their taxes to the state. Out of the two thousand people spoken to, nearly ninety percent of them said they do not feel the impact of the current administration and that they have indeed lost confidence in the ability of key government officials to right the wrongs or rather to fix the dilapidated infrastructure of roads, pipe borne water, and electricity power. Interestingly, for the four days that we spent interviewing respondents, no one seems to know any fresh graduate in the last four years that has landed any form of employment in the Abia State civil service and worst still, they told us that several private firms have closed shops in the last couple of years due to the terrible state of infrastructure in Aba and the declining or rather unstable security situation which was made worst by the rise in armed kidnapping and other manifestations of social and organized violent crime.
On the last day of our visit, we stumbled on a massive crowd of people at the Abia Hotels, Aba who gathered to witness what I later discovered to be the inaugural campaign by the immediate past Deputy Governor of Abia state Comrade Chris Akomas. We decided to stay back and watch the proceedings, to at least get the gist of the campaign by this gentleman who has suffered series of organized political persecution since he resigned his position as Deputy Governor some months back following his refusal to cross carpet from his party – Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) with his boss Governor Theodore Orji who left first for All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and then to the Peoples Democratic Party in less than two weeks.
Before dwelling on the issues that were raised by Comrade Akomas in his inaugural campaign launch which was attended by a large crowd of extremely animated and very excited crowd, it will be proper to also state that Comrade Akomas was also a victim of a recent arbitrary arrest and illegal detention by the police on the strength of a nebulous petition filed by some person from Abia State.
Before he headed to Aba to kick start his campaign his team of lawyers headed by Chief Orji Nwafor Orizu alongside other human rights practitioners had battled both in the court room and the public space to ensure that he was freed unconditionally by the then Acting Inspector General of police. Mr. Hafiz Ringim. Incidentally, the release of Comrade Akomas from the illegal police detention coincided with the confirmation by the President Dr. Good luck Ebele Jonathan of Mr. Ringim as the substantive Inspector General of police.
I was thrilled by what Comrade Akomas aptly titled his ‘social contract’ with Abia people if elected next year as the governor of that state that indeed needs comprehensive economic rescue and development.
The most fascinating aspect of what we heard him say at the campaign inauguration was his vow to be God fearing as the chief executive of Abia State if elected in April 2011.
His word:“May I plead to have you as my prayer partner. As we navigate through the challenges of insecurity, economic down turn and the consequences of failed leadership, I believe it is only prayers to God that can bring about the change we all deserve”.
“Reading through the ninth chapter of the book of Ezekiel, I found the portrait of the man with writing kit really interesting. Divinely charged to put a mark on the forehead of those who grieve and lament over detestable things that are done in the land, he reported a job well accomplished. I found the deplorable state of Abia similar to the one at the time of Prophet Ezekiel. In fact, no God fearing person can accept or support the evil that presently passes for leadership in God’s own state”.
Speaking further, Akomas stated thus;“You are probably aware that I addressed most religious leaders in 2007 electioneering campaign where I made some realizable promises. By the time the then Governor-Elect was released from detention, and consequent upon our swearing in to office, I handed the promise list to him. What has been done with them is written all over the faces of disappointed people of Abia”.
“It was my destiny to carry out the campaign for the then detained governorship candidate. Regrettably, I watched with pain as the Deputy Governor, how peoples’ hopes were dashed, and the failure of government to meet with basic Constitutional requirements, to wit: provision of security to lives and properties, basic infrastructural facilities and general welfare. This is what compelled me to dump the lures and appurtenance of the office of the Deputy Governor since it became obvious that the interest and wellbeing of Abia people were not part of the immediate and long-term interest of the captain of the ship of the State”.
On the need for issue-based politics he said;“My campaign is therefore not about me but about the need to actualize the promises made to the people of Abia State. It is about re-building the desolate cities of Aba, Umuahia and all growth centres of the State. It is about the restoration of Abia as truly God’s Own State, and indeed the vision to make the State as the Japan of Africa it was meant to be”.
“I cannot conclude without sharing with you God’s persona message to me:“The Lord hates robbery for burnt offering. He has assured me that he will direct our work in truth and make everlasting covenant with Abia: To comfort all that mourn, to give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the spirit of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that Almighty God might be glorified. We shall build the old wastes, raise up the former desolations, and repair the wasted cities”.
He concluded prayerfully thus;“I am requesting you to partner with me in prayer. I can chase a thousand but with you we can chase ten thousand. Let us work and pray for the emergence of a new order of righteousness in Abia.
Please pray for Abia State, and also pray for me”.
As we made to leave the venue of the campaign to continue with the main issue that took us to Aba, we saw another group of hoodlums who arrived in two buses and were wielding different banners bearing the picture of the current governor of Abia and these invaders started chanting campaign slogans of the Abia Sate governor in what look like a clear intention to cause confusion and riot should the teeming crowd attending the campaign of the rival candidate – Comrade Chris Akomas decide spontaneously to react.
Fortunately, the swift intervention of the police saved the day because the police arrested the invaders and took them away from the venue which was paid for by the Comrade Chris Akomas campaign group. For once, I saw a professional police force at work in Nigeria and it is my expectation that men/officers and operatives of the Nigerian security community will be as professional as possible especially during and after the conduct of the 2011 elections.
To the politicians, it is good that issues are debated so that the electorate will be in a better position to make informed choices of who should govern them in the ongoing dispensation.
Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.