GOV ORJI WALKS OUT OF POLITICAL DEBATE
The political debate organised by the Justice, Development and Peace Commission (JDPC) of the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia for governorship candidates in Abia State, was yesterday, temporarily halted by the Abia State Governor, Dr. Theodore Orji, who walked out of the forum.
The state governor walked out on the priests, governorship aspirants, party members from various political parties as well as journalists, after protesting that he thought the debate was a forum where he would talk to voters in the state, 'not knowing that the hall was filled with members of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).'
The governor, who came when about four other candidates were already seated was consistently booed by the capacity crowd when his name was mentioned during the introduction of participants at the event. This development made him very uncomfortable to which he looked at every corner of the venue and did not see the kind of people he was expecting to see.
As a result of the booing, the Chairman on the occasion, Prof. Emmanuel Meje stood and rebuked the crowd, insisting that all participants must be respected irrespective of party affiliations. It was at this point that the governor gave signs calling for the microphone, which was handed over to him. People thought he was going to kick-start the event as the chief executive of the state but instead he said he wanted to make an observation and spoke thus: 'When I got the invitation, I was told that I will be coming to talk to voters in the state.
I have now noticed that this hall is filled with members of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and I should not be seen talking to them,' he thundered and walked out of the hall amidst jeering and shouts of 'go, we don't want you' from the crowd.
Baffled by the action of the governor, even when he was persuaded to stay, Meje and others told the audience that the debate must go on. The event, which was organised in collaboration with the Kolping Society of Nigeria was attended by Chief Chris Akomas, PPA; Chief Stanley Ohajuruka, Labour Party (LP); Chief Paul Ikonne, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Mr. Obioma Onyeaghala, Community Party of Nigeria (CPN).
Others were Chief Ako Atuloma, Congress for Democratic Change (CPC) and Mr. Emenike Owanta, Democratic Front for Peoples Federation (DFPF). Ohajuruka, who spoke after the debate said the booing of the governor was embarrassing. 'I was disappointed with what happened because we needed to accord him some decorum as governor. I tried to persuade him to stay but his mind was made up to leave because nobody could have known the next thing that would happen if he had stayed, ' Ohajuruka said.
Yesterday's incident was the second time in eight days he was booed at a public outing. The last one happened in Aba on February 24 at Enyimba Stadium during the flag-off of President Goodluck Jonathan's campaign. The governor had hardly taken the microphone when the people began shouting him down, among other unprintable things said to him. The governor appears no longer comfortable in any forum where he encounters members of his former political party, PPA.
In a recent briefing of his campaign team at the Executive Chambers of the Government House, Governor Orji had expressed worry about the activities of the opposition parties, which he said seemed to have taken over the state, especially at the grassroots.
While re-inaugurating his campaign team for the 2011 general elections he had told them it would 'be a shame that we have people like you while the opposition still exists. The opposition has been doing what they like in the state, forcing themselves on the people while we are doing nothing about it.'