Former Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State, Barr. Ekele Nwaohanmuo, in this interview with Emenike Ubani, insists that Gov. Theodore Orji’s support for power shift to the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc was the magic wand for Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s victory. He also urges the governor-elect to fulfill his campaign promises to the people of the state. Excerpts:
What is the significance of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s victory to Ukwa/Ngwa bloc?
This victory is very significant to every Ukwa/Ngwa man. It is a history that can never be erased from the mind of every true Ukwa/Ngwa man, and we are glad that we were able to witness it in our lifetime. God answered the prayer of the Ukwa/Ngwa people to be given an opportunity to produce a governor for the first time in the history of the state. We are very grateful to God, Gov. Theodore Orji, and all the people who made it happen.
Unlike previous attempts, the entire Ukwa/Ngwa bloc were united in achieving it, what do you think ensured this cohesion?
I laugh when people say the Ukwa/ Ngwa people are not united. The fact is that we have not been united because we have not had such a great opportunity like this. Our agitation to produce a governor from Ukwa/Ngwa extraction in Old Imo state and now Abia, started from the East Central State. We have always participated in all the elections, but in the past, no ruling political party has ever given a chance to the Ukwa/Ngwa man. So, we have been struggling in various political parties, this is why it is seen as though the Ukwa/Ngwa people are not united in their agitation to produce a governor of the state. Again, since we were spread out, contesting in all political parties; when we lose as was the case then, our opponents will say the Ukwa/Ngwa people are not united. Now look at the situation that one Ukwa/Ngwa man was given the ticket of the ruling party, have the world not seen how united we were to ensure that he emerged governor? We all rallied round Ikpeazu, even those who contested against him at the party primaries also supported him. Ukwa/Ngwa people were united because what they have been struggling for in the defunct ANPP, APGA, PPA, APC and other political parties was granted by the ruling PDP. The most significant aspect is that God anointed him through Gov. Theodore Orji who saw the need to ensure that in the interest of justice and equity, the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc should be supported to produce a governor of the state.
The result of the governorship election revealed that the PDP candidate won in Ukwa/Ngwa areas but trailed his opponent in Abia North and Umuahia/ Ikwuano areas of Abia Central zones, what is your take on this?
One thing we must understand is that there are various political interests and inclinations. The people in PDP had their political interests and those in APGA had theirs. It was the same with the APC and other political parties. It pleased God that an Ukwa/Ngwa son emerged governorship candidate of the ruling PDP while a non-Ukwa/Ngwa son also emerged from the opposition party, APGA. So, there was no way the Ukwa/Ngwa people could have abandoned their son from the ruling party to back a candidate from the zone who has ruled Abia since the creation of the state. So, the Ukwa/Ngwa supported their son to achieve their age long dream of producing a governor of the state. It is up to our neighbours and brothers in Abia North to explain why some of them still wanted to retain power and voted against the interest of the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc who has never produced a governor. I think they underrated the Ukwa/Ngwa people, perhaps on the basis that we may not unite to support our son. As a former commissioner and deputy chairman of the PDP in this state, I am not surprised at the pattern of voting in the governorship election. I knew it was going to happen, but thank God for some patriotic Abians in Abia North and other areas who insisted that the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc must be supported to produce a governor for the first time in the history of the state. The Ukwa/ Ngwa people are mostly grateful to Gov. Theodore Orji for his benevolence because if not for him, it would have been difficult. This is why most of these stakeholders from Abia North and parts of Abia Central started fighting Gov. Orji. The governor saw injustice and vowed to ensure justice to Ukwa/Ngwa people. He has been reminding these people that Ukwa/Ngwa people has never produced a governor of the state, what is wrong in supporting them to produce a governor? With this, Gov. Orji will remain the hero of our time; he has written his name in gold. The Ukwa/Ngwa people will continue to adore him for this great show of love.
To what extent do you think the support from Orji went in actualizing the dream?
I want to remind you that since the creation of Abia state, it has been the Old Bende bloc or nothing, as far as the governorship position of the state was concerned. The Ukwa/Ngwa bloc has been perennial deputy governors. Even the Abia Charter of Equity, which stipulates that the governorship seat must rotate between Old Bende and Ukwa/Ngwa was only observed in breach. With this situation, our people began to wonder if we are really part of the state. This brought about cries of marginalization by the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc. Gov. Orji saw this and promised that his successor must come from the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc. A lot of his brothers from Old Bende bloc wanted him to leave the race open, but when they saw that he was bent on fulfilling his promise to handover to Ukwa/ Ngwa bloc, they started fighting him. So, to the true Ukwa/Ngwa sons and daughters, Gov. Orji is the Moses of our time, the liberator of the Ukwa/Ngwa people and a man of justice and equity.
There are fears that Gov. Orji may control Ikpeazu’s administration. Do you share this fear?
Gov. Orji is now a senator elect; he will be concentrating in his new job. His interest in the governorship ends when he hands over on May 29. Anybody who is saying Gov. Orji is not genuine in his support for Ikpeazu and that he is going to be the de facto governor is not being fair. Those who hate the Ukwa/Ngwa people are spreading this propaganda, but they have failed. Gov. Orji has also laid such fears to rest by saying that he has no plans to interfere in the incoming administration. Again, people who hold such views do not know the history of the state. Judging from the experience he had with his predecessor, former Gov. Orji Uzor Kalu; I don’t think Gov. Orji would like Ikpeazu to pass through such experience. From Gov. Orji’s body language, I doubt if he will abandon his job at the National Assembly to teleguide his successor or distract him. Right from the Bible times, there has never been any leader not anointed. Since the creation of the world, even in America or Britain, leaders are being anointed. Anointing a successor didn’t start with Gov. Orji. Check the records; Bola Tinubu anointed Raji Fashola in Lagos, Donald Duke anointed Liyel Imoke in Cross River, Bukola Saraki anointed Abdulfatah Ahmed in Kwara, Peter Obi anointed Willie Obiano in Anambra, among others. There has never been a governor, who just came from the moon to emerge governor, it has never happened. President Goodluck Jonathan was anointed. The president –elect, Gen Muhammadu Buhari was anointed. There is nothing wrong in anointing a successor; the issue should be if the anointed person has the capacity to work for the people. Nigerians must overlook this issue of somebody anointed this or that governor and assess the character of the person anointed. In this respect, I think Ikpeazu has what it takes to move Abia forward. He has promised the people of the state that he is going to build on what Gov. Orji has done in the governance of the state. Government is a continuum; no one governor can solve all the problems of the state.
What do you think should be the priority of the governor- elect’s administration?
Dr. Ikpeazu should look at Abia as one entity and be magnanimous in victory. He should try to fulfill all his campaign promises, particularly the rebuilding of the commercial city of Aba, revamping of industries to generate employment and rehabilitation of roads across the state. Fulfillment of campaign promises should be the cardinal objective of his administration because it is wrong to promise and not fulfill. Only this will earn him the trust of the residents of the state. To achieve these, he must get a good mix of technocrats to help him drive the state. There should be regular town hall meeting with the people, which will enable him explain his policies as well as know the problems of the people. His actions must always be guided by the interest of the people because without the people, there would be no government.
What do you think about rumours making the rounds that a governor from Ukwa/Ngwa extraction may want to implement an abandoned property syndrome in Aba?
Anybody who thinks a governor from Ukwa/Ngwa area will engender an abandoned property situation in Aba is a fool and needs his head examined. Ukwa/ Ngwa people are hospitable and peace loving. In Aba, who abandoned what and to who? Are we in a war situation? Aba is the heartbeat of Igbo land; the city of Aba cannot be complete without the non-natives from other Igbo states and beyond. Even that genocide that was done in Port Harcourt during the Nigerian Civil war is being revisited; a lot of Igbo people have recovered their property. So, how can an Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba man who has invested in Aba and contributed to the development of the town be made to abandon his property? It can’t happen because laws govern Nigeria