Chief Lawrence Nwangwa is a PDP Chieftain from Abia State. In this interview with Emenike Ubani speaks on the just concluded general elections, expectations from the governor-elect of the state, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. He also makes an assessment of the outgoing Governor, Theodore Orji’s administration among other issues in the polity. Excerpts:
How would you appraise the just concluded governorship elections in Abia State?
It did not come as a surprise to me and my group because we envisaged what happened in advance. I used to tell people that prior to this time, Abia State has never witnessed strong opposition. Governor Theodore Orji remains the luckiest governor in Nigeria and I do not think any other governor can have that privilege. Just few weeks to the elections, vibrant opposition sprang up and what happened here is a daily occurrence in states like Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Delta and some other places but for us it is the first time we experienced such strong opposition. However, I knew right from time that our candidate, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu of the PDP was going to emerge victorious in the election and all my prediction and expectations came to pass.
Votes from Obingwa local government area in the governorship polls generated much controversy, as the major contender Dr. Alex Otti, of the APGA alleged that the 83,000 votes got by Ikpeazu was outrageous. What is your take?
It is just like the kind of votes Buhari got from Bauchi, Katsina, Borno and other states in the North. Even in the educational sector, you have what is called catchment areas in admission. So Dr. Ikpeazu happened to come from Obingwa and not only that, he comes from the Ukwa/Ngwa clan, a section occupying nine local council areas of the state. And if you look at it from the divisional angle, he hails from the old Aba division, which has never held power in the history of this state. Old Bende division has been holding on to power for 16 years and for the first time, a major political party in the state fielded an Ukwa/Ngwa man. You therefore should understand that enthusiasm, serious mobilisation and both passion will have to come into play. The people came out en-mass to give their son block votes. Moreover, Obingwa is one of the largest local council areas in the country and we have prominent stakeholders in the political circle in every ward. Once their son became the flag bearer of a major party, most especially the ruling one, they naturally shut their doors against any other person and you were more or less treated like an outcast if you were not part of the mainstream party where their son is. So, in a nutshell, if the election is conducted ten times in Obingwa, the votes will increase the more because more people will come out.
Aba North and South local council areas went to APGA despite being part of the Ukwa/Ngwa areas. What went wrong?
Majority of the people in the areas you just mentioned are non-indigenes and mostly visitors and tenants of the Ngwa people. Furthermore, an injustice was done to Aba people, such that even a blind person could feel the abandonment and dilapidation in that city so they were bound to use that sentiment against the ruling party and some people in those areas that had an axe to grind with the present administration utilised the opportunity available to them. To be honest, I am happy with the outgoing governor for supporting the candidature of Dr. Ikpeazu but at the same time, you will find out that his performance, as governor was very dismal. People were naturally bound to vote in protest, so Aba votes weren’t even a surprise.
The APGA governorship candidate, Dr. Alex Otti, has said he would go to the election tribunal in protest of what he termed an electoral fraud against him. Would you encourage that?
There are situations where the abnormal becomes the normal and otherwise, except for President Goodluck Jonathan, who conceded victory to General Muhammadu Buhari, (rtd) and refused his party going to court and it was seen as something abnormal. We are bad losers here, the normal thing is to go to court even if you know you are not going to win. You prepare during the election for that eventuality because if you do not go to court, your supporters and even your party may say you have compromised. Even when you sell out, you will be the first to go to court. So his going to the tribunal is expected. You will even see people contesting election who did not garner reasonable votes and who do not even know their immediate hamlet who want to govern the whole state. Lawyers will not also be happy if Otti does not go to court, he has to create work for them. We will wait for him there.
The Governor-elect, Dr. Ikpeazu is still facing a lawsuit from one of the aspirants, Barr. Friday Nwosu, in the primary election that threw him up as the flag bearer of the PDP. Is that not a distraction?
Because our politics is like a winner takes all, every body wants to be in the house, it is therefore a conclusion of the process by going to court. It is part of the rituals. Dr. Ikpeazu, our governor-elect cannot be distracted and we will not allow it. We have lawyers that will handle it.
How would you assess the administration of the outgoing governor, Chief Theodore Orji?
His performance is limited to his vision and that of his advisers. According to his own vision, he has done so much, building court houses and sprinkles of buildings here and there but people who served under his administration own massive properties which are far greater than what he proudly displays on the pages of newspapers as his achievements. If some individuals that served under him as heads of parastatals or who even collect revenue could amass such wealth from his government, then what happened to those people in key areas of the economy? Time has passed when you bamboozle people with ordinary buildings. Look at the sorry state of Aba, that was what made things difficult for us in the elections. There is no link from here to Ikot Ekpene and Azumini. How you describe Abia state is anywhere you are coming in the Southeast and you get to a place where the roads are impassable and you see all kinds of insecurity here and there harassing people then you know that you have arrived. Prior to the election, I sent him a message and told him that praise singers are his worst enemies and that he should not listen to them. Could he have believed three months ago that he would lose Umuahia but he lost Umuahia South, North and Ikwuano to mention but a few. Out of the six local government areas that make up his senatorial District, he lost three. It was only the three local government areas, Isialangwa North, South and Osisioma that falls within the Ukwa/ Ngwa area in his senatorial zone that delivered him. How else does he want to know that he did not do well?
Are you trying to say that Governor Orji’s administration did not do well due to sycophancy?
If you tune to Broadcasting Corporation of Abia (BCA) radio or you attend any event organised for the governor, you will marvel. In fact, even if you are the governor, you will be so confused. Jesus Christ when he was on earth was not praised that way or eulogised in such manner. As a human being, he is bound to falter, that is why I was not happy when the opposition started springing up. I never saw any well-meaning person in Abia state tell the governor that he did not do well. There was a competition of who will blow the highest trumpet. Even Dr. Alex Otti, until he became a governorship candidate, was hobnobbing with the governor and praising him. He never told him for one day that there was something not being done well even. It was praises all the way. I never heard any other prominent person tell him the truth, at least publicly. The governor was always told that in fact, without him, the sun wouldn’t have shone on a particular sky covering the state. They always told him that what he did was good and all manners of chieftaincy titles and awards were bestowed on him. If you look at it, there is nobody who was subjected to that kind of sycophancy that will not derail from his objectives. Sycophants contributed so much to the rot in Abia. I’ m so happy that the governor-elect, Dr. Ikpeazu is doing every thing possible to ward off sycophants, people that will come to praise sing him. I do not hold brief for Ikpeazu but I am sure that no sycophant will rejoice or get a reward from him in the administration that will commence from May 29th.
Many people predicted that the PDP would win at the presidential polls but it turned out otherwise?
Any body who didn’t see it coming was just acting on sentiments and based on precedence that the father of incumbency will do magic. PDP is the architect of its own misfortune. The people that won the election in APC were all members of PDP at one time or the other and again Jonathan trusted too much on the state governors and we know that the big names we hear on the paper do not translate to votes on ground. Most of these big names use the opportunity to promote themselves In the media but back home in their respective homes, they are not seen as having any electoral value but rather the man in the motor park, the head of the union in that motor park has more people that benefit from him and are ready to listen to him.
What do you think contributed to the meager votes the president got in Abia state compared to the number of registered voters?
We took things for granted, the case of Abia state is something politicians or any progressive should take as a case study. As at today in Abia state, the most lucrative thing is sycophancy. It rewards you and what those in charge here want to hear is praises and if things are done properly, no single leader in Abia will win his polling booth or even ward in any election. Because everybody believes in sycophancy, they did not do proper groundwork and mobilisation. The right people were not contacted and it is because someone who is on ground and whom they will listen to was sidelined for a praise singer who does not say the truth. I am sure what happened in my own place must have repeated in other places and when you combine it, it yields nothing. That is the problem we have, the leadership of the PDP in this state descended so low that if you are very intelligent, articulate and in good terms with the people, they will want to humiliate you and put a nonentity who can barely write his name. So these are some of the factors.
Some people believe that the Southeast did not do enough for President Jonathan in the presidential polls. Do you think so?
They were all lax, action speaks louder than words, how could a particular state give him over a million votes in 2011 and in 2015 when he has more challenges, you only deliver only about 300,000 votes to him, if Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi had done better, Mr. President could have won. Imo state, which is an opposition state even did better than Abia which you can describe as the president’s closest ally. The leadership of the party is supposed to apologise for failing and accept responsibility for what they did not do well. The president lost because of the South-east votes.