I understand that The Sun of Wednesday, February 28, sold out in Imo and Abia states before midday because of the back page article titled “Abia is like Imo, but there is hope,” by Ebere Uzoukwa, a popular journalist in the two states.
The article highlights the acute maladministration by the All Progressives Congress (APC) under Rochas Okorocha’s leadership in Owerri and the directionlessness of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government under Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu in Umuahia. But it is not only about gloom and doom, as the author provides a glimmer of hope: Dr. Alex Otti, the brilliant economist, banker and administrator, who, as the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, won the gubernatorial election in the 2015 general election but was denied victory by the court, is likely to contest again. Otti will recreate in our state the APGA good governance record in Anambra State, which enabled Chief Willie Obiano to win the November 18 governorship race by a landslide in each of the 21 local government areas of the state.
Uzoukwa’s intervention is a wonderful example of what former Information Minister, Tony Momoh, used to call journalism of conscience and national commitment when he was, in the 1970/80s, the editor of the Daily Times, then the nation’s most influential newspaper. Even though Uzoukwa hails from the same Agalaba community, in Obingwa Local Government Area, as Abia State Governor Ikpeazu, he called a spade by its real name. The current PDP administration is a mess through and through, like the APC government of neighbouring Imo State. What is more, Uzoukwa was even a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ikpeazu on Media and Communication.
In the same vein, despite serving as Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor Okorocha, the famous journalist, who used to work with The Punch newspaper, had the courage to speak truth to power by publicly acknowledging that the administration in Imo has become toxic. What is required in both Abia and Imo, Uzoukwa argues, is the replacement of the two terribly failed governments by an APGA administration in each, so that the states will stop crawling like a snail and start running like a hare. Anambra State remains both a challenge and a source of inspiration.
There is a particular aspect of Anambra’s political culture, which has not caught the attention of most analysts but is central to the rapid development of the state in recent years. One is referring to the people’s political and social activism. If a governor is not doing well, the people come together in one accord and vote him out, regardless of where he comes from, his party or the sect to which he belongs. When Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, a lawyer, journalist and former political science associate professor, was not living up to their expectations, all Anambra people agreed to rid the state of his administration. There was almost no dissenting voice.
In contrast, when APGA Governor Peter Obi did well in his first four years, the people reelected him, despite the participation in the governorship election by such an awesome personality as Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, the outstanding erstwhile governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and foremost economist. Obi thus became the first governor in Anambra’s history to be reelected. When Chief Obiano displayed brilliant leadership in the midst of the national economic recession – after turning the state from being the most security-challenged to being the safest in the country within two years and leaving landmarks in agriculture and education as well as industrialisation – both the elite and the masses of the people decided to bring him back. The result was the massive victory of November 18, 2017, in a state hitherto known for being politically fractious.
It is noteworthy that Uzoukwa referred to “Imo people truly deserve to be happy,” a well-received article in Businessday of last December written by Sam Ohuabunwa, the founding chief executive of Neimeth Pharmaceuticals Plc, who rose to become president of the Nigerian Economist Group (NESG), the country’s most respected business pressure group. It is an article, which decries the ridiculous administration by Rochas. But, come to think of it: is Ohuabunwa, who holds the prestigious Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) national honour, not being hypocritical? Is he not aware of the rot in his own Abia State for several years? Why has he turned a blind eye to the Abia tragedy? As a Bible-believing Christian, Ohuabunwa should be aware that the scripture condemns the practice of some people attempting to remove the little speck in another person’s eye but forgetting the log in their own eye (Matthew 7:3; Luke 6: 4).
To state the obvious, Ohuabunwa is not alone in playing the ostrich. There is a conspiracy of silence by the Abia elite when the state is being run down. Why have the likes of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, General Ike Nwachukwu, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Prof. Onwuchekwa Jemie, Paul Anaba, SAN, Sen. Nkechi Nwogu, Sen. Bob Nwannunu, Sen. Adolph Wabara, Chief Marc Wabara, Sen. Enyi Abaribe, Ugochukwu Okoroafor, Onuoha Ukeh, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, Eze Anaba, Chido Nwakanma, Dr. Uma Eleazu, former Education/Health Minister Ihechukwu C. Madubuike, etc, not raised their voices against the rot in their home state? This has nothing to do with party or sectional solidarity. The future of our people is at stake. No fence-sitting. No fiddling while Abia is burning. Our leaders must stand up now to be counted.
In Imo State, where Rochas has turned governance into a circus show, the elite is not standing akimbo, watching. Most Rev. (Dr.) Anthony Obinna, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, is living up to his reputation as a liberation theologian. Pascal Dozie, the MTN chairman and Diamond Bank founder, may not be grabbing newspaper headlines but he is working hard with a large number of people to end the rot in the state. Even Ikedi Ohakim, the immediate past governor, has become a social activist. The list is long. The question is: where are their Abia counterparts?
The challenge to the Abia elite is to join their people to move the state in a totally different direction. The PDP is a huge disappointment, and the APC is no alternative after all the mess in neighbouring Imo State. APGA is the way to go. This is why I completely agree with the fearless Uzoukwa that Abia State needs a new breed leader like Otti, who has original and imaginative ideas. Never again will our state be compared to the vomit of a tuberculosis patient, as Ken Saro-Wiwa once described Ibadan. As for Imo State, it needs to go APGA, too. Never again should Imo have a governor who created a ridiculous ministry for the sole purpose of his younger sister becoming its commissioner. Never again should Imo have a governor who wants his son-in-law, who is already the Chief of Staff, to succeed him as governor while he himself is running to become a senator. This is worse than nepotism. It is worse than greed.
Here is a warning to APGA: it must bring out credible candidates in the forthcoming general election. It must avoid persons like Okorocha who won the governorship race on the APGA platform only to defect to another party without consultation. The consequence? Terrible maladministration without his party cautioning him even for once. Both Rochas and the APC are anti-people. Just like the PDP.
We thank God that APGA is about to rescue Imo and Abia.
• Elder Imo, a former senatorial candidate, hails from Ukwa and is former National President of Ukwa/Ngwa League.