Outgoing Abia Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, at the weekend revisited a critical issue in the just-concluded governorship poll in Abia, making an unsavoury remark about the person of the state Returning Officer, Prof. Nnenna Oti, and her alleged “overly excited” reaction to the outcome of the exercise.
The comment was entitled “Abia 2023: ‘I wish I knew those who bullied her’ – Ikpeazu challenges Prof. Oti to open up”.
Reading through it gave me goose pimples and reminded me about what I sorely hate regarding the governor’s inconsistency, which I have had to endure for the past seven years plus 11 months.
Of course, I had wondered whether the comment actually came from Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, the politician and outgoing governor or Chief Okezie Ikpeazu, the mischievious farmer and tax evader, both from Obingwa.
I also had wondered whether the comment truly proceeded from the same Ikpeazu that authored the astonishingly expeditious message of congratulations to the Governor-elect, Dr Alex Otti of the Labour Party (LP).
And after carefully perusing through
the comment, I concluded that it was made by one and the same Okezie Ikpeazu – the outgoing Abia governor – who failed woefully in the election for the Abia South Senatorial District seat, the same man that irredeemably destroyed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and under whose carefree and unserious eight-year administration the party got decimated into different parts, killed and permanently buried in Abia.
He is the man, who was in 2015 foisted on Abia and its loving people, obviously against their wish, by a desperate PDP cabal, led by Sen. Theordore Ahamefule Orji, otherwise called “Ochendo”, now politically obsolete and moribund.
ANALYSING IKPEAZU’S COMMENT
It would suffice to do a recap of Ikpeazu’s rancorous remark at this juncture in order to properly situate and analyse it in the right perspectives.
He said: “I wish I knew those who bullied her. I think she has been making too much noise out of nothing.”
Certainly, no one in his right senses expects the governor to accept responsibility or admit knowing those behind the barbaric act of bullying the returning officer.
He obviously was also not aware about the desperate attempts to compromise her with humongous financial offer and neither did he know the masterminds, who later resorted to threaten her life in order to make her subjugate her conscience and admit the Obingwa phantom results, in spite of the obvious manipulation and falsification of the figures.
The alleged rigging of Obingwa results was so recklessly and brazenly executed in a manner that the PDP’s figures kept mutating as more local governments were collated and LP’s margin of lead continued to increase in leaps and bounds.
Gov.Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, Gov Abia State
The master riggers started first from 81,000 votes, which was why in the original INEC result sheet, the number of accredited voters was 81,000 as against the authentic 26,884.
From there, the figure jumped to 86,000 and later to 92,000 before finally skyrocketing to 108,000.
The ultimate ambition was to give PDP a slim lead over LP and have its Governorship Candidate, Chief Okey Ahiwe, declared the winner of the poll, while Otti would as usual be asked to go to Court to seek redress, if not satisfied.
This was the antic the party adopted in 2015 and 2019 and it sailed through for Ikpeazu and PDP and they got away with the fraud even with Otti’s fierce legal battle up to the nation’s apex Court.
Recall how in 2015, Ochendo, accompanied by other PDP chieftains, including Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Rtd. Col. Austine Akobundu and Chief Olisa Metu, brazenly invaded the state collation centre on INEC premises, bullied, intimidated and armtwisted the then Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Selina Oko, and state Returning Officer and Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Damian Ozumba, to collate and accept the massively falsified Obingwa result. The same Obingwa has shamelessly transformed to Abia’s hotbed for election rigging!
It was the same 2015 episode that PDP chieftains unsuccessfully attempted to replicate, when in a similar Ochendo’s dramatic pattern, they reportedly unleashed a band of thugs to disrupt the collation of Obingwa results in Obingwa Local Government headquarters on March 20, during which they allegedly held the Local Government Returning Officer hostage and coerced him into doing their bidding by falsifying the local government’s results in their favour, before going ahead to physically assault the LP Collation Agent, Dr George Alozie.
The chieftains, who at a point during the collation of results, had turned monstrous and dangerously desperate to install their anointed prodigy, allegedly decided to execute their final option and strategy, having failed in others.
It was against the obvious frustration and failure that stared them in the face that propelled them to make a recourse to the returning officer with their morbid contemplation to allegedly compromise her with mouth-watering 200 million U.S Dollars, plus a tear-rubber SUV Jeep.
The intention was to lure her into collating and accepting the unrealistic and non-existent figures from Obingwa.
Mr Governor, suffice it to inform you that the same persons that sponsored the invasion of the Obingwa INEC and allegedly held the commission’s official under hostage for over 36 hours also masterminded the bullying of the returning officer. So, you are now properly informed! Aren’t you?
Furthermore, the governor was quoted to have also said: “The returning officer’s duty is essentially to tally results already collated from the wards through the local government and declare them. She can’t change the results because she has no right to do that unless she went ahead and did something like that.”
Indeed, that exactly was what Oti did. She neither added nor subtracted from the lawful votes cast in the governorship poll in Obingwa as in the other 16 LGAs.
“She merely collated the lawful votes, which interestingly and indisputably tallied with the
number of accredited voters in the area.
Whatever number of votes that exceeded the 26,884 accredited voters in the LGA could not have been rightly defended vis-a-vis the verifiable number of voters captured with the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine.
Of course, the shenanigans that happened in 2015 and 2019, with the instrumentality of the incident forms, could not have been permissible with the BVAS machine, which has become the game changer in the country’s electoral system. Don’t you think so,
It is for the efficacy of the BVAS machine that those votes supposedly cast by the dead and invisible voters in Obingwa were not merely voided but shredded and thrown into INEC’s trashcan for 2023.
I am sure the governor was psychologically and emotionally traumatised by the workability of this historic technological innovation in the nation’s electoral process, particularly in Abia, that he felt the quickest way out of the crippling hallucination he found himself was to rush a congratulatory message to the winner of the poll and real choice of the masses.
REPERCUSSION FROM THE INVASION OF OBINGWA INEC
Because of the organised invasion of Obingwa Collation Centre during by thugs, the area suddenly became the cynosure of both local and international election observers and monitors.
INEC swiftly responded to the attack with a strongly worded statement alerting the world about the dastardly and bizzare act of thuggery targeted at its office and collation officer allegedly led by PDP chieftains in Obingwa council area.
The commission also followed the statement up with the suspension of the collation of the Obingwa results and summoned the local government collation officer, the Abia Resident Electoral Commissioner and State Returning Officer to Abuja for a review of the result against the backdrop of petitions from the LP and Otti.
The development made Abia’s election much more interesting and political watchers merely saw the drama as a reminiscence of the 2015 Ochendo’s disruptive invasion of the same Obingwa collation then in INEC state headquarters, Umuahia.
So, all eyes got focused on Obingwa to see how it would all play out this time around, especially with the deployment of the BVAS machine in the poll.
Expectedly, the Abuja review further exposed and authenticated the total number of votes polled by PDP in Obingwa. And contrary to the fabulous 108,000 mystery votes, the party actually polled scandalous 9,962 votes.
IKPEAZU’S GROUSE WITH OTI’S “OVERLY” EXCITEMENT AND CELEBRATION
Of course, Ikpeazu could not have seen anything wrong with the returning officer’s post-declaration mood had she caved in to pressure from PDP chieftains to accept the fantastically corrupting financial inducement to do their bidding of subverting the mandate of the millions of Abia residents generously given to Alex Otti.
So, in a nutshell, her offence was her blunt refusal to be compromised to do a yeoman’s job for Abia PDP, simple and short.
Ikpeazu also got overly irritated when during a heroic welcome ceremony organised in her honour by the students and management of FUTO, this renowned Professor of Soil Science said: “As an electoral officer, I have never in my life participated in any election, but duty came calling, I made my enquiries from Abuja.
“If I perish, I perish, they came with their threats, they came with their money, they came with their intimidation.”
She further said that she vehemently resisted them, describing hersrlf as “akwaa kwuru” (meaning “irrepressible”).
She further bragged that she “stood on my ideals and principles not to short-change anyone and ensured that the will of the people of Abia prevailed and that their votes counted during the election”.
“I didn’t start today; I stand here before God, Jesus Christ.
“I have never defrauded anyone, all l did was to declare the riot act as follows: Under me, votes must count. Under me, the people’s mandate will be upheld because I, Professor Nnnena Oti, can never do evil,” she said.
Of course, if indeed she got “overly excited” after discharging her assignment in the most honest and dispassionate manner, without mortgaging her conscience or soiling her integrity, then she had obvious and genuine reason to rejoice.
She is also at extreme liberty to even hold a thanksgiving Church service for coming to Abia to liberate a people in desperate need of freedom.
Yes, any other human, who journeyed through a similar tortuous, complicated and rocky path of life and death and returned home unscathed could behave in a similar or even more “overly” and freakish manner, no doubt!
ANY REASONS FOR OTI TO BE EXCITED AFTER HER NATIONAL ASSIGNMENT IN ABIA?
In my considered opinion, the desperation by politicians contesting for elective positions at all levels of government in the country has made the job of returning officers a matter of life and death.
Therefore, I feel persuaded that Oti might have viewed her deployment as returning officer in Abia as akin to going to the battlefield with her heart possibly jumping out of her chest because as the saying goes, “all is fair in love and war”.
Consequently, she would have also envisaged the drama, which overtly and covertly played out during her assignment, even before her arrival in Abia.
She also might have been conscious that she was coming to a state, where the citizenry were apparently disenchanted with the ruling PDP and had become equally desperate to make a change through the ballot, believing that the deployment of the BVAS machine would help make their votes count in the elections.
She also would have cautioned herself that PDP would, traditionally and most impudently, indulge in such acts of electoral misconduct and criminality, including the resort to thuggery, intimidation, threats, blatant falsification and rigging of results and offer of huge and seemingly irresistible financial inducements to electoral officials, if they must be able again to truncate the popular choice of the electorate.
She also would have reasoned that she had a choice to make, which is to return to Owerri after assignment either as a heroine or villain.
She also enjoyed the latitude of choice of which path to toe – either to discharge her assignment conscientiously or otherwise.
Remarkably, Oti left no one in doubt from inception that her resolve to settle for the former remained unshakable.
It was against this backdrop and obvious pressure from the desperados to force her hands into doing the odious that she intermittently told her audience during the collation about her resolve to do that which was only right and permissible by her conscience as a mother and ordained daughter of Zion.
She further promised a commitment to be thoroughly guided by the extant provisions of both the Electoral Act and INEC Election Guidelines “to ensure that the people’s mandate must stand”.
In an opening remark, she said: “I am Prof. Nnenna Oti, a proud daughter of Afikpo and current Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.
“I have spent all my adult life in pursuit of the ideals of good governance, such as transparency, accountability, rule of law, participatory.
“We shall stand by those principle, I plead with all of us.
“The mother and pastor in me shall not allow me to do wrong.
“I shall only do right by God and man.”
For me, therefore, it was the full accomplishment of her unbending resolve not to do wrong, supported by a robust commitment and infallible bias for an open and transparent exercise, without fear or favour, that actually “excited” her.
Logically speaking, her excitement, if any, had nothing to do with coming to Abia “for a hatchet job” as insinuated by Ikpeazu.
So, the entire episode orchastrated by Abia PDP in its deperation to retain power “by fire by force” and whether the people approved it or not, only served to offer her the platform to distinguish herself from the pack and ultimately shine to global admiration, recognition and honour.
Yes, she was only overjoyed that she exceptionally and profoundly defended her integrity and solid Christian faith and stoically bluffed the pressure to accept the Greek gift (weta isi were isi) from the tormentors-in-chief in God’s own state.
She merely joined the ecstatic Abia masses to celebrate God for using her as a vessel to emancipate His own people after 24 uninterrupted years of living in bondage.
In conclusion, Oti’s mood was defined by her commendable and heroic performance as the warrior that came to the battlefield, saw, conquered and left with the crown of glory.
And it was for all her altruistic efforts that she is today fondly celebrated within and across the borders of Nigeria as the heroine of the nation’s fragile democracy.
Indeed, it was Timaya that rightly captures the post-election mood in Abia in his latest hit song: “As e dey sweet us, e dey pain dem”.
This is a natural phenomenon because, in life, everybody can never be happy over a particular development, good or bad.
So, while a larger majority of Abia citizenry, which cut across the entire spectrum of society, including civil servants, pensioners, businessmen and women, traders, market men and women, artisans, transporters, okada and tricycle operators, hawkers and ordinary persons on the street, continue to celebrate that God has finally rescued His own people from captivity, the tiny but monstrous slave masters in PDP, majorly Ikpeazu and his wicked, greedy and insatiable billionaire allies, are sulking and mourning their unexpected and inglorious exit from power.
Of course, their pain and nightmare are understandable, moreso because it’s going to be a long agonising night.
Sam Okoro, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Umuahia.