By Onyebuchi Ememanka
Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, Daily Editor of THISDAY is an interesting journalist. I personally read her articles a lot. I have personally followed her interventions through the years.
In making her interventions through her column, BEHIND THE FIGURES, Ijeoma adopts dual independent approaches depending on her interest in the subject matter.
Her first approach is what I call the OBJECTIVE APPROACH where she tries to justify her interventions with hard facts, making objective comparisons and also proffering workable and intelligent solutions. Ijeoma could take extreme positions and tries to justify them.
The second approach is what I refer to as the SUBJECTIVE APPROACH where her loyalty to an identified principal is not under any form of disguise. An Abian by birth, Ijeoma takes no prisoners in her interventions as she goes for the jugular of the person on the other side.
Any avid follower of her write ups will see these two approaches clearly. Her attacks on the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Hon Abdulmumin Jubril sometime last year or so is still fresh in the memory.
Her latest article WHAT ABIA TRULY NEEDS which appeared on the back page of THISDAY NEWSPAPERS of Monday, January 11, 2016 clearly fits into her Subjective Approach.
In adopting the subjective approach, Ijeoma throws reason to the gutters and deliberately too.
The article under reference is nothing but a clear hatchet job.
Any person who reads the article will not find it hard to decipher her mission, namely to blow the trumpet of Alex Otti as a Knight in shining armor who has the magic wand to solve the problems of humanity and of course to discredit Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
However, in this vainglorious assignment, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu presents herself as being dangerously ignorant of what the issues in the present politics of Abia State are, or better still, I think it is more appropriately an issue of selective amnesia which is the disingenuous art of deliberately choosing the things to forget. This is because the issues that define the present political situation in Abia State are in the public domain and a “celebrated” journalist like Ijeoma Nwogwugwu is expected to know them, more so when she is an indigene of the state, a fact she carefully refused to mention in the article.
The article starts with a clearly disguised attempt to appear objective in the analysis of the Abia Situation but this didn’t last long.
Ijeoma’s first deliberate faux pas appears in the third paragraph where in her words “The protesters were said to be aggrieved that by nullifying the contentious results in the three local governments, the Appeal Court had disenfranchised some 230,000 registered voters who they claimed voted overwhelmingly for Ikpeazu, an indigene of Obingwa”.
This statement is misleading.
The truth is that the three local governments hold a registered voting population in excess of 300,000. For the Ijeomas of this world, it is perfectly normal to deny this number of people their rights of franchise. It matters even less if one of the persons so denied is one of the candidates in the election and incumbent Governor.
She goes ahead to assume the position of the Spokesperson of Alex Otti and his supporters and making a rather weak attempt to capturetheir impressions about the “contentious” results from the three local governments which was initially rejected but later and rightly accepted by the State Returning Officer.
She goes ahead further to also capture their prayers in hoping that the Supreme Court will uphold the decision of the Court of Appeal. She even goes ahead to cite some decided cases which appear to be on her side and that of her paymaster.
For Ijeoma, it is immaterial that the Electoral Act clearly disagrees with her position. She chose to forget that under the Electoral Act, the State Electoral Officer has no right to reject nor cancel results already declared at the Polling Unit, Ward and Local Government Level.
Ijeoma also captured the worries of her paymaster that the Ikpeazu group would prefer a rerun instead of an outright cancellation of elections in those areas. What she however failed woefully to also state is that rerun is not just the wishful thought of the Ikpeazu group but a remedy clearly provided by Section 53 (2) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended in a situation where over voting has been established and where the votes in contention outnumber the margin with which the purported winner won.
It doesn’t matter to Ijeoma that while her Principal, Alex Otti, was declared winner by the Court of Appeal with a margin of less than 45,000 votes, the areas where elections were cancelled hold more than 300,000 votes.
Ijeoma also copiously cited some law reports but failed to tell us the level of the deciding Courts on the judicial hierarchy. She failed, and deliberately too to inform her readers that the Supreme Court, the highest Court of the land, had last week, just last week, delivered judgement in the Zamfara State Election Petition and in that judgement laid down the principles that govern the issue of over voting which incidentally is the major foundation of the petition of her principal, Alex Otti.
Since she failed to state these facts, I would help her.
Justice John Inyang Okoro who delivered the lead judgement in the Zamfara State petition made it clear that for the allegation of over voting to be proved, the Petitioner MUST tender the Voters Register and lead concrete evidence to show that there was indeed over voting and that it benefitted the appellants.
She failed to inform her readers that her Principal who couldn’t even testify in his own case failed woefully to call one single witness from the entire Obingwa Local Government in proof of his allegations of over voting, neither was any single document tendered to show how voting was done in the area.
Perhaps, the most unfortunate aspect of Ijeoma’s hatchet job was when she deliberately launched attacks on the person of Governor Ikpeazu and tried to present the Governor as playing second fiddle to her Principal.
In her own words “Placed side by side, Otti, despite his physiological height disadvantage, stands heads and shoulders above Ikpeazu. He can read a balance sheet, has lofty private sector management experience, and has the right exposure to turn around the Aba economy, harness the oil economy in Ukwa West by attracting gas, fertilizer and petrochemical producers, and boosting internal revenues through manufacturing, commerce and agriculture in the state rather than going cap in hand to Abuja to beg for handouts”.
As if that was not enough, she continued…” The only thing Ikpeazu has going for him is his association with Theodore Orji who was a dreadful governor, very limited private sector experience spanning two years, and the cosmetic advantage of hailing from Abia South. Even as the Head of the State’s Environmental agency, Ikpeazu could not rid his own Aba of filth!
From the above statements, Ijeoma leaves no one in doubt of what she set out to achieve in this write up. She is a woman clearly on a mission of blackmail and misinformation.
Let’s begin to attempt an interrogation of her statements.
First, she gives the impression that Ikpeazu’s only positive attribute is his association with former Governor Theodore Orji, whom she gleefully described as a dreadful governor.
Ijeoma forgot to tell her readers that prior to joining government some years ago, Ikpeazu had made his marks as an accomplished academic, lecturing in several Nigerian universities. Ikpeazu bagged a PhD in Biochemistry, his chosen field at the turn of his 30th birthday and had built a carrier as a University don. He was already the Head of Department of Biochemistry at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology and external examiner to other universities as at 2001 before public service beckoned.
Otti and Ikpeazu chose two distinct career paths. While Otti chose the banking hall, Ikpeazu chose the university classroom. Both men made huge successes in their fields. How does this place Otti heads and shoulders above Ikpeazu?
In Ijeoma’s world, the ability to read a balance sheet is the attribute of a great Governor. In other words, anyone who is not versed in accounting is unfit to lead. What an unfortunate conclusion from a woman who prides herself as a celebrated journalist. What a crass display of ignorance!
The Late Chief Sam Mbakwe who remains the greatest Governor of the old Imo State was a lawyer and practiced his law at Aba prior to his election as Governor in 1979. He could not read a balance sheet but he transformed the economy of the state, built top class infrastructure most of whom are still in use today. Under him, there was industrial revolution as industries and other manufacturing concerns sprang up across the stage then.
It was under the regime of the late Dr. Micheal Okpara as Premier of the old Eastern Region that the region witnessed witnessed it’s highest share of development in all facets. Okpara built Enugu into a befitting regional capital. He developed the Trans Amadi Industrial Area into a choice location for industrial growth. He built the Golden Guinea Breweries and the Mordern Ceramics Industries at Umuahia. He was just a medical doctor.
Private sector management experience is no guarantee for successful leadership. What is needed is that sense of patriotism, the passion to lead and the ability to identify and head hunt top talents to assist the leader to transform his vision into practical reality.
Running a private sector organization like a bank is a different kettle of fish from running a government. Whereas the private sector leader is motivated by the desire to make profit for his organization and it’s shareholders no matter the odds, the leader of government is more concerned with the delivery of the public good no matter the odds.
This is why banks and other private sector organizations do not hesitate to take drastic and far reaching decisions like reducing their staff strength by 50% if that is what is required to keep the organization afloat. Profit motive is the major driving force. It is different for the political leader. Even under the most difficult economic situations, the leader must ensure that the people continue to enjoy the dividends of his leadership. So, it is obvious that the skills needed to run a private sector organization and that required to run government are not entirely the same.
This where Ijeoma misses the point and sadly too.
She again claims that her Principal Otti has what it takes to attract all manner of industries to the state. This is another fallacy.
Industries and businesses are not attracted to a state because some ex banker is the Governor. The decision to locate an industry or business in a particular area is a business decision largely influenced by commercial expediency and not some mundane personal relationships.
For companies to move to a state or any location, there has to be in existence good and solid infrastructure like roads. There has to be security.
This is why Governor Ikpeazu has, since his assumption of office on May 29, 2015, committed himself to the renewal of critical infrastructure across the state. Presently, there are 47 road projects on going across the state. This includes two bridges! Out of this number, 25 are in Aba.
It is obvious that Ijeoma, though from Abia State hasn’t been home in a long while, else she would have seen first hand, the strides made by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in this direction.
There is general consensus even amongst Ikpeazu’s political foes that it’s a new day in Abia State in terms of infrastructural renewal.
Funny enough, the day her article was published, the Governor was on the streets on Aba to commission two brand new roads and inspecting other on going projects in the town.
Security of lives and property has been restored on Aba with improved synergy between the stage and the security agencies. The police is now better funded and operational equipment upgraded by the state government. The days of kidnapping are over. Crime rate in the state is at an all-time low. These things didn’t just happen. They are the products of meticulous planning.
One critical point that Ijeoma deliberately left out in her write up is that for the very first time in the history of Abia State, Governor Ikpeazu has brought to the front burner the issue of the promotion of Made in Aba products. It is common knowledge that Aba is home to the largest garment and leather making industries in West Africa but this very important sector has suffered neglect from successive governments. Since Ikpeazu came on board, he has left no one in doubt of his desire to transform this sector by providing government support and encouragement to the people in this sector.
First, what Ikpeazu has done is to make himself the Chief Marketing Officer of Made in Aba dresses and shoes. He wears them. He flaunts them and encourages Abians to do same. This is on a personal level and this alone has given the artisans serious boost in their confidence. On the formal plane, there is an on going collaboration between the state government and some foreign investors with a view to boosting investments in this sector through equipment and technical support. A few months ago, Ikpeazu took some of these artisans to Turkey with a view to strengthening the frontiers of this new collaboration.
The results are beginning to show already. There is a higher demand for Made in Aba goods.
One other significant thing that Ikpeazu is doing in this area. He is presently collaborating with the Federal Government through the Ministry of Trade and Investment with a view to convincing the Federal Government to commence the production of boots worn by members of the NYSC in Aba. This is a pilot project which is capable of changing the fortunes of the sector in the state. This will also save the federal government huge foreign exchange. This pilot project is expected to midwife more collaborations with the ultimate objective being the production in Aba of footwears to be used by members of our military and para military forces. The multiplier effects of these lofty plans cannot be over emphasized. This is how to grow a local economy.
Ijeoma is obviously ignorant of the fact that prior to May 29, 2015, two critical sectors of the state economy were shut down by strikes. The health sector and the judiciary were under lock and key as a result of industrial disputes. There was serious industrial tension in the state. Today, no single sector of the Abia economy is locked up. Workers are fully back to work and the state is working again. It takes much more than reading balance sheets to achieve all of these.
Again, in another display of ignorance, Ijeoma claimed that Ikpeazu as the Head of the State Environmental Agency was unable to rid his Aba town of filth. Another falsehood.
First, Ikpeazu was not the Head of the State Environmental Agency. He was rather a Deputy General Manager in the agency and had no control over the disbursement of funds. This was a major constraint but what he lacked in funding, he covered up with an incredible passion for work as he stayed late into the wee hours of the morning supervising the evacuation of waste from the streets of Aba.
One of the major challenges Ikpeazu faced in his job then was the reluctance of corporate organizations like banks to partner with the agency and assist in the provision of materials that could aid the job of keeping the environment clean. In Lagos where Ijeoma lives, this is a norm. As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, private organizations like banks lend a helping hand to the government in this area. At the time, Ijeoma’s paymaster was heading one of the major banks in Nigeria and he looked the other way as his state of origin struggled with how to fund sundry items like refuse collection.
Ijeoma also forgot to add that since Ikpeazu became Governor and with a clear understanding of the challenge refuse collection posed to him, things have changed completely. Less than two months into his tenure, Aba was swept clean. Today in Aba, refuse heaps are now history. This is a verifiable fact, a fact Ijeoma in her usual selective amnesia conveniently chose to forget.
According to her again, the only thing going for Ikpeazu is his association with Theodore Orji. This is where Ijeoma shot herself and her paymaster in the foot. It is public knowledge that if associating with the former Governor was a contest, Otti would have been the undisputed winner. Otti was a regular caller at Government House Umuahia and hobnobbed endlessly with the former Governor with whom he enjoyed an extremely chubby personal relationship. Otti courted the former Governor openly and described him publicly in glowing terms as the best thing that happened to the state. He did this obviously with the intent that he would be handed the ticket of the PDP on a platter to contest for governor. When that didn’t happen, the hitherto chubby relationship hit the rocks. The same former governor described as ‘dreadful’ by Ijeoma, honoured Ijeoma with the award of Ada Abia (The Daughter of Abia) which was widely celebrated. Senator T.A.Orji is a good man.
Unlike what Ijeoma would want her readers to believe, the issue of power rotation is real in Nigerian politics. While it is conceded that where a man comes from is no determinant of his abilities, no one can question the fact that there are abundant talents in all regions of the country. The idea of power shift becomes even more imperative because it takes away the feelings of marginalization. This philosophy has been severally canvassed by Simon Kolawole, another THISDAY writer who has a more mature approach to issues.
The situation is even more pronounced in Abia where out of the three senatorial districts of the State, two had produced Governors in the past leaving one, Abia South behind. Beyond the question of senatorial districts, Abia has two major political divides – Old Bende and Ukwa Ngwa.
Since the creation of the state, old Bende has produced all civilian governors till date. The Ukwa Ngwa region, which incidentally is where the economic strength of the state lies has never produced a Governor before. Rather the area has produced deputy governors a record nine times!
In 1999, Abia North produced former Governor Orji Kalu. In 2007, Abia Central produced former Governor Theodore Orji. The most rational step is to allow the good people of Abia South to produce a Governor this time. This what informed the decision of the PDP in the state to zone the position to Abia South. Can anyone fault this decision in the light of present political realities in Nigeria today?
For Ijeoma and her paymaster, it doesn’t matter how the people of Abia South feel. Their long years of marginalization mean nothing. The abandonment of Aba in Abia South can go on and on. To them, it is immaterial that her paymaster and his running mate come from the same federal constituency. While Otti is from Arochukwu, his running mate is from Ohafia both in the Arochukwu/ Ohafia federal constituency in Abia North Senatorial District.
This is the danger in bringing a man whose only credential is the ability to read a balance sheet to contest for Governor. Otti has spent his entire working life in the banks and is clearly unaware of the need for justice and equity in the allocation of political offices. You can have a bank branch with people from one family but it simply cannot work in politics. Even our constitution makes clear pronouncements on federal character.
Perhaps, Ikpeazu’s offence is that he is not as “generous” as Otti in his relationship with cash. Ikpeazu is not a media governor. He said it clearly that he does not want his public image to be a product of media hype. Ikpeazu does not have celebrity journalists on his pay roll. He hardly speaks to the media. He is more focused on the job for which he was elected which is to give the people of Abia State a new lease of life.
So, for the celebrity journalists who feed fat from being on the pay roll of State Governors and other politicians, Ikpeazu is bad market. They would therefore naturally jump at any offer to tear him to shreds, even when such attempts are clearly bereft of any rational foundation.
Contrary to the impression created by Ijeoma, Alex Otti is a morbidly desperate man who is bent on being Governor at all costs.
From the manipulation of his origin from Arochukwu to Isiala Ngwa just to secure an undue advantage over his opponent to the abandonment of his party, the PDP to join APGA, Otti is a serial “jumpologist” but this time, he has jumped too far.
During the elections, when it dawned on him that there was simply no way he could win the popular vote, he set out on a scheme to get the votes cast in Ngwaland cancelled. No wonder he never stepped his feet on Obingwa LGA to campaign for one single day, neither did he have any candidate who ran for any office from the House of Representatives to the State Assembly elections.
We are confident that the Justices of the Supreme Court will do the needful and ensure that justice is done to the people of these three local governments who are yet to understand why the votes they cast for their son will be cancelled without even another chance to vote again as provided in the Electoral Act.
As for Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, I bear her no grudges. She has earned her pay for ” a job well done”. Her hunt for the next paymaster has since started.
But she must be told in clear terms that she cannot sit behind a computer and attempt to define or determine the political destiny of close to half a million legitimate voters neither can she arrogate to herself the omniscience of knowing what ABIA TRULY NEEDS.
Onyebuchi Ememanka, a Corporate Attorney writes from Lagos.