Igbeaku Orji x-rays the underlying factors that led to the declaration of the 2019 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti, for the All Progressives Congress (APC)
At the 2019 governorship election in Abia state, Dr Alex Otti and Dr Samson Uchechukwu Ogah were the candidates of their respective parties, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the poll. The two addressed a press conference together, rejecting the outcome of the election when it was announced in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
No doubt, the advantage of combine forces, as in the present case, for a political battle, cannot be overstressed, but the greater challenge is who leads the battle this time around.
However, Dr Alex Otti’s formal declaration for the All Progressive Congress (APC) last week in Abia State effectively ended months of speculations regarding his status and relationship with the ruling party. Before the event, analysts were not certain where he stood and could not incontrovertibly situate his future political platform.
The formal reception at the Abia APC state secretariat for Otti has however obviously defined his future political path after the snap with APGA.
The decision to leave APGA, the party under which platform he contested the 2015 and 2019 elections as its governorship candidate, was not easy, but absolutely expedient in the subsisting circumstance.
It is a move seen by polemicists as the political and ideological apotheosis necessary to liberate Abia State from the suffocating the stranglehold that it is presently locked in.
After wading through the storm of mainstream political waters, Otti has come to dispassionately assess the situation and decide the best platform and approach to the achievement of the goal of giving Abia State the leadership it deserves but has, unfortunately, eluded it these years. Otti said during the declaration,
“In the final analysis, my decision to leave my former party, APGA, was not an easy one, neither was it one that I made overnight… Nevertheless, I must emphasize that it was a decision made based on my unshakable belief that it is for the good of my beloved state and people of Abia.”
The event climaxed at the state party secretariat at Azikiwe Road Umuahia where Otti was received by the state working committee members led by the chairman, Hon Donatus Nwankpa.
The necessary formality and protocol for such event was observed to the letter. First, Otti’s ward chairman, from Ehi na Uguru, Ward 5, Isiala Ngwa South local government area, Nnamdi Francis, was called up to identify and introduce his member, Otti, to the State exco through the local government chairman, Ezinwa Nwuzor, who confirmed his registration on March 13, 2020. Second, he was received by the state working committee.
Otti, in his remarks, allayed the palpable apprehension that with the number of supporters (he claimed to have come with no less than 450,000 out of the 5000 said to behind him) he brought to APC some of the offices are threatened as he may decide to hijack the party apparatchik. He said there was no basis for such fear, as he assured that he “has not come to destroy but to build.” He admitted that he had been under pressure both from members of his former party, who left earlier, and APC leaders.
The former bank chief executive announced that the chieftains who contested the senatorial seats in Abia North and South, Dr David Onuoha (Bourdex) and Chief Chris Nkwonta have given their words of following him to APC as soon as they returned to the country. But his deputy in the elec-
tions in APGA, Dr (Mrs) Uche Eme Uche, has already registered in her ward. Otti’s foray in the 2015 and 2019 contest has taught him invaluable lessons in mainstream politics as distinct from the boardroom politics in which he was ensconced for years.
The elections undoubtedly entrenched him in the heart of the people as the man with the ace, resolve and capacity to lead the battle. Unlike those whose attempt had been as experimental as it is ephemeral, Otti has stood his ground as a beacon of hope for Abia. Truth be told, prior to joining APGA, the party in Abia State was inconsequential. It had no credible leader. Those who sought political office through APGA in the past did so without commitment and acceptability as they were merely birds of passage.
But Otti changed the fortunes of the party coupled with the palpable yearning for change among the people such that at the 2015 election APGA incredibly snatched 11 out of the 24 seats previously held by PDP. It also displaced PDP in the Aba North and Aba South Federal constituency, a seat it has retained to the present.
The events that led to Otti’s APGA lose in the 2015 governorship election is already well known that it is hardly profitable to repeat them here. But importantly, Otti has learnt that to win elections in Nigeria one needs more than just a political platform.
One needs, in addition to the overwhelming support that APGA had in 2015, critical stakeholders with capacity to protect the mandate and victory. One also needs the state or federal might and favour. APGA had none of these in its previous attempts. It, therefore, flies in the face of logic and common sense to have remained behind in APGA to waste valuable time and resources. Otti now coming to APC
with 5000 strong retinues of support base is obviously an asset to the party. But that is not the end of the story. It is on record that APC, against all the hype, lost the 2019 governorship to internal wrangling. All the governorship aspirants from the South of Abia, where incumbent Governor Ikpeazu hail from, without exception, worked against the party’s choice of Uche Ogah from the North. They saw the issue of equity as non-negotiable and beyond party loyalty.
Again, venal politicians were disappointed that Ogah did not come to the election as wadded as they expected. They had expected rain of Naira. Besides, others who contested the election on the APC platform concentrated on their personal victory. They did not see the victory of the governorship candidate as the victory of the party, thereby leaving Ogah to his fate.
At the end, he struggled to get the Isuikwuato, his local government, constituency seat. Evidently, the party sabotaged itself, thereby again dashing the hope of the people who were anxious for a change, like APGA did in 2015.
Standing on the circle of equity, the pendulum is presumably swinging to Abia North in 2023, but Otti is from Isiala Ngwa South in Abia Central, albeit with Arochukwu ancestry. Some have argued that since the equity wheel has made its circle, candidates can emerge from any section provided he/she is forthright and patriotic. Otti is not hiding the fact that he is eyeing the exalted office.
His utterance and body language buttress the fact. “I have therefore chosen to keep on fighting in order to liberate our people and make them achieve their full potential as human beings and rightful citizens of Nigeria and the world…
Therefore my brothers and sisters, let the word go forth today, from this time and place, that I, Alex Otti, am prepared to keep fighting to salvage Abia from the grips of endless bad governance and from inept and visionless leadership.
I am rededicating my life and my struggle to end the tenure of the government of looters, by looters and for looters! Nigeria will be a much better nation, when Abia is repositioned to realise her enormous potential and contribute her quota to the development of our great nation.
“I call on all Abians – the young, the aged, men women and children to rise up to this challenge. For our great people, we must put aside questions of political affiliation, religion or geographical divide. Our problems have become too serious for minor issues like that to matter.”
Otti noted that the people were paying dearly for what he described as the wrong choice they made in 2015 and 2019.
He declared that those who stole the people’s mandate in those years did not know what to do with it but rather indulged in “despicable and licentious lifestyles at the expense of the people they were meant to serve.
We Abians, have all paid the price in unpaid salaries and pensions, decayed infrastructure, insecurity, unemployment and endemic poverty.
Our flagship city, Aba, is now a cesspit of decay, filth, pollution and misery. Our capital city, Umuahia, is like a village that has remained the same over twenty years.”
Though the other aspirants under the APC platform have not made their intentions known, including Ogah, who flew the flag in 2019, the party has rested the matter of zoning. “We are not after zoning, we want the best for the state no matter the section it will come from,” declared Hon Donatus Nwankpa, the Abia State APC chairman, who also assured of a level playing field for all aspirants. “We welcome you to the discipline of the progressive party. In APC there is no discrimination.
We provide level playing ground. You are now part of the progressives. We are happy to have you in our midst because we want to rescue Abia State. We recognize you as one of our best. APC has no automatic ticket for any one. We are not zoning, especially any position we have not won.” According to Nwankpa, “Abia is yearning for change.
“The situation of Abia State is pathetic, therefore we must pull our collective strength to rescue the state.” He assured that no member would suffer any form of discrimination as every member was important to the realisation of the overall goal. The chairman urged Otti’s supporters to feel at home and integrate with old members, saying “every support group must work in tandem with the party constitution, our aim is to take the Government House.”
Many have posited that if the APC can deftly handle the impending predictable implosion and conduct a rancour free primary then it would have crossed the crucial hurdle and litmus test for the ultimate victory.
Pundits have also argued that to discuss the politics of 2023 now is a distraction. They insist that political office holders should concentrate on the onerous task of providing leadership and proving they have justified their mandate before asking for another. Nothing can be farther from reality.
The battle must begin now. Of course, to be under the illusion that 2023 is still too far away for a serious political contemplation is misleading and deceitful. This is the time to work on the supporters of Otti and let them know that the tide has changed. They need to be mobilised and enlightened to embrace the change in party.
They need also to be able to differentiate between the party and personality, that, for instance, the challenges Nigeria is going through is not the problem of APC as a party, but the personalities steering the wheel of statecraft. It is time to set up structures for mass mobilisation at the grassroots.
The party must go beyond the rhetoric of rabble rousing to the great task of giving bite to the aspirations of the people and the consuming passion of wresting and salvaging the state.
They insist that it would be foolhardy to imagine that PDP, which has maintained the hegemony in Abia State, would fold its hands and go to sleep after testing the pie for so long. The party, analysts warn, over the years, has perfected the art of chicanery and manipulation.
Uche Ogah was favoured to fly APC flag in the 2019 election but who knows what 2023 will be like with Otti on the queue. Time will surely tell.