Sam Hart’s knee-jerk response to an essay I wrote last week was a bit surprising. I didn’t expect the rejoinder to come from him. But since he wrote, I’ll go straight to addressing the points he raised. I had published a piece wherein I challenged the rented public affairs commentators on the payroll of the Abia state government to show some regard for facts when running their ubiquitous commentaries this political season. That call was necessary, because if we project the society as the ultimate beneficiary of our politics, then conversations about political processes and the candidates they throw up during elections must be made to centre on the issues that really matter to the society.
In my essay, I sought to remind the Ochendo writers, many of whom go by pseudonyms, that Abians deserve to hear the truth about the process that led to the emergence of the candidate the incumbent governor is supporting in the coming governorship elections. That has become necessary, given that we have read loads of troubling articles that, first, claim that the governor had no hand in the emergence of Okezie Ikpeazu, the governorship candidate of the PDP; and secondly, that Okezie Ikpeazu won the party primaries fair and square. The lies were beginning to gain traction as truth and some of us considered it a disservice to the state if we endorse such falsehood with our silence. With the intent to put the records straight therefore, I wrote.
Then came Sam Hart; with speed and fury. He launched out with the excitement of an accuser, one with the conviction of a winnable case. I wasn’t in his mind as he scribbled that hasty, emotionally laden rejoinder, but I could sense, at the end of his piece, the satisfaction of one who believed he had done justice to the topic and by that expects that this whole matter will be laid to rest once and for all. He did not deny the sham Governor Theodore Orji christened party congresses in Abia state, brazenly executed to the chagrin of even the worst election riggers. The scale of that fraud was massive; and even by PDP standards, stands unparalleled.
At the point where Sam could not controvert my insistence that the governor rigged the party primaries and stole the mandate of party members at the grassroots, the debate effectively ended. Because my original point was to puncture the lies daily peddled by the governor’s writers, claiming the governor had no hand in the emergence of Ikpeazu. I wrote that the governor did not only mastermind Ikpeazu’s emergence, but even went as far as ensuring nobody in the party had the chance to make any input in the process that led to that emergence. That position hasn’t changed. Let me therefore repeat this for the sake of emphasis: The governor RIGGED the party congresses to ensure Okezie Ikpeazu got imposed on party members. End of!
The other part of Sam’s treatise, about aspirants lining up to endorse Okezie Ikpeazu, is immaterial. Why should it bother us that elites on the governor’s payroll were hushed into silence after a terribly flawed process? Why should we confer on a compromised elite group and ‘’elders’’ the altruistic task of calling evil by its name? The role of many ‘’elders’’ of Abia in the ruin of the state is common knowledge. Just last year, Arthur Eze, the Anambra born billionaire business man, chewed out the governor publicly and in the governor’s own presence. As he did that, he equally chastised the Abia elite on the shameful role they have been playing in wrecking the state. He, coming from a state where elders value dignity more than naira and kobo, wondered why the Abia ‘’elders’’ sat and watched Ochendo convert Abia state to Nigeria’s byword for bad governance. Of course, one million writers from Ochendo will not change history.
The writer also did not deny that Abians have been hurling pebbles and sachets of water on Okezie Ikpeazu and his PDP campaign trail. Actually, I forgot to mention that at least 5 villages in Ochendo’s own Ibeku kin also drove them away. I mean, even Ochendo’s people refused him entrance into where he hails from. I await for this to be denied.
And that laughable point about Alex Otti asking to host Governor Theodore Orji in Arochukwu in 2011. I don’t know how it found its way into the conversation, except, again, that Sam lifted from the Ochendo principal book of campaign where the only issue that matters is where Alex Otti hails from. It’s not in my place to speak for Alex Otti. He is a first rate professional with the requisite acuity to answer for himself, but isn’t it curious that such is being pushed as a justification for brazenly stealing the right of party members to elect candidates of their choice in this election? Why are we even making light of a matter as serious as electoral fraud? Okay, let us concede that Alex Otti offered to host the governor in Arochukwu, when did it become a tool of blackmail for well-meaning, wealthy sons of a state to opt to host their political leaders? The answer is not far-fetched; it fits into the Ochendo narrative. All we hear from state media are petty details that exclude issues of development: Where’s Alex from? Why is Alex in APGA, is it because the governor refused to support him in PDP? Why did Alex not divert money from Diamond Bank to Abia state so we will know he loves Abia? Sometimes you wonder why these guys don’t consider these issues too jejune. But again, it’s Ochendo.
For a government that has been in office for eight years, it’s amazing that we don’t hear them name the roads they constructed or dualized in the period they have been in power, nor the water project they commissioned, nor how well they handled sanitation, nor how much they grew the state’s GDP per capita. A city as important – and old – as Aba has no single street light anywhere! Nobody in that government house is bothered. But all we hear is ‘’it is not their turn. It is our turn.’’ More irritating, you hear this from state owned media outlets.
Whatever ‘’turn by turn, chop-I-chop’’ arrangement PDP is operating – or wishes to operate – is not the business of the rest of us. PDP is just one political party, and it is doubtful if the population of its members adds up to as little as 5% of the total Abia population. An arrangement of convenience entered into by a group of friends can never be binding on the entirety of the state. Thankfully, history has shown us that when the people want change, they do not consider any other thing as more important. When Ndi Imo sacked Ikedi Ohakim in 2011, they did not consider where he, or the choice they were rooting for, came from. They simply threw out a man who had pissed on them without pity, and brought in an alternative they thought credible. This will be repeated in Abia state this year. This reality will hit the Ochendo team by 11thApril when the poll results start pouring in.
When this happens, I will not write Sam Hart waxing triumphalist; no, for brotherly love detests braggadocio. I will travel to Abia to visit him again, in his house, to share a glass of wine. That celebration won’t be just because a candidate I believe in won the election, it’ll be in recognition of the maturity with which my friend and brother, Sam and I handled our political differences. But that will only be necessary if Sam doesn’t join me in the Alex Otti movement before the election. You see, Sam and I share a lot in common, including the knowledge that in Abia, Alex Otti is that change whose time has come.
Chinedu writes from Lagos. He can be reached on Twitter as @Nedunaija