Abia: Between old and new orders

With leading political parties concluding their primaries at the state and federal levels, the race for 2015 is virtually underway. As candidates for various positions file out, the clamour for change, seems to be the underlin­ing message among those seeking to take over from the existing order.

While some chorus change because it is fast assuming the status of cliché at political seasons, others push for it on ground that the existing order may have either outlived its usefulness or is currently self-serving.
The old order, expectedly, has not been relenting. Essentially given to the established arrangement of entitlement politics that guar­antees patronage from the system, it gradu­ally develops a lechery tendency that sees it permanently sucked to power, not for reasons of service but for personal enrichment. In a bid to sustain the parasitic attachment to the public till, those in this class, easily resort to treating the neglected and traumatized citizenry with the mantra of consolidation and continuity. In going about the odious theatrical, there is always the tendency to flaunt some hastily contrived and inflated projects to befuddle the people. At the end of the day, however, the state is left poorer in terms of ideas and infrastructural development.
This, in a way, is the story of Abia. Created 23 years ago, the state has not really moved at a pace that many had expected, considering its human capital and material resource endow­ments. Within this time, the last 16 years adequately falls into a period that it can be said to be at its lowest turn.

Thus, as 2015 politics sets in, two tenden­cies are on display in the state. On one hand, is Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, the governorship candi­date of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who obviously represents the old order. On the other hand is Dr. Alex Otti, the flag bearer of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who projects the new face of Abia.

The two candidates come on board with their individual profiles. Both are intellectuals that had recorded varying marks in their fields. Ikpeazu had been a teacher and lately the face behind Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA). As a lecturer, he may have performed creditably. But as ASEPA boss, given the poor sanitary conditions of major towns in the state, especially Aba, the state’s economic nerve centre, his performance rating is adjudged below average.

Ikpeazu runs on the roadmap of consoli­dating on the achievements of the departing administration of Governor Theodore Orji. At each turn in his outing, he has spoken on continuing with the policy initiatives of the ad­ministration. On the face value, there is noth­ing wrong with continuity as a phenomenon. It depends on what legacies to be continued. But one thing Ikpeazu has not succeeded in telling Abians is what next he has to offer aside, perhaps, continuing with Orji’s projects that are basically concentrated on Ogurube Layout, Umuahia.
His blue print for developing other parts of the state, is hardly convincing. Besides, he is yet to come out with an economic agenda that can wean the state of the paltry monthly federal allocation from Abuja. The other time for instance, he was reported to have blamed the poor revenue and infrastructural base of the state on oil companies operating in it having their headquarters elsewhere.

What critical stakeholders gleaned from that disclosure was that he was lacking in clear agenda at repositioning the state, except, de­pending on the monthly Abuja allocation and incidental taxes on oil companies in the state, if he ever gets elected.

It may be on account of this apparent lack of definite agenda for Abia that Ikpeazu has been running his governorship campaign on the sentiment of power shift to Abia South Senatorial district – an area that comprises a large chunk of the Ukwa-Ngwa sub-clans of the state. However, in lashing onto this frenzy, he deliberately downplays existence of the Ngwa in the Central Senatorial district of the state, which also lay genuine claim to the of­fice. He also forgets that Ukwa a major part of the said Abia South is greatly marginalized by the fact that his brother of neighboring villages hold the party’s Senatorial ticket while he is the gubernatorial candidate of the same party.

With the campaigns gradually setting in however, perceptive observers are ex-raying the contents of each candidate’s agenda. The Abia South Senatorial district issue is for instance, paling to insignificance, given that the two candidates are from Ngwa. Besides, allowing Ikpeazu to run away with the devious scheme, would amount to shortchanging the other constituting units of the Zone, given that he hails from Obingwa, the same local govern­ment area with Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who has been handed a return ticket to the upper lawmaking house by PDP.

Also, his consolidation theory is being torn to shreds by the highly enlightened Abia citizenry on ground that sustaining the current regime of inaction which he represents for another four years, would amount to instituting a legacy of stagnancy in the state.

This is not the case with Otti. In academics, where he comes across as a First Class econo­mist, his credentials are quite intimidating. In his last calling as Group Managing Direc­tor of Diamond Bank, he set a standard that remains a benchmark in the industry. Industry experts recall, for instance, that in his first three years in Diamond, Otti focused on steady­ing the bank, which, reeling from the effects of the global financial crises of 2008/2009, had declined in size, and lost market share to competition. By the time he was through with his turn-around engineering, the Bank had bounced into reckoning as one of the sure-footed financial institutions in Africa and beyond.

He has pledged replicating the feat in Abia, throwing to the fore, his discussions with Inter­national Finance Corporation (IFC) on agenda at re-engineering Aba. He is well known to the international financial community and would leverage on those connections for the state.

But besides the lofty economic blue print that will readily sell him to the average busi ­ness conscious and politically sophisticated indigenes and residents of the state, the fall-out of the recent PDP primaries which left some frontline aspirants bruised, would work in his favour. These aspirants and their supporters, who felt chiseled out of PDP politics, are join­ing forces with him in rescuing the state.

Otti, though excited by the daily influx of supporters to his aspiration, however maintains that the task of fixing the state, requires sacri ­fice. Service to Abia, according to him, is the force driving his aspiration and not an exercise in personal enrichment. He has thus, asked those having the assumption that politicians go to Government House to enrich their pockets to have a rethink, stressing that his is diferent because he has strategies that would take the state to another level.

The APGA candidate, by this declaration, seems to have hit at the very heart of the state’ selectorate, who now see him as the man to beat. They only advise that he puts on ground, strategies that would protect his votes against rigging at the February 28, 2015 governorship poll.