Last Saturday April 11, something not totally unexpected happened in Abia State. Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji, who is better known by his moniker of ‘Ochendo Global’ (whatever that means), attempted to steal the people’s mandate and succeeded in actually doing so to some degree.
Gov. Theodore Orji
It was a theft so brazen the entire country reacted with disgust and disbelief. For those of us who have followed this slimy character for eight years, he acted true to type. But even thieves have to know when the game is up. Like that old saying goes, there should be some honour among thieves.
But using honour and Ochendo in the same sentence would amount to an aberration. The man doesn’t know the meaning of the word; has never known the meaning of the word for eight years of running Abia State aground.
There are 17 Local Governments in Abia State. By the close of voting on Saturday, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Dr Alex Otti, was coasting home to victory in 11 of those 17 LGAs. The PDP’s Okezie Ikpeazu, Ochendo’s lackey, was staring imminent defeat in the face. The Ochendo camp knew the game was up. It was at this point that the cooking of figures commenced.
Earlier in the day during the vote, several correspondents covering the Abia governorship election had noticed the thuggery and brigandage on display from Aba North/South, Osisioma, Obingwa, Isiala-ngwa and just about everywhere else. Election materials arrived late in several polling units dotting the Abia landscape and ballot boxes were snatched in the full glare of the watching world before votes were even cast. On Ochendo’s orders, thumb-printing of snatched ballot papers continued far into the night. The thieves besieged the INEC office in Umuahia with their ballot papers in tow and rewrote results for fun. Armed with a financial war-chest from the coffers of the State, these thieves padded up the numbers from Osisioma, Obingwa and Isiala-ngwa where elections sparsely or never held and asked the INEC officials to name their prizes.
By Sunday, Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala-ngwa had yielded unbelievable figures. In Obingwa for instance, voter turn-out had trumped those from everywhere else and by the padded figures, Obingwa had coughed out 83,000 votes for the PDP and Ochendo Global, while the APGA candidate was allotted a paltry 1,000 votes!! The entire world yelled and kicked. It was brazen, egregious stealing and everyone knew it. INEC announced that it was cancelling the results in the three affected LGAs but ate its own words when Ochendo showed up at the office of the electoral commission alongside the PDP national publicity secretary and other PDP bigwigs with loads of cash and cheque books. They made the Returning Officers and the Resident Electoral Commissioner (RECs) offers they couldn’t refuse and INEC said it would allow the inflated figures in the three LGAs to stand.
All of these is now public knowledge of course. Every son, daughter and resident of Abia State would tell you that the winner of Saturday’s governorship election in the State is Alex Otti. The miracles from Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala-ngwa have only served to underscore how far Ochendo and his camp would go to stay in power even in the face of the poor governance they’ve supervised for close to a decade. The people have voted these sorry lot out, but it is typical of the obdurate dog not to heed the hunter’s whistle.
The electoral officers in Abia State would do well to return the financial inducements they were given and announce Alex Otti as winner of the Abia Guber race when the rerun poll eventually holds. To do otherwise would be a real farcical travesty.
The world is watching. Abians are watching.
*Ifeanyi Amanze wrote from Umuahia