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Abia State and the Need for Civil Disobedience

Dr Alex Otti

In 1929 the women of Aba embarked on a protest which has been aptly described in our history books as “The Aba Women’s Riot”. Presumably illiterate and lacking in political sophistication, they had the guts and awareness to know that they had to protest or engage in an act of collective civil disobedience against a British colonial administrative policy they found distasteful and which they refused to comply with. 82 years later, what do we have today in the decaying city of Aba and the regressive state of Abia? 

We have a citizenry that has been cowered into submission and turned into a spineless, whining, collective group of sycophants, whose only recent act of bravery and courage was their rejection of the PDP during the governorship elections and their enthusiastic support for the APGA candidate, Dr Alex Otti [image above].

Even with the successful rigging of the election by the PDP in Obingwa, Osisioma, and Isiala Ngwa North, Otti’s recourse to the tribunal in search of justice would have been unnecessary if only Otti’s supporters had come out in massive numbers to vote for him. Let’s take the city of Aba for instance, supposedly Dr Otti’s greatest and strongest support base. 

How can we explain the fact that Aba North and south with a combined voter registration of 229,373 and a combined accredited voters list of 71,564 was only able to muster 24,507 and 28,153 votes respectively for Alex Otti, for a total of 63,660 votes? With hindsight today, can anyone imagine what would have been the result if only a little over three quarters of the registered voters had accredited themselves and had come out to vote for Dr Otti? Not even the rigged LGA’s would have changed the outcome.

Now there is no need bemoaning the past since the issue is now before an election tribunal .However the collective willingness of our people to acquiesce to the PDP and the Ikpeazu administration and to cowardly accept whatever this government dishes out to them is not only a disgrace but an insult to the memories of those brave Aba women of 1929. The question now is: how come the people of Aba, the suffering traders of Ariaria market have not been able to collectively protest by saying to this recycled PDP government of Okezie Ikpeazu that “enough is enough”? 

Again, how is it that the entire Abia populace except the Obingwa people have not been able to embark on a mass demonstration before every local government headquarters and before the Government House in Umuahia to demand changes and a stop to the continuous rape of the state and its resources? Why can’t the unpaid civil servants and pensioners embark on a mass protest to demand the immediate payment of their salaries and by so doing a rejection all the lies about the delay being caused by the biometric exercise, which I am told was also conducted by the Ochendo administration. Is it that our people lack courage, or that they are just afraid of dying or being arrested?

It was Martin Luther King who once described courage as ‘not the absence of fear but the triumph over it”. In his opinion, “man is not he who does not feel fear, but he who conquers that fear. He was further convinced that non-co-operation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is with the good and that every generation should and must learn the act of ‘Civil Disobedience”. In his opinion one has the moral responsibility to protest unjust government policies and actions. 

The truth is that we cannot all be good citizens by obeying unjust laws. In every part of the world where it has been practiced civil disobedience has never threatened social instability or led to anarchy, but rather the greatest danger to mankind is the submission of individual conscience to government authority and willful acceptance of governmental wrong doing.

For the past 16 years, the willful acceptance of governmental wrongdoing, administrative shenanigans, financial malfeasance and a deliberate and systematic subjugation of the Abia citizenry through the BCA and its propaganda machine has been our fate. During this period our elites who were in a position to speak for us were systematically muzzled and bought over. Our judiciary and legislature rendered impotent and reduced to a bunch of lackeys, lapdogs and an extension of the executive branch, always willing and eager to do the bidding of the governor and in so doing not ashamed of stretching out their hands for any form of financial breadcrumbs they could pick up from the governor’s table. 

If this is not the case, how can anyone explain the recent ease with which the state Assembly approved the loan requests by the Governor without adequate and convincing explanations as to what the loan was for and as a consequence suspend the House Minority leader for opposing the loan request? Which begs the question, “In what legislature in the civilized world , does a speaker or majority leader have the sole power and authority to unilaterally suspend an elected minority leader of the opposition without the recommendation of an ethics committee or two third votes of the house membership? Can anyone imagine here in the United States, the Republican Speaker of the House Of representative suspending the Democratic Party leader or having a hand in the election or choice of their minority leader? 

I guess it is only in Nigeria and maybe Abia state that such abuse of legislative power is possible with no consequence to the perpetrator.

For weeks now the Abia state minority leader have stayed suspended thereby denying his constituents a voice in the house and in all this time APGA officials and his colleagues in the state Assembly have been incapable of addressing the issue . They have rather accepted it as a fait accompli, waiting for the tribunal to bail them out from their inaction. They forget that the purpose of being in the House of Assembly is not just to pass laws but as the opposition to resist any unjust laws. It does appear some of our APGA legislators have decided that the best way to earn their paycheck is “to go along, to get along’. 

When recently I read the excerpts of an interview with a former speaker of the Assembly who also at one time acted as the Governor, in which he described T A Orji in very uncomplimentary terms , I began to ask myself ,was he not part of that government for 8 years? There is no doubt as he claimed that he did the best he could to oppose Ochendo’s policy at some cost to him, I wonder if he did enough, considering the enormous power at his disposal as the head of a branch of government. If he was a strong speaker in control of his House and having the support of its membership, there is no way the governor could have reduced him to a whining, spineless puppet. The irony of our present predicament is that most of our legislators have no inkling of their inherent powers and obligations as an autonomous branch of government.

Today what we have amongst our Abia populace is a compulsion and habitual habit of praising whoever is in power. We as a group have cornered the art of sycophancy and have strictly made it our own. Today in Abia state a section of the Ngwa people have decided they are a different specie of the Igbo race, incapable of differentiating between good governance and governmental incompetence. Their new mantra as far as the Ikpeazu administration is concerned is “to see no evil and hear no evil”. In so doing, what they tend to forget is that whether the tribunal keeps him in power or not, their so-called ‘our turn “will someday become “We’ve had our turn”, but the rest of the state will not forget. 

If and when that happens and another Governor of a non Ngwa heritage assumes office, they must have lost their right to be taken serious if they should ever complain about any governmental inaction or perceived marginalization. In as much as I do not expect a sizeable majority of the Ngwa people to join or participate in any eventual protest against this temporary government , it will be pertinent however to remind them of the saying, “what goes around, comes around”.

What we have in Abia state today is an entire population living under the oppressive yolk of the PDP and this government, yet a lot of people in his Amen corner are singing his praises and even referring to him as their able Governor, whereas the only thing worthwhile he has done in his more than 100 days in office is to travel to the United States twice in the space of one month, presumably to hide  and invest some of his loot, in preparation for the rainy day , after he has been kicked out from the Abia Government house. 

If anyone thinks Ikpeazu’s repeated trip to the United States is to secure foreign investment, that person is as clueless and stupid as his media assistant, Mr Hart who must be running out of more lies to tell or more fake pictures to post on facebook. As a group of degenerate liars, they have decided to lift a page from T A Orji’s propaganda playbook, whereby they are willing to lie about virtually anything from the virtual to the arcane.

The purpose of this article is not to cast aspersions on the Ngwa people as many of them are solid in their support for Alex Otti or to ask our people to break the law, rather all I am trying to do is to remind the Abia citizenry of the need to make their voices heard by mass protest without any recourse to violence or destruction of public property. We can be uncooperative without being obstructive and we can be resolute in the exercise of our right to freedom of speech, of association and assembly without fear of intimidation by the government or security officials. 

We must be ready and willing to exercise our freedom of expressive association by channeling our grievances and outrage through civil disobedience and for once tell the PDP and this temporary government that we’ve had enough and that “enough is enough”. It is true that those of us here in diaspora cannot join you due to distance but be rest assured that we feel your pain and that you have our moral support. Abia must be liberated if not now, when?

Nnanna Ijomah B.Sc., M.A. (International Relations). A former Assistant to the late Ikemba, Chief Emeka Ojukwu is a resident of New York City; Nna2ijomah@aol.com

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