On Friday 12th of January, 2024, the Supreme Court of Nigeria unanimously validated the victory of Dr Alex Otti, OFR of the Labour Party in the 2023 Gubernatorial Election in Abia state. The ruling foregrounds the end of an era of impunity as characterised with the administrations of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its affiliate parties in the last twenty four years of the current democratic dispensation. Those years can be seen as wasted years considering the spate of backwardness and decay despite the trillions of resources from Federal Allocation and Internally Generated Revenue. Ndi Abia were dealing with a raw element of greed and a dense force of mediocrity with its multiple configuration of vices, from thievery to even murder of Abia workers and an erosion of Abia trade and production status.
Before the supreme court judgement, Ndi Abia were agitated and battling with tensions, particularly with the unpredictability that has characterised the rulings on electoral matters and the misgivings Nigerian have over the Nigerian Judiciary. The Supreme Court validated the unanimous rulings of the Election Tribunal and the Appeal Court and thus, ended the regime of Babylon and its iniquities or perhaps, Pharaoh and its signifier of Bondage. What has been playing out in Abia is what my good friend Achille Mbembe, described as Necropolitics where certain people are marked for death by the state and political elites while others are criminally rewarded with state resources. Abia state became a morally bankrupt and decaying state interiorized as individual obsession and fixation (of its political leaders) and exteriorized with poverty and death of its workforce, filth and decaying infrastructure.
Abians through the ballot were able to debunk the myth that the Abia PDP Pharaohs were invisible. Dr Alex Otti started the revolution and resistance movement in 2014 and Abia joined him to end what was a torturous sixteen years; but the criminals fought back and stole Alex Otti’s mandate in 2015. What would have been the beginning of Abia’s new dawn. Ndi Abia also sought for change in 2019, yet, the will of the people was subverted.
In 2023 with the avalanche of experience the opposition made up of the masses had gathered, Alex Otti tried again and Ndi Abia this time were daring, having experienced untold hardship with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). One of the finest moments that marked the fall of Babylon in Abia was when Ndi Abia, men, women and children gathered in hundreds to sing an Igbo song that disavows Pharaohship of the PDP. The song is loosely translated thus: Pharaoh! We are leaving you, we will never bow down to Pharaoh anymore. This song became the consciousness of that political movement that sought the end of an era as Ndi Abia thronged to the polls later to vehemently say: Pharaoh! We are leaving you, and will never bow down to Pharoah again. That was a “song of freedom” to borrow a line from Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”. It was a declaration in defiance of Babylon and her Pharaohs. Those men, women and children are symbolic of the mood of Ndi Abia today whose defiance has been validated by the Supreme Court. They also represent what the American Emma Lazarus described as the tired, poor, and “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Ndi Abia today are free, singing the song of freedom from the old era. It is a new dawn and a new Abia.
This transformation and liberation movement that was launched by Alex Chioma Otti in 2014 was defeated twice by the criminal gang that were fixated on our common patrimony. While Alex Otti defeated them at the polls, they found ways of subverting the will of the people through fictitious and padded votes with the help of compromised elements at Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other state institutions while they got their fraud validated at the Nigerian courts. They perfected the art of disenfranchising Ndi Abia, and thus threw caution to the winds when performing their gross misconduct to the extent they never cared about the decaying roads; the dilapidated schools which they eventually closed and sold their carcases to their cronies to turn to private properties; the state government hospitals which were turned to abattoirs not because of the workforce but because of lack of facilities and motivation of the medical workers who were serially owed; the Abia workers in educational institutions from Primary to tertiary schools; and more shamefully, Abia pensioners who committed their productive years serving the state. Abia’s entire workforce laboured under the apprehension that the resources for which they work are spent carelessly by politicians.
In 2023, they came again thinking that it would be business as usual but the people resisted them in all the local governments in the state. They got wind of their impending loss and decided to run amok in Obingwa Local Government where they battered agents of the New Abia as signified by Alex Otti’s Labour Party. Having little resistance after their violence, they began to inflate their votes like mad people. They padded the vote of Obingwa by over hundred thousand votes not minding that the vote of the accredited voters for the State House of Assembly which was conducted the same day was less than twenty thousand. They bullied staff of INEC and brazenly held the state hostage for three days.
The fact the Nigerian Judiciary has complicated our electoral system to the extent elections are no longer won at the polls but in the courts emboldened politicians to gleefully subvert the will of the people even when the electorates have clearly rejected them as was the case of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia. The intention of PDP is to get INEC to declare them winners at all cost so that the rest will be sorted out in the courts. These brazen acts of lawlessness implicates the Nigerian Judiciary in electoral malpractice as politicians do everything to be declared winners and then gesture to the courts to validate criminality and mandates that were never given to them alb-initio. Ndi Abia have endured state-sponsored incompetence, death and decay and the Supreme Court ruling has ended that era. It is now the era of a new Abia.
Chikwurah Destiny Isiguzo, Ph.D, writes from Aba.