By Joshua Chibuzo Andrew, Owerri
Abia State Elders Consultative Forum has raised the alarm that the proposed Local Government election by the out-going Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu-led Government, was a landmine against the in-coming administration of Dr Alex Otti.
Despite a court injunction against the proposed exercise, 247ureports.com gathered that the council poll may hold on May 19.
The forum which had earlier advised Ikpeazu against pushing ahead with the poll, said it had become necessary to shelve the proposal to avoid plunging the state into avoidable legal war and political upheaval.
According to the forum, it is curious and suspicious for the out-going Government to be bent on the exercise when there are other matters of urgent importance that should bother the Government.
National President of the forum, Archbishop Princewill Ariwodor, said it was very unlikely for Ikpeazu’s successor to accept the outcome of the election, hence it made no sense waisting public funds on the exercise.
Ariwodor said the exercise was a ploy to pitch the eventual winners of the poll against the incoming Governor in the event that he decided not to recognise them.
He urged Gov. Ikpeazu to abide by his earlier promise to hand over a peaceful state and to avoid anything that could be a distraction to his successor.
The cleric advised Ikpeazu to rather reserve the funds meant for the exercise for the incoming administration for other good uses.
This is as a former Commissioner in the state has queried the enthusiasm of the out-going Governor in conducting council election when he was unable to pay workers’ salaries.
The ex-Commissioner who served under Ikpeazu, advised the Governor to jettison the idea, and rather think of how to reduce the backlog of salary arrears that led to the current shutdown of the state by labour.
The former Commissioner who is a chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, advised members of the party interested in various offices against participating in the exercise as the incoming administration might cancel the outcome.
The former Commissioner who did not want his identity disclosed challenged Ikpeazu to tell Abians his real motive for insisting on conducting the poll against wise counsel.
“Why is the Governor insisting on conducting LG elections when he has just few days to leave office? Is it because the money is to be taken from Local Government allocations?
” How can somebody who could not pay workers salary be bent on conducting council election few days before the expiration of his tenure?
” That’s why I’m advising those of them who came to me for advice that the party that all of us belong to, will not be able to fund any suit to defend them after.
” The Governor will not be there again for you because he would have left office. So, the risk is yours. If you still want to contest, go and contest. But I know it has happened in some states: a situation where the incoming Governor came and dissolved the elected Council.
“How can the outgoing Government which has not been able to pay salaries hurriedly conduct council poll few days before leaving office and expect his successor to accept it?
“How will the ruling party be the only one to sweep the poll and expect the in-coming administration to tolerate that? If it were you, will you accept that?
” I’m a PDP man but I’m critical about the PDP because we are drifting away. The party is no longer being managed as before. Those at the helm of affairs should accept realities “.
When contacted, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Eze Chikamnayo, described the Bishop Ariwodor -led elders consultative forum as “fake and non-existent”.
He warned that Ariwodor might face legal action by the state “for claiming to head a group that does not exist anywhere in the state “.
On the proposed council poll, the Commissioner explained that the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission, ABSIEC, had earlier in January released timetable for the exercise but only postponed the date because of the 2023 polls.
He said that the state was already determined to hold the exercise irrespective of the outcome of the governorship election, arguing that it will be strange for anyone to accuse Government of being in a hurry to conduct the exercise.
Chikamnayo dismissed fears that the incoming administration might dissolve the Council executives as “mischievous, petty and politically-motivated”.
He argued that if the incoming federal government led by the All Progressive Congress, APC, would not disband the Labour Party-led incoming administration in Abia, Otti should also not be tempted into disbanding a democratically elected executive.
” Those who are urging the incoming Government in Abia to become lawless and intolerant are enemies of democracy.
” I expect the incoming Government to respect democratic institutions. I will be surprised if Otti, a beneficiary of democratic institution will turn into a tyrant simply because it is politically expedient”.
When reminded of the court injunction against the proposed poll, the Commissioner said that he believed that ABSIEC and Abia State Government would do what is necessary within the law as it affects court orders.
He said that both institutions “are law-abiding, and I’m convinced they will do what is necessary as it affects pronouncements from the judiciary.”
“When courts are approached to vacate injunctions or other legal measures are taken to respect them, such measures show that those instructions are law abiding”, he said.
Meanwhile, the Government’s Spokesman refused to respond to the allegation by a former Commissioner that the insistence of Government in holding the poll was not borne out of patriotism but a display of its penchant to spend the largesse budgeted for it.
” I need not to respond to an anonymous individual. He is not working of any response”, Chikamnayo said.