Protesters took to the streets of Aba, Saturday, to vent their displeasure over Thursday’s sack of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu by a Court of Appeal.
Supporters of the PDP-led government from the Ukwa Ngwa area of the state disrupted movement of vehicles along the Umuahia-Aba end of the Enugu-Port Harcourt road during the demonstration. Governor Ikpeazu is of Ukwa Ngwa extraction from Obingwa Local Government Area (LGA).
The angry protesters chanted solidarity songs and bore placards with inscriptions, like ‘Return The People’s Mandate’, ‘No Okezie, No Abia’, Our Vote Must Count’.
They denounced the Appeal Court ruling, saying it is injustice to the Ukwa Ngwa people and citizens of Abia who gave the governor their mandate and called on the Supreme Court and the Federal government to intervene to forestall a breakdown of peace in the state.
Transition Committee chairman of Isiala Ngwa North LGA, Chief Ginger Onwusibe, who spoke at Ntigha Junction, said the people are not happy with the ruling, and that the court’s decision in cancelling results from Isiala Ngwa North, Osisioma and Obingwa LGAs meant disenfranchisement of the people.
He expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would return Ikpeazu’s mandate.
Other prominent sons of Ukwa Ngwa including Dr. Gashon Amuta, Chief Sam Nwogu and Chief Don Ubani also spoke, urging the Supreme Court to study the judgment of the Appeal Court critically, to prevent ugly consequences, warning that they will resist any attempt to take away a mandate that eluded them for over 20 years.
Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joshak Habila, confirmed that there were pockets of protest in some parts of the state but that the police had restored sanity. He said he personally moved around Aba and affected areas to monitor the situation and ensure the return of law and order.
Habila said the police used minimal force to disperse the protesters and restore free flow of traffic. “People have the right to express themselves but nobody has the right to block roads or stop people from going to the markets. The court should be allowed to do its job. The police will not spare anybody who breaks the law,” he added.
Addressing the protesters at Ariaia, former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, described the judgment as surprising, and called for the judges to be investigated. The verdict, according to Wabara, gives room for suspicion, and that the worst they had expected was a re-run in the affected LGAs.
One protester, Victor Onyendi, said: “There is no way you can disenfranchise over 300,000 voters in the state, including the governor. The judgment is the greatest joke of the century.”
Ikpeazu, in his New Year message to people of the state had declared he was still the governor until the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise, urging them to go about their businesses without fear, as security agencies were on ground to ensure peace and order.
The Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Abia State, Rev. Augustine Ehiemere, meanwhile, flayed the activities of protesters.
In a statement in Umuahia, the state capital, Ehiemere said the demonstration was the work of enemies of the state, who wished to remain in power against the wishes of the people.
He alleged that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led government recruited street urchins in Aba to foment trouble by blocking some roads in the city “just to create a false impression that the people of the state were unhappy with the judgment of the Court of Appeal.”
According to Ehiemere, “the protest further exposes the sponsors as the enemies of the good people of Abia State.” He said the judgment was well received and celebrated by well-meaning Abia people.
He said Abia people have become wiser and would not be deceived by the antics of the PDP, even as he called on security agencies to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
Describing the judgment of the Court of Appeal as epochal, he said Abians at home and in the Diaspora see it as a restoration of their hope for a greater and liberated state.
“The judgment has ended the era of looting and restored the people’s hope that our children will graduate and get befitting jobs rather than keke (tricycle) business, that our schools and hospitals would be equipped, and that our public water schemes would function again,” he said.
The APGA chairman urged people of the state to resist any attempt by disgruntled elements to use them to foment crisis in pursuant of selfish interests, adding that the same cabal had held the state down in the last 16 years.