Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has raised the alarm over what it called a ploy by some desperate politicians to rig the 2023 polls in Abia State, calling on the security agencies; the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; and residents to resist the move.
APGA Chairman, Abia State, Rev. Augustine Ehiemere, who raised the alarm at a press conference in Umuahia, claimed that the masterminds go about collecting the PIN (Personal Identification Number) in the Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, of unsuspecting voters under the guise of giving them empowerment.
“Some greedy politicians go about pretending to be empowering people by sharing N5000 to unsuspecting voters and collecting the PIN in their PVCs. Abians should resist them. This is nothing but an attempt to rig the 2023 elections. INEC and security agencies should rise to the occasion.”
Ehiemere charged Abians to be vigilant and stoutly resist any attempt by those holding the state to ransom to manipulate the outcome of the 2023 general election.
The APGA Chairman who unveiled the list of members of the party’s Campaign Council, decried incessant harassment of its candidates, warning that the party will no longer tolerate such political intimidation.
He urged security agencies in the state to caution their officers and men against being used by the government in power to intimidate and harass members of the opposition.
Ehiemere who cited the recent arrest of APGA House of Assembly candidate for Obingwa, Hon Chikezie Nwosu, at a filling station where he was distributing free petrol to motorists, accused the government in power of impunity and muzzling of opposition.
He, therefore, urged heads of security agencies in the state to caution their officers and men against becoming a willing tool in the hands of those scheming to subdue the opposition.
“We wish to state without equivocations that APGA as a party will no longer tolerate any further intimidation by anybody. Heads of security agencies in Abia should caution their field officers against being used as tools to suppress the opposition.
“We won’t accept a repeat of the recent intimidation of our candidate who was whisked away by security agents while distributing free petrol to motorists at a petrol station in Aba. They arrested him with those with him. It took the intervention of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe for those arrested to be released.
“We, therefore, take exception to the latest strategy of the government in power to resort to political intimidation and impunity in its desperation to hang on to power beyond 2023.”
APGA further called on other opposition parties to unite and vigorously resist any attempt to muzzle them, arguing that there will be no democracy in the absence of vibrant opposition.
“We call on the opposition parties in the state to rise in unison and vigorously resist the despotic tendencies of the ruling party. We also call on the state Chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, to rise to the occasion.
“All this intimidation, destruction of billboards of opposition candidates, denying opposition access to public places and fabrication of petitions to incriminate key opposition leaders must stop!”
Ehiemere condemned the recent “attempt by agents of the ruling party to deface APGA campaign office at Okpara Square Umuahia,” noting that but for the non-violent disposition of APGA members, the incident would have led to a big clash.
He warned the ruling party to rein in its members and stop provocative actions that could plunge the state into avoidable political crisis.
“Recently the DSS State Director and Commissioner of Police summoned all Chairmen and Secretaries of political parties and told us to promote peace and avoid politics of bitterness.
“Now the security agencies should tell the party in power to stop denying opposition parties access to public facilities during their campaigns. The party in power should rein in their agents from such action that could cause crisis in the state.
“We have not taken laws into our hands because we don’t believe in violence. But our gentleness should not be taken for timidity. We won’t take it kindly again if any attempt is made to deface billboards of our candidates.”
APGA urged Abians to vote wisely in 2023, based on competence, capacity and antecedents of candidates.
“Abians should be wise and find out from these emergency philanthropists jostling for their votes, how many they have empowered in the past, or if they have any investments in the state.
“Professor Greg Ibe has over 300 people on scholarship in his university alone besides thousands of Abia youths that have gainful employment in his establishments.”
While unveiling the Campaign Council of the party headed by a former Commissioner for Lands, Dr Longman Nwachukwu, Ehiemere said APGA would sweep the 2023 polls in Abia by a landslide.
He said that the swelling support for its governorship and other candidates was a clear confirmation of the party’s growing acceptance.
The APGA boss told the ruling party to prepare for its handover in 2023.
Meanwhile, member representing Ukwa federal constituency at the House of Representatives, Hon. Uzoma Abonta, is the Deputy Campaign Director of the APGA Campaign Council, while Chief Enyinnaya Onyekwere will serve as the Secretary.
Ehiemere said that the Council would be inaugurated on a later date.
Responding to a question on the fitness of APGA’s governorship candidate, Professor Greg Ibe, who has been away from the state for some time, Ehiemere said: “he is hale, hearty, and very fit to govern the state,” if elected.
He dismissed the insinuations over his health condition as the handiwork of political propagandists and mischief makers.”
Ehiemere urged Abians to disregard the speculations about Ibe’s health being peddled by enemies of progress.
“Abians should not give in to the works of propagandists making unnecessary politics out of somebody’s health. I know that in 2019, a certain candidate was sick and he traveled abroad, took care of himself and came back.
“Almost all of them do the same thing. So, anybody trying to politicize the health of our candidate is being petty and mischievous.
“The good news is that Professor Greg Ibe is fit, strong and very sound! Very soon he will return, and by the time he kicks off his campaign, it will be like hurricane. Many people will run into their houses because they will know that train has come.”