The 2019 elections in Ebonyi State has now become history. As a national officer of the Alliance for New Nigeria, I was actively involved and picked up some lessons in the process. One of such is that many folks refuse to learn from history.
I was quite young in 2002/2003 when my elder brother contested elections into the State House of Assembly position in the State. The results had been written 2 days before the election and was announced while voting was still in progress in some places. My ugly experience then left me with two options; either quit partisan politics completely and focus on professional development and my job or join a political party and push for positive change from within. Over the past 15 years, I found myself doing either of them at different times. From 2003 till date, I’ve supported candidates and voted in all Ebonyi State elections except in 2007. There has been no much significant positive change in the way elections are conducted. What has changed is that some mainstream players are now on the sidelines while some who were mainly used as thugs are now “Honourables”.
To put it mildly, the 2019 elections in Ebonyi State, like those of 2015, 2011, 2007 and 2003, was a sham. Both INEC and security personnel were compromised and the numbers announced couldn’t have been a reflection of the votes cast. In the election, there were 3 leading political parties in the State – ANN, APC and PDP. At the risk of sounding biased, the only party that didn’t get involved in the ‘rigging business’ was the ANN. Whether the irregularities in the election substantially affected the outcomes or results declared is a debatable topic for another day.
For me, the electoral process is more important than the outcomes. It’s a national issue but as they say, all politics is local. Similarly, the solution to the election malfeasance in Ebonyi State should be local. But for massive rigging, ANN Ebonyi State would have produced at least 3 elected legislators each at the national and state levels. More credible persons must get involved for an opportunity to help clean up the mess. To be able to do this, time, energy and huge financial resources will be required. Who is ready to be a part of this?
Furthermore, I welcome the re-election of the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. David Nweze Umahi. I’m not his fan but I commend his giant strides in building infrastructure that has changed the physical landscape of the State for the better. I’ve had to express my disappointment with his poor investment in human capacity development especially in education, health and workers welfare. I expected the APC to provide a credible alternative but unfortunately, they presented a wobbling Senator whose quality of representation was quite abhorrent. Why didn’t ANN provide such alternative, one may ask. Our party was too young and at that time could not find a competitive candidate with the economic capacity to contest for governorship position. Ebonyians have made a choice and we need to move forward.
As a development professional, I usually switch from politics to development mode after elections. Without prejudice to the rights of cheated candidates to challenge the election results at the tribunal, I think it’s time for us to learn from the past experience and work in synergy towards the development of our Constituencies and Ebonyi State in general. In doing this, I align with the suggestions earlier made that knowledgeable professionals submit a memo with actionable recommendations to the governor on strategic areas of focus in his second term. Except the Supreme Court decides otherwise, Gov. Umahi will govern the State till 2023. I pray he listens to constructive criticisms of his first tenure and lead the development of the State in a holistic and sustainable manner. His achievements will not only be measured by pictures of the roads built but also the impact on human lives as will be reflected in development indices on poverty, education and health quality.
Lastly, I wish the political elites will harness the qualitative manpower across the State to lead some critical areas of the local economy. It’s hightime they stopped seeing economically viable professionals as threats. Likewise, the professionals must also avoid the “we vs them” approach in our engagements. A sustainable development of Ebonyi State is a task that must be accomplished. May God help us.
Dr Laz Ude Eze is the National Vice Chairman Southeast of the Alliance for New Nigeria