2023: Abia State Seeking Redemption (1)

Posted on April 26, 2022

ERNIE ONWUMERE

There is a common legend of a lion cub that was fortuitously found growing up among a flock of sheep. According to the legend, the lion cub over time became a sheep-lion. Whenever the sheep went down to the stream to satiate their thirst, a lion would show up, roar and the sheep (with the sheep-lion) would flee. One day, the sheep as usual headed to the stream. As they were having their fill, the sheep-lion intuitively took notice of its own reflection on the water and realized that it looked exactly like the lion that would come roaring to scare them away. So, when the roaring lion showed up again at the stream, the sheep fled to safety but the sheep-lion did not; it simply roared back. From that moment, the sheep-lion rediscovered its true identity, stopped being sheepish and started fulfilling its potential as a lion! .

The foregoing allegorical tale captures the importance of redemption from loss of identity and inability to fulfill potential when the natural development of an entity is disrupted. Naturally, the evolution of any ideal human society should be progressive. That is, progress should evolve in stages and growth should occur appropriately. This implies that once an entity is birthed, the phenomenon of growth is inevitably set in motion to foster a life cycle. Although social scientists today differentiate between growth and development, when a society, nation or state does not evolve progressively as naturally expected, the case is symptomatic of a serious dysfunctionality that requires decisive and exigent remediation.

 And that brings us to the peculiar case of Abia State. In August 2021, Abia State clocked 30 years as one of Nigeria’s federating units that were constitutionally created in 1991. Bearing a theistic sobriquet prevalently known as ‘God’s Own State’ from day one, the state had all the innate trappings of being a great, successful and prosperous society. Aside a brief civilian government ran by Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu under the aborted Third Republic, Abia State had been ruled since its creation in 1991 by different military administrators till 1999 when civil rule fully returned to Nigeria. 

From 1999 till date, it has been 23 years of uninterrupted democratic government in God’s Own State as in other states in Nigeria. Today, serious questions are being asked about Abia’s statehood by concerned Abia citizens. Has Abia really experienced commensurate positive growth and development in its 23 years of democratic existence? Has the state been able to fulfill its verdant potential? Is our state today where it should be, and is it progressing in the right trajectory, considering our rich natural and human resources, and our ancestral pedigree of greatness? Sadly, the general pulse of Abia State people today is that of profound anguish and frustration with the state of things, featuring acute multi-sector infrastructural deficit that has rendered Abia into a condition of arrested development. 

Aba, our erstwhile iconic commercial city, is emblematic of the pervasive decay in the state. Outsiders now routinely mock our state as one of the worst governed in Nigeria. What is really wrong with us, Ndi Abia? How did we miss the road, that a state that should be a thriving model of excellence, egalitarian development, opportunities, prosperity and happiness is unrecognizable in its regressive decadence?

A state that in the glorious past gifted Nigeria iconic leaders of distinguished vision, integrity and impact like Dr. Michael Okpara, Dr. Alvan Ikoku, Eze Aro- Kanu Oji, Professor Eni Njoku  ,Jaja Wachukwu, JOJ Okezie,Dr Nwakanma Okoro, Paul Ururuka , Col Tony Eze, S.O.Oti ,Prof Kalu Ezera,TK Utchay, Lancaster Okoro,S G Ikoku  and many others is now languishing in endemic mediocrity. A state that still boasts a legion of renowned achievers in Nigeria and the world, and should be a roaring lion in all indices of achievement is now a browbeaten stranded sheep seeking urgent redemption. 

In Shakespeare’s classic, Julius Caesar, Cassius was quoted as saying: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Ndi Abia, the above Shakespearean quote is a telling mirror of our current anomalous situation as we cannot look beyond ourselves to find what is wrong with Abia.        As leaders and followers, by our actions and inactions, we have lost sense of our true identity, we have politically yielded the state to charlatanry and mediocrity, and we have sacrificed meritocracy for turn-by-turn kleptocracy. 

Certainly, we cannot continue treating Abia State like business as usual. There must be a paradigm shift in our fortunes for the sake of our future, requiring that we rediscover who we are and reclaim our destiny of greatness with the new opportunity of general elections that beckons us in 2023.

 As the next one year will be decisive for Nigeria as a nation, so they will be for Abia as a state. Our state’s journey to redemption will demand collective responsibility and the unflinching resolve to resist the perpetuation of the old decadent order. Being called God’s Own State would not automatically or miraculously translate us to a land flowing with milk and honey. Only the quality of leadership that is matched by the responsibility of followership can move Abia forward. 

Talking about leadership, it is time to insist on only the best men and women for political offices because only the best is good enough for Abia. The current situation where our state boasts many brilliant and proven leaders in diverse spheres of life across Nigeria and all over the world, and yet is being devalued with abysmal leadership at home, smacks of monumental disaster. It is an unacceptable contradiction.

 So, as interested gubernatorial aspirants, intending senators and lawmakers begin to declare their ambitions, they should be assessed by the kind of leadership quality they are bringing to the table, irrespective of the political party platform they come from. In specific terms, Abia needs a new breed of leaders who have deep minds to envision the future and are courageous enough to stand for something that no one ever stood for, and to challenge the status quo by doing things differently through innovation. 

We need new leaders who will lead from a place of ethical integrity, who won’t tolerate or promote corruption, and who won’t just occupy public office for self-enrichment but for the societal impact they want to make. And we also deserve leaders who not only possess verifiable capacity and competence to lead effectively, but are also imbued with high-vibration energy to inspire the citizenry. 

As the imperative of quality leadership is one side of the redemption catalyst for Abia, responsible citizenry or followership is the indispensable flipside. Indeed, a society deserves the leaders it gets. To be unsparingly candid, Ndi Abia cannot continue lamenting and fulminating against bad governance if they continue making wrong choices and refusing to take active responsibility during elections. Electoral outcomes are determined by what we do or don’t do before, during and after elections.

 First and foremost, as we join political parties of our choice, getting our Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) to be able to vote during elections is a common-sense step towards getting the change we desire. We cannot refuse to get our PVCs or refuse to vote, and then complain of bad leadership.

 Also, making right choices means that we should choose leaders objectively and meritoriously without the influences of financial inducement or sentimental propaganda. And taking active responsibility requires that we mobilize our people to vote and be vigilant to make our votes count.

 In a final reflection, someone may ask: is a new Abia really possible? Is redeeming or reclaiming the state going to be easy? Of course, a new Abia State is possible if we all take ownership of our collective destiny and refuse to leave politics to only the politicians.

 However, the road to redemption is not going to be easy. The old decadent order will resist change. Self-serving politicians will fight back.And those benefitting from the status quo would prefer business as usual.  

 But ultimately, we, the people of Abia State, can have the final say if we rediscover who we really are, realign with our impeccable pedigree, align with only the best among us, and roar emphatically with our votes to drive the charlatans and kleptocrats away from our leadership echelon. 

The present electoral act presents us with a huge opportunity to make our votes count, the era of inflated figures and stuffing of ballot boxes is over, and what you vote is what is digitally recorded.

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