The Abia State government is setting the stage for possible breakdown of law and order in the state, ahead the 2023 general elections, if not curbed.
The state government, under the leadership of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has continued to target the Labour Party (LP) and its candidates, especially the party’s governorship candidate, Dr. Alex Otti, for attack.
This is contrary to the state governor’s vow to the Commissioner of Police in the state, CP Mustapha Mohamed Bala, of his administration’s commitment towards peaceful conduct of the forthcoming elections in the state.
CP Bala, had at the signing of peace pact by governorship candidates of the various political parties in the state, in November, warned the politicians to refrain from hate speech and destruction of opponent’s billboards during the campaigns.
Governor Ikpeazu was represented at the agreement signing ceremony by his Commissioner for Documentation, Mr. Ugochukwu Emezue, who said that Abia had never been known for electoral violence.
However, agents of the Abia State government, ostensibly acting on the approval of the governor, Ikpeazu, on Thursday night pulled down a Labour Party giant billboard flex, bearing the campaign message of Dr. Otti, strategically located at Umuikaa Junction, Isialangwa, on the Umuahia-Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway.
This was after the government had used the agents of the state to arrest a chieftain of the LP and a campaign director of the Alex Otti Campaign in Isialangwa, Dr. Eze Nwaigburu, on allegation of obstructing the Abia State Government, PDP and its candidates from campaigning in Isialangwa.
Dr. Nwaigburu has been refused bail and is still being detained at the Abia State Police Command Headquarters in Umuahia, capital of Abia.
The PDP government in Abia was said to be angry at the campaign message on the billboard, “Ndi Abia Weep No More, Help is on the Way.”
Besides, the state government reportedly claimed that the location on which the Labour Party and Alex Otti billboard is sited is a “special” location reserved for the PDP “G5 Governors”. This is notwithstanding the fact that other political parties, including the PDP governorship candidate in Abia, Elder Uche Ikonne, has his own billboard in the same area.
A spokesman for the Alex Otti Campaign Organisation in Isialangwa confirmed that every payment in respect of the billboard was made to the state government and its agency, Abia State Signage and Advertisement Agency (ABSAA), and approval received.
Similarly, the spokesman said that the campaign message, “Ndi Abia Weep No More, Help is on the Way”, passed through vetting by the Advertisement Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and received appropriate approval for exposure.
“Even more is the fact that the location where the billboard is mounted is a federal highway, controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government,” the spokesman declared.
The Labour Party in Abia has repeatedly called on the police and other security agencies in the state to restrain the agents of the Abia State Government from further destroying its billboards and other campaign materials, especially around Isialangwa and Obingwa areas of the state.