FEATURE ARTICLE

Friday, September 21, 2018
Nna2ijomah@aol.com
New York, New York, USA
Dr. UCHE OGAH AND THE POLITICAL GAMBLE OF A SPOILER IN ABIA STATE GUBER POLL

hen I read about Dr Uches Ogah's declaration of intention to run for the Governorship of Abia State in next year's election, I was more than disillusioned. I was disappointed not so much because I am a strong supporter of Dr Alex Otti's candidacy or that I have any illusions about Dr. Ogah's qualifications for the job. My misgivings had more to do with his potential role as a spoiler. Let me start by stating from the outset that I do not know the man, have never met him, nor do I have anything against him as a person. From what I've learnt about him there is no denying the fact that he is a nice man, a philanthropist, a practicing Christian and a wealthy oil magnate. That said, is he a good politician, the jury is still out on that. Granted we've had enough of career politicians running the affairs of state in our modern polity, but even then, who else do we have in the alternative except for the likes of Dr. Ogah and Dr. Alex Otti, two non- career political aspirants who have had careers outside politics. Me, posing the question whether Dr Ogah is a good politician has nothing to do with his antecedents rather it has more to do with the prominence and degree of acceptability of his party, the APC in Abia state, his viability as a candidate running under the banner of an unpopular party and his chances of winning.

Say what you may in favor of the APC and its national standing, the truth is that in Abia state, it has very low electoral acceptability, which has nothing to do with the prominent Abia loyalists in the party but rather more to do with a general antipathy towards the president, his ethnic biases, sectional inclinations and more importantly the army invasion of the state with the 'operation Python dance" episode. I will be the first to admit that the 2019 gubernatorial election should be one where personality, honesty, probity, character, ability, competence and capacity must determine our electoral choices rather than party affiliations, but then one cannot discount the impact or importance of political parties or affiliations in our democracy and voting habits, hence there is a reason why there is a recent spate of cross-carpeting and decamping of politicians from the APC to PDP and vice versa.

A good politician who aspires to electoral office will be most invariably and especially in the Abia context be expected do the following:- assess the viability of his/her candidacy, public acceptability of his/her candidacy and as a person, degree of party acceptability and popularity, the strengths, weaknesses and degree of support of his/her probable opponents, competing interests of the various political zones and groups and more important, the degree of enthusiasm, loyalty and commitment of his/her supporters. Basically, political wisdom is knowing when to abandon a political effort if the odds of victory is not in your favor or like the American country musician, Kenny Rogers wrote in the lyrics of his song, "The Gambler", " you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run". Dr Ogah should be made to realize by those who love him, his enablers and hangers on, that the 2019 Governorship election in Abia state is simply going to be a binary choice between two parties, the PDP and APGA and between two candidates, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and Dr. Alex Otti, his enviable qualifications, wealth, philanthropy Christian attributes notwithstanding and that not even 30,000 policemen sent in by the president as he did in Ekiti state will ensure his victory, maybe except to help prevent the PDP from rigging the election. which in and of itself will not be a bad idea.

This is the bitter truth, uncomfortable as it may sound to Dr. Ogah's supporters and those who have confidence in his abilities. Just as I once mentioned in one of my past essays, politics and voting is all about emotions. It is obvious that the wind of emotional support is presently blowing towards the candidacy of Dr Otti. You can see it on social media, and practically everywhere he goes, even outside the state. Same could be said of the Governor in a section of the state, though at a more subdued level than it was in 2015. I don't see that kind of public enthusiasm for Dr Ogah. Truth be told, it's not just there. For starters, his declaration went practically unnoticed. Not only did it rain on that day, 8 million Naira of his money meant for the occasion was stolen in broad daylight. All in all, those were ominous signs. Governance is more than just being a good and decent man or philanthropist, even though those are good attributes to have. It is also much more than being a good businessman, which in and of itself that's a plus. It's just that in the case of Abia state, it is about capacity, financial expertise, wealth management experience etc. Managing one's personal wealth is not the same as managing other people's money. That's what the Abia state treasury is, other people's money, hence there's a reason why the millionaire's and billionaire's of the world seek the advice, input and assistance of bankers, investors and financial experts in managing their money, which is exactly where a candidate like Dr Alex Otti comes in considering the state's debt burden and financial wastefulness.

Again, my problem with Dr Ogah's candidacy has nothing to do with his person, competence or ability as earlier stated, but with his potential of being a spoiler. Who is a "spoiler" or what is a 'spoiler effect" one might ask? "Spoilers", essentially are candidates who determine election outcomes by the votes they shift while according to Wikipedia, "the spoiler effect" is the effect of vote splitting between candidates who often have similar ideologies. One spoiler's candidate's presence in an election draws votes from a major candidate causing an unpopular or somewhat not too popular candidate to win and sometimes a popular and widely acceptable candidate to lose. The reality is that Dr Ogah's candidacy could be very disruptive and capable of splitting Dr Otti's votes since they both have the same electoral support base, and thereby improving the electoral chances of the sitting governor. I guess no one will be more thrilled about Dr Ogah's candidacy than Dr Okezie Ikpeazu since his candidacy works to his advantage.

Anyone who doubts the electoral impact of third party candidacies and their spoiler role should look no further than the 1992, 2000 and to some extent 2016 U.S presidential elections. In 1992, businessman, Ross Perot, running as an independent candidate received 19% of the popular vote, thereby splitting the conservative vote that could have gone to President H.W Bush, thus contributing to Bill Clinton's victory. President Bush lost to Clinton by 6 percentage points, whereas he would have been re-elected but for the 19% of the votes Ross Perot received from their shared Conservative base. Ralph Nader played the most consequential spoiler role in the 2000 U.S presidential elections between Vice-president Al Gore and George W, Bush when as a third party candidate with absolutely no chance of winning he garnered 97,488 votes in the electoral college pivotal state of Florida, a state George Bush won by only 537 votes. Al Gore would have been elected president if only he had won just a thousand more votes from the more than 97,000 Ralph Nader took from him since they were both running in the same ideological base. In the 2016 Presidential elections, there were also the candidacies of Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party, both of whom siphoned votes from Trump and Hillary Clinton with Clinton bearing the brunt of it when you consider the fact that she lost the election by the less than 70,000 votes Trump garnered in just three electoral college rich states.

So my point of contention here is that Dr Ogah could have a dramatic impact on the Abia governorship elections next year without actually wining it. For the potential Abia voter, they must be made to realize that should Dr Ogah insist on running for governorship despite his potential role of a spoiler and his less than certain chance of victory, any vote for him is essentially a vote for Dr Ikpeazu whom many detest. They must be made to come to grips with the fact that a vote for Dr Ogah is a surrender of their chance for change and an abandonment of their hopes for prompt salary payments, good schools, efficient healthcare, good roads and more importantly financial prudence and management. One of the oddities of human behavior is that people often vote and behave in violation of their own best interests. To the Isikwuato voter and his many admirers in the state, I will say, the 2019 is not one for the expression of love, loyalty and support for your son or candidate, neither is not voting for Dr. Ogah make you love or believe in him any less. I will say vote for him if you are sure of his victory but don't help re-elect Ikpeazu if you are unsure. To Dr. Ogah, I will say, you are a good man, you are still young, and your political future is bright for you to squander in a lost cause running under the banner of an unpopular party, at least in Abia state. Bid your time, ignore the sweet nothings, platitudes and advice of the political opportunists around you who encourage your candidacy so as to line their pockets with your money as well as some who hope to win their own elections by riding on your co-tails. Remember, APC has no political base or established infrastructure in the state.

Some would counter by saying Dr Otti had similar political handicaps when he ran in 2015, but here lies the difference, APGA was not as disliked as APC is, APGA had earlier won in Imo state with Okorocha before he decamped and in Anambra state with Governor Obi. Dr Otti did not run against a sitting Governor but a new candidate like him and so had a better chance of winning, which he did before it was stolen. He has since built both an enabling infrastructure and base. Think wisely and reconsider if you must. Whatever choice you make, it is within your constitutional right to do so, but remember you will live to regret it and neither will the Abia people forgive you if God forbid, your candidacy help re-elect Dr Okezie Ikpeazu by the votes you take away from Dr Otti and you not winning at the end. As a man of good conscience I would want to believe you cannot tolerate another 4 years of an Ikpeazu administration even if his re-election better positions you for another try in 2023. All I have written here are just my candid opinion in recognition of the political realities of the present times and premised on your getting your party's ticket to run. God willing, Dr. Otti will be victorious because what God has ordained cannot but become manifest and not even your candidacy can prevent that.


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