A mischievous citizen deployed social media on Sunday, 10 December, to light a fuse that could have detonated the ticking time bomb of tense intra-group relations in Abia State. He posted an inflammatory junk that pitched the Ngwa against the Abia State government concerning a project dear to the hearts of both the government and the Ngwa. The scurrilous garbage threw darts at the Ngwa sub-group, who, with their Ukwa cousins, dwell in nine of the state’s 17 LGAs.
I saw the post on X by someone who signed as ChiemeziemMD (Dr Chiemeziem) as it trended. Someone who signed as IFEANYI reposted it on Nzuko Umunna. The message:
“Port Harcourt Road in Aba has been a total mess since 1999. 2Alex Otti set out to work on it, and Ngwa people used Omu (palm fronds) to barricade it, apparently seeking a settlement.
“He invited them to Umuahia for peace talks, and youths and elders jumped into buses and went to Umuahia. He locked them all up and ordered Julius Berger to get back to work. No nonsense governor”.
I dismissed it as a propaganda run riot once I saw it. It smelled like fiction to my trained editor’s nose for news. I immediately contacted my friends and professional colleagues in Umuahia and Aba. I then flagged and called it out on the Nzuko Umunna platform.
“Is Nzuko Umunna now a platform for vending falsehood and defamation?
One Chiemeziem MD ran on the Nzuko Umunna platform this night a moonlight tale out of the Dark Ages of how Ngwa people tried to stop work on Port Harcourt Road, Aba, in the Ngwa heartland. He claimed further that Governor Alex Otti brought buses that took the supposed agitators to Government House Umuahia, where the governor handed them over to the police. I have asked at least ten persons from Aba to Umuahia. This was the first time anyone had heard of this tale. More annoying is the libel and defamation against Ndi Ngwa by this fellow. Many dangerous propagandists have sought to drive a wedge between the Ngwa and Governor Otti. Let the governor do his bit. Leave Ndi Ngwa out of it.
It is disturbing that vendors of low gist should find Nzuko Umunna the appropriate medium for their junk! Where are the administrators of the platform?
I then challenged IFEANYI about the post. He denied authorship. So why did you repost? He said he enjoyed it. It was humorous. I retorted that people enjoy the thrill of fake news until it becomes poisonous.
I engaged my colleagues Ikeddy Isiguzo and Prince Clinton Uba. Clinton runs online platforms from Umuahia. This was the first time anyone had heard of this incident. We even reached out to a distinguished Ngwa elder, Barrister Theo Nkire. He had not heard of any such incident.
That night, Dodoh Okafor, Senior Special Assistant on Public Communication to the Governor, sent a statement denying any such incident.
The statement proclaimed: “The fact of the matter is that Gov. Alex Otti did not at any time order the arrest of anyone or group of people in connection with any remote or immediate event before and after the flag off of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Port Harcourt Road in Aba.
“To begin with, the majority of Ndi Abia from all clans across the state, irrespective of their cultural and religious leanings, are profoundly appreciative of Gov. Otti’s resolve to rehabilitate the long-abandoned Port Harcourt Road, which until its collapse in the mid-1990s was a major hub for the sale and repair of heavy-duty machinery and spare parts, serving the Port Harcourt industrial complex, further consolidating Aba’s reputation as a major market for manufacturers and big businesses across the country and beyond.”
My AI tool disclosed that the X handle belongs to Dr Chiemezie Madubuko, a doctor and healthcare entrepreneur. He is “the founder and CEO of Flygerian, a medical tourism company.”
Why would he dive into the gutter to concoct such a ridiculous tale? What was the motive? What would it achieve? Is it to get X clicks and to trend?
A doctor is not an ordinary member of any society. Why would this doctor reduce himself to the lowest levels in our social categories, the rabble who repeat street talk without reflection?
The Ngwa will ensure that persons like ChiemeziemMD do not see the clan as one they can mock. He should answer for this mad indiscretion even with the large-heartedness of Ndi Ngwa. Even so, the Ngwa will serve notice that they would no longer tolerate such slander.
ChiemeziemMD failed in his bid to defame and gaslight the Ngwa about work on Port Harcourt Road. Ndi Ngwa do not block the progress of projects. Their friendliness is the reason Aba grew as a business hub. The slur by ChiemeziemMD is not acceptable.
There are more consequential considerations. Many supposed supporters of Governor Alex Otti go around stoking problems in the name of support and propaganda in his favour. But for the quick disclaimer, the ill-advised tweet would have raised conspiracy theories. Is the Port Harcourt road project in trouble, and is there a need to seek scapegoats? Are the Ngwa obstructing the government of Alex Otti? Luckily, the ABSG cleared the air.
There are two significant groups in Abia State: the Ngwa and the Bende. Former Governor Dr Okezie Ikpeazu is Ngwa, while current governor Dr Alex Otti is Arochukwu from the Bende stock. Relationships between the two groups are brittle and on the knife edge because of people who stoke hatred and politics.
The tension predates both gentlemen as governors. Their emergence only heightened it. Unfortunately, they have not addressed it.
The Government House statement on the intrigue of ChiemeziemMD merely broached it. “Members of the public are especially encouraged to be wary of the antics of several mischievous characters whose stock-in-trade is to create divisions that only serve their selfish agenda.”
Governor Alex Otti is uniquely positioned to address and quell this lingering animosity. He represents both sides of the divide. From Arochukwu in the Bende axis ancestrally, Otti is Ngwa by birth, orientation, and life experience. Over a century ago, the Aro moved across Igboland with their business and settled. Aros embedded themselves in several communities or set up some. The Ottis settled in Ngwa land decades ago. Alex Otti was born in Umuru, Umuehim village, in Ehi Na Uguru Ancient Kingdom, Isiala Ngwa South LGA of Abia State. He attended Ngwa High School and continues to live in the village where he grew up.
Because he straddles the divide and now runs the show, Alex Otti must take measures to serve as the bridge and heal the breach. Bring our people together. There is so much more at stake and to accomplish.
Aba is pivotal. On Monday, 11 December, Dr Alex Otti signed the first bill of his administration into the Greater Aba Development Authority Act.
Otti stated, “Virtually every street in Aba is a market, even though we are working at organising them, but it is a strength that we recognise. When we invest heavily in infrastructural renewal in Aba, it is because we recognise the potential that Aba has. We believe that if we improve on the ease of doing business, we attract a lot of businesses.”
Otti congratulated the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Emmanuel Emeruwa; Deputy Speaker, Hon Austin Okezie Meregini; the leadership of the House and other members; and Members of the State Executive Council on the passage of the executive bill.
The Greater Aba Development Authority Act and similar initiatives need a united people free from damaging low-grade gist, whether in humour, sarcasm, or other literary devices. Intra-group relationships should not be a matter of thatched roof bar gist by the unqualified.