The first time my younger brother met Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, he was barely five years old. He had pushed his way through a crowd to take a closer look at the man with white beards.
After studying him for a few seconds, true to his inquisitive nature asked him ‘’are you Abaribe?” Laughing Senator Abaribe graciously replied and rewarded the young boy with a few dollar bills.
That was in June 2003, at the burial of one of his associates a few months after losing the gubernatorial elections to Orji Uzor Kalu.
He had led the Otu-onu struggle with gusto and had fought his principal to a standstill, albeit he lost and he spent the ensuing years in mild political wilderness as far as the state was concerned.
A handsome breed of a man, indeed no one who has come in contact with him will deny the hypnotic effect that has elevated him high above his peers, placing him on a pedestal that even gods will be jealous of.
Well versed in the finest of Ngwa tradition, for a long time Abaribe embodied the hopes and dreams of the average forward thinking Ngwa man.
2007 marked his return to reckoning and his continuous return to the senate since is a testament to how politically unstoppable he has been.
Like a colossus Abaribe has bestrode the political arena of Abia, flexing his muscles beyond the lines of the state. Videos emerge weekly of his handsome frame displaying oratory prowess that one can comfortably sit side by side with the likes of Chuba Okadigbo and Dike Chukwumerije of blessed memory.
“E GO GO AGAIN” is the new phrase and one must forgive Abaribe for attaching his cart to the train. Power is addictive and it takes the strongest of men to relinquish it willingly.
We are all addicts in one way or the other and the ability to control people and our immediate environment increases our dopamine to the high heavens.
For all his oratory brilliance Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe is not much of a doer.
For someone who has always worn the garment of the collective, a closer look will reveal a motive that never goes beyond the personal.
His later day play as the champion of Ndi Igbo is another move in his political cheeseboard, but the truth is that Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe does not have to be in the senate to be the voice of Ndi Igbo.
For the people of Aba south It has been eleven long years, eleven years of screaming Ala Asaala!!! if we are to quote the BBC report and Senator Shehu Sani’s statement on the funds our legislators oversee, it has been been eleven years of putting Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe in charge of constituency funds of 200 million naira yearly and eleven years of receiving a monthly 13.5m naira as running costs.
To expand this in 11 years Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe’s office has overseen 2.2 billion naira for constituency funds alone; in 11 years his office has managed 1.8 billion naira running cost.
What has he done with these funds? What direct impact has the bills he’s sponsored had on the people of Abia south? Who are the youths of Abia south who have gained employment through him? If he steps down today what will be his legacy to the people of Abia south?
For some Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe should be voted back in because he has been speaking against the seemingly incompetent Federal government-led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
To them his continuous attack on the president is the bigger picture; they keep forgetting that all politics is local and if all he can use to defend himself is his outbursts on the floor of the National assembly then he has failed.
There is also another group who play the experience card. They forget Senator Abaribe gained the much touted experience because he was given a first chance. The pass given to a first term senator should never be given to a third term senator.
The Ukwa and Aba zone angle
Like in every political season; interests will as usual hover over electoral seats the way vultures hover over dead meat.
There is the Ukwa interest and there is the Aba zone interest all legitimately staking a claim to the Abia south senatorial seat.
The current executive government is riding the wave of Ukwa-ngwa spirit but it is all on paper.
Ukwa is not Ngwa, they are not the same and the whole truth is that Ukwa is not adequately represented in the current political arrangement in Abia south and to a large extent, the state. The power brokers and stakeholders have to take a close look at this seeming political anomaly, a senator and a governor coming from a place which is barely 20 minutes apart does not show equity and fairness.
Aba zone has never produced a senator so their voice for a seat should be louder than ever but it is not.
The Way Forward
Every victory Abaribe has gained has never been served on a platter to him. This is his turf, he thrives in this sort of situation, like a frog in the rainy season, recent elections underscore the belief that election season is his season.
So it will indeed be foolhardy to expect him to relinquish his hold on a job that has given him so much despite delivering very little.
It will be foolish for the people of Ukwa and the Aba zone to expect him to go out without a fight.
In the coming days one must step down for the other while still presenting to the zone their finest minds and brains, we must not leave the pot only to find ourselves in fire.