by Emeka Anya
It is with a heavy heart that we write this piece. A heavy heart because the person involved is someone who ordinarily should be held in high esteem, and should be deserving of such. For someone to be referred to as “His Excellency”, that person apart from being a tall figure in society, should also possess a character deserving of the revered office he once occupied.
It is therefore an aberration for a man who has been a Governor of a state to behave in manners underserving of his status. This man is “His Excellency”, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) former Governor of Abia State.
His emergence as Governor of Abia state in 1999 raised the hopes of the people, a people who were exasperated due to military rule and passionately longed for positive change and growth and with the return of democracy, saw it as an opportunity to have their dreams fulfilled. Therefore, Abians welcomed the Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) administration with open arms. As usual with politicians, promises of delivery rent the air and the hopes of the people soared.
Despite the news of his atrocities such as his professed donation of One Million Naira to Borno State Education Endowment Fund in the eighties only for the authorities of the State to realize, to their greatest embarrassment, that the carton containing his much publicised donation merely contained pieces of paper; his rustication from the University of Maiduguri by the then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Jubril Aminu, in order to save the corporate image of the university, and so on, Abians gave him a chance and entrusted him with their mandate. Unknown to them, this would later be the greatest mistake they have made.
The eight years of the OUK administration no doubt birthed both positive and negative developments. However, the negative ones overwhelmed whatever good things he claimed to achieve and left Abians wondering why their anticipated knight in shining armour choose to become something else.
The OUK administration claims that it built over 300 roads in both urban and rural areas, renovated 820 schools; planted 510 hectares of rubber, 2 million pineapple suckers, 5 million palm and cocoa seedlings; distributed over 10 million day old chicks to civil servants, schools, churches, and cooperative bodies. It also apportions to itself, the establishment of a free medical scheme that has seen about 1.5 million persons treated; introduction of tuition-free education in both primary and secondary schools, distribution of free computer sets, textbooks, mathematical sets, and desks; and the regular payment of workers and teachers’ salaries. If you go around Abia State today, barely six years after, you will no doubt ask yourself if truly, those projects actually existed as claimed. Were they sited in this same Abia state or is there another Abia state elsewhere? Where are the 300 roads? What about the schools? Or did OUK uproot them and take home with him when he left office? Please let us ask because we have not seen these things. Or are government projects not meant to stand the taste of time? If so, how come the National Theatre in Lagos, Tinapa Resort in Cross River, Ibom Le Meridian Hotels and Golf Resort in Akwa Ibom are still where they were located? Were there not established by government? Then why should our own projects vanish with the government that brought it into existence?
Leadership is visionary. A leader thinks about the next generation. This mind-set forms the nucleus of his public policies. The public policies of the OUK administration were nothing but a far cry from the tenets of leadership. He betrayed the oath of office that he swore not to allow his personal interests override that of the state. It is public knowledge that during his reign as Governor his mother, Mrs. Eunice Kalu was the de-facto Governor of the state during his tenure. Between 1999-2007, governance in Abia State was reduced to family business. Which constitutional office did Mrs. Eunice Kalu occupy that justified such brazen display of power and brute force by her?
The recent interview by OUK on Africa Independent Television where he cast aspersions on the person of the Abia State Governor, His Excellency Governor Theodore Orji is nothing but a bold display of mature absurdity by someone who should have known better. It is not a surprise to us that a man of the status of OUK could resort to mudslinging and cheap blackmail, as this is his usual stock in trade. He said Abia state is not working, and that the state is backward. Ordinarily we would have chosen to ignore his ranting, but when we look at the character of the person ranting, it behoves us to let the whole world know the truth. It is so unfortunate and painful that we come from a society where evil sometimes attempts to triumph over good; someone who had the opportunity to put his name in the archives of history but failed. However, we will not sit idly on the fence, as the forces of evil only triumph when good men decide to do nothing.
We as Abia Concerned Youths Assembly challenge OUK to mention any viable project he executed during his eight year reign as Governor or the policies put in place to move Abia forward. Rather, he upheld nepotism in governance. His tenure in Abia cannot in any way be compared with that of Governor Orji. In terms of security, education, human empowerment and entrepreneurial development, infrastructural development, investment, we are bold to say that Governor Orji has outperformed OUK.
During his stay in the government house, it did not occur to OUK that the property was situated on a leased piece of land. Today, T. A. Orji has constructed a brand new government house totally owned by government. What about the state secretariat which has been completed? Has it not occurred to OUK that the relocation of these very important government institutions from rented apartments to government owned edifices will reduce the running cost of rents usually paid on those properties? Those monies will now be channelled to productive ventures for the state. Please OUK, is this not moving the state forward?
It is obvious that OUK is envious of Governor Orji. He still finds it difficult to accept the fact that Governor Orji has risen to the responsibilities of his mandate and allegiance to the country and Abia people; a man whom he thought would be his stooge. Hence his barefaced disregard for institutions of state. What else can you expect from a man who wanted to be a godfather?
Permit us therefore, to take OUK through a list of projects executed by the present-day government in Abia; projects which he could not comprehend while in office.
We begin with infrastructure. Governor Orji has laid the foundation of a modern state of Abia with the construction and completion of a befitting state secretariat which was lacking in the 23 years of our existence as a state. History will always remember T. A. Orji as the man who made it happen. We wonder what history will remember OUK for. Before now, government offices were scattered all over, workers were not properly coordinated, and their morale was low as a result of that. But with the new edifice, they have been properly motivated. His Excellency has also constructed an ultramodern International Conference Centre with state of the art facilities. The relevance of this particular project cannot be overemphasized as it will attract conferences to the state which will result in increased revenue for not only the government but also the residents of the state as improved patronage for their goods and services will occur. It is also pertinent to mention the on-going International Airport and Seaport projects. These monumental projects have positioned Abia on the global map and given her a pride of place in the committee of states. The Judiciary has also not been left out in this infrastructural drive as a new High Court complex has been built in Umuahia. Aba now has a new Magistrate Court, and the Ministry of Justice has a new complex.
Urban renewal has been the focus of contemporary administrations in third world countries. If Africa must meet the global pace of development, urban renewal must be accorded top priority. T. A. Orji knows this. His urban renewal efforts in Umuahia capital city have climaxed in the relocation of two historic markets, one to Ibeku and the other one to new Umuahia industrial layout and new Umuahia market. We challenge OUK to drive through Okpara square and see the monumental development for himself. After going through these projects, if he still posits that Abia is backward then probably he has a problem his definition of development.
In terms of the economy, this administration has created an enabling environment for private sector investment which has resulted in the influx of private sector investments such as the cement factory cited in Arochukwu Local Government Area. These are landmark achievements which would create over five thousand jobs for the teeming unemployed populace. To Governor T. A. Orji, accountability is his watch word. His administration has utilised the meagre state resources judiciously. Internal revenue generation has soared greatly, and Abia is debt free. Just recently, government signed an MOU with Tecno Oil for the establishment of an Energy City in Obuaku, Ukwa West Local Government Area. Is this not good news?
Amongst all these, security ranks topmost. This is because no matter how effective an administration may be, little or nothing can be achieved in an atmosphere of chaos. It is on record that God’s own State used to be a den for kidnappers and ritualists. Businesses were crippled, people fled, while others that could stay lived in fear of their lives. When we look back at that ugly past, we have Governor Orji to thank because under his watch, normalcy has returned to the state which has culminated in the recent lifting of the travel ban earlier imposed on the state by the United States Government prohibiting its citizens to visit. Today, not only Americans but other foreign nationals are currently in the state partnering with government to achieve common goals. A case in point is the signing of an MOU with the State Government by Honeywell group. Very soon, cement plants and other industries will be running in Abia and this will no doubt improve our local economy. Indeed, Abia has become the destination point for investment. Thanks to Governor Orji for providing the enabling environment.
Investment in education has been unprecedented. In Abia State today, primary and secondary school students board vehicles to and from school free of charge. This is courtesy of Governor Orji’s free transport scheme for education. Brand new schools have been built and existing ones renovated. In 2013, the state came out tops in the pre-centenary schools debate. This is a positive outcome and justifies Orji’s investment in education. The state also boasts of a modern e-library which would enhance reading culture among students and promote research.
The health and wellbeing of her citizenry has also been a major concern to this administration. The T. A. Orji administration has invested hugely in the health sector. In Abia State today, there is a state of the art dialysis centre and eye care centre, the first of its kind in these parts. Over 710 health centres have been completed across the state. This is an exceptional feat.
The youths have not been left out in T. A. Orji’s development crusade. Over 800 vehicles were given out free of charge to youths across the state. Is this not empowerment? Is Abia not progressing? The Governor has gone further by not only giving youths fish but teaching them to fish by launching skill acquisition schemes ranging from entrepreneurship development, tailoring, carpentry, soap and cosmetic making, paint production, etc. Over two thousand Abians have benefitted from this.
These are historic achievements long neglected by previous administrations that have now placed Abia State on the World Map and has attracted investors and visitors to the state. As a patriot, Governor T. A. Orji schemed his unifying agenda into infrastructure deployment so that no part of the state feels forgotten or marginalised. This informed His Excellency’s placing on top priority, the legacy projects of his administration.
Governor Orji has introduced a leadership style that was hitherto alien to this clime. We hereby urge Abians to discountenance the efforts of OUK and his likes to spread bad blood and tarnish the image of this administration. We in the Abia Concerned Youths Assembly remain patriotic and committed to our cause, which is to seek the development of our dear state.
In conclusion, may we remind our dear former Governor, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu of an African proverb which says that it is he who likes playing with the dogs that usually gets his cloth torn. A word is enough for the wise. Please respect yourself.
Chairman, Concerned Abia Youths Assembly.