by Ubani Ikedichi Emenike
I feel sad any time I write about Abia State .
In fact one lacks words to describe the riot of emotions that course through my mind. A state that is blessed with natural resources and talents but which has been grounded due to poor leadership. It beats my imagination how each administration since we started this present democratic dispensation in 1999 have turned the state which ironically bears the appellation ‘God’s own state’ (because the name has roots in the Holy Bible) to an object of scorn and ridicule in the comity of states. It is a shame that instead of moving forward, Abia State keeps retrogressing. A lot of writers have commented on the issues I will raise in this piece and on each occasion they have been replied by an ever ready army of minions and sycophants who buy up space in the media to defend the indefensible. (Such people will actually sell their soul to the devil for the right price).One of them told me that I can continue to write but it will not make any meaning. This he attributed to the fact that Abians and Nigerians in general are complacent. Due to the gross poverty and unemployment in the land, people have become helpless and have gradually withdrawn into their shell like snails. This is probably why we have an army of sycophants who can do anything to eat from the crumbs of the feet of the governor. We also erroneously believe that religion will save us from the inept leadership that has been inflicted on us. We expect that by being positive minded and by pretending to see no evil and in return not commenting on the ill doings of our leaders that they will change from their and work for the people. But anybody who still thinks so is surely living in dream land.
The beauty of democracy is that the electorate have the right to keep their elected representatives on their toes at all times in order to enhance better performance .This is how it is done in the western world where there is respect and sanctity for human rights and the electorate at large. This is obviously not so in Nigeria where public officials become inaccessible and become dictators in civilian garb after elections. They become demigods with license to kill, maim, arrest and imprison every dissenting voice. They use every arsenal in their armory to subdue the agitation for the provision of the basic rights for which they were elected to provide. They hate been criticized and will bare their fangs at the unfortunate fellow who does so. Times have changed and political officials are now being held liable for the promises they make on the campaign trail in a desperate bid to win elections at all cost. And with the advent of the internet, citizens now have an opportunity to air their grievances and point out lapses on the part of the political class if there is no access to the traditional media. Besides, in sane societies where there are leaders with the fear of God, citizens could embark on peaceful protest with placards to protest one wrong policy or seek for the provision of an important amenity without harassment from security officials but not in Nigeria.
I have always maintained that a governor who is worth his onions should not be reminded of his duty to the electorate .This is bearing in mind that he, his family, extended family, mistresses, et al, live in opulence at the expense of the tax payers. In any case, the average governor is not better in any way than the ordinary man in the street. It is just that nature and to a large extent luck chose to bestow him the honour of being in that position. It does not in any way make him special. Most of our problems in Nigeria are self inflicted; we give elected officials the impression that they are rare breeds while they in fact ride to power on our crest. We make them seem infallible by praising them to high heavens which is what their bloated egos want. We tell them what they want to hear just to get part of the national cake from them. That is why things will never get better in Nigeria. That is why governance has been reduced to propaganda in Nigeria.
I therefore find it difficult to understand why someone who does not spend a dime of his own money right from the first day in office till the day he vacates office will find it difficult to provide the basic and fundamental infrastructures for the citizens of the state. It is absurd and such a person deserves to be stoned out of power. I also condemn in all totality the culture of praising a governor for any infinitesimal thing he does in a state with our commonwealth, it should be stopped. Why? It makes us look stupid. It is the zenith to which people can degrade themselves. No wonder they see us as tissue that can be used and discarded after elections. Nobody in his right senses should praise someone who is entrusted with public funds to provide basic infrastructure that would make life better for his fellow beings. Besides, that is why the person ran for the office in the first place. In any case such infrastructures are usually provided at inflated, bogus and outrageous prices. At any rate there is no paucity of people who can deliver the so-called dividends of democracy in our society. The recent events all over the Arab world has shown that citizens (no matter how docile) can react and overthrown the dictators in power when they are fed up with them. And with the way things are going on in Abia State a revolution would not be long in coming.
Abians have had it rough in the past twelve years, right from the kleptomaniac Orji Kalu whose ‘itching fingers ’made him turn a whole state into his business conglomerate. A man who is alleged to have acquired about nine hundred shops in one market in Abia State among other malfeasances. At the end of his inglorious reign, he inflicted Governor T.A. Orji who obviously lacked the capacity to govern the state on hapless Abians in order to cover his tracks. It is a known fact that T.A who was his chief of staff was the conduit through which funds were siphoned from the state treasury and this was highlighted when the latter sprang him from EFCC net and swore him into office in his private quarters in 2007.But that is a subject of discussion for another day.
Abia is one of the oil producing states in Nigeria but the two most important towns, Aba and Umuahia are nothing to write home about and the worst hit is Aba , which has a lot of creative people and is supposed to brim with industrial activities but the reverse is the case. The level of poverty is abysmal, public utility services are absent and environment degradation has become prevalent. One sore point is the bad roads in the state. This writer accompanied a journalist who did an analysis on Abia roads about three years ago. We went round Aba and captured all the roads on camera, he did the story and it exposed the governor’s underbelly then. The funny thing is that those roads are now in even worse state of disrepair. The governor keeps giving lame excuses and for the umpteen time, he said that contractors will be mobilized to the bad roads after the rainy season but it turns out to be a serial lie as usual. The people of Aba went through hell during the last rainy period as they have been passing through in the past four years. Aba was so disgusting and people could not move freely after each rain fall. People had to wait for water to recede from the flooded roads riddled with pot holes before going out. There was/and is still no road for car owners to ply on. In the past four years, the governor tried to downplay his inefficiency by giving various excuses why he could not perform. In some instances, he said the security situation in which kidnappers nearly over ran the state prevented him from working. Another excuse was that the deluge of petitions he faced after the 2007 election prevented him from focusing on his cardinal duty to the state. A lot of mundane excuses were bandied about while other focused governors in neighboring states were busy working. The masses bided their time and waited for the 2011 general elections to shove him out. During the buildup to the 2011 general election, it was evident that the governor stood no chance of returning to power but he was helped to the seat by President Jonathan and the PDP who had an unusual interest in Abia State, although it is evident that their interest was rather personal and selfish and not in the interest of the long suffering people who evidently needed a change. This can be deduced from what is happening right now in Bayelsa (the state of the president) where a governor who has been ruling the state under the umbrella of PDP for the past four years was denied a return ticket on the allegation of non performance, and other misdemeanors, but in the case of Abia, the governor was lured from another party into PDP and giving the ticket on a platter of gold. Abians were irked by this development and this manifested when people refused to come out in Aba when the governor came to campaign. In fact they pelted him at the campaign ground with sachets of pure water to show the depth of their grievance with his inept government. But, unfortunately, PDP had their way while the people only had their say. The governor who is very skilled at passing the buck of his failure back to other people during his campaign blamed his predecessor for his inability to perform. He told the public that he was in bondage for four years while the wealth was being shared by the Orji Uzor clan. The level of degradation in Abia State as at that time was painted succinctly by Dimgba Igwe of the Daily Sun newspaper in the February 8th 2011 edition and he said “The governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje, earns about the same revenue with say, Abia State, plus or minus. With that he was able to build a state university from the scratch with 22 courses- as at the time I visited about three years ago- accredited. He built roads, built a multi-billion waterworks that turned a landlocked state into a state with pipe borne water flowing everywhere and he built an airport from the scratch, which is now in use………..” .He went further, if you are from Abia and you had to choose a governor to run Abia State in terms of utility value, would you go for the present incumbent or for a Danjuma Goje if he were to run for governorship in Abia State? From his analysis the difference between the two governors was crystal clear. The elections has come and gone but Abia is still in stagnation despite the fact that we have been liberated from Mamacracy (according to the governor and his cohorts). The question now is what excuse will be given to Abians at the end of this tenure? It is now evident that his predecessor was not really the problem for the glut in transformational plans for the state. Some people in the state are of the opinion that the governor should be tolerated and his obvious shortcomings over looked so that he would end his tenure and fade away peacefully. They argue quite convincing that since the man did not perform in his first term which is the criterion for getting a second term and he still got the second term on a platter of gold, he would not work again. This is in fact true because there is nothing going on in Abia State except media propaganda which is being sponsored by the governor and his cohorts to give an impression that a government is in place. But on the other hand it would be a cowardly option to keep silent because the governor is sustained in power by tax payers’ money and he is duty bound to provide the basic infrastructures and services for the people whether he likes it or not. It is a right and not a privilege.
The most absurd thing however is that while the government has not impacted positively on the lives of the citizen .Abia State is always in the news for very bad reasons. There was the Absu 5 gang rape controversy. There was the case of his son Chinedu (a.k.a Ikuku) who is not a government functionary but who goes around town in convoys with sirens and police escorts for effect. His word is law in the state and political appointee live in fear of him. A man who would not buy something in a shopping mall where people are but chase them away before making his purchase. But he met his waterloo when he stepped on a toe that was obviously bigger that him. Do we mention the infrastructural levy fraud being forced on companies and landlords? Do we mention the various indiscriminate levies, keke, taxi and bus drivers pay daily by force to agents of government .Do we mention the incessant increment of school fees in the state owned tertiary institutions? Do we explain how the students of Absu defeated him when he wanted to plant a surrogate as to do his bidding as the students’ union government president in the state owned university? The government generates lots of revenues from different sources daily but one wonders why there is nothing tangible on ground to show for all the generated revenue. One seriously questions the rational for having a government in place when it abdicates its responsibilities. What is the essence of having a government if we cannot have good roads, adequate security, et al? Is junketing all over the world in search of nonexistent investors the essence of having a government? And any serious person would tell you that in this digital age with the advent of the internet, one can just sit in the comfort of one’s office and make any arrangement with any investor in the world with the click of a computer. The world is now a global village. The problems of the average Abia citizen in this administration are legion and cannot even be exhausted. Do we even talk about the misguided demolishing of shops going on without provision of stalls for the displaced traders to use? What about the retrenchment of workers from other states which might have serious repercussions if other states decide to pay the state back in kind?
The governor also appears to have a field day because he has emasculated the opposition. There is no opposition in Abia State for now. The few people who kept him on his toes in the past are now in the same party with him and for certain political reasons cannot speak out against him .These people in high places were willing to stand up to the governor in the past, they were courageous enough to stand for the truth, but that was then. They now grumble in their closet as to how powerful and monstrous the governor has become but can no longer say so openly. Everybody has suddenly gone into a deep slumber now. They are waiting for 2015 to begin to say the truth about the rot in Abia State. By then it will be politically correct to speak out against the governor but for now they have their political future to protect. It is politically expedient for them to be silent now. The question now is who will speak for hapless Abians? Who will deliver them? We demand a change in Abia State. The governor should either seat up and work for Abians or ship out. Governance is not easy, it is not a tea party, I concur, but on the other hand it is no reason for laxity and maladministration. There is a marked difference between working, trying to work and not working at all. We travel to other states and we see what able governments are doing. The problem with our democracy is that everybody wants to be at the helm of affairs for selfish reasons (usually material wants) and not for the populace. And unfortunately very few politicians with vision and the determination to work for the people have access to power. The rains have gone now, the roads should be rehabilitated. To whom much is given, much is also expected from