It is no longer news that Abia State has since August 2007; returned to the mainstream of national politics after it sojourned with the opposition Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). When Gov. Theodore Orji left the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) where he briefly hibernated after he broke camp with his former political godfather, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, and joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he told the people of Abia state that his action was to bring the state back to the mainstream of national politics. Gov. Orji stressed that Abia state would greatly benefit from such move.
On August 28, 2010, the hierarchy of the PDP converged at the Umuahia Stadium to formally receive the governor back to the party. The occasion attracted the presence of President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife, Patience, Vice President Namadi Sambo, the then National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, some state governors and other ranking members of the acclaimed largest party in Africa.
President Jonathan made promised to assist the governor tackle the infrastructural problem of the state. ” He has made request to the federal government but I can assure him that I will work to change the face of Abia state,” President Jonathan said.
Now, the state ,Abia, with the alias, ‘God’s Own State’ has been back to the mainstream of national politics after Kalu took it to the ‘minor stream’ due to intractable problems he had with the PDP hierarchy in 2006. Many residents of the state have continued to ponder the gains the state has made from the so called mainstream, compared to states like Imo, Anambra and Ondo who are still in the ‘minor stream’ of national politics. Can the development in Abia state today, be compared with those of her neighbours and other s still at the ‘minor stream’?
It is evident that the people of the state, particularly the residents of Aba have little to show for governance and the much talked about ‘return to mainstream.’ The only gain the governor and his lieutenants so far parade has been the usual refrain, ”Now we are in the mainstream of national politics, we can confidently and courageously walk up to Mr. President and tell the man what we need.” Need we say that Abians are yet to see the benefit of that relationship with Mr. President and the return to mainstream politics?
With Abia being in the mainstream of national politics, the state’s section of the Enugu – Port Harcourt Expressway has become a death trap; industrial concerns such as Aba Textile Mills, Nigerian Breweries, Aba, Unilever PLC, Aba and other small scale enterprises which the city has been known for, have since folded up due to the problems of the power sector and mismanagement. Where is the gains of the rejoining the mainstream when a city like Aba, the Japan of Africa?
Aba, a city which should tower in status like Japan or Taiwan given its industrial potentials and the enormous resources available to the state, has been left to rot away. The problems of power and bad road network have combined to deal a fatal blow to the commercial town, with the governor playing to the gallery. Every year, Gov. Orji sets up committees to revitalize Golden Guinea Breweries and the Aba Textile Mills, but with no results. It has been all motion without movement. Gov. Orji would be judged at the end of his tenure by how well he is able to turn around Aba, a city now notorious for its unorganized state to one that can earn the confidence of investors.
Political analysts have continued to ask why Gov. Orji cannot call the attention of President Jonathan to the shameful state of roads in Aba and other parts of the state. Is it not a shame that one cannot connect the Ugwunagbo local government headquarters at Osusu- Aku and that of neighbouring council secretariats such as Ukwa East at Akwete and Ukwa West at Okeikpe through Aba town because Obohia and Ohanku roads, the shortest route to the areas, has long been in a state of total disrepair? Yet, millions are appropriated annually for road rehabilitation.
The governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Ugochukwu Emezue continues to regale us with tales of how Gov. Orji expended N5billion on the rehabilitation of Aba roads. Emezue has continued to fight people who tend to suggest the forward for the Orji’s lack of initiative in changing the face of the Enyimba City. Many right thinking residents of the city wonder where such staggering amount were put to when major roads like Obohia, Ohanku, Ogbor Hill section of the Aba – Ikot Ekpene road, Omuma, Osusu, Ehere, Faulks, Cemetary, Uratta, Milverton Avenue and others have turned to navigable rivers and not passable.
Recently, the Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Orji berated the Speaker of the Imo state House of Assembly, Chief Ben Uwajumogu, over his comments on the performance of the Abia governor. Emezue asked him to steer clear of Abia affairs.
Like he did when the kidnappers over ran the state, residents say they expect the governor to seek help from the president to tackle the poor state of roads in the state. Orji has shown a terrible lack of imagination and leadership in transforming Aba, which once stood on the same pedestal as Lagos, because whatever was built in Lagos was built in Aba. But today Aba trails terribly behind. What a tragedy of governance?
It is on record that the governor claims to have partnered with the federal government to tackle kidnappers who held the state to ransom. He is said to have donated more than 50 patrol vehicles to the various security agencies in the state but those are his duties for which he was elected. The resort to the buying up of newspaper spaces and television airtimes to publicize every little achievement of the governor has rather cast him in bad light. Why the rush to the media on every little achievement, most of them are unfounded, if not to deceive the people?
Need I remind Emezue and his boss of the gains of town hall meeting which the governor has failed to initiate. His counterparts like Chibuike Amaechi have employed this as a means of knowing the problems of the people and how best to tackle them.
As an example, Gov.Amaechi was on the state radio, Radio Rivers 99.1FM, this morning answering questions on what his government has been doing the solve the problems of the state. He made it clear that the government cannot do everything for the people. Callers to the programme appreciated him for the initiative. Owelle Rochas Okorocha has been meeting with stakeholders of each of the 27 local governments in Imo state.
Come to think of Abia state, it is unheard of to see our own Theodore Orji embark on such initiatives to interface with the people and let them know what his government is doing to make life better for them. Orji will always travel to Abuja weekly for God knows what or be holed in Government House, Umuahia, receiving several support groups who are there for their own part of the booty. According to a Eke Micheal Igwe, a political analyst who lamented the growing number of support groups in the state, ”What do you want them to do? They know the governor is not performing. They are just praising him to get their own share.
They are always rented. This is the way I see it. Let them leave the place, you hear them sing a new song” Abia state under Gov. Orji is fast becoming a failed state. Residents of Aba appear to have given up hope on Orji’s government and taken their fate with equanimity as a way of tolerating him till the next election. If not, what else could make a people to keep quiet when the government has failed in giving a facelift to the poor state of basic infrastructure in the state? Enter any commercial cab or Keke NAPEP in Aba or any part of the state today, the discussion would be that the residents are fed up with the neglect of their once lively state. Others posit that the roads fared better under the Orji Uzor Kalu administration. Is it not an irony that the ‘once hated’ Kalu and his mother’s government’ are being rated better than the present administration in delivery of democracy dividends?
The use of propaganda appears to be the accepted tool of governance in Nigeria. It has however, assumed a threatening dimension in Abia state. Government publishes information laden with half truths. Is all these the theory and practice of mainstream politics? Perhaps, Emezue and other disciples of “Ochendoism” could tell better.
Of much concern to the residents of the state is the silence of the Abia contingent at the National Assembly. None of them have ever made any statement on the precarious state of affairs in the state. According to Franz Fanon, ‘Every onlooker is either a traitor or concord.” What will the likes of Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe, Nkechi Nwaogu, Rep. Uzo Azubuike and others who are believed to be nursing governorship ambitions tell us in 2015? Some political analysts opine that the state is in for a shocker in the next election when the aspirants as usual, will lay all the blames on Gov. Orji doorsteps. Time will tell.
Another irritating angle to this situation in Abia State is the “Liberation Song” which has become a lullaby for the governor and his camp. Any resident of the state would tell you that there is no difference between Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and the incumbent Theodore Orji administrations. The manner of ‘running government’ is still the same. Any insider will tell you nothing has changed. Only a change in the nomenclature of persons occupying offices. The governor’s son, Engr. Chinedum Orji has taken over the role of Kalu’s mother, Eunice. The younger Orji is seen as the de facto deputy governor of the state.
The most fitting description of the ‘liberation of Abia state’ by Gov. Orji was given by the gubernatorial candidate of the Community Party of Nigeria (CPN), Onyeaghala Obioma. ” I don’t believe in this bondage issue. How can you be in bondage and yet have bought almost half of Umuahia. What is this bondage that enables you to improve the fortunes of your family and friends at the detriment of the state?” Obioma retorted.
In fact, there are many disturbing situations surrounding the claims of returning the state to the ‘mainstream of national politics, where is the liberation of the state when council workers are yet to be paid their May, June and July 2012 salaries, when local council chairmen could be barely run their councils because the larger chunk of the allocations have been diverted by the governor.
Are these anomalies not what the people of the state suffered during the Orji Uzor Kalu government? Then, where is the logic of Abia state being liberated and returned to the mainstream of national politics? Is Abia state today better than a state like Lagos which has been in the ‘minor stream’ since the return of democracy or Imo and the South West states?
Gov. Orji and his lieutenants have continued to criticize the comparison of Abia with the turn around in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states on the ground that the former gets a smaller allocation from the federal purse. Why is it impossible for you to be prudent with the little accruing to the state? Is it not evident that one who can’t manage the little entrusted to him wouldn’t do so even trillions were given to him? Three days ago, the governor accused his commissioners and Permanent Secretaries of diverting state funds. If one may ask, why won’t the officials do so when they see the governor loot millions of council funds monthly? When the head is corrupt, how do you expect the tail to be different?
Gov. Orji has to brace up to the challenges of giving a facelift to the poor state of infrastructure in the state. The present cosmetic approach to governance won’t take the state to where it should belong. The so called partnership with the centre should be reviewed. History has it that no state in Nigeria has relied on the federal government for its development as Gov. Orji is doing, and made it. Abia’s case won’t be different.
Elekwachi, Coordinator of the Good Governance Watch, writes form Umuahia, Abia State.