As blessed as the Nigerian state has been, not a few have continued to wonder why there should be a very high preponderance of abject penury amongst her citizens. In a situation where there is abundance of natural and material resources yet the people suffer the worst form of material poverty, it becomes inevitably conclusive that the leadership of such a polity either lacks required competence or is polluted by steam of corruption.
There is no gain saying the obvious that Nigeria is one of the most blessed countries of the world. Almost all the mineral resources that could turn a country rich are deposited in very large quantities in our dear country. Our soil is one of the most fertile on this planet Earth. The country has one of the most clement weather, very capable of driving and sustaining agricultural advancement that could guarantee the citizens’ self-sustenance. Nigerian intellectuals have consistently proved their mettle beyond the boundaries of their father-land. Yet at home, Nigerians continue to bemoan their misery. This development, that is hunger in the midst of plenty, has invariably made Nigerians cynics and pessimists. They have, for many years, if not decades, lost confidence in their leaders. So, anytime they hear that a leader has been given an award, they spontaneously infer that the award is an aftermath of a cash and carry negotiation. Of course, in very many cases, they are right. But as would be expected, nature cannot be so unfair to humanity to the extent that in a country of more than one hundred and forty million people, no one would be singled out as being altruistic and genuine. When such a person is identified and honoured, it becomes imperative that time-held pessimism should give way to optimism.
The recent award of ‘Man of the Year 2012’ on Governor Theodore Ahamefula Orji of Abia State by Independent Newspapers, is a development that surely guarantees optimism. It is an award that commands justification in all its ramifications. To begin with, the choice by the Newspaper Organization of the trio of Governor Theodore Ahamefula Orji, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; G.C.O.N, and Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui Okauru; M.F.R, cannot but be commended as choice diligently and impeccably arrived at. Their credentials tower above doubt. In Abia State where Chief T. A. Orji presides as the democratic head, it has to be recalled that before his emergence in 2007, the State was at sixes and sevens. The former governor had imposed a family hegemony on the state, with the result that majority of the stakeholders had fallen apart with him and his mother. Since the former governor was hell-bent on converting the wealth of the state to his personal cum family enterprise, it became inevitable that the stakeholders would fight in resistance to the ex-governor’s avarice. Hence, the state was torn apart in turmoil. The state, therefore, was at war with itself.
As would be expected, the people of the State became the casualties. This was the situation when Governor Orji arrived the scene. Being a quintessential administrator and technocrat, he quickly told himself that a kingdom divided against itself never prospers. The first thing the Governor did was to embark on a very honest programme of reconciliation and harmonization. Today, stakeholders in the state speak with one voice. Hence there is harmony and peace in Abia State.
The impunity with which the people of the state were mal-administered, exploited and overtly segregated and discriminated against had given rise to disappointment, discontent and disillusionment amongst the youths of the state, especially those of them from the old Aba Division who were the main target of the previous administration’s exploitative and discriminatory policies.
Before Chief T. A. Orji could mount the saddle, the foundation for lawlessness and criminality of a brutal order had been laid. Armed robbery and kidnapping menacingly confronted him for a long period of his first tenure. The fact that the former governor, whose record of inexplicable antagonism and confrontation against the federal government was an open secret, insisted on tele-guiding the affairs of the state during Governor T. A. Orji’s first tenure, did not, in any way, help matters. However, Chief Orji adopted diplomacy and sagacity to pull the state out of the wood. As a first step, he had to reintegrate the state into Nigeria’s main stream politics by rejoining the nationally ruling People’s Democratic Party. By this singular act, Abia was no more a pariah state. Being in the main stream of Nigeria’s politics, Ochendo, as he is fondly called, became well emboldened to fight the menace of kidnapping and other vices in the state. Today, kidnapping and armed robbery have been confined to the dust bin of Abia history. The state now ranks as one of the most secured in the Nigerian federation.
Before the ascension of Chief Orji as Governor of God’s own state, state-induced criminality had taken a toll on the pipeline of Pipeline Products’ Marketing Company that channels petroleum products from Alesa-Eleme in Rivers State to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s depot at Aba. The consequence of that act of criminality was the unfortunate dysfunctionality of that depot. Thousands of people who earned their living from the depot were hopelessly thrown into the world of unemployment. The collapse of the depot aggravated the security situation of the state. Again, to the Glory of God, Ochendo rose up to the challenge and worked tirelessly in effectively co-ordinated synergy with the Presidency to resuscitate the depot. He has also been unrelenting in his fight against pipeline vandalization and illegal oil bunkering. As at present, that depot has given succour to more than ten thousand persons who, directly or indirectly, earn their living from it.
No government that is a true product of democracy would ever joke with the health and welfare of her citizens. In this regard, it is interesting to know that the administration of Chief Orji has excelled in the area of health. Every person in Abia State has uninhibited access to medicare, that is equally affordable.
True to his electioneering promise, Ochendo has been running a tuition-free primary and secondary education policy in the state. His government has, so far, sustained four tertiary institutions in the state; Abia State University, Uturu, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, Abia State College of Education Technical, Arochukwu and College of Health, Aba.
The state capital, Umuahia, was like a glorified local government headquarters before the emergence of Governor Orji. But as I write, Umuahia has been transformed into a befitting status of a state capital. A four-storey civil service secretariat has been built by the administration of Chief Orji. An international conference centre has almost been completed. For the twenty-two years existence of Abia State, the Government House has been in the negotiated private residence of the Late Air Commodore Emeka Omeruah. But Ochendo, being a progressive, has thought it otherwise. Solid architectural structures are severally springing up in the Ogurube layout to house the government of Abia State.
Agriculture that did not receive any quantifiable attention from previous administrations in the state, has now become an irresistible point of attraction in the state. The state government has successfully motivated Abians to go back to the land.
It is known the world over that governments are not the highest employers of labour. What a government does is to create enabling environment for people to make their living legitimately. In Abia State, Governor T. A. Orji has created the much-needed environment through roads and public utility. Besides what his administration has done in the above areas, he has outstandingly empowered Abia youths with vehicles, skill acquisition and various forms of pecuniary support.
Previously, Abia State Executive Councils were characterized by suspicion and instability. Commissioners were appointed and fired within a period not exceeding nine months and, ofcourse, with impunity. It was not only that commissioners were thrown out intermittently, but any time the Executive Council was dissolved, members who served in the council would be given a blanket condemnation, either as being fraudulent or incompetent. Hardly did any person who had served as a commissioner in the previous administration leave with his or her dignity and honour intact. During the same period, the relationship between the Governor and his deputy was always like that between a cat and a dog. There was never love lost. But in the case of Ochendo, the relationship between his deputy and he has remained unprecedentedly cordial and mutual. The commissioners he appointed worked in an atmosphere of peace, equanimity and freedom of conscience. When he considered it necessary to dissolve his cabinet on 15th May, 2013, he invited members of the council and, like a compassionate father that he is, took time to explain to them why he had to dissolve the executive council. Ochendo spoke as if he was under obligation to explain his decision to persons who ordinarily should be regarded as mere appointees or even labourers. At that valedictory cabinet session, every member of the cabinet had a sense of belonging arising from the humility and sincerity of their boss.
Ochendo has a burning passion to turn the fortunes of Abia State around. He has constantly depicted discipline, vision, equity, justice and transparency in all his enterprise. Not minding the financial predicaments of the State, Ochendo has consistently resisted the temptation of going to the Bond market to borrow. Ochendo does not concern himself only to what happens to Abia State that he now governs, but extensively believes in the welfare of the state, even when he would have constitutionally ceased to be her governor.
Mention should also be made that Ochendo is an outstanding adherent of constitutional democracy. This accounts for the total absence of conflict between the three constitutional arms of government in Abia State. As a gentle man born and bred in a family which head was a first-class warrant chief of the colonial epoch; a man that built the first storey building in the present Umuahia urban, Governor T. A. Orji has natural respect for the culture and custodians of his people’s culture and tradition. This is why traditional rulers in the state are treated with unqualified respect both by government and people of the State. Ochendo’s administration has dignified many traditional rulers with befitting cars, just to enhance their status as traditional rulers.
Acting differently from the insensitivity of the previous administration in the State, Governor T. A. Orji established Abia State Oil-Producing Development Commission, devoting thirty percent of the thirteen percent of oil derivation fund from the federation account to carter for development needs of oil-producing areas of the state. His administration has also bought Jeeps to all traditional rulers in Ukwa-West, which is the oil-producing local government area of the state. In addition, Ochendo has brought Shell Petroleum Development Company, S.P.D.C; closer to oil-producing communities of the State. To this effect, S.P.D.C. has signed a Global Memorandum of Understanding, G.M.o.U, with oil-producing clusters in the state. The company recently held a business round table with stakeholders in the state and arrangements are in top gear for her to partner with the office of Her Excellency, the wife of the Governor, to run a training and empowerment programme for the physically challenged in the State.
The passion and dreams of His Excellency, the Governor, are, no doubt, shared by his debonair and decorous wife, Lady Mercy Odochi Orji, admirably called Osinulomaranma. ‘Osinulo’ has been exceptionally wonderful in her show of magnanimity in the training and empowerment of Abia young men and women. She has continuously used her Non-Governmental Organization, Hannah-May Foundation, to build houses for widows and the less privileged in the three senatorial zones of the State. Ochendo has a peaceful and stable family. Hence every person in his family, including his first son; Engr. Chinedu Orji; Ikuku, is evidently committed to the project; Abia.
Abia State is God’s-Own State. When it was almost turned into goon’s-own State, the people wept, lamented and called on God to bring to them a liberator. God mercifully heard their prayers and sent them Chief T. A. Orji. Under his administration, Abia State has reclaimed its appellation and status of God’s-Own State. Ochendo has rededicated the State to God. Instead of going to juju shrines in Okija, as was the case previously, the government and people of Abia State now frequent and patronize the temples of God in the various churches in the State.
In realization of the immense contributions made by the people of Abia State for the State Government to achieve what it has, so far, achieved, Governor T. A. Orji humbly dedicated the award by the Independent Newspapers to the people of Abia State. This is an award well deserved and the people are happy for it. They are appreciative of the selective mechanism of the Independent Newspapers. To God be the glory!
Chief (Sir) Don Ubani; KSC, JP
(Okwubunka of Asa)
Umuiku-Isi-Asaa, Ukwa West L.G.A.
P.M.B. 7048 Aba, Abia State.