By Eddie Onuzuruike
The inspirational words of the Holy Bible ring louder and louder as we ponder the dictates of Romans Chapter 13 verse 7: ‘render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.’ In the agrarian culture and tradition of the Ibeku people, located today in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, South East geo-political zone of Nigeria, with anthropological affiliates and Diasporans in Nsukka, Ohafia Abam and the rest of the world, when a son of the soil achieves a great feat such as leading his people successfully to a battle in war, hunting down a great and exotic animal or showing supremacy in wrestling matches, you celebrate him in many forms like Ima Nzu or Ike Aji.
In today’s scientific world, the emphasis has shifted from the muscular to innovative leadership in politics and commerce, more so in rare and high achievements in science and technology.
Come Saturday December 14, 2013, Ndi Ibeku will be dazzling in bright colours, marching hilariously from all directions and converge at Ibeku High School Umuahia, crystallized by Ibeku Egwu Assa Development Association (IEADA) made up of the component units of, Eke, Afarata, Emede, Ossa, Afara Ukwu, Ndume and Ama Oforo. Why this chivalrous movement you will wonder? They are so magnificently appareled to celebrate one of their own, Chief Sir T. A. Orji, Ochendo Global, a self-styled homeboy who has no qualms in admitting that he is one hundred percent a made in Nigeria product.
Chief Sir T. A. Orji, born on November 9, 1950 had his first contact with education in St. Michael’s Primary School Ugwu Nchara, and Santa Crux Secondary School, Olokoro, all in Umuahia. For higher school as was the standard then, Holy Ghost High School, Owerri, was the place from where he vaunted to the prestigious University of Ibadan and thereafter proceeded to old Sokoto State for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps.
That done, he joined the Civil Service in 1979 like many others but demonstrated an uncanny attitude to work which made a resounding statement that the civil servant could be taken seriously, thus giving his career progression a great push from Administrative Officer, to other ranks above, up to the post of permanent secretary, Government House Umuahia, which culminated in his serving as the Chief of Staff for eight years not attracting any query or reprimand.
There is no doubt that he has brought his enviable experience to bear in governance as he came ready, knowing where the shoe pinched. Today he is an enigma of sorts with a long line of achievements, cutting across the political, social and economic landscape of Abia, rubbing off on his native Ibeku people and their neighbors in Umuahia town which has been aptly described by one commentator as a heritage habitat since it is serving all inhabitants and Government installations. Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji has already been celebrated at home and abroad and has lived the full meaning of his name.
In deep consideration of name factors, as Theodore, he is a special gift, in Ahamefule, the Ibeku people and Igbos in general have found a restoration of their name in history, culture, tradition and rich heritage, to which Hon. Chidiebere Nwoko remarked as the best thing to happen to Ibeku, Umuahia and the rest of Abia people. In Ochendo, one of his earlier titles given in Ibeku land, though it typifies shelter but figuratively, this goes beyond shades and encapsulates welfare, security, protection and solace. It is also a beacon of hope, a demilitarized zone in an embattled area, an oasis in the desert, a Red Cross or Red Crescent insignia. It may equally be an olive branch of sorts. Taken to the limits, it is a place where the weak can find protection and the strong can rest and belch loudly in the African style. It is water for the thirsty and food for the greatly famished and dejected.
Instructively, all these have come to pass in our days. He has debunked die-hard stereotypes against his Ibeku people, converting his detractors and adversaries to friends. For instance, in the political upheavals that characterized the 2007 elections, he diplomatically like a snail glided on sharp thorns, disarming 100 soldiers armed with AK 47 rifles with his humility, fairness and honesty. He adopted the recipe of Moshe Dayan, former Isreali defence minister who said: ‘if you want to make peace you don’t talk to your friends, you talk to your enemies.’ In the Union weekly of December 1 2013 page 10, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu had this to say: ’Abia State PDP has never been more united than it is now. It has also never been more peaceful than it is now. And a lot of that credit goes to the governor, Chief T A Orji, who has done so well in bringing Abians together.’
At this point, it will only be pertinent to mention some of his groundbreaking achievements in policy and installation of social indicators which sum up the dividends of democracy.
Education, the catalyst for growth and development has been free since 2007 coupled with the free bus scheme at the primary and secondary schools with bursary and scholarship back at the front burner. Outside a total of 102 roads embarked upon in all sections of the state, with some completed and others at high levels of progress, and the massive youth empowerment schemes here and there, in the capital city Umuahia, he has installed the Legacy Projects which are foundation projects that are highly indispensable to the capital status but ignored by past administrations. A few are the new Government House, the 5000 capacity International Conference Center, whose absence has denied Abia the hosting of upscale and international gatherings, the multi-storey Joint Accounts and Allocation Committee House (JAAC) whose foundation was laid by the Hon. Minister for Information Mr Labaran Maku in January 2013, the ASEPA and ASUBEB complexes all in the new Ogurube Layout, the multi room E-library, and the new secretariat with elevator. Notably, most of these are first of its kind in the history of Abia.
He has taken on issues which have daunted the spectacularly iron willed and most courageous like banning the use of commercial motorcycles to check crime and save lives, converted bushes to new sites where he moved the markets that clogged the capital city like the Industrial Market, the Spare parts of Mgbuka and the Ubani Ultra Modern Market.
His master stroke to the dare devil armed robbery and scandalous kidnappings that put banks on forced closure in Aba area which in turn kept Abia on international news for the wrong reasons are well known stories whose survival have given Abia a new security agglomeration and definition.
The awards streaming in as a result of his achievements are legendry, cascading unstoppably to the extent that we have lost counts. His use of Interventionist agencies like ASOPADEC, CSDP, ASUBEB, IFAD, ABROMA, and The Planning Commission as he pays fully the counterpart funds mandatory for attracting donor agency funds is reflective of his management ingenuity.
A few specifics will elucidate: The high ambience of peace and unity he crafted, taking a united PDP to a landslide victory in April 2011 is still a case study. The health sector has not had it so good in Abia. The Primary Health is doubly updated to a total of 710 with over 250 built by the Ochendo administration. Presently, nine general hospitals have been built or updated with 100 beds in nine Local Governments Areas. Ambulance services are on in the 17 Local Government Areas, stemming careless deaths. In Aba, the Abia State Teaching Hospital has been remodeled with hostels, theatres, and accommodation for office and homes for House Officers. So it is with Amachara Specialist Hospital, greatly face-lifted to suit the accreditation policies of the supervising bodies for the Schools of Nursing and Medicine. Have we talked about the Abia Specialist Hospital and Diagnostics Centers that are the health rave of the moment with the dialysis machines, commissioned by Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu in July 2013? These are exclusive of the special salary structures, CONHES and CONMES for the health workers, TSS for teachers, and vehicles and housing for Judges and magistrates. For a man whose first policy thrust- the mass promotion of all workers to the next level which benefited his constituency the workers, tell so much about the Governor. His harmony with labour is not surprising as he is paying the highest minimum wage in Nigeria. This stability no doubt is possible because somebody able is keeping the home front. Do we need to bother Osinulo and the engineer in the House, Chief Chinedu Orji, Ikuku Abia who have in many ways complimented your tasks with the women and youths?
That we cannot capture all in print is obvious, but let us remember that the degree of calumny earlier employed by detractors can kill the lion hearted, but full thanks to God for survival for they loudly said that his name will not be on the ballot, but it was, they said that he will not win, but he did.
It was equally said that he will not be sworn in but on May 29, 2007 history was made when he was sworn in as the third democratically elected Governor of Abia State.
They said he will not last in office but substituted, but he has a few months to be eight years in office with deafening calls to proceed to the senate.
For Ochendo, Utu Agba Igwe, Peace Ambassador, Icon of Democracy, Best Governor on Security, Most Gender Friendly Governor and now, The Grand Patriot of Ibeku. it is yet morning on creation day!
According to Paul Harris, ‘a true spirit of service is capable of working the world’s redemption.’
To God be the Glory!