My stewardship as Abia governor (1999-2007) – 2

The first part of this series on my stewardship as governor of Abia State, which started last week, dwelled majorly on our general performance in office. The idea behind the publication at this time is to address tissues of lies being released from the Abia State Government House, aimed at hoodwinking unwary members of the public and consigning to the hubris the monumental achievements of our administration between 1999 and 2007. Regular readers of this column will have noticed that I have all the time focused on addressing issues, not name-calling and character-assassination, which the governor deploys to attempt to cover the truth or sweep it completely under the carpet.

It is also generally true that the governor is fighting tooth and nail to mislead the pub­lic and pull the wool over our eyes, without considering the fact that he cannot fool all the people all the time. There is no ques­tion, whatsoever, that the entire 7 years and 4 months he has spent in office as governor has yielded no tangible dividend for our peo­ple. Rather than work genuinely for the peo­ple, he has devoted the enormous resources he has collected from Abuja and other sources to fight me and satisfy his endless list of indulgences. Who in Abia State does not know that Abia State has collected over N600 billion from the federation account, excluding internally-generated revenue and other external sources, since Theodore Orji assumed office as governor? The records are there for everybody to see.

The sad news: There is no tangible pro­ject anywhere in the state to show or justify this huge revenue profile. As I write, workers are being owed some months of arrears of salaries and other entitlements. And his gov­ernment has less than 9 months to vacate of­fice. What of pensions and gratuities? There are several years’ outstanding pensions and gratuities. Those who were paid were either related to the governor or did him one fa­vour or another. So, what will Abians hold on to after the eight years of the governor to justify all the money he has collected so far?

My heart bleeds when I see our people reveling in grinding poverty, poor sanitary conditions, decrepit infrastructure, palpable insecurity, dwindling learning environment in public schools, absence of motivation for workers, low productivity, monumental cor­ruption, laxity among the workers, mistrust among the various ethnic groups that make up the state, infighting among political of­fice holders (particularly between the Abu­ja-based politicians and their home-based counterparts), collection of multiple and il­legal levies by government and its cronies, and unwholesome living conditions of many residents, especially those that live in urban centres, etc.

What obtains in Abia today runs anti­thetical to what we had during our eight-year regime. It was during our tenure that the people had the last feel of what a caring government really is. We ran an open, ac­countable, transparent and all-inclusive sys­tem. Every Abian had a say in government directly or indirectly; unlike today that the entire machinery of government has been usurped by the governor, his wife and son.

It was during our tenure that many Abi­ans built their first houses and owned their first cars. Life then was booming. The mar­kets in the state were active, with consumers coming from far and near to patronize them. What do we have today? Abject poverty! The people are really suffering. The markets are there without anybody buying anything, because there is purchasing power. Money is not circulating. Only those close to the hold­ers of power are enjoying the spoils of of­fice. Life is truly difficult for my people and they are asking, “Who will save us from the evil administration in Abia State?”

Those who should ordinarily speak up against the excesses of the governor have been bought over by the same governor. It is painful that the government’s huge monthly collectible revenue is used in ‘settlement’ of these men and other hangers-on and praise-singers. Real development has since been dumped for ego-tripping and fighting Orji Kalu.

I wonder if Theodore Orji is aware that the money he doles out belongs to Abia peo­ple and he will be called upon to account for every kobo of it. He may spend all the money and time on useless ventures, but one thing is certain: The day of recompense is very close.

All the noise the governor and his cohorts make in the media has no bearing with per­formance. It is just a gimmick to hide the truth from the people and security agencies. However, unknown to him, everything he does is being carefully documented by the security agencies. It is only a matter of time before the cookies crumble. He may choose to hire all the journalists and image-launder­ers in the whole wide world, but that will not save him from reaping what he has sown. As my Chief of Staff, I taught him not to engage in any act capable of tarnishing his image or causing him sleepless nights. I also taught him to make do with whatever is legitimate­ly due him and avoid cooking the books. He promised to be faithful to the cause and con­tinue from where I stopped.

Based on his assurances and considering that he did his best to stay above board as my COS, I had no other choice than to hand over to him. To my greatest astonishment, less than three months in office, he started exhib­iting signs of weakness, which prompted me to send messages across to him privately to buckle up. Matters came to the hilt in 2009, and I had to step in. I drew his attention qui­etly to the general discontentment among the people over the shoddy performance of his administration, which could cost us the seat of governor in another election. Instead of taking my admonition in good faith, he decided, backed by some disgruntled ele­ments who never wanted him ab intito as governor, to take to the trenches to fight me.

Today, he has taken his war against me to another preposterous level. He has gone to whoever cared to listen to tell them jaun­diced stories about me – all in an effort to paint me black and curry favour. I have said it before, and I wish to repeat it here: Theo­dore Orji has no shame. How on earth could he have forgotten all the good I did for him and chose instead to fight me, calling me unprintable names? It is only a sadistic per­son would regale himself with such infamy. Who on earth would have believed it that Theodore Orji, who was almost kowtowing before me in acquiescence, would one day lay claim to projects he did not do? That is what is happening today.

Anybody who knew Abia State very well prior to the emergence of our government in 1999 would agree that it was like a ghost place. Umuahia -the state capital – and Aba were worst hit. Only the first generation banks managed to open shops at that time. Business and social life in the state was al­most static. Traders and other businessmen bemoaned their fate with resignation. De­spondency among workers was visible. In­security was palpable. This was the situation we met on ground in 1999. As I indicated here last week, we hit the ground running. In less than six months in office, we had suc­ceeded in giving governance direction and restored hope.

Whatever major amenities you see any­where in Umuahia and Aba today were pro­vided by our administration. In fact, we en­sured that every road in Umuahia was tarred. Sadly, the governor today claims he did them. Wonders shall never end! Can he be bold, if he is sure he did the roads, to publish the names of the roads and the contractors that did them, including how much was paid out to each contractor? That was exactly what we did for the eight years we were in power. We published monthly financial re­port in the dailies and announced how much we received and how much was spent each month. The deliberations of the Joint Alloca­tion Committee (JAC) were made public in our tenure. But what obtains today is secrecy of the highest order. Everything is done in hushed tones and with utmost secrecy as if the government were a secret society.

Because of the highhandedness of the governor and his family, everybody has cho­sen to lie low while they do whatever they like. Whoever summons up courage to con­front them is dealt with severely. This con­trasts sharply with the openness we brought to governance.

Before the end of our first term in office in 2003, we had attracted over eight new generation banks and two reputable fast food companies, rebuilt over 450 dilapidat­ed schools and 100 health centres, construct­ed or rehabilitated over 100 roads, offset the several months arrears of workers’ salaries, paid a substantial part of the outstanding pensions and gratuities inherited from by past administrations, etc. We also construct­ed the new Abia State House of Assembly building, the ultra-modern Aguiyi-Ironsi Conference Centre, the new Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs building, Commissioners’ Quarters, and three gigantic housing estates. The 1000-unit Ehimiri Housing Estate is one of them. It houses a majority of civil servants in the state, who before then had to come to work from far distances, on owner-occupier basis. The other ones are at Ubakala, Umuahia and Aba. The irony of it all is that Theodore Orji shamelessly lays claim to these projects as you read this piece. Is this how governance is done? What morality does he have to say anything and he is believed again, when he can fortuitously work to deceive the people. He should show the world the contract docu­ments for any housing estates he claimed to have built.

I will spend the next editions detailing many of these projects we did which, unfor­tunately, the governor is fraudulently laying claim to. But permit me to use the remain­ing part of this piece to itemize some of the many roads our government squeezed water from stone to build and which the governor has documented as having been built by him. Before doing so, let me, however, state here that while our administration did not collect over N108 billion in the entire eight years we spent in office and built many of the projects it has to its credit, the present government in Umuahia has collected over N600 billion and yet does not have any tan­gible thing to show for it.

I find it detestable and odious that a man who swore to the oath of office and alle­giance could subject himself to manipula­tion by a band of crooks that poses as image-makers and advisers. Did he not think twice when these people goaded him to publish an advertorial in the Vanguard of Saturday, September 13, 2014, listing some projects purported to have been completed by his administration? In the said publication many of the projects were purely Niger Delta De­velopment Commission (NDDC) completed projects. Instead of crediting them to the NDDC, the governor has expropriated them to himself. This is the highest form of scam I have ever witnessed in recent times.

Who told the governor that he could just pick up any project from anywhere and showcase to the public in the hope that he would not be found out? It would be a great disservice to the nation if NDDC failed to draw attention to this illegal and criminal act by publicly repudiating any complicity whatsoever.

Now to roads: To show our administra­tion’s commitment to transforming the state we built a total of 96 roads between May 1999 and May 2002, totalling N8 billion. These roads are aside the four major roads we built in Aba within our first 100 days in office. Specifically, many of these roads were commissioned by prominent Nigeri­ans from other parts of the country. Even the governor himself would agree that we commissioned new roads as often as we had the time. And we have photographs of the commissioning. For instance, the Aguiyi-Ironsi Street, Umuahia was built by us and commissioned by former President Shehu Shagari, while the Ube Street in Aba was built by us as well and commissioned by for­mer President Ibrahim Babangida to mark our second year in office.

Other roads our government built were Osusu, Omuma, Umule, Obohia, Ohanku, Ohuhu, Ahunanya, Nweke, Uche, Boundary Avenu, Cemetery, Ibadan, Cemetery Exten­sion, Akalanna, all in Aba, which were han­dled by Elite Construction Limited.

Bencov Construction Limited handled the following roads, also in Aba:MCC to Umule, MCC to Express, Umuojima, Eziama, St, Joseph to School Road, Old Court(Ehi to Ngwa), Okorocha, Ajagba, Nwogu, Ajigwe, Nwogu Extension, Nwankpa, Umuimo, Uchenna, Owerri, Umuoba,Uwuala, and Uruakpan.

The following roads in Aba were also built by our administration and handled by Amico Construction: Judges, Erondu, Nich­olas, I.E.A. Gate to Nweke, River Layout, Constitution, Howells and Scotland.

I will continue with the listing of the roads next week.

Meanwhile, let me before then challenge the governor to agree to submit his admin­istration and mine to audit by the best five audit firms in the world: KPMG, PWC, Del­loit, S & Young, and Mackenzie. The audit will determine who, between us, is telling lies. I am ready to foot 50 per cent of the bill, while the Abia State Government takes care of the other 50 per cent. It will also be appropriate if the Nigeria Union of Journal­ists (NUJ), Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Newspapers Proprietors of Nigeria (NPAN) undertake a similar trip to Abia State to unravel the truth. I will pay for the cost of the fact-finding trip.