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Abia State which was created 23 years ago has had its great share of hard times. The subject of this analysis as the headline hints is a superlative comparison of the tenures of the erstwhile past governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, his successor, Chief Theodore Ahamefula Orji (Ochendo), and his anointed lackey who is the controversial governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.
The economy is not doing well. Insecurity is on the rise. There are troubles in the ruling political party. Amid all these, the current and immediate past Governors are not making it any better for the people of the state. Their inadequacies shine through from terrible policies and programmes, insecurity, economic plan and a host of others.
Governor Orji Uzor Kalu who served as governor from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007 was the first civilian Governor of the state. He was elected on the PDP platform and later switched to Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) party.
The young Orji Uzor Kalu as of then came with his great share of controversies. Before running for the top position in the state, he had some run-ins with the Military government. One of which was the popular fraudulent act in the late eighties where he had deceitfully claimed to have donated one million naira to the Borno State Education Endowment Fund, only for the authorities of the state to discover, to their utmost chagrin, that the carton containing his so-called one million naira merely contained pieces of paper.
He was also expelled by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri; Prof Jubril Aminu, just to save the corporate image of the University.
Orji Uzor Kalu’s eight-year tenure saw an unenviable record of him working with three deputy governors in eight years, a turnover of deputy governor every 30 months. He started with Enyinnaya Abaribe (now a Senator), fell out with him and picked Dr Chima Nwafor (now late), whom he rubbished and ended with Acho Nwakanma, who barely managed to hang on and tag along with the overbearing boss till May 29, 2007.
Orji Uzor Kalu mainly owed his reign as Governor to the instrumentality of his mother (mischievously called “Mother Excellency” by Dr Kalu’s vanishing clan of detractors), he ran the state like a fiefdom (a family enterprise), subjected his appointees to secret oath-taking for absolute loyalty at Okija shrine and other mundane places.
Throughout his period as chief executive of Abia state, the three arms of government never worked in harmony hence the state was in perpetual crisis. The executive arm was in turmoil, the legislature was in disarray while the judiciary was reduced to a bystander.
Kalu instigated the House of Assembly with his divide and rule tactics and plunged the legislature into a gale of impeachments. The House became so unstable that it changed Speakers four times during his eight years in office. The Speakers were Nkem Ike, Christopher Enweremadu, Stanley Ohajuruka and Agwu U. Agwu in that order.
The ruling party, PDP did not fare better under his regime. The PDP was so fictionalised that Abia’s political elites were at constantly at daggers drawn and they never found a common ground on any issue hence they could not attract any federal project throughout Kalu’s regime. This did not help matters as he constantly antagonised the federal government, engaging then President Olusegun Obasanjo in an ego-fueled warfare.
Kalu made absolutely sure that PDP remained in crisis until he finally left the party in the last quarter of 2006 to start a political party (Progressive Peoples Alliance) wholly-owned and controlled by his family.
Orji Uzor Kalu, just like numerous other civilian Goivernnors at the time privatised numerous Government structures and converted them into personal business enterprises. One of the most notorious conversions was the hijacking of the state-owned Newspaper, The National Ambassador. Orji Uzor Kalu’s unnecessary interest in the Newspaper raised a lot of eyebrows but using the guise of upgrading, he converted the Newspaper into The Sun, Newspaper which is well known in Nigeria today.
He failed to provide a suitable secretariat for the state miniseries, international conference centre, modern judiciary complex and a befitting government house among other legacy projects. Kalu knew quite well that Abia needed these projects and even more but rapacious tendencies prevented him from using the state resources to work for the Abians.
His exit saw him influencing the election of his then stooge and benefactor, Theodore A. Orji.
Theodore A. Orji served as Governor from May 29, 2007, to May 29, 2015. He ran under the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) platform.
Governor Theodore A. Orji’s tenure was notorious because he redefined the meaning of family hierarchy in politics. With the help of his son and other relatives, he looted Abia state blind.
The Orji Family was brazen about their looting of Abia State. The wife and sons of the Senator marched through Umuahia as imperials. They built malls and other businesses. They demolished things on their path. They owned the city and everybody. He even attempted to put the wife in the House of Representatives!
Things came to a head with the disclosures made by the EFCC concerning the despoliation of Abia state by Father Theodore Orji and Son Engr Chinedum Orji. EFCC disclosed that the Orji’s routinely withdrew ₦500m monthly as Security Vote and secured it in the Governor’s personal account. They did this following a tradition established in his days as Chief of Staff to convicted former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu where he withdrew ₦500m every month for eight years.
There was also the diversion of the ₦383 billion revenue from the Federation Account, ₦55 billion Excess Crude revenue, ₦2.3 billion Sure-P revenue, ₦1.8 billion ecological funds, ₦10.5 billion loan, ₦12 billion Paris Club refund, ₦2 billion agricultural loan, and ₦55 billion ASOPADEC money during his tenure.
His tenure was also marked with other controversies such as the mass sack of non-indigenes. He had ordered all non-indigenes under the employ of Abia State Government to leave. He was sacking them, not for their incompetence or incapacitation, but plainly because they hailed from other states. The victims of this 17th-century policy of a 21st-century governor included even people from neighbouring Imo, Rivers and Ebonyi states.
He also jacked up the tuition paid in the state university, ABSU, by over a hundred per cent. Students in the school now paid as much as ₦150,000 per academic session. This came at a time when neighbouring states were slashing tuitions paid by their students in tertiary institutions.
What was troubling was the scale and depth of the unbridled rape and looting of Abia State under this family. It was completely benumbing.
Governor Theodore A. Orji was succeeded by the current Governor of Abia state, Chief Okezie Ikpeazu who is currently serving his second tenure
Judging by the terrible statistics of the former Governors, it would be very difficult to classify the mismanagement and terrible leadership Abia state has undergone under Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state has earned a notorious reputation in the Southeast. Not only has he been ranked as one of the worst Governors to ever rule Abia state, but he has also been ranked as one of the Governors who contributed to the downfall of the state. A governor that once wanted to embark on the construction of an airport in the state without standard markets and commercial activities taking place in it. State and local government workers haven’t been equitably paid, and no viable project has been commissioned in the state for many years. One wonders where all the revenue accruing to the state goes. Ikpeazu is one of the governors that squanders federal government allocations on frivolities.
In addition to being a bad governor, he is also a terrible recipient to criticism and advises. He was recently awash in the media when a video recording of him threatening to “disappear” a reporter writing about his bad government
As if that wasn’t enough, there is no good roads in the town, no drainage, no light, and no water. The government has also done nothing in salvaging the precarious security situation of the state. Abia State has been plagued with two consecutive bad leaders. They have not mapped out ways in dealing with the insecurity or embarking on massive infrastructural projects in the state.
Even his junketing all over Europe and the Americas in search of foreign investors was all “a mere jamboree to fritter away Abia’s meagre resources” since no foreign dollar has been invested in Abia all through his tenure.
He has also been accused of running a Government of nepotism to the detriment of the entire people of the state. Even the so-called projects which he promised to handle in his second tenure have all turned out to be a farce.
Also, Ikpeazu’s Government has been ridiculed with contracts inflation and money laundering from all sectors of the Government. Despite the fact that he owes many months salary arrears to Abia state civil service workers, pensioners, and school teachers which has turned many public schools into markets, hemp smoking centres with some looking more like IDP Camps in war zones.
Governor Ikpeazu had on several occasions promised to offset all the outstanding salaries and wages of the entire Abia workforce only to renege once the expected funds arrive and will rather give one month out of several months owed Abia workers, while his specially trained lie merchants will take over the social media space, the pages of newspapers and radio/television stations across the country to misinform the world about the status of salary payments in Abia.
Abia State should be one of the best states in Nigeria, in terms of revenue drive/generation and infrastructural growth, taking its proximity to the ports in Rivers State, but currently, the reverse is the case. It is one of the poorest states, Southern part of Nigeria.
Abians are urged to remain hopeful because it is unfortunate that Ikpeazu’s failures have given credence to earlier positions that the Governor was never prepared for Governance but was hurriedly packaged as a stooge by the former Governor, Theodore Orji and his family. Since 1999 till date, Abia State leadership has gone from bad to worse but Governor Okezie is by far the worst Governor Abia State has ever had. A leader who is this heartless towards his wards has no right to be called a leader. Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu is no leader.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK