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Of Pathological Legacies And Morbid Fear In The Abia Guber Race

By Ifeanyi Amanze
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“Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly”, Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds of the last century, wrote decades ago.

One doesn't need to look any further than the corridors of power in Abia State to locate a surfeit of the “mediocre minds” Einstein was referring to. For years, these minds made Abia unworkable. For years, they turned Abia State into a jungle of some sort; feasting off the anomie and bedlam they created. For years, they brow beat the Abia populace into several masses of pulp with one ruinous policy after another. They loved the entropy they created because it often provided the perfect ecosystem for their corruption, pen robberies and off-the-top skims. They would baulk at anyone who as much as suggested that he/she was going to dismantle the old order. Mediocre minds!

Last Thursday, one mediocre mind in Abia who was supervised by his equally mediocre principal, circulated a press statement to media houses and online news channels. The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor of Abia State, Mr. Charles Ajunwa, in a statement made available to journalists in Umuahia, said that Dr. Otti has no moral right to criticize the policies and programmes of Governor Theodore Orji's government. The grouse of the press statement could be located in the following paragraphs:

"Dr. Otti is not qualified to talk about the educational sector of Abia State which Governor Orji has given a face lift. He built ultra modern classroom blocks in all parts of the state and came up with a robust welfare packages (sic) for teachers which attests to why Governor Orji is today described as the most education friendly governor in Nigeria. And for the past two years, Abia State maintained its 2nd best position behind Anambra State according to WAEC rating”.

"Otti has no moral right to go on the pages of newspapers to deceive gullible readers that teachers in the state are on strike because of non payment of salaries which is far from the truth. The planted story was aimed at painting Abia State government in bad light."

Continuing, he said, "This is same man (sic), who as Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, refused to use his exalted office to execute any single project in Abia State. Some time in 2013, the governor gave him a template on how to reduce the money that his bank was taking from the state government. He turned down the template for selfish reasons.

"If he had agreed to implement the template that would have helped Abia State government to add more projects to those already executed by Governor T.A.Orji.

"The proposal on how to free up some money from his bank to pay salaries, he refused to oblige the governor (sic). He did not stop at that, he also turned down all the proposals on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) on major projects which the state Governor presented to him.

First, I find it curious that the Governor of a State will aver that a challenger to his seat “is not morally qualified to talk about the education sector” in a State he intends to govern. It is little wonder that the education sector in Abia State has reached a nadir with the “ultra-modern classroom blocks” the Abia State government loves to brag about, bereft of motivated teachers and desks in most cases. The “ultra-modern classroom block” in Isuikwato is a case in point. Last November when a select group of bloggers and social media influencers visited the State on a guided tour, one of the “ultra-modern” or rather “epoch” classroom blocks of the Theodore Orji administration was still under lock and key even though the school session was well underway. One “ultra-modern classroom block” annex lying a few meters away and which was also being flaunted before the bloggers, had pupils sitting on the bare floor to receive lessons. Worse, the ceilings were falling apart and the entire classrooms were some dingy, unkempt affairs. So much for “ultra-modern classroom blocks” and the mediocre minds that parrot them as visible achievements!

It is instructive to state that teachers in Abia State are still being owed salaries at the time of putting this piece together. That the Abia State government will accuse the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Dr. Alex Otti, of planting stories of the financial debt owed teachers, is not altogether new and is a stock in trade of an administration that often deploys personal attack as a decoy to run away from the real issues. Back in September 2014, a press statement signed by the same Charles Ajunwa of “ultra-modern” fame, referred to the words of Chief Chikwe Udensi, who was at the time vying for the position of Governor of Abia State under the APGA platform, as “malicious and the ranting of a political neophyte seeking relevance,” for daring to suggest that the education sector in Abia State was in ruins. On Udensi's remarks that he needed a microscope to see Orji's acclaimed achievements, Governor Orji through his ventriloquist had said: “it is only the blind that cannot see the array of legacy projects posted by this administration”.

There must be many “blind persons” around the place, then.

Recently, Onuoha Ukeh, a columnist with the Sun Newspapers derided the “legacy” and “epoch” projects of the Theodore Orji administration in a scathing essay titled: “Behold, Governor Orji's legacies”. Hear Ukeh:

“In the last couple of years, the Abia State Government has been talking about “legacy projects,” which, according to its officials and supporters, are an indication that Governor Theodore Amaefule Orji is “working,” as Nigerians say in local parlance. They show us artistic impression of a secretariat, Government House, ultramodern market, all in Umuahia, the state capital, as out-of-the-world projects the government is embarking on. It's now six months to the end of the eight years reign of the government and the legacy projects are still being expected.

“Going by the amount of airtime the Governor Orji government procures to advertise its nothingness, people may easily believe that it has done many positive things, in the area of development. But this is far from the truth, as Abia State is replete with decay, with disappointed and disillusioned residents and indigenes biting their fingers.

“Recently, I visited Abia, my state, as I do from time to time, to attend the burial of our former boss and the late Vice Chairman of The Sun Publishing Limited, Pastor Dimgba Igwe. …

“Today, students in Abia State University and Abia State Polytechnic are at home, when their mates in other states are studying. These students are at home because lecturers are on strike over unpaid salaries. Yes, the Governor Orji government is owing university and polytechnics teachers more than four months salaries. And their patience has run out.

The state government has not paid teachers' salaries when it has increased school fees in the university. If you think that Governor Orji will show remorse for owing salaries, you are mistaking. Instead, he's angry that university teachers have the audacity and effrontery to demand pay for a job they had done. He has, therefore, sacked the rector of the Abia State Polytechnic over the strike. Are you still in doubt about government legacies? Yes, closure of schools and sack of teachers/school administrators who are demanding their rights are Governor Orji's legacies.

“Have you ever visited primary and secondary schools in Abia? They are in a sorry state, with dilapidated structures. The schools have leaking roofs, broken windows and doors. They could pass for pig houses, neglected and abandoned. This is the situation at a time when other governors are rehabilitating schools and building new ones, as is the case in Anambra, Imo, Edo and some others, which are not even oil-producing. Yet another legacy of Governor Orji”.

It will be interesting to know if citizen Ukeh is also not “morally qualified to talk about the education sector in Abia State” or if Ukeh is also gunning for the office of the Governor of his home State. It will be nice to know if Otti planted Ukeh's tale (which I have taken the liberty to copiously quote above) in Ukeh's head.

In January 2015, “the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Chairman in Abia State, Sylvanus Eye, said that while civil servants in the ministries had been paid, workers in patastatals were yet to receive the November and December salaries, while adding that teachers and local government council staff were also being owed salaries for two months” (Daily Trust). Is Otti also responsible for planting this story?

It is also the stuff that mediocre minds are made of to refer to broken down negotiations in the past as reason for non-performance in the present. "The proposal on how to free up some money from his bank (Diamond Bank) to pay salaries, he refused to oblige the governor. He did not stop at that, he also turned down all the proposals on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) on major projects which the state Governor presented to him”, Charles Ajunwa and Theodore Orji co-wrote, probably grinning from ear-to-ear for hitting bulls-eye before their acerbic statement began its circulation to the press. Could the duo take the liberty to disclose where these talks took place and why Otti never allowed his bank to be used as a conduit by his venal State Governor? Doesn't this attest to Otti's impeccable character that he refused to sign up on a deal with a State Governor famed for his acts of larceny?

"This is same man, who as Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, refused to use his exalted office to execute any single project in Abia State”. No, Ajunwa and Orji! Otti wasn't the kind of GMD/CEO who took advantage of his “exalted office” to execute projects in his home State because he understands what corporate governance means in a 21st century business environment. Whose constitutional responsibility was it to execute projects in Abia State anyway? Orji's or Otti's? Otti wasn't the type of man to allot bank resources to execute projects in his home State (without running same through the board) because clannishness and parochialism have never been associated with his persona.

Which is why when the Abia State Government writes that: "The truth is that Governor Orji is a genuine leader who is proud of his roots unlike Otti who everybody knows hails from Arochukwu Local Government Area but funny enough denied his ancestry because of his vaulting governorship ambition…” we understand where they are coming from.

Unlike the very parochial Orji and his minions, Otti will never flaunt the denizen card to score an advantage in a political race. Otti understands that whether he hails from Arochukwu, Isiala-Ngwa, Eziama, Ugwunagbo, Bende, Obingwa or Isuochi is beside the point in an Abia State where all that matters at the moment is not where one hails from but what one is capable of bringing to the table. I understand that mediocre minds throw the denizen card all over the place while great minds like Otti will prefer the synergy of the various communities in Abia State for the greater good.

Ajunwa's Press statement which referred to Otti as a “pathological liar” for demanding that Abia State be better governed, was another low from the stable of a State Government known for flaunting legacy” and “epoch” projects that are just as mediocre as the grey matter in their skulls. Orji and his stooge (the PDP governorship flag bearer) are victims of morbid fear as Otti's momentum ahead of the general elections shows no sign of slowing down. I advise that the next time the Abia State Government intends aiming a dig at Otti who is the best thing to happen to Abia at the moment, they should take the time to do so with some class. Oh, my bad!!! That is well above their ken as well.

Ifeanyi Amanze wrote this piece from Umuahia

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