Kalu, Orji and the Abia Awakening
It is now 13 years since Nigeria embarked on the present democratic journey. However, Abians have not enjoyed the 'dividends of democracy' as coined by the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. Abia is called 'God's own state' but unfortunately, godliness is one quality that has been amiss in the lives of the past and present leadership of the state whose main priority has been primitive accumulation of wealth at the expense of the development of the Abia. There is nothing Godly in the management of the state finances. The decay in public facilities and infrastructure no longer bothers the average Abian. It is now regarded as part of life and many would be surprised if anything ever changes. And like Proverbs 29:2 says “when the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan”.
But, how did things degenerate to this extent? Back track to the year 1998, when General Abubakar Abdusalaam took over the reins of power after the death of General Sani Abacha who was getting set to succeed himself as a civilian dictator after been adopted as a consensus candidate by the five political parties set up by him (then dubbed five leprous fingers on one leprous hand by the late chief Bola Ige) in his own transition programme. Prior to that was General Ibrahim Babangida who wasted millions of naira in conducting elections and yet cancelled the June 12, 1993 election, which Moshood Abiola was the acclaimed winner. The Abdusalaam's transition programme was seen by a section of Nigerians as another wild good chase. Some people even canvassed for Abdusalami to stay in power for a longer period before conducting elections. Furthermore, the uncertainty and mistrust that trailed the transition programme made many credible individuals who ought to have participated in the process to disenfranchise themselves from contesting for the various positions. Orji Uzor kalu was one of the moneybags who cashed in on the apathy. To him and many others like him, it was part of business, which involved risk. Having won a seat in the federal House of Representatives in a previous attempt, he decided to go for the governorship seat in Abia state. That was when advance fee fraudsters and other shady characters won seats in the national and state assemblies. That was when Ibori came to power. And like Ike Agbo has said “in a clime where you have to have money to vie for any elective office, you cannot expect the very best: the ones who can afford to spend money will continue to take charge”. In sane climes where pedigree is considered above wealth, where people coming out for elective and sensitive positions are properly and thoroughly scrutinized, Orji Kalu would not have become a local government chairman let alone a governor because of the excess baggage that trailed him. Nevertheless, this is Nigeria where everything goes, a country where money can buy anything except life. A country where a pastor changes his sermon for the day and starts praise singing on sighting a prominent politician and his entourage amongst his congregation. So with his wealth, he bought the elite in the state to his side. The rest was easy, with the help of T.A. Orji who was the administrative secretary of INEC in Enugu, he became a governor.
That was when the rot started, by the time he concluded his second term in 2007, he had used three deputies .As a governor, he soiled the image of the state through his numerous verbal blunders, (although he has now become so proficient in his tenses that he now writes a column in his newspaper, the Daily Sun) certificate scandal, and controversial admission in ABSU to complete a course which he abandoned in inexplicable circumstances eighteen years before in the University of Maiduguri. That feat ought to have earned him a place in the Guinness book of records. His arrogation of the national award of member of the order of Niger (MON) to himself, which was later discovered to be false, cannot be forgotten. The flaws were too much and could have been used to impeach him. But he was in control of the state house of assembly; he was the lord of the manor. And to spite Abians the more, he declared that he was richer than the state yet that did not deter him from turning the coffers of the state to his personal account. The state became an appendage of his business empire with him acquiring more than a thousand shops in Aba alone. He installed his younger brother as a House of Representative member in Aba federal constituency and established many concerns from the purse of the same state, which he claimed he was richer than. No need to mention them here, the businesses is public knowledge During his reign, credibility was sacrificed for mediocrity, the only criteria for appointment or selection to partake in the sharing of the state resources was to swear an oath of allegiance to him and his mother. Prominent individuals trooped to his mother's residence to peel egusi “Igba egusi” in order to be part of the process of governance. That was when the appellation 'mother excellence' gained prominence in Abia and Nigeria. She was the de facto governor. Propaganda was also employed to the zenith through the media where lies were dished out to the public barefacedly. All the while T.A Orji who was first compensated for his role in helping him secure the executive seat by been appointed a principal secretary and later as a chief of staff was learning the ropes under his tutelage. It is no surprise that he has now outclassed his mentor in false propaganda. At the end of kalu's reign, in his usual streetwise manner, he outfoxed the PDP led by president Obasanjo and installed his protégé Orji as governor in 2007.
Orji who made history as the first person to win a gubernatorial seat in Nigeria while in detention was initially seen as a man who could make a positive impact in the polity despite his relationship with Kalu. It was erroneously assumed that being a graduate of English language from the University of Ibadan, he would do better than his predecessor who was not intellectually sound. He also had to his advantage an impressive career as a civil servant who had occupied various positions that ought to have imbibed in him some leadership and managerial acumen. But he failed. It has given rise to an argument that education (array of certificates) alone should not be used as an index in considering people for elective positions in Nigeria. This is supported by Prof. Tam David -West statement that “Degrees and certificates do not make one a good leader”. There is a consensus that he has not performed better than Kalu. While propaganda was a past time under Kalu, it has been elevated to an art under Orji. Money that ought to be used for developmental projects is shared to journalists, sycophants, and praise singers who write articles in praise of the governor and his son, Chinedu. On a daily basis, articles are churned out from reputable media houses and from supposedly reputable journalists who accept peanuts to venerate banality. Toadies fall over themselves to see who will tell the most lie on the internet and the newspapers. They make mountains out of molehills. Every little thing is blown out of proportion in order to collect money from the governor. To sustain the battle on the internet, there is an adviser on E governance whose duty is to churn out online fictitious stories and manipulated photographs on the internet using fake names in order to give the impression that his principal is working. The propaganda has gone to the ridiculous extent that pictures of good roods from other parts of the state are posted and labeled as bad roads that were rehabilitated by the governor. Media hype is the in thing; projects are 'sometimes' awarded, completed, and commissioned in the media but behind the façade nothing has changed. Critics who speak out against the abnormalities in order to ensure that things are done the right way are labeled as enemies of the state. In place of mamacracy we now have Ikukucracy. A government of the father through the son. The de facto governor, Chinedu Orji alias Ikuku is a colossus who now decides what happens in the state. To get access to his father and political power, people pay homage to him in order to secure what they want. His word is law and to emphasize his position in the state he has personal assistants who are paid from the state coffers. The fear of Ikuku is the beginning of wisdom. Political office holders in the state defer to him. Recently, one of his hirelings, Julius Ekeocha published an article entitled ''Orji and youth empowerment'' in praise of him on pointblank news. That is what governance has been reduced to.
The governor and his supporters recently commissioned a pedestrian bridge constructed for students of Abia state Polytechnic with so much fanfare. Although, it is still a subject of controversy as to whom really built who built the metal bridge. Some say a businessperson built it while others say that the school management aided by the education trust fund built it. However, it is a project which a local government chairman will be ashamed to display as an achievement. Yet the governor commissioned it with so much hype. Invitations were issued to journalists and members of the national assembly to join in the circus show. The event itself was highly militarized; it was as if Abia was under a siege. To pave way for a smooth commissioning, the Colombian boys, York boys, and Abia poly students were lobbied with cash in order to remain calm. It was an ego trip aimed at washing away the disgrace meted to him at the Aba stadium during Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu burial rites in February where he was booed. That incident in any case was the fourth time the governor has been disgraced in Aba. Aba people have a history of intolerance with bad leadership. The rains are just starting and Aba is flooded and impassable after each spell of rain. The same Aba roads that was rehabilitated with five billion naira according to the governor and his media handlers. Is it not ridiculous? The state has gone into history as a place where roads are patched with cement and sand by new idea Construction Company that is reported to be owned by the governor. Almost a year after the general elections, the local government election is yet to be conducted. Local government funds is controlled by the state government who gives whoever is appointed as the transition chairman a pittance to run the council's affairs. Orji just like his mentor is using his third deputy now. And has also established his own business concerns. So much has been written and catalogued about the mismanagement of funds and misgovernance in this regime that it would amount to repeating the obvious if I continue.
Here lies Orji's headache, Kalu got away with many things including the lies because Abians were docile. Kalu's misdemeanors were also seen as part of the learning process after a long period of military rule. However, people have come to realize that they have a right to demand for good governance. Especially with the advent of the Arab spring which flushed some despots worldwide from power last year. Because of the albatross which the present democratic experiment has become for Abians in terms of good governance. The Abia Awakening (TAA) has come on a rescue mission. The Abia Awakening birthed seven months ago on the social media, especially facebook in order to bridge the gap caused by the embarrassing silence of the elites in Abia. With a vigorous campaign it has began to build a vast network of volunteers on ground in Abia state and the diaspora. TAA is not out to victimize anybody. Rather they believe that the citizens have a stake in governance and should be carried along. The Abia Awakening seeks to promote good governance in Abia State. It intends to achieve this by ensuring that leaders in all tiers of government in Abia are held accountable to the promises they make on the campaign trail. Furthermore, it is also sensitizing the citizens on the need to stand up for their constitutional rights. Through citizen journalism, Abians are encouraged to verify government claims and projects which are parroted in the media and debunk such falsehood if found out through the internet which is the new and alternative media for people who do not have access to the traditional media. The era where citizens vote and hibernate into their cocoons has passed. The democratic process no longer ends with voting, in fact it continues with monitoring of the activities of the elected representatives. In line with this, TAA will aid the democratic process by ensuring that our leaders perform their constitution obligations to Abians through constructive criticism, exposure of corrupt practices and publishing of funds accruing to these leaders.TAA will also conduct a periodic assessment of the tenure of these leaders vis vis the funds at their disposal. And will commend anyone who does well. TAA also intends to make sure that in 2015, only proactive and result oriented leaders will be elected. TAA intends to ensure that people will not be deceived with rice and other pecuniary incentives during campaigns. We look forward to an era where people in the mold of Rochas Okorocha, Godswiill Akpabio, Rotimi Amaechi and Babatunde Fashola will come to power in Abia state.TAA intends to make sure that provision of jobs to the teeming unemployed youths in Abia state, health care services, and provision of basic infrastructure and facilities will be the basic subject of discourse in subsequent elections and not sharing of money. They look forward to an era where the youths will not be recognized only during campaigns and abandoned after elections. This will be ensured through a sustained political education and public awareness on Abia indigenes.TAA is not all about criticism, it will acknowledge government in any area it does well. And in addition collaborate with it to bring development to Abia. That is what TAA wants. Good governance!
Abia is for all of us, do not be complacent, join in the quest for good governance. Join the Abia Awakening group. Visit theabiaawakening.com.