T.A. Orji: Deconstructing the Architect of Abia Modernization

By Moses Nna
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It has recently become fashionable to embark on painstaking research and socio-psychological study of dramatis personae that influence and drive public policies. An incontrovertible finding reveals that a person's background, experiences and idiosyncratic make-up contribute largely to his approach in governance and life's issues. For Abia State Governor, his mastery of the socio-political milieu(as a home boy) and the challenges he encountered, have culminated to his transformational leadership exemplified by the numerous legacy projects. Governor T.A. Orji has been severally described as a cat with nine lives. The booby traps and landmine that trailed his legitimate quest to govern his people turned out blessings in disguise. By a twist of fate, (Ochendo as fondly called) is usually placed in underdog positions in virtually all his political fights but remarkably and out of the blues, he has consistently emerged triumphantly, to the chagrin of the spin doctors of the opposition.

Typical of the journey to the seat of power in Nigeria, T.A. Orji's ascendancy to Government House was bumpy, tortuous and attracted a barrage of nasty onslaughts. Of course, the 'all-powerful nature' of Nigerian State and its unfettered capacity to dispense favours and punishments alike, are at the root of concerted maneuverings and war-like dispositions in the political chessboard.

With a thorough-bred academic and civil service background, T.A. Orji's candour and administrative finesse when he served as the Chief of Staff at Government House were legendary. His infectious smile and disarming humility attracted silent admirers for him. Most obviously, his knack for details and fine sense of operational balance in handling State affairs(usually intertwined with divergent interests), elevated the office as a veritable buffer ground and melting-pot for crystallization of policy in-puts.

Interestingly, when it was mooted that he would fly the gubernatorial flag of his political party in 2007, it was not difficult to market his candidature given T.A. Orji's huge store of goodwill across the State. Not long, the preponderance of genuine support groups for Ochendo was witnessed in all parts of Abia. His intimidating profile and wide acceptability became worrisome to the opposition. They conspired and took him out of circulation on trumped up charges in the build-up to the2007 elections. The shenanigans in the name of litigations and unprovoked campaigns of calumny that followed his first term were enough distractions. The family dynasty that held the State down for years gave him no breathing space either. The political economy of the State that was under 'mamacratic' stranglehold obviously became unbearable to T.A. Orji. Of course, T.A. Orji in his characteristic frankness admitted that his first tenure in office was the years of the locust.

Determined to jumpstart the State from its doldrums, T.A. Orji led the crack team of progressive elements in the State to chase away the merciless foxes that are bent on milking Abia to stupor. In fact, T.A. Orji imbibed the ideals of 'winning without bloodshed' as enunciated by Sun-tzu, the author of the ancient Chinese classic, The Art of War. His unassuming but amiable mien and broad-based engagement of stakeholders helped matters; as he walked the talk with unassailable commitment to leapfrog Abia from the backwaters of mainstream national politics. Expectedly, a groundswell of support for a momentous march to excellence ennobled his avowed readiness for revolutionary governance and set the stage for a giant leap and speedy modernization processes.

The new Abia under T.A. Orji is marked with consensus building, mutual respect among the elders and management of political differences with maturity. The State now enjoys unprecedented peace which has brought about a convivial atmosphere for development activities. The investment climate in Abia is very inviting. Abia is unarguably, one of the safest States in Nigeria. It used to be a hotbed of kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes until T.A. Orji did a rejig of his security strategies.

Mindful of the strategic importance of road infrastructure to economic development, T.A. Orji has embarked on massive construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads across the 17 LGAs and most importantly, at Aba where over 18 roads are being worked on. Some have been completed. Besides the over 250 health centres scattered in all nook and cranny of the State, the newly constructed Abia State Specialist & Diagnostic Centre, Umuahia recently got the approval of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria for training of medical interns.

The evacuation of power from Ohiya Power Station has increased electricity supply in the State capital and its environs while the Alaoji National Independent Power Project and Geometric Independent Power Project in Aba are part of the gains of good working relationship with the Federal Government and enabling environment that is a sine qua non for public private partnership. When these projects become fully operational, they will boost economic activities of small and medium scale enterprises and act as catalysts to industrialization.

On the strength of T.A. Orji's robust vision, Abia State has turned into a huge construction site with the erection of offices and edifices for the conduct of government businesses. The double 3-storey secretariat, the world class international conference centre, the new government house, the new court rooms and offices, the JAAC/ASUBEB building, the new office complex for the State Broadcasting Corporation are indicative of the fact that Abia State is poised to gain a befitting status for accelerated development. Before now, the State capital- Umuahia had retained a despicable status of a rural setting.

As a welfarist par excellence, T.A. Orji, at the beginning of his administration, had put smiles on the faces of civil servants by promoting all cadres of workers to one salary grade level and presently, he has sustained the payment of the highest minimum wage of N21,100 in Nigeria. It is equally on record that Abia workers under the administration of T.A. Orji have never embarked on industrial action as a result of healthy relationship and mouthwatering welfare packages. The tuition free education for primary and secondary schoolchildren has increased school enrollment of Abia pupils and students just as Abia students have excelled in national and international competitions.

No doubt, the task of rebuilding Abia from the scratch is a daunting one. But the good news is that the man at the helm of affairs is conscientious and is adequately prepared to clean up the Augean stables. The unfolding development strides in Abia portend a good omen. True, the radical departure from the entrenched self-glorification and empire-building by a tiny family cabal is T.A. Orji's greatest legacy that marks the beginning of an end.

Moses Nna contributed this piece from Obi Ngwa LGA, Abia State

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