The Freest Man Whom The Truth Maketh Free
From October 1979 to December 1983, Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe, an ebullient politician, lawyer and technocrat was at the saddle as the executive governor of what is today known as old Imo state. In fact, he was the first executive governor of the state, having assumed office about three and half years after the state was created.
De Sam as he was fondly called had the passion to work for his people. The passion he pursued relentlessly; leading him to constantly express emotional outbursts at the sight of decaying infrastructure or at the occurrence of colossal natural disaster in the cities and villages of the then Imo state. This was a state that was pillaged and devastated by the 30-month civil war and whose citizens were left in shock and tatters after that interregnum.
Determined to impress the international community, the Yakubu Gowon administration introduced a policy that was supposed to reintegrate the Igbos into the Nigerian socio-political system under the three “Rs” concept of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation. But the implementation of this concept was so defective and fraudulent that, nine years after it was announced (1970-1979), Igbo land where it was supposed to address its damaged infrastructure remained the same, a ruined landscape.
However, as Sam Mbakwe assumed office on October 1, 1979, he vowed to turn things around by making an appreciable impact in governance. During a visit to the notorious Ndiegoro flood area in Aba, Mbakwe wept uncontrollably at the sight of what he saw; a pitiable state of human suffering, occasioned by monumental loss of properties and human beings. Mbakwe could not stand the anguish of landlords and tenants in Ndiegoro axis of Aba metropolis as they bemoaned the loss of their loved ones and properties at the rampage of the tsunami-like flood that submerged hundreds of commercial and residential houses.
Similar visits by him to Amucha and Okwudo erosion sites were no different. Mbakwe was sad; Mbakwe mourned, he drew the attention of the world to the affliction of Ndigbo. This indeed drew the ire of the Lagos/Ibadan press which derided him for having the audacity to “cast aspersions on the rest of the country”. A leader's passion for his people became his bane. He could not help but cry at the terrible state of affairs of his people who had survived the excruciating pang of the civil war. Indeed, his distress over the state of affairs in the old Imo state earned him the sobriquet, “the weeping Governor”.
However, despite the fact he was called names and maligned by the press, political opponents and some armed chair critics, Sam Mbakwe nonetheless had development as the centre piece of his four-year ill-fated administration, sacked by the Buhari/Idiagbo coup of December 1983. Today, he is a cult-hero of the people of the old Imo state. Like Sam Mbakwe who was not recognized at a time he pursued with relentless vigor the dream of developing the old Imo state, Gov TA Orji has not hidden his intention to put Abia state on the right track of infrastructural and economic map.
To say that he has approached governance with a sound character, a focused and well-articulated sense of purpose, which has attracted divine attention to the state, is to say the obvious. No wonder the Scottish poet, Robert Burns declared, “An honest man is the noblest work of God”. The criticisms he has been receiving lately (though from a familiar quarter) are, to say the least, bonded with jealousy. His political enemies are sad that Gov. Orji has achieved all that much in a state his predecessors left in ruins. Thirty something years after late former Gov. Sam Mbakwe gave out his best to the people of the old Imo state, Gov TA Orji, whom God entrusted with the leadership of Abia, a fraction of the Sam Mbakwe- administered state, is redesigning its socio-political and economic roadmap.
Gov Orji's critics like one Odimegwu Onwumere and Ebere Wabara indirectly and unconsciously have had in their various craps acknowledged the dynamism, enterprising, industriousness, laboriousness, initiative and drive of the administration of TA Orji in making the economy of the state the best growing economy in Nigeria. Unlike in the past, when the economy was in comatose with nothing concrete on the ground to show for the huge federal allocations and the internally generated revenue, Orji's presence in the government of Abia state since 2007, has moved the state away from the claws of economic and social hawks, who for eight years, empty the treasury in their wild imagination of becoming Africa's richest family.
Like Mbakwe did to Old Imo state, Orji has made Abia to become a tourist haven; with so many architectural masterpieces dotting its landscape. No wonder in less than two years many national and international organizations scrambled to hold their retreats, conferences and seminars in the state. From 2012 till now the Bishop conference of the Catholic Church has been held in Umuahia; so are the Joint Administration and Matriculation Board management meeting, the West African Examination Council seminar, Army Chief of Staff Conference, the retreat of the Senate Committee on Information, the Nigeria Union Of Journalists delegates conference, Radio and Theater Workers Union of Nigeria triennial meeting etc.
If there is no good governance in Abia, how would this crop of eminent personalities and organizations decide to come to Abia state to unwind? Is it not because there is security of lives and property and that the place has been structurally transformed to a near Eldorado? If the roads are tarred, electricity and water are regular and there is uninterrupted and free movement of people, there will be the urge to be part of the success story of the place. And this is what the conferees did by their presence in Abia at one time or the other.
Even the federal roads in Abia state have also enjoyed the kindness of Abia state government. They have been rehabilitated severally; it is on record that the state government led by Chief TA Orji has expended billions of state funds to rehabilitate the federal roads. The ongoing rehabilitation of Port Harcourt road, some potions of Ikot Ekpene road by Opopo junction, which is currently under rehabilitation courtesy of the state government, is a clear example. It should be noted that the perimeter fencing and construction of some pedestrian foot bridges to link the both lanes of the expressway at the Aba axis of the Enugu-Port Harcourt road as well as the rehabilitation of that axis of the road is a clear example that the TA Orji's administration extends its largess to the federal projects.
The Arochukwu-Ohafia road which some of the ignorant critics of the state administration have bandied about as one of the failures of Gov Orji is a federal road. The governor himself was the one of the facilitators that attracted the federal government to resume work on its rehabilitation; the work of which is ongoing. Besides road reconstruction and rehabilitation, the administration is also building quality schools, and had completed a modern and internationally accepted diagnostic center in Umuahia, built several health centres and hospitals in all parts of the state, workers secretariat, and an international conference centre that can accommodate 5000 people at an event. It has also enhanced the quick dispensation of justice by the equipment of the state judiciary through the building of modern architectural structures for high court judges and magistrates.
There is no sector that has not been touched in the orchestrated plan to put Abia in the world economic development. Therefore, the likes of Onwumere and Wabara should be bold enough to tell the people the truth. Like Georges Braque said, “Truth exists; only lies are invented”. Is it not tomfoolery, clownish and comical that men who should have known the performance index of every government of this country, considering their exposure are the ones leading a crusade of journalistic treachery and misinformation? For them, the truth can be buried so long as ones palm is continually greased. I don't blame them; after all, the greedy paymaster is at work. But they are only enjoying the crumbs that fell from his golden table. They should visit Abia state and record achievements of this Governor of this God's Own state without bias.
Gov Orji should be ranked as Mbakwe or even higher. He has elevated Abia from the shackles economic downturn, poverty and want to a glorious empire of surplus: hence his reward as the chairman, South East Governors' Forum. “Truth”, declared William Hamilton, “Like a torch, the more it's shook it shines”