Kolawole Was Right On Governor T.A.Orji

By Jasper Uche
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In my assessment, Simon Kolawole, is one of the most respected and thorough-bred columnists in Nigeria today. I have remained an avid reader and fan of THISDAY Newspaper because of his dispassionate and incisive dissection of national issues, including the likes of Segun Adeniyi, Dele Momodu as well as Eddie Iroh's periodic interventions.

Mr. Kolawole's thesis on the Backpage Column of THISDAY of Sunday 16th March 2014 on conflict and underdevelopment with a cursory survey of Abia case is apt and factual. It is an open secret that the political economy of Abia was hamstrung by a plundering and tiny cabal whose obsession to call the shots, even when there is a substantive Governor, impeded development efforts in Governor Orji's first tenure. What Kolawole observed about the State Capital, Umuahia is a corroboration of what has been attested by not a few local and international guests that had visited Abia. It is therefore a depiction of corrupt mindset and lack of objectivity,

to always assume that a journalist or columnist is compromised whenever he appropriates his platform to eulogize and commend performing public officers.

Be that as it may, Governor Orji had humbly admitted that his first term was the locust years, and fought with every inch of his blood, to extricate himself from the godfather that bled the State to a near-stupor. Throughout the larger part of his first term, Governor Orji almost walked on a razor's edge. His fate was hung on a precipice as a result of the fierce legal battles to consolidate his mandate and the spirited attempts to discredit Governor Orji by the hirelings of the 'master strategist'.

True to the prayer of Abians and Ochendo's gallant pedaling, the fox was eventually chased away and Abians heaved sighs of relief. Governor Orji regained a renewed vigour and unfettered momentum to champion an era of legacies in God's own state. As observed by Kolawole, Abia witnessed a glorious era of rapprochement with the federal government under Ochendo and it had paid off in multiple dimensions. For the first time since the return to civil rule in 1999, Abia elders, founding fathers and the intelligentsia could sit together and discuss like brothers. It has been made possible because of Governor Orji's accommodating mien, administrative finesse, uncommon urbanity, and unparalleled capacity to galvanize a pool of talents and human capital resources to restore the State to the mainstream of national affairs and the path of socio-economic development. Perhaps, this feat recently threw up Governor Orji to the Chairmanship of South East Governors' Forum, as Ndigbo needs a lea

der like him to foster robust consensus and minimize the 'untamed' individualism that usually trail the corporate strategic interest of Ndigbo.

> One does not need a crystal ball to see and appreciate the multi-faceted gains of the relocation of Isi-Gate Market that occupied the centre of the state capital. And that was what first impressed Kolawole, like every other visitor or passer-by. No modern city can afford to harbour a market in a heart of the town and its nuisance effects, with tumultuous and a long stretch of traffic gridlock routinely asphyxiating the decorum and tranquility of a vintage seat of power. It took a rare political will and constructive engagement with the traders by Governor Orji to successfully relocate the market without litigations and protests. This feat had been the dream of over 70 years and it took a hard-nosed reformer like Ochendo to live up to the challenge. Already, a befitting event centre is sprawling up there. Besides, Governor Orji also decongested the city centre by building and relocating the Umuahia Industrial Market to a more spacious site at Ndume and the Mechanic Village /Auto Spa

re Parts Market at Club Road to Ohiya, a suburb of the state capital. What Governor Orji had done is like the creative concept of an architect which is a manifestation of the aesthetic beauty we admire in a finished building.

A visit to Ogurube Layout, Umuahia will indeed confirm that Abia is a huge construction site. Apart from the dual carriage way of Ndume Otuka Bypass that connects Ikot-Ekpene road to Ogurube Layout and the Ochendo Bypass, all built by Governor Orji that connects Bende Road with Ogurube Layout, which can be called the New Umuahia; there is a growing impression of a government that is in a hurry to reposition the state. It is like building the state from the scratch. One of the twin magnificent and the state-of-the-art four-storey secretariats is already occupied by some ministries that had their offices in old colonial buildings and rented office accommodation.

The second complex is at the verge of completion. The high-brow area is also the location of the International Conference Centre that is nearing completion, apart from the gigantic JAAC/ASUBEB four-storey buildings that have reached advanced stages. The new government house, modern office block for the state legislators, the

Abia State E-Library Complex and the new court buildings at the Judiciary Headquarters are among the new structures being built by the present administration to give the state a sound footing. It is unacceptable that a state of over 20 years was not considered fit for befitting workers secretariat by the successive leaders, and the efforts of the present administration to regain the lost ground is disparaged by quislings and desperate power mongers.

In the health sector, Governor Orji built three 100-bed hospital in each of the three geo-political zones in the state. They are located at Okeikpe Ukwa West, Arochukwu and Amachara General Hospital, Umuahia. He also took health facilities to the doorsteps of rural dwellers by building over 250 health centers across the state. He established the Abia State Specialist & Diagnostic Hospital, Umuahia with Dialysis and Eye Centers to curb medical tourism and a Diagnostic Centre at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba. The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria had given approval for training of medical interns at the State Specialist Hospital.

In the education sector, Governor Orji has completed the construction of three model gigantic one-storey classroom blocks of 28-Room capacity in each of the three senatorial zones in Abia State. For Abia North, it is located at Ovim (Technical) Secondary School, Isuikwuato; for Abia Central, it is located at Government College, Umuahia while the one of Abia South is located at Abayi Girls Secondary School, Aba. The State Universal Basic Education Board which in 2012 received the award of the best managed State Education Board in the South East has reconstructed over 154 classroom blocks in both the primary and secondary schools across the 17 LGAs in the state. Under the directive of the Governor, the Abia State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (ASOPADEC) embarked on not only renovation of schools but also carried out other educational programmes. It is on record that Abia students have continued to win laurels in most national competitions.

Glossing over the evident transformation that is quietly assuming its rightful pride of place in Abia has been the trademark of the sworn enemies of the Governor and their hordes of paid emergency social crusaders. They have consistently twisted the environmental challenges in Aba (which is not the making of Governor Orji) to malign his government. Despite the temporary setback caused by kidnapping of workers at construction sites in Aba, the present administration embarked on the reconstruction and 'dualization' of the most strategic road in Aba, the Aba-Owerri Road which was a nightmare before Ochendo came on board. People forget easily! Other roads like Danfodio, Azikiwe, Milverton, Brass/Faulks, Georges, Constitution Crescent were rehabilitated while a completely new access road to the Geometric Power Plant was constructed by Governor Orji.

The huge tonnes of refuse generated in Aba daily are promptly disposed by the State Environmental Agency. It is sad that those who cry on the roof top about Aba today could not do anything for them while they held sway. The perennial and incessant erection of unapproved markets, motor parks, residential buildings, petrol stations and business premises are at the root of the seemingly intractable environmental decay and collapse of public roads in Aba. A recent survey of illegal structures indicated that close to 2000 buildings should be demolished if Aba must return to its original master plan, and also protect the road infrastructure from overbearing pressures of hustling and bustling of the commercial town. Yet Governor Orji has been handling the matter with a human face coupled with well-meaning appeals from members of Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA).

To buttress our point, we reproduce the interview of Governor Orji's predecessor in The Source Magazine of July 3, 2006 page 15, where he lamented over what he is today struggling to make a political capital from. Hear him: 'Even the roads fixed by the Federal Government from Enugu to Port Harcourt, they spoil every year. If you know the number of vehicles that go into Aba and outAba is not only my yardstick, what of Umuahia? Nobody talks about it. Aba is supposed to be a disaster area. It is supposed to be taken over by the Federal Government because the amount of environmental problem that comes out of Aba every day, you can't equate with any other city in Nigeria, even Lagos. This is because everywhere in Aba is market'. The same person who granted this interview a few years back is now leading a pack of misguided elements to appear people-friendly. But Abians know their history and antics.

One irrefutable fact is that today, Aba enjoys a safe business climate occasioned by Governor Orji's security architecture. Kidnappings and violent crimes that scared investors and made many people to relocate from the city have been stamped out. The security tending apparatus is also sustained and that is Governor Orji's intangible but greatest legacy. Indeed, conflict is development repellent as espoused by Kolawole.

Uche Lives in Umuahia.

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