TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center


By NBF News
Listen to article

There are no airs of officialdom about him. As Secretary to the Government of Abia state Professor Mpka A. Mpka still lives at Abia state University Uturu where he had been an award winning Vice Chancellor. He is also working hard in his new position to make a difference in the administration. In this chat he talks about strides made by the current regime and the political rivalry between parties in the state; Eccerpts

You come from a town Abiriba that is known for business how come you ended up a proffessor?

My parents were not business people. My father was an agricultural officer. He was a superintendent of agriculture in charge of the old Owerri province and later Okigwe Province in the First Republic .

So, my orientation from my father's angle wasn't that of the business enterprise. It was the acquisition of good education and that was where he channeled all of my siblings. My mother was the first female Grade II teacher in Abiriba. So again you could see from that angle our orientation wasn't towards business but towards education.

So for a family to have all the children, the siblings as graduates was a big achievement as at that time. I, for instance, am a graduate of the Faculty of Education, Curriculum Studies. My elder sister was of Education Administration, may be because my mother was an educationist.

I'm the third in the line, the first sibling was an educationist, then came the one that did nursing. Even though she did Nursing she also took a degree in Public Administration from the University of Nigeria, and then myself.

After myself, my younger sister who is rounding up her Ph.D as a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt . After that came the next two boys, one a Pharmacist, he was practicing in Port Harcourt where he died. We were six of us and we were all graduates.

Even though my father was a product of the merchantile process he saw that there was a limitation. It didn't give him everything he needed. In fact, he was an apprentice to a businessman and at some stage he decided to pull out as an adult to go to school.

It a appears government is gradually commercializing university education rather than funding it.

I agree with you that it is the primary responsibility of government to provide education to the citizenry. But at the same time the individual has a right to determine the kind of education, the quality of education that he wants to obtain or parents would want their children to have.

Government wants to democratise educational opportunities and given the population of Nigeria more Universities may be needed in order to provide opportunities to the teeming population of people who qualify for education.

But then when government is unable to provide all those universities, there is need for partnership between the private sector and government. That explains why government has tended to liberalize the establishment of universities so that individuals, church organizations, corporate bodies, etc could establish universities.

Government is trying to establish standards that must be met; that any individual that wants to establish universities must follow. That's what the National Universities Commission, NUC is doing. And if the NUC would put its feet down and ensure strict compliance with the stipulated standards I think the problem of poor quality education will be solved.

But It's not doing enough; NUC is not doing enough because we know of compromises. We know what people do when they go for accreditation; we know. So in principle, yes the guidelines are enough to make the quality of education substantial. But those implementing those standards get compromised along the way. That is the problem we have.

Let's zero in on Abia State. What's going on in the state?

Let me believe I understand you to say what's going on in the state. What is going on in the state is excellent administration of Abia State . Let's start with the vision of His Excellency. First of all let me say that when we judge His Excellency we plead with the people to understand the peculiarity of the circumstances under which he emerged.

I was appointed SSG because His Excellency believed that I did well as the Vice-Chancellor of Abia State University. My people didn't lead a delegation to him. Nobody did. He saw that and because he is talking about merit, he's talking about competence. He's talking about credentials; he's talking about credibility. He's talking about ability.

I commend what he's doing because this is in the context of limited funds. All of us know. You see, people say go to Akwa Ibom, go to Rivers State . How much is Akwa Ibom receiving? How much is Abia receiving? So we have to judge in the context of the availability of resources.

He has led Abia back into the PDP fold. It's a wonderful plus.

When the kidnappers that were dislodged from River State gravitated into various South-Eastern States, Abia became unbearable and investors fled. It was the connection of His Excellency with the Federal Government that attracted the federal troops and other agencies to deal a fatal blow to that scourge that threatened the economy of Abia State . And kidnapping literally disappeared.

All the people in Aba fled. Industries folded up; powerful individuals disappeared, went on self-exile. But today life has returned because peace has been restored.

Investors are coming back. In fact a few days ago Guinness Nigeria Plc returned, they had earlier fled from Aba . They came to launch one of their new product DUBIC lager beer. They have now come, established a brewery and they started manufacturing because the environment is now conducive. These are some of the dividends that we have benefited by returning to the mainstream of the Nigerian politics.

We're able to plead with the federal government and we received very ready hearing. So part of what they did, they didn't just come back talking about Guinness, they're now official sponsors of the Enyimba Football Club Jersy.

Abia has industries why is the state not doing well in internally generated revenue.

The factories weren't functioning. Golden Guinea was not functioning. The Modern Ceramics Industry was not functioning, Aba Textile Mill was not functioning.

These are potential revenue earners. Nigerian Breweries in Aba folded up and disappeared. It is now that it came back.

For Aba, one would say you have Ariaria market why don't you get revenue from it? Ariaria had remained impassable. You will hear of 'Ukwu-Mango' and there are about six to seven roads that are being tarred in Ariaria.

We thought that it was unfair to impose a taxation or go to take from them when we've not created the enabling environment.

In Ariaria area we will now morally feel justified to ask for money, internally generated revenue from them. Before now IGR wasn't coming!

We have involved in a number of consultants who have done well in some other states of the federation to Abia State and we're experimenting and the experiment is yielding positive results. And internally generated revenue is beginning to increase now. It's a gradual process the people have to be keyed into the process..

And that is one. We cut our coat according to our cloth. And when we also remember also that on the average Abia will receive N3.5 billion when conditions are very favourable and we spend N2.5 billion paying salaries and wages we have only N1 billion left. From this N1 billion doesn't it amaze you that so much is being done. Not less than N5 billion has been sunk into Aba roads as I speak with you.

Sir can you mention the roads?
Three weeks ago we commissioned four roads in Aba - three roads in Aba plus the pedestrian crossing at Abia State polytechnic, Aba. It's not just creating roads, we demolish illegal structures and excavate drains .

So it's not just as simple creating roads. What are there for us to see? We could not go to commission things that do not exist. That famous Ukwu-Mango road is a major stake because it reduces the distance to Ariaria market. And within Ariaria as many as six or seven roads are tarred within that environment.

Not to talk about Port Harcourt Raod, Ohanku Road several of them within Aba; Old Express/Samek, Aba-Owerri( Express Road junction Railway Crossing), Danfidio Road, Obikabia Road(eleven kms), Aba Town Hall- Fire Service, Azikwe Road, Umuocham Road, Ohanku Road, East Street Erosion Control completed and work is in progress in several other roads including Umueze Road, Ekeakpara Road, and some Federal roads  This is in respect to Aba. The same massive road construction work is going on in various other parts of the State.

Needless to talk about federal government roads that are being rehabilitated by Abia State government. If you take Umuahia – Akara Road , it's a federal road; if you take Ohafia - Arochukwu road; it's a federal road, but it's the state government that has taken over the rehabilitation of those roads. Reason: it's not the federal government that uses these roads. It's our own people. It's our vehicles that break down each time they pass there.

So, in terms of the roads in Aba and elsewhere there's hardly any part of the state, including my community, we're from Abiriba - the road leading from Amogudu cutting through the city into two, passing through up to Ali Ndi-Oriri was tarred by the state government.

But talking quite seriously I think in the context of the money we had whether it is justifiable. Yes, because it is not just roads alone. The infrastructural development is to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive, that's why it has looked at and focused and invested in power generation.

At the moment there are two power generating sub-stations. One from Osisioma and the other one from Ohinya, Ohinya is close to Umuahia. In the next 14 days or less, Umuahia and its environs will have light up to Isikwuato. And the other one will power the whole of Aba area. We believe that with electricity you can engineer industrialization. Several other things will come easily with constant electricity.

There's hardly any community in Abia State that doesn't have a transformer. Yes, there's hardly any.

So if all these things are happening why are people not happy with the regime?

There are administrators that do one thing and they go announcing to the whole world 'I've done this, I've done this', Ochendo by nature is is reserved. He talks very little but does very much.

And unless you are very close to see what he's doing; it's like his generosity. He is a simple man.

People sometimes mistake his gentleness for weakness.

If His Excellency receives a message that you're bereaved, if he's not there in person he will send somebody. I have consistently gone on his behalf to people who would not expect even a local government chairman to pay them a visit.

Now let me address what happened in Aba which is interesting. And I like to say that we in Abia State believe that the burial of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was a solemn assembly that should ordinarily attract the sympathy of all Igbo people; where political differences should be submerged.

Unknown to us our APGA opponents had prepared to use it as a political platform. First of all, they told us that the body of Ojukwu would arrive at 7am - in order to allow them flood the stadium with their hired and indoctrinated crowd most of whom were not Abia indigenes. We were warming up for 7 O'clock they gave us another announcement 'Oh it's coming at 12noon' and we relaxed, only for them to fill up the place. And by the time we arrived, the paid and well-indoctrinated hoodlums had occupied strategic parts of the stadium. I understand that each of them was paid N2,000. Check how much money a state government would dish out to hire 20,000 hoodlums and pay them N2,000 each.

And the directive for them was once His Excellency stands up begin to hoot, once another governor comes up, begins to applaud.

Our people are humane; we're hospitable. Sometimes to a fault. And we allow everybody have a field day and a free hand. More around - in Aba . We did not mind that leadership of several trade unions are non-indigenes. We don't mind, but then our political enemies have casshed in on this liberality to use those structures that we allowed to exist in the name of democracy to fight against us.

Let me tell you, I have security report that APGA planned to take over Abia in 2015 and what APGA is doing is to sow seeds of discord amongst the people.

What you're saying is that the protest was stage-managed?

Stage-managed! Completely stage-managed! And I have my reasons for saying so. If it is the same group, does Aba have how many populations? One homogenous population. How come that when we returned to commission projects it was a heroic welcome that Ochendo received? Then who were those that were hooting a few weeks earlier? Where were they? They have received their pay and gone away!