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Abia State Governor Theodore Orji recently spoke to journalists on allegation of non-performance leveled against his government by the opposition

By Ulonnaya Nwokafor

'Since I Came On Board, I Have Not Secured Any Loan Or Taken Any Bond'- Gov. T.A...

Abia State Governor Theodore Orji recently spoke to journalists on allegation of non-performance leveled against his government by the opposition, what his government is doing to uplift the state and other sundry issues. SAMSON EZEA was there and reports.

ABIA State chapter of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has accused you of not doing anything in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state. Is your silence not a confirmation of that allegation?

Ideally, I don't like listening or responding to empty noise-making. I have decided that henceforth, if I do foundation of any project, I will launch it. If I patch anywhere on the road, I will launch it, because the opposition is now feeding the public with a lot of lies, just to score cheap political points, even when the things we are doing are visible and verifiable.

Prominent among the things we are doing are roads and structures that will stand the test of time. I pray that before I leave office, the new Government House we are building will be ready for use.

The new International Conference Centre, where we have a banquet hall, can take more people than the Okpara Auditorium. The underground has been completed and work is still ongoing.

Work is also nearing completion at the new secretariat we are building. One thing you must understand is that I can build a road today and in two year's time, it will wear off and people will forget it.

So, what is your government doing in Aba?
Aba people, in the next one month, will forget Ukwumango Ariaria road, Dan Fodio/East roads, Old Express/Samek road, Nkata Ataike-Umukabia and Iyienyi-Okwoyi roads in Umuahia North Council, which I commissioned recently.

The late premier of the Eastern Nigeria, Dr. Michael Okpara, didn't he build roads? Did people remember him today for the roads he built? Instead, they remember him for the Golden Guinea Breweries, the Umuahia Ceramics and the Farm Settlements, and that is the angle I am going, because some people attach a lot of importance to roads.

Umukabia road was non-existent before; there was no road there, it used to be a bush. They refused to remember the Okwuta road we commissioned over one year ago.

At the secretariat, we have two roads yet to be commissioned- Ochendo By-pass, which comes out at Ikot-Ekpene road and the Otuka By-passes through Benaris Hotel that goes straight to B.B. Apugo house through to Amaeke.

I have not commissioned them and other ones, but there are some people who after one single project will make so much noise.

I have told my aides not to lay claim to what I did not do, because what my government has done is clear and verifiable. It is not Abrakatabra; it is not Dubai road.

The Umukabia road is stone-based, with bridges, and right from Umukabia, Ugwu Mkpa through Umuagu villages to Uzuakoli community.

How do you fund the projects, since you claim to receive paltry allocation?

Since I came on board, I have not secured any loan from any bank, neither have I taken any bond from the capital market.

Previously, our salary wage bill was between N1.4 and N1.5 billion, before the N18, 000 minimum wage was introduced. But today, I am paying N20.100 as minimum wage. I am yet to see any other state that pays higher than Abia.

This has brought our salary wage bill to N2.5 billion, out of an allocation of about N3.5billion at the highest. When you remove N2.5 billion from N3.5billion, what remains for me is just N1billion.

The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is N222 million, which is what I get from my consultants. Add it and compare with what we are doing and you can now assess whether Abia is doing well or not, compared to some other states?

There is no basis for comparison, because if you see their allocation chart, you can understand why some of them are able to build airports.

Unfortunately, when our people see some of these things, they will come back and say nothing is happening here. But you cut your coat according to your cloth.

I cannot bring Julius Berger here because I cannot pay them. But I can pay our own indigenous contractors who are doing very well and they are the people we are using and they are happy about it.

The three contractors I have kept permanently in Abia are all indigenous. The owners of Grand Star and New Idea are from Ana bra. The owner of Kudock is from Imo and there is nobody from Abia that is working on roads now, except GOT, which built Iyienyi-Okwoyi road.

You have seen the number of roads that we are doing, but people will still castigate me by saying nothing is happening in Abia, when things are actually happening.

But why has your government come under stringent criticisms?

Every day, if you open the newspapers, you see all kinds of stories. Edo is (Adams) Oshiomhole's state, isn't it? You will read that people were kidnapped and the story will be put inside the newspaper. But here, if a lizard gets missing, my predecessor's newspaper will make it front-page news. There is somewhere I read that they raped a 26 year-old girl and she died during the crime and there is also a place I read that they have taken one traditional ruler to court for alleged rape related case.

But in Abia State, an allegation that has not been proven till today was made a national and international news story. No person has come out to prove that there was rape in Abia State University. I challenge anyone to come and prove it that there was raped in Abia State University.

Yet, some vested interests went ahead to sponsor bad stories against my government. This is what we are suffering here and we are misrepresented. There is no kidnapping here in Abia. In Imo State, kidnapping is taking place there but who talks about it? I also read in newspapers that some journalists escaped from the hands of kidnappers. It wasn't made such a big deal but in our own case, an incident happened in the border between Akwa Ibom and Abia states, they shifted it to Abia- that journalists were kidnapped in Abia. You see, when they are maligning me, they are also maligning the good people of Abia State.

How are you then taking this?
I can say confidently that something good is happening in Abia State. You cannot compare what obtains now with what used to be.

I gave you some instances. My predecessor called me and told me to sell the Abia State Guest House in Victoria Island, Lagos to him, but I refused. I asked why he didn't buy it when he was in office.

He also told me to lease Umuneato General Hospital to him for 50 years for use as part of the university he is building, but I also refused and told him that it was Abia property, if I cannot develop it or don't do anything with it, it will be like that so that any other person coming after me can do anything about it. But for me to sell any Abia property, I told him I wouldn't do that.

What held us back for many years is greed. The same old school that messed up the state wants to come back and continue, but we are saying no, that Abia people have suffered enough.

Apart from a forum like this, what other ways are you employing to project the achievements of your administration?

From now on, I have vowed that I will start to launch all the projects started and completed by my government. I am going to instruct my commissioners and aides to start publicising what is taking place in every sector in the state, because a lot is actually taking place.

Since I came on board, Abia has always come out tops in the education sector. Check out the best students in the Law School, you will see an Abia State University graduate. In medicine, Abia is also doing well, all these because we don't play with subventions.

We are running a free education from the primary to secondary school level and have renovated about 250 schools.

In SUBEB, we have come second twice and came first once and they gave us a cash prize of N70 million.

I am not the commissioner for Information, but if people refuse to market me, I will market myself.

We have a reservoir of funds in the United States (US), which was recovered and kept there, out of which we have been giving our boys and girls overseas scholarships.

We gave unemployed youths jobs to do in business, agricultural sector, commerce and industry and sanitation.

After the Easter celebrations, we started another empowerment of unemployed youths and there is no sector you go that you will not see what we are doing.

We are doing so much in the health sector, especially in the area of counterpart funding. About 250 health centres are scattered all over Abia State, because we bring our own counterpart funding of N1billion and merge it with federal allocation and work goes on.

This time around, we want to face purchase of ambulances and hospital equipment, and we are sourcing for our own funds.

If we fail to breed people of good character, we will only succeed in breeding brilliant beasts
By: Prince Bola Ajibola