I Will Not Interfere In My Successor’s Government, Says Orji
The Outgoing governor of Abia State and senator-elect for Abia Central District, Chief Theodore Orji speaks to some journalists on his stewardship, relationship with his successor and other issues. SAMSON EZEA was there and reports.
What will you say have been your legacies and challenges in the last eight years as you prepare to hand over to your successor? I am happy that I am ending very well.
For the past eight years, there have been challenges of which solutions were not easy. But I am happy that I am leaving behind a lot of legacies.
And I can always divide these legacies into two namely; tangible and intangible legacies.
The intangible legacies include security which people underrate, forgetting that it is the backbone of every development. We experienced unprecedented kidnapping in the state to the extent that the commercial city of Aba was at a time deserted by the residents, and visitors. Some people who did not understand the enormity of the challenges even called for my resignation from office.
My government confronted the menace headlong and I am happy that we were able to overcome it. Today Abia is among the most peaceful and secure state in the country. Before I came on board, the state was polarized. But I was able to sort out the polarization.
Remember that when you are not united, you cannot do anything. Politically there were factions; we have Abia, Abuja and Lagos factions.
These people were operating from different angles, but with the help of God, I was able to bring all of them together under one umbrella.
Today the state belongs to all of us. That is a big achievement. When I came on board, the state was faced with paganism. I’ m a Christian, but idol worshipping was rampant even in government. Before one can become a commissioner or given any position in the state, he or she would go and pay allegiance to one effigy or the other.
Some people would take him somewhere where he would swear to pay allegiance to certain person, if he don’t do so there’s no position for him.
Then time talents and credibility were thrown overboard and frivolous things were taken into cognizance. But I said, ‘no’ that is not my own brand of politics. We have to recognize people for whom they are, their talent which God has given to them.
Their innovations that are inherent in them and what they can offer the State. That was how we started giving positions based on performance and track record. We made sure that every section of Abia State was favoured in terms of appointments and projects distribution. We have completed so many developmental projects without borrowing money like other states.
We have completed the international conference centre at Ogurube layout. As one can see, it is one of its kind in the southeast region, if not the country, apart from the one in Abuja.
In the health sector, we have completed the diagnosis and specialist hospital in Umuahia and Aba. They are functional now because we have equipped them adequately and Nigerians are coming from different parts of the country for diagnosis and treatment here.
We built many health centres in rural areas and equip them with human and material resources. The Government House I inherited was a makeshift.
It is very uncomfortable and unbefitting of a state that was more than a decade. Successive governments never thought it wise to build a befitting government house for the state. But today my administration is building one and work is at advance stage.
The five-storey building workers’ secretariat has been completed and workers are already occupying it. Before now state ministries are located at rented and dilapidated buildings scattered across the state.
There are several other tangible legacies of my administration which time and space will not allow me to outline here, but they are verifiable.
Therefore, in terms of these tangible things, what we concentrated on is to lay the foundational structures for the state because a government must have a foundational structure for it to take off.
In the area of youth empowerment, our state remains the first state that started youth empowerment in a very big way, empowering and setting up structures for the youth skill acquisition where they learn the technique of being independent and fending for themselves. Moreover, we changed psyche of our people.
Before I came on board Abia people were intimidated. They weren’t proud to mention that they were from Abia State and I don’t know why.
But today, Abians are proud, they can now tell you they are from Abia State because there are changes going on in the state. What were the challenges you encountered in last eight years? There were serious challenges.
The first challenge was that of godfatherism. That was the foremost challenge that I faced I won’t hide it.
That is why we are saying that every person should do everything possible to stop bad godfatherism. Not a good one, because you can have a good godfather.
You must have a mentor who mentored you up to this stage where you are working very well, there is no point castigating such a person but if you have a mentor who doesn’t want you to rise, who doesn’t want your progress and who wants to outshine you and bring you down, who wants to expose you to the world as a non-performer, will you keep quiet? That is why we are saying that we don’t want that type of godfatherism in the State. It was what I faced here for the first four years.
I am a loyal person as you can see me, but once you see me being disloyal, there must be a reason and if you trace it, the other person must be at fault. I was once tagged a bishop without a cathedral by a senator who is now late.
But I told him, yes, but that at the appropriate time, I will own a cathedral and at the appropriate time God gave me a cathedral, today I have a cathedral. We had challenges of kidnapping and the development gave us bad name.
Our detractors capitalised on it, thinking that it was going to be an everlasting problem, but God gave us the wisdom and courage.
We fought it and it took a lot of energy and resources from us. We have the challenges of finance because you cannot run any without money.
No state government can say that the money given to it from the federation account is enough to do the things it needs to do for the people, pay workers’ salaries, build structures, pay allowances, do other several things and then run government.
Governance is a serious business and the type of government we are running is capital intensive. So the money can never be enough, but what we did was to try as much as we can to manage the resources at our disposals so that we can touch every sector of the economy.
The behaviour of our people is also another constraint especially those who live in urban areas who would want to do things their own way. As you know, change is difficult, when the government wants to bring change, they will resist it, fight and shout.
If you go to Aba for instance, and talk about taxation, they start shouting but they are all making money but they don’t want to pay their taxes so we continued to struggle for our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to rise.
Won’t you interfere in the administration of your successor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu? For sure interference is completely ruled out.
But some people alleged that you supported him so that you can control him? Yes that was the impression detractors have which they have been selling to the people on pages of newspapers, and other media.
But I have told them to tarry, because seeing is believing. Let them be alive and see what will happen because I am a different person. Victor Ikpeazu emerged through due process.
There is hand of God is in Abia State because since the creation of man, Ukwa Ngwa people have never had a governor, but when I came on board, my party and I decided that the best thing to do for Abia State is to allow fairness to prevail. In the Bible also God said that he is God of fairness equity and justice.
Accord the Trinity, God the father, the son and Holy Spirit are equal and that is what we adopted in Abia State. We said there should be equity in everything and it is the turn of Ukwa Ngwa people to produce governor. Since the position has been zoned to the people of Abia South, we supported them.
One cannot over night claim he is from Ngwa because governorship seat was zoned to the place. It is not fair and cannot work. I am not going to dictate for my successor what to do. He is an intelligent man. He has a PhD so he will try his best.
Fortunately for me, my people were magnanimous to vote for me to go to the Senate so I will not be idle. But if there are issues that the governor -elect and the people of Abia will want me to make my input and suggestion, I will freely do it without any cost in the interest of the State.
What is your take on the crisis that is currently rocking your party, the PDP? What is happening in my party can happen to any political party, but it is for us to have the capacity to reorganise and reengineer the party.
And that is what we are doing now. Some politicians are not steady; many are looking for where it is rosy. Some don’t want to suffer, they want where they will go and it will be rosy for them.
My party is having crisis now which you know very well and you know that I am a member of the committee to reorganize the party, but I have not been attending the meetings because of certain things beyond my control, but very soon I will rejoin them to make sure that we rebuild the party so that we can form a very strong opposition.
However, let the other political party not sing alleluia because what is happening to our party can happen to any party at any time. I know that we will bounce back.