#OtvOPINIONS: My stewardship as Abia governor (1999-2007) [VII]: Orji Uzor Kalu

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Without sounding immodest, I am proud to
state there was no administration before us
which fought corruption as much as we did for
the eight years we held sway in Abia State. I lay
claim to this feat because the evidence of our
22monumental war against treasury-looting,
malfeasance and other forms of cankers that
impeded the administration of the state in the
past was unambiguous. In my inaugural address
on May 29, 1999, I pledged to run an open,
transparent and God-fearing administration,
hinging my hope on the covenant I made before
God to serve the people of Abia State with all
my heart, mind and soul.

I thank God that we were able to keep to this
promise despite the huge challenges that
confronted us.
To drive the transformation agenda of our
government was no mean task. But we knew
that we could achieve the agenda only when we
had given up our selfish desires and embraced
altruism and openness. And so, we started by
reorienting the people, beginning with the civil
service – teaching them the need to imbibe the
culture of discipline and self-giving.
However, the initial opposition we faced was
how to make many people who had been used
to the culture of impunity to give up their old
ways and step into the new vision we had
conceptualized. Those who did not want change
worked hard to sabotage our effort in this
direction but failed. The reason they failed was
very simple: they could not get any accomplices
from among the policy-makers in our
government – beginning from myself, the
governor, down to the directors in the ministries
and government parastatal agencies.
It was a beautiful thing to see a once-corrupt
citizenry embracing God and renewing their lives
in the ways of moral rectitude and candour.
Punctuality soon became the soul of business in
Abia State. The civil servants who used to come
to work any time that suited them and used the
greater part of the day doing their own
businesses turned a new leaf. A special
department in the Office of the Head of Service
was established to monitor the performance of
civil servants, reappraise them and reorient
them. The resultant reports showed dramatic
shift in attitude and service-delivery capacity
among workers.
It was a wonderful feeling to hear civil servants
discuss the positive changes that had taken
place in the service and expression of interest to
partner with the government to move the state
forward.
I wish to state at this juncture, that the
performance of any administration is majorly
dependent on the virility and vibrancy of its civil
service. That was why we focused attention on
rearming the civil servants to serve as an added
impetus to our fight against systemic decay.
The Abia State Civil Service for the whole of the
years we served as governor cooperated with us
wholeheartedly in driving the structural changes
that we spearheaded. The most surprising thing
they did was to consciously expose corruption
where it existed. They brought the names of gov­
ernment officials involved in official corruption.
Some of the names on the list would make even
the most incurable pessimist quiver. We
handled identified cases of corruption as swiftly
as the occasions demanded without sparing
anybody found culpable. By so doing, we were
able to almost achieve a corruption-free state
before we vacated office in 2007.
I must mention here that money saved from
leakages was what we leveraged upon in
providing the social amenities that have helped
to elevate the living standards of our people. I
have spent the past seven editions of this
column listing the achievements of our
administration from 1999 to 2007. All these
achievements were made possible by the
austere mien and fiscal discipline we adopted in
the running of government affairs. Between
1999 and 2007 we collected only N108 billion
and achieved so much, while the present
administration has collected over N600 billion
(not including internally-generated revenue) and
achieved nothing tangible.
Imagine what Abia State would have become if
Governor Theodore Orji had continued with the
pace of development we put in place, rather
than the current wild-goose chase and shadow-
boxing he has engaged in since he was sworn in!
My heart bleeds whenever I see the projects we
built being allowed to waste, because the
governor does not like my face. What have these
projects got to do with him not liking my face?
Go to Umunnato General Hospital or the Univer­
sity Teaching Hospital, Aba and see how the
governor has allowed petty envy to erode his
sense of reasoning.
Our administration committed huge financial
resources to establish the two projects to better
the lot of our people. Why has the governor not
allowed both projects, which we completed and
equipped before we left office, to operate? All
the equipment and buildings in the site have
depreciated for lack of operability. The same
situation obtains at many of the projects we
completed before the expiration of our tenure.
Let me ask: what is the situation in Abia State
with the fight against corruption? Has the
governor been able to resist the temptation of
not compromising his office for whatever
reason? How far have his workers and other
appointed officials fared with the war against
corruption? I have asked these questions
because there is nothing on ground to show that
the Theodore Orji administration is performing.
The administration is bogged down by
corruption and bureaucratic bottlenecks in high
places. If the government of Theodore Orji were
not corrupt, perhaps, it should accept the
challenge I threw at him over a month ago for
us to bring the best auditing firms in the world
to audit our two administrations to see which
has performed better in terms of human
capacity building and fighting corruption.
The governor is simply being afraid not to have
accepted the challenge. In the alternative he has
intensified his media war against me and acted
in a manner inconsistent with decency and
truth. An administration that has nothing to hide
would have spent scarce resources working for
the people instead of fighting perceived enemies
in order to cover its inefficiencies and
incompetence. The governor knows deep in his
heart that he has failed Abia people, which was
the origin of our misunderstanding. Again, the
governor is a very incorrigible person and hardly
brooks meaningful criticisms. So, what he gets
daily is praise-singing and sycophancy. And huge
sums of money go into greasing the palms of
thousands of the praise-singers who troop to the
Government House on a daily basis.
My fear is that it will take his successor
enormous time, thinking and strategising to
address the wanton destruction caused to the
system. For instance, the incoming governor will
be expected to perform wonders. But with what
resources when the current government in
Umuahia has never ceased borrowing money
from the banks? The simple deduction is this:
whoever takes over from Governor Orji will
spend the first tenure cleaning the Augean
Stable created by the governor’s gross
incompetence and grabbing propensity.
Who will bell the cat then? This is where
experience and vision come to play. Abia State
needs a governor that is with enormous
capacity to create new ideas. We need
somebody who is selfless, God-fearing and
people-oriented in his thinking and ideology. We
do not need a political demagogue, a salacious
and garrulous person, a sloth and grabber. It is
to avoid this latter kind of person arising that
has motivated me to devote my time, resources
and energy to the rescue mission I have
embarked upon. I have never pretended that it
is going to be an easy and smooth sail. But I am
determined, because I am familiar with the
terrain, to go the whole hug. Anybody who
thinks he will intimidate me into abandoning the
struggle is deluding himself.
Those who know me very well will attest to the
fact that I do not fight shy when I believe in a
cause. Abia State needs immediate redemption
as things have continued to go out of hands
under the close watch of a grossly incompetent
and selfish leader. What are well-meaning
Abians – at home and in the Diaspora – doing to
rescue our state? Should we all sit down and
watch while corruption destroys the fabric of our
state? What are we going to tell the future
generation that we did when the state was in
dire need of redemption?
I am glad that Abians are wiser now than they
had ever been. The clamour from them for
things to be done right in our state grows by the
day. I am inundated daily with inquiries from
numerous Abians about what role they would
play to wrest power from the grips of the evil
government in Umuahia. Interestingly, many of
the inquirers are youth below the age of 30.
There is no doubt that the future is for this age
group whom the administration of Governor Orji
has constantly relegated to obscurity. Since 2007
his administration has not done anything
tangible to provide jobs for the teeming
population of our youth. All the government had
done since 2007 was to establish a personal
foundation called Governor Theodore Orji
Foundation. The major objective of the
foundation according to its founders was to
empower the youth of Abia State. From the
activities of the foundation it is very clear that it
was established to fund clandestine operations
targeted at perceived enemies of the governor.
Run by his eldest son, all the foundation has
done so far to empower the so-called youth was
to distribute second-hand vehicles with the
photograph of the governor boldly emblazoned
on them to political thugs and social misfits.
How many of the youth have been given decent
jobs? They should name them. What would
N5000 do to a full-blooded youth with big
dreams? Even the N5000 per beneficiary does
not go round. They just hand pick the
beneficiaries and hand out to them the
miserable sum every month or as the occasion
demands.
What we did during our stay in government was
totally different. We set up well-equipped skills
acquisition centres across the state to train
youth in diverse vocations. The result we
achieved was amazing. The products of these
centres, on graduation, were provided working
tools and financial assistance to continue life
from there. Expectedly, thousands of youth
benefitted and are doing well today.
We also removed many youth engaged in
hawking from the highways and other spots
across the state. We enrolled them in mass
literacy centres, where they were taught by
special teachers and prepared for WASCCE.
Surprisingly, many of them made it in first
attempt and have since graduated from tertiary
institutions. I know many of them who occupy
important positions in government and private
organizations and are doing well overall.
Apart from the youth we also empowered other
categories of people. It is on record that it was
during our tenure that many Abians built their
first houses and bought their first cars. Anybody
in doubt should conduct an independent and
random survey to ascertain the veracity of this
claim. What do we have today: many people are
hungry because they could not benefit from
government: no jobs, no patronage of any sorts.
The allocation from Abuja every month does not
go round. It is held by a few people, leaving the
majority hungry and rejected. Go to the markets
and you will be shocked at the the level of
poverty ravaging our people. Many traders could
stay the whole week without selling a pin. Many
of them also have died while those living are
worse than those who had died. That is how bad
the situation has become.
What is the purpose of a government that does
not serve the interest of the people or cater to
the welfare of the same people? Such
government should be called to order and made
to pay for its sins. The government of Chief
Theodore Orji has only succeeded in
impoverishing our people throughout the 8 years
it has served. And our people are groaning
under the weight of rejection and abandonment.
All the noise you hear from the government
propaganda media is nothing but gibberish. This
government has nothing to offer to the suffering
people of our state.
I thank God that our government came at the
time it did, because the little we were able to
do with the little funds available to us is what
people point to as the presence of government
in Abia State. Yet the man at the helm of the
misdeeds in Abia State has never thought it
proper to give some credit to us. Instead of
giving us credit he has continued to cast
aspersion on us and do other atrocious things to
destroy our reputation.
Thank God the people of our state are wiser
now. They know who between Theodore Orji and
me who has served them better.
For Theodore Orji, the clock is ticking fast.

Earlier published on: Opinions Ng

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