Former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu will, tomorrow, deliver the Nnamdi Azikiwe University convocation lecture at the institution’s 11th convocation ceremony. The lecture, titled Leadership and the challenges of national unity in Nigeria holds at the university auditorium by 1:00pm. Ribadu was the pioneer EFCC chairman, the government…
I have spent the past two and half months detailing my achievements for the eight years I was in the saddle as the Chief Servant of Abia State. I have also used the two and half months to put a lie to the deliberate and malicious distortions of facts spearheaded against me by former Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji.
From the facts and figures unbundled so far it is easy to discern that the administration of Chief Theodore Orji in Abia State from 2007 to 2015, to the best of my knowledge, was deceitful, inhumane, insensitive and incorrigible.
It was deceitful, because most of its claims in the media about performance were false and presumptuous. There are no hard facts up till date to collaborate these claims. Most of the projects it had caused published in the media as paid advertisements were projects started and completed by our administration between 1999 and 2007. I enumerated these projects and supported them with copious verifiable facts. Up till date, all the state government and its media agents have succeeded in doing to refute these facts was to engage in name-calling, threats and intimidation. Unfortunately, it missed the mark, because I am not the kind of man any person can easily intimidate, especially when I am sure of my facts and convinced in my beliefs.
In all my years on this earth planet, I have never seen a man as deceitful in character and uncouth in language as Theodore Orji. He says one thing and does another. This is manifest in the manner he administered the affairs of the state as governor. You can never take him for his word as he always says one thing and does another. Take for instance, his assurances to me that he would govern our state with the fear of God and good conscience. What happened in the end? He jumped ship and declared me and anybody related to me as an enemy.
The hallmark of any responsible leader should be the fear of God and respect for human dignity. But here is a man who does not understand the basic elements of human interrelationship and its accompaniments – honesty, truth, transparency, candour, integrity and pragmatism.
It is no longer a hidden fact that the government of former Governor Orji was predicated on self-aggrandizement, greed and avarice, with little or no consideration for the majority of our suffering people. There was no single project done or ongoing by his administration that had any direct impact on the lives of the people. Almost all the projects that administration embarked upon under the Legacy Projects were white elephants. And sadly, too, none of them was satisfactorily completed throughout the eight years he held sway.
As I write, millions of Abians have never ceased to curse Theodore Orji for perennial lack of portable water, roads, functional health centres, and food during his regime. The available roads, which we built between 1999 and 2007, have not been maintained ever since. The rural health scheme we set up to take care of our rural dwellers was stopped by the government of former Governor Theodore Orji and replaced with a diagnostic centre in Umuahia established to serve the interest of his family and the High and Mighty.
To further show how greedy and uncaring the administration of former Governor Orji was it will be fine to look at how much it received and how much it expended on the welfare of the people. According to available statistics, the government of Abia State received approximately N1 trillion in revenue (from the Federation Account and sundry sources, including internally generated revenue and special grants) between 2007 and the day he left office. What did he do with the money since there were no amenities on ground to justify the huge receipts? What reason would the former governor give for not paying workers for as many as six months at some times, for dry taps in all of Abia State, for the poor conditions of roads in the entire state, particularly Aba, for the mountains of refuse that littered every nook and cranny of the state, for the increasing state of insecurity, and for the huge debts now owed by the state when we left a clean slate on May 29, 2007?
What the former governor showcased as achievements for the eight years he served as governor were hundreds of thousands of posters announcing his interest to vie for Senate, when in truth his tenure had been adjudged as an unmitigated disaster. A visit to the local government councils in the state at the end of his tenure as governor would have made you weep for Abia State. The local government councils were mortgaged through huge debts. There was no local government council in the state that owed the banks anything less than N500 million in loans and overdrafts. How could they repay the money when the state government stifled them of their statutory allocations? That was one of the reasons the government of T.A. Orji shied away from conducting elections into the councils and, instead, preferred to use caretaker committees.
That is not all: former Governor Orji and his family went on shopping spree with major properties in Umuahia in their acquisition. Just two weeks ago their multi-billion naira Abia Mall in Umuahia was commissioned. What do they need all the properties for when an average Abian cannot afford a decent accommodation or meal? What would have happened if our administration had not built some housing estates in Aba and Umuahia, especially the 1000-unit Ehimiri Housing Estate, Umuahia, for civil servants on owner-occupier basis?
The former governor is a beneficiary with two blocks, contrary to the state government’s directive then that each person was entitled to just a block.
Under the watch of former Governor Orji Abia State was an object of ridicule in the comity of states in Nigeria. The situation was made worse when considered that Abia State is one of the Niger Delta states and, therefore, should signpost positive infrastructural development. Surrounding states to Abia State did better in every stratum of socio-economic life. What then was wrong with God’s Own State?
Critics can easily advance the argument that Akwa Ibom State earns bigger allocations than Abia State. Agreed! But evidence has shown that it is not how much one receives that counts. What counts is how the money has been utilized. A reckless spender can squander N1billion naira in less than 24 hours, while a judicious and prudent manager can use the same amount to produce eye-popping accomplishments. While the Federal Government was hyping its transformation agenda the Abia State Government under Orji was flaunting its tantalizing agenda. The so-called legacy projects were tantalizing projects, not life-transforming projects, which was what the people really needed.
I do not subscribe to the school of thought which says leaders are born, not made. To me leaders are made by the circumstances that shape their development into adulthood. Power is the central element that shapes the lives of leaders. You can only know the real worth of a leader when you entrust him with power. Before he became governor Chief Orji was deemed to be a humble, coolheaded and resourceful person. At least that was what we were able to glean from his outward appearance.
As soon as he grabbed power his real self manifested. Beneath the veil was a cast of multifarious characters camouflaged by meretricious and superfluous mien, giving him away as a righteous, puritanical personality. He wore a new garb of ‘Ezeonyeagwalam’ (the incorrigible ruler). This is why I agree totally with Shakespeare that there is no act to find the mind’s construction in the face.
If the former governor was not a deceitful person why did he promise Abia people prosperity and instead gave them unlimited suffering and chastisement? The pain the people went through every day to eke out a living could not be properly captured in print. It was better seen than imagined. The economy of the state collapsed irretrievably. How could the economy grow when the commonwealth of the state was concentrated in the hands of former Governor Orji and members of his family and political associates?
There was no way Abians would have thrown their weight behind him if the former governor had shown the flimsiest sign of incompetence and arrogance of power. He lacked the courage to own up to his inefficiency. Instead of owning up to his sins he worked in vain to heap the blame on me. The only sin I committed was to convince Abians to vote for him. He should bear the brunt of his actions and inactions.
Now that the period of giving stewardship has come he should ready himself with facts and figures, because the people would ask him questions about how he managed their affairs for the eight years he served as their governor.
He continued to distort facts and bend the truth about true happenings in our dear state during his reign, often concealing the truth from the public. But for how long is he going to do that before the cookies crumble. Day and night he is busy looking for where and how to destroy my reputation. Sadly for him, the more he tries the more difficult it is for him to make the people hate me. He has claimed all the projects we did as his and went a step further to document them as having been completed by his administration.
Who in this world does not know that former Governor Orji never embarked on a single project worth N2 billion, in spite of the mega allocations he received from Abuja monthly? All the so-called projects he claimed to have embarked upon did not have direct bearing on the lives of the people, and none of them was worth up to N2 billion. As I stated earlier in this piece they were white elephants meant to bamboozle the people and create the impression he was working. If he is an honest leader let him publish all the projects his administration started and completed, stating how much each of them cost, the names of the companies that handled them, where they are located, and other such facts that would erase any doubt. Sincerely speaking, Abia State was in a mess under Orji.
Forget all the media hype and invectives the man spews on me on a daily basis, our state needed redemption under him.
The only project worth more than N2 billion is his personal house in Umuahia – standing toweringly in the heart of the city centre, blocking 5 public streets. The location of the huge house is simply a menace. It demonstrates in very clear terms the man’s irrationality and insensitivity to the plight of the people he superintended over. Show me anywhere in this wide world where a leader could be as reckless and inconsiderate as to flaunt his ill-acquired wealth before his impoverished and hunger-stricken people.
The irony of it all is that even the most unenlightened Abian knows how much the man was worth before he became my Chief of Staff. Nobody expects his new status as former governor not to rub off on his mien and his place of abode. It is natural. But it is offensive to deliberately refuse to work for your people even in the midst of plenty. What justification did he have not to have worked for Abia State? All he did best was regular visits to Abuja to gossip and curry favour. Unfortunately, the topic of discussion had always been Orji Kalu.
For the eight years I served as governor I was passionate about the welfare and sensibility of the people. We never took any decision that did not factor in the feeling of the masses. That was why in spite of the meagre resources available to us we were able to affect the lives of the people. The achievements we recorded between 1999 and 2007 were what stood as a sign of the presence of government in Abia State in the past 15 years before the present government emerged. Yet the former governor has never for one single day commended our administration for the giant strides we made in the development of the state. All he did was to buy space in newspapers and magazines, and used the state’s media and hirelings, to insult me and members of my family.
A busy governor would have had little or no time for inanities. But this governor had time to gossip for hours. That was why Abia suffered from stunted growth from the time he assumed office until he left. If he was serious he would have used the last six months of his administration to remedy the situation. True: In six months a serious-minded governor could still have done something to affect the lives of the people positively. Painfully, this was not the case with Abia State as he was busy junketing all over the place, seeking how to doctor the results of PDP congresses that never held in Abia State. Why was he afraid of genuine primaries? The answer is simple: he had nothing to offer. Let me ask again: Are there two ways to transparent and credible primaries?
It is painful that some people somewhere were goading the former governor in his misadministration of Abia State. Those who ought to speak out failed over the years to do so. Such people should know that they will partake in whatever punishment God decides to mete out to him in due time. For their interest, I advise them to show remorse before it is too late.
Perhaps what made the situation in Abia State look difficult to ameliorate was that former Governor Orji is a very obdurate and incorrigible person. You may be taken in by his innocent looks, but beneath it is a defiant and recalcitrant persona. He detests the truth and does not like anybody who tells him the truth. The disagreement we have had stemmed from his lack of amenability to corrections. He behaves this way, forgetting no man is an island or knows it all. We need one another’s support and cross-fertilization of ideas to succeed in whatever we do.
He can hire all the media managers and bloggers in the world, for all I care, to launder his image; this will not save him from God’s anger that is about to come to judgment in Abia State.