Says Uwazuruike never betrayed Nnamdi Kanu or Ndigbo National President of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chekwas Okorie is trying to put out the fire ignited by supporters of the Indigeneous People of Biafra leader, Nnamdi Kanu and those of Biafra Independence Movement, BIM, Ralph Uwazuruike. In this interview with SaturdaySun, Okorie explains why the…
As I promised last week, attention will be focused in the next few weeks on the achievements of our administration to put a lie to the claims by Chief Theodore Orji about some of the projects he claimed to have delivered when in fact, the projects were executed by our administration between 1999 and 2007.
There is hardly anybody in Abia State today who does not know that Chief Theodore Orji ran a government of deceit. Abia State is in its present state of hopelessness and backwardness because he chose to fritter away resources of the state meant for development into other useless and selfish endeavours during his tenure. Why should a state that received close to one trillion naira (by the time the administration drew to a close) not be able to meet its legitimate obligations, which put together could not amount to N100 billion. Where has the remainder of the money gone?
I find it offensive and an affront on the collective psyche of our people that Chief Theodore Orji should have the temerity to stand up to anybody who challenged his excesses, when he should have buried his face in shame. It is only in a society as ours that laxity and sleaze are openly rewarded. Take for instance, the conferment of a national honour of CON on him. What justification did the handlers of the award have for bestowing such an honour on a man who mindlessly and recklessly pillaged the resources of his people?
Did I not throw a challenge to Chief Theodore Orji to consent to the contracting of the best auditors in the world to carry out a thorough audit of his administration and mine to ascertain who, between us, is telling lies about his performance in office? I also offered to pay 50 per cent of the cost of the audit, while he pays the other half. Sadly, up to this day, he is yet to respond to the challenge.
It is not enough to unleash attack-dogs on whosoever holds a contrary view from his; what is needed is for him to back up his claims with verifiable proofs. Nobody needs a soothsayer to tell him that at the end of his administration he would be called upon to give an account of his stewardship. When that time comes he will be left in the cold, because most of the people milling around him today are just fair weather friends.
My brotherly advice to him is to start chasing the black goat now there is daylight, for when darkness sets in it becomes difficult to do so successfully. There is no way he can find peace when he tells lies with ease and does things unbecoming of his office as Senator.
Let me ask him: “How do you feel when you point to a contract executed by another administration as having been done by you?” “Why do you engage in such a wicked and corrupt act? “Do you put up another claim for such projects or do you do that just to slight me?” He owes a duty to answer the questions.
How on earth could he have engaged in such a monumental corrupt act and still walks the streets freely and continues to receive recognition?
Anybody in doubt should have come to Abia State between 2007 and 2015 and see corruption dancing in public. The common wealth of the state was used to build personal fiefdoms and intimidate people unconscionably. Workers were not paid for months, roads were decrepit, morale generally low, and life very short and brutish. That is not all: Roads in Aba were impassable; the taps were not functioning, insecurity and refuse everywhere. Worst hit were those in the rural areas: they were literally abandoned. What of staff of tertiary institutions in the state? They were not been paid for months. The Abia State University received N100 million monthly throughout my tenure as governor, excluding many developmental projects we embarked upon there. What obtained there during Orji’s reign was heart-rending. Workers there were owed many months of unpaid salaries, while there was hardly any project to point to as having been carried out by his government. The projects the governor showcased to the world were usually projects executed by our administration and the Federal Government through the Educational Trust Fund (ETF).
The former governor claims he executed road projects in Umuahia. This is incredulous! Which roads? All the roads in Umuahia were tarred by our administration before we left office in 2007. Let us look at some of them he claimed to have built, when he did not: all the roads in around the Government Station Layout, particularly the one he named after Dr. Anagha Ezeikpe, and all the roads around the State House of Assembly and Ehimiri Housing Estate.
I challenge him to point to a single new road he executed in Umuahia, which is his ancestral home. He also alleged that he awarded road contracts to my mother. This is another blatant lie from Theodore Orji’s stable. He should name the contractor and, if possible, publish the contract documents to controvert my position. The only three major projects he did in Umuahia in the entire eight years he served as governor were the international conference centre, the new judiciary headquarters and the new twin-secretariat being built at colossal costs. The other minor ones were the refurbishment of the so-called Diagnostic Centre (which once housed the Alaoma Hospital) and Amachara General Hospital. I will comment further on the Amachara General Hospital when I give account of our stewardship in the Health Sector.
Meanwhile, it will be nice to do some reminiscence here: in 2002 the Federal Government under Olusegun Obasanjo set up a Media Tour Team to carry out an assessment of all the projects executed by the various state governments in the country. The team to Abia State was led by Chief Smart Adeyemi (then National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and Senator). Overwhelmed by what his team saw in Abia, he confessed that no government in Nigeria would have done what we had done with the little resources that accrued to us.
Interestingly, at the end of the overall tour, Rivers State came first with total revenue from the federation account of N59 billion, while Abia State came second with N15.4 billion. In the 14 indices the team based its report on Abia State scored 63 per cent in Education, 65 per cent in Health, Urban Water Supply 66 per cent, Rural Water Supply 60 per cent, Urban Roads 75 per cent Rural Roads 65 per cent, Agriculture 63 per cent, Industrial Development 63 per cent, Poverty Alleviation 61 per cent, Housing 69 per cent, Rural Electrification 62 per cent, Crime Control 64 per cent, Environmental Sanitation 64 per cent, and Sports Development 73 per cent.
From the assessment tour report it was clear that our administration ensured even development of the state. We did not concentrate development at the urban centres as Orji’s administration had done. We knew deep inside us that wherever we executed any project the joy of the people would resonate in every nook and cranny of the state. Again, we did not do whatever we did in order to be noticed. Our priority was the welfare of the people.
Could Orji say the same thing about his performance? No! What his administration prided itself in was advertising its performance on billboards and on pages of newspapers. Regrettably, many of these so-called projects were executed poorly and at enormous costs. Who will bell the cat?
It was our administration that built the Okpara Auditorium to the state in which it was before Orji took over. The Aguiyi-Ironsi Conference Centre, Legislators’ Offices, all the Housing Estates in the State, Joint Allocation Committee (JAC) building, Commissioners’ Quarters, staff quarters in Lagos and Abuja, the gigantic Abia House, Abuja, and the Aba and Umuahia Township Stadia were built by our administration. Painfully and shamelessly, too, the former governor flaunts them today as part of his achievements. You can see how mean the man is!
What of the following roads that we successfully initiated and completed in Aba: Cameroun Road, Ojike Lane, Ehere, Ehere Road Extension, Umuola, and All Saints’ Academy – all handled by Grandstar Construction Company Limited? What of Umuahia? We did the following roads: Igbere, Aguiyi-Ironsi Layout, 4 Nos. Roads in Government Station Layout, Okigwe Park, Aba Park, Agulu, Olokoro, Awkuzu, Cameroun, Orlu, Nkwerre, Timber, Afara, Niger/Asaba, Asphalt overlay at Mater Dei Cathedral, Okigwe Park Link Road, Nkwoegwu to Express, Umuobasi, Oba, Car Park and Extension of Arochukwu Street, Ohuhu, Olokoro Street with spur to Olokoro Crescent, Eze Ogbulafor, and Nsukka.
Apart from Umuahia and Aba that took the large chunk of the roads, we also undertook gigantic road projects across the state, especially in the rural areas. They included the following: Owaza-Obehie-Azumini in Ukwa East (over 40 kilometers), Ekenta Igbere, Asaga-Ndibe-Amuma-Okon-Amangwu in Ohafia, Nkwoegwu Ring Road in Umuahia North, Abiriba Ring Road, Umuikea-Omoba in Isala Ngwa South, Ndiro-Irunta in Ikwuano, Umuchieze-Leru-Lomara-Nneato in Umunneochi (over 20 kilometers), Ururuka – Acho Nwakanma’s residence in Obingwa Local Government (the Acho Nwakanma’s stretch was over 10 kilometers), and all the roads in Ikwuano. We also started some roads which Theodore Orji deliberately refused to complete. They included Igbere-Umuhu, Mbawsi, Nunya, and Alayi-Ugwueke-Ebony State.
We also did some roads in Igbere. They included: Central School Road, Amankalu I, Amankalu II/Ibinaukwu, Access Road to Okafia, Golf Road with Drain, and Umuobasi.
It is instructive to mention that all the roads were constructed with 70 mm asphalt, which is of very high standard.
I will continue the part five next week. Before I sign out I wish to advise the former governor to stop blackmailing people and dropping people’s names. He should also stop telling lies against innocent people. For instance, he claimed that he was giving money to me and that was why he could not perform. When that lie failed, he changed gear. The story in the rumour mill at a time was that he gave money to former President Jonathan and his wife and that was why he underperformed. Who would believe his story? Who is he to give money to the former President? He should try another lie.
He should ask his attack dogs to address the issues I raised and stop chasing shadows. Let him treat point by point all the grave issues I have raised in the past 3 weeks. One thing he can vouch for me is that throughout my tenure as governor I never entered any deal with anybody. All the money I spent was my security vote, which he managed all through. I never spent the security vote without his consent and presence. All departmental heads, commissioners and other key government functionaries had free hand to discharge their duties according to the dictates of their conscience and extant laws.
This is why I can go to any place in Abia State at any time without fear of molestation. But I challenge him to go to Aba and try to walk through the streets and see what fate will befall him.
Another sector we recorded awesome achievements was Education. When we arrived in the state on May 29, 1999 many of the schools could pass for war-ravaged structures. Either the roofs were not there or the buildings had collapsed. We knew that the first thing to do was to rebuild the confidence of students and teachers in order to drive the transformation agenda we had. Undeterred by our poor revenue portfolio we were able to tackle the monster ferociously.
Working in conjunction with the Education Tax Fund (ETF) we were able to transform our school system. Let me quickly state here that the morale of students and teachers was very low, while parents grappled with high school fees and poor service-delivery. To deal with the problem, we undertook a survey of all the dilapidated schools in the state, and the figure we got was mindboggling: 1, 250. Again, many of the schools lacked teaching aids, science equipment and qualified teachers. Added to this were the unpaid arrears of minimum wage of teaching and non-teaching staff, running into several months.
Through the State Primary Education Board (SPEB) our government executed the following projects at the various primary schools in the state: tuition-free education at public schools, renovated 821 dilapidated schools, constructed 524 new classrooms, provided 155,000 desks/benches, 1,700 chairs, provided 1,800 first aid boxes, printed and procured instructional materials, reviewed the Abia State Curriculum module to cover such important subjects as Igbo, Agricultural Science, Physical Education and Health Education.
We also maintained regular subventions to all the tertiary institutions in the state, including SPEB and SEMB. In addition, we built new hostels at ABSU, provided it 500KVA generator, 1414 bus to the SUG and 16-seater bus for the management.
We also upgraded facilities at the Abia State University, Uturu, and other tertiary institutions in the state to enable them get accreditation for relevant courses.
To be continued