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…
As part of the account of my stewardship as the governor of Abia State (1999-2007), I have decided to do a two-part series on the real cause of the rift between Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji and myself. This has become necessary since he has failed to respond to the challenge I gave him some time ago to openly tell the world what I did to him to make him hate me with so much venom – to the extent of working consciously and conscientiously to destroy me.
From whatever conceivable angle one may look at the challenge, his procrastination in responding to it simply means he has no justifiable reason to fight me. It also shows that he has, all along, been on ego-tripping, which is stoked by envy and greed.
Since 2009, till date, he has engaged in orchestrated campaign of calumny against me and anybody connected to me in any way. He has concocted and told all kinds of lies against me – all in an effort to paint me black before the public. His best pastime has always been discussing me. He goes about telling, whoever cares to listen, damaging and malicious stories about me. Deep inside his heart he knows that all the negative things he had said about me were not true.
In those days, when he was governor, he used to run to Aso Rock everyday to peddle rumours against me, in order to curry favour. He used to tell the First Family that I hated President Jonathan with endemics. Curiously, latter events have since put a lie to this brand of falsehood. What other tricks does he have under his sleeves to play on the First Family now they have known his antics?
Anybody who knows me would tell that I am a faithful person: I stand religiously by agreements and do not sell out, no matter the pressure. That was why I handed over to him as governor despite the open opposition to his choice. If he were in my shoes I knew he would find it difficult to give power to me if told the kind of obnoxious and nasty things people came to tell me about him. My response to such people was that nothing would make me change my mind about his choice as my successor, because I am a man of my word.
I still challenge him to tell the world what I did to him that made him one, jump ship; two, declare war against me; three, embark on ceaseless campaigns in the media against me; four, run a government that cared not for the people; five, hate our people too much; six, encourage corruption in his government; seven, tell lies with ease; and eight, think that his sins will not find him out now his tenure is over. He must give reasonable answers to these posers if he has scruples.
Let me refresh his memory about our first ever meeting in 2009 – 18 months into his first tenure as governor. I had told him on phone that I requested the meeting to discuss a matter of urgent importance. I also requested his approval to allow Ambassador Sam Nkire to witness the meeting, to which he concurred. On the day of the meeting, I asked him three basic questions: First, have I ever asked you for money since you assumed office as governor? His answer: No. Second, Have I ever asked you to give any contract to me or anybody related to me? His answer: No. Third, have I ever asked you to do a favour to anybody, directly or indirectly? His answer: No. Satisfied that he understood my questions very well, I now went for the clincher. I told him pointblank that the people were complaining about his poor performance in office and, therefore, should buckle up. I also told him that I heard he borrowed a huge amount from some banks in the state without anything on ground to justify it. I saw the disbelief in his face, but I was determined to tell him the truth. I also told him that the way he was going he would not get a second term. This probably was the biggest shock of his life.
In his response he denied taking any loan from any banks (even when the evidence was glaring). I was shocked.
From that day onwards his attitude changed. He started courting strange friends and associates, distancing himself from me and leaders of our party. He did other odious things I would not want to discuss here for strategic reasons. As if to tell the whole world that he was now his own man, he started romancing other political parties. And in less than two months, after the encounter with him, he had defected to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), after promising the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu that he would never abandon APGA after Ojukwu had expressed reservation about his loyalty to the party.
What happened afterwards? In less than two months in APGA, he defected to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). What does this tell you, the reader, about the man? As I had written in this page: Theodore Orji lied to me about so many things, which time has begun to unravel. His choice as governor was dependent on the assurances he gave me and leaders of our party that he would remain loyal and focused in his service to the people of our state. How could I have settled for him as successor if he had shown any sign of disloyalty or dishonesty? He is a smart Alec, a sly pretender, and can deceive anybody with his innocent looks and sweet tongue.
For the 8 years he was my Chief of Staff he handled my security vote – duly appropriated, which was all the money I spent as governor. I never dipped my hand into the state’s coffers or did any deal with anybody, including contractors. All those who worked under me did so with free hands. I challenge anybody who can produce any evidence that I did any deal with him, while in office as governor to come forward with it.
I am a very straight forward and respectful person. I do not engage in anything that would call my reputation to question. Throughout my tenure as governor I ensured probity, transparency and accountability. Our administration almost succeeded in routing corruption. Even the civil servants, who know every thieving governor and government officials, can attest to that.
Unknown to Chief Orji, I have very strong evidence against him about all that transpired between us throughout the period we worked together, including the meeting in question. Ambassador Sam Nkire, who witnessed the meeting, is still alive. I will reveal the evidence at the appropriate time. When that happens, his lies will fail him.
Let me also state here that all the discussions I had with him concerning money, while in office as governor, are with me in evidence. If he can tell the truth he will agree that he did many things wrong as my Chief of Staff, including tardiness in the handling of my security vote, but I still accommodated him. Let me leave that for now, until such a time it will become necessary to ask further questions.
I accept culpability for choosing him as my successor after all, it was the proper thing to do at the time. Some people have blamed me for being instrumental to making him governor. I do not have any regrets, because I do not cry over spilt milk. Let me place it on record, nonetheless, that one man vehemently opposed his choice and confronted me with it. And that person is no less a person than the late Ambassador Ojo Maduekwe who served as Foreign Affairs Minister under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government. We met at Heathrow Airport, on a British Airways flight coming from London to Nigeria. He was in company with Hon. Bature, then Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee in the Federal House of Representatives. Ojo told me without mincing words that the greatest disservice I did to him and Abia people was to make Theodore Orji governor. He looked every inch serious and his countenance showed it.
I need not state that I was disappointed with Ojo Maduekwe for not calling Chief Orji to order to save him and our state from perdition. What I wish to draw attention to is the double-standard of this man called Chief Orji. He hobnobbed with shoddy characters and used state resources to fight wars he knew he could not win and will never win.
How on earth is he going to defend his wickedness towards me after I had stepped on many toes to make him governor? I have searched my conscience and could not find any other reason the man is bitter with me other than that I told him the truth. Did I do anything wrong by asking him to work for our people, whom he neglected unconscionably? The eight years he ruled as governor was one big tragedy. The people gnashed their teeth and searched for a redeemer to no avail. Yet he was not moved one bit by the monumental absence of government in the state.
I am compelled to ask again: where were Abia Elders while the governor goofed and erred? Where were those who were supposed to speak up against the ills in our state? Where were the likes of Prof. Joe Irukwu, Dr. Herbert Orji, Ambassador Empire Kanu, Dr. Anagha Ezikpe, Prof S.O. Igwe, Prof. Anya O.Anya, Chief Chukwu Nwachuku, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Senator Chris Adighije, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, General Ike Nwachukwu (retd.), Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike, Chief Emma Adiele, Chief Emma Adaelu, Chief Allen Nwachukwu, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Chief Mao Ohuabunwa, Chief Kalu Uke Kalu, Prof. Joshua Ogbonnaya, Chief Tony Ukasanya, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, retired and serving top military and police brasses, our representatives in the State and Federal Houses, our senators, board members of federal parastatal agencies, the clergy, traditional rulers, and other highly-placed Abians in Nigeria and the Diaspora? Why did they fail Abia people by refusing to speak up against the evils of that administration?
I have known Dr. Herbert Orji for many years – as far back as 1984. We had always had a warm relationship, which later extended to our businesses. In short, he was the man who handled most of my financial transactions in my early days in business. It is on record that he was the one who led me to open the account I have with Goldman and Sachs in London as far back as 1984. He was also instrumental as the Managing Director of Progress Bank to package a loan to our company, Slok, to build a vegetable oil factory at Ugwunagbo (near Aba in Abia State) in 1986, for which I was recognised with a national honour of Member Order of the Niger (MON). We repaid the loan fully.
Let me, however, point out that it is the same Goldman Sachs’ that former President Olusegun directed the then Chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nuhu Ribadu, to investigate. Obasanjo went as far as asking the British Authorities to freeze the account. But the British authorities told him that investigations conducted by them did not see any illegality with the account; therefore they did not have any moral right to close the account, which had been on blind trust immediately I assumed office as governor.
What of Prof. Joe Irukwu? He was the chairman of FIB International Bank, The Gambia. I own 90% in the bank. As for Empire Kanu, he is my buddy and we stayed together for many years. Where were these men while Abia burnt? They were hobnobbing with the governor and pretending all was well. They even lacked the courage to look T.A. Orji straight in the eyes and call him to order. They could not do so, probably, because they had mortgaged their conscience for a mess of portage or afraid to be harmed by the rampaging thugs of the then governor and his overbearing son. Some of these thugs were made local government chairmen as a way of prodding them to commit more atrocities under the guise of officialdom.
The only great Abian that made effort to contact me since the crisis between me and the governor ensued was a top Navy man. He had invited me to try to mediate a truce. I will mention his name in future when the time is auspicious. No other elder from Abia State has waded into the matter. I had expected them at least, to invite me to get my own side of the story, instead of acting only on what the governor had told them.
Our elders knew they are following him blindly. Were some of them not the same people that criticised my administration unrelentingly? Why did they suddenly become indifferent and allow the governor toy with the lives of our people? They allowed their conscience to be consumed by greed and covetousness. Do our elders not say that the she-goat cannot be allowed to deliver on tethers? Sadly, our elders like licking soup prepared with pork when they openly resent pork. They seem to have underestimated the strength of the people’s will by carrying on their marriage of convenience with the former governor. Do they not think it is better to ensure the matter is settled now before the people’s anger overflows? When it does it will be disastrous.
For those sitting on the fence, they have not done any good to our state by maintaining studied silence. Commonsense demands, at least, they say something in favour or against the evil perpetrated by T.A. Orji.
Generations of Abians unborn will never forget the harm done to our state by Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji, whose leadership brought untold hardship to our hapless people.
I will advance more reasons for the rift between me and T.A. Orji in the next edition. I know gradually many people who, hitherto, were not privy to what actually happened between us will get to know all the truth. It is only then they will be in a better position to give an untainted and dispassionate verdict.