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…
In the first part of the article on the major cause of the rift between Theodore Ahamefule Orji and I last week I placed the blame squarely at his doorstep. The reason was simple: he granted me audience in 2009 to discuss a matter of urgent importance in the presence of Ambassador Sam Nkire. At the meeting, I drew his attention to the deteriorating state of infrastructure all over Abia State and his inability to give sound leadership since he assumed office on May 29, 2007. I urged him to buckle up before the situation got out of hands.
Most painfully was his denial of the accusation that he had borrowed huge sums of money from the banks without anything visible to justify his taking the loans. Facts available to us showed that he borrowed heavily from local banks in Umuahia without deploying the money into the purpose for which it was borrowed. From that day onwards , he revolted against me and anybody connected to him one way or another. That was the genesis of the whole crisis.
Unfortunately, since the rift between us was blown open (by T.A. Orji himself) he had tried everything humanly possible to demean my person and pitch me against, even, my friends and admirers. He has waged an unrelenting media war against me, and discusses me at every opportunity that offers itself.
Curiously, while all this was happening, Abia elders (except one – a retired naval Chief) didn’t deem it necessary to ask questions why T.A. Orji and I were squabbling. But I knew these elders wined and dined with him almost every other day throughout the period he served as governor. In fact, many of them were on his pay roll, which was why they found it almost impossible to speak out against his excesses.
Worst still, these elders (if at all they should be referred to as such) were also afraid to speak out of fear of being harmed by the then governor and his rampaging son. What had they expected – to take the governor’s money and not do his biddings? Of course, that was against the cause of natural justice. Natural justice demands you reap what you have sown. Since they have chosen to ride on the tiger’s back they should be ready also to end up in the tiger’s belly. Or have these elders forgotten that they should use long spoon when dining with the Satan? I will find time in future to make further comments on the intervention of the reputable naval chief.
What happened in Abia State during the reign of ‘Emperor’ T.A. Orji as governor was not only ridiculous but ludicrous. The government was turned into a private estate of the governor, his wife and his son. The threesome determined who got what in the state. The opposition was silenced, while every other person was scared to speak a word of criticism, no matter how objective, about the governor or any member of his family. So, generally, our people lived in fear and outrage.
The choice to come to the public place to state my story was borne out of a genuine love for my people – to liberate them from the shackles of internal subjugation and oppression. There was no way I would have sat, folded my arms and watched them intimidated and harassed. We made enormous sacrifices to bring T.A. Orji to power. And the best way to return this priced favour done him is to antagonize everybody?
I had resisted the urge to join issues with him publicly and that was what I avoided when I sought a private audience with him in 2009 to discuss the way forward for our state. Again, I had deliberately refused to visit the Government House Umuahia since I left there in 2007 for fear of such a visit being misconstrued. The first and last time I had anything to do with the government of Abia State under him was in 2009 when he personally invited me to grace the 2nd anniversary of his administration at Umuahia Township Stadium. I reluctantly accepted the invitation, because I knew he might not like what I would tell him. On the occasion, when it was time for me to speak, I told the audience that I was not privy to any decisions of the government neither was I involved in any decision-making process of the government. I also told the then governor, exactly what I told him on May 29, 2007 on the day of handover, to govern our people with his conscience. I spoke for only a few minutes and left for Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri en route to Lagos.
However, despite the conscious efforts I made to distance myself from his government and allow him to work without interference, he still had the guts to call me names. All the noise he made in the past about me not allowing him to work was a ploy to win sympathy and cover his ineptitude. What was he able to achieve since his so-called ‘liberation’ of Abia State in 2009? Indeed, Abia State was worse off in the end under him than when he made his ‘liberation’ speech in Umuahia in 2009. There is no single mega project by his administration anywhere in the state throughout the eight years he was in saddle. All his government thrived in was propaganda and intimidation of innocent people.
Anybody in doubt about what I am writing should have taken a trip to Abia State during the regime of T.A. Orji to see things for himself. Infrastructure, especially roads, in the state collapsed irredeemably under his watch. Inter and intra-state movements were hampered by bad roads. This caused the National Union of Petroleum Employees of Nigeria (NUPENG) to bar its members from lifting petroleum products to Abia State at a time. The association cited the huge losses its members had incurred lifting petroleum products to Abia State.
At some point, the entire state was in darkness, caused by the government’s sealing of the premises of the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company (EEDC) – new owners of the former Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) – for non-payment of taxes. The action of the government might be legally justifiable, but what of the human angle to it? How could a government that shouted about its love for the people allow the entire state to be plunged into darkness for close to two weeks. I found this insensitive and misdirected.
In the midst of the whole confusion the so-called Abia elders still went about defending the policies of Theodore Orji. Where then lay their consciences – if at all they had any? I was shocked when one of these elders called me on phone to tell me that he was scared to speak out for fear of repression. He confessed to me that he was never in support of the former governor, but opted to follow him in order to get part of the loot. The elder in question is highly-placed and respected by the unsuspecting public. He would lose every respect the public has for him the moment they get to know the truth about his real character.
There are many of such elders, who followed the governor then sheepishly and preferred to die in silence. Conscience is an open wound and so, these elders will live in perpetual torment by their consciences, which they have mortgaged on the altar of ego and greed.
I am convinced the former governor knew deep in his heart he had not been fair to Abia people who voted massively for him. His 8 years in office was a wasted period – an era dogged by internal distrust, envy, greed, voluptuousness, arrogance of power, insincerity and wickedness. How could such a government have succeeded in the face of these ills? Theodore Orji governed Abia State like a maximum and ruthless leader, without any concrete achievements to go with it. For 8 whole years, he devoted huge resources and time seeking ways to destroy me, forgetting that he who planned the downfall of another person would reap brimstone.
To show his greed he installed his son as a member of the House of Assembly and himself a Senator. Let me ask T.A. Orji a simple question:”How many people did you promise the governorship slot – 20, 30 or 40?” Almost every Ngwa man and woman of note was promised the governorship position by Chief Orji. This is why there has been too much bad blood between him and some prominent politicians from Ngwa Land till date.
Let me use this medium to state unequivocally that the 8 years I served as the governor of Abia State took away eight years from my life. It was the most daunting task I had ever undertaken in life. Imagine coming into a state without any visible infrastructure; in fact, nothing on ground to reengineer the change we had envisioned. In addition, worker’s morale was at its lowest ebb with several months of unpaid salaries and allowances. Pensioners were also weighed down by unpaid pensions and gratuities running into years. As if to add salt to injury, the coffers were empty with outstanding international debts put at 168 million US dollars. We succeeded in repaying the loan before leaving office. How did you expect any governor to succeed under these excruciating conditions? So, you now understand what I meant by ‘taking away eight years from life’.
The sacrifices we made were simply enormous but we were encouraged by the love and support we enjoyed from our people. We worked as one family and shunned anything capable of dividing us. The few visible things people see around today all over Abia State were done by our administration. This is true.
Contrary to what T.A. Orji and his cohorts bandied about, we did our honest best to move the state forward. Anybody is free to believe whatever he or she likes, but the truth remains that no administration after ours has achieved one fifth of what we achieved in 8 years with the little resources at our disposal.
Nevertheless, we were undaunted by these human obstacles. Committed, we trudged along, thinking up immediate and practicable solutions. I am glad that by the time we left Government House, Umuahia on May 29, 2007 Abia State had been appreciably transformed. All we had hoped for was continuity by the incoming administration, which never was. And so what we saw at the end of his tenure was desolation and disillusionment.
Ironically, the success we achieved in government was made possible partly by the same people the former governor surrounded himself with, while his reign lasted. They propelled us to greater performance by their ceaseless criticisms. In fact, throughout the years of our government they served as opposition. Why have the same people suddenly turned their eyes away from the many wrongs of T.A. Orji? They wined and dined with him, because he chose them instead of the mass of our suffering people. The former governor’s priority was to satisfy the cravings of the rich and powerful, while subjecting the masses to poverty and penury. This ran contrary to the people-oriented administration we ran for 8 years.
Without sounding immodest, I can lay claim to the fact that our government empowered Abians and gave them ownership of their government. If given the opportunity again, I will do the same thing ten times all over.
I wish to state here again that T.A. Orji owes Abians an explanation of what he had done with the over 800 billion Abia State received from the federation allocation, excluding internally generated revenue, during his tenure as governor of Abia State. I know he loathes the truth, which is why he is working frenetically to twist the truth in what Chief Arthur Eze told him: “Abia Stinks”. Instead of being remorseful and chart a new course for the advancement of Abia State, he has been busy blaming the former President of Nigeria – Goodluck Jonathan – for the neglect of federal roads in the state. Somebody genuinely loyal to the President (as he pretended to be) should be ready to take a bullet for him. That is what loyalty brutally means.
Lest he has forgotten, I am still waiting for him to accept the challenge I posed to him sometime ago to invite the best audit firms in the world to audit our two administrations to see who between us, governed Abia State the way it should. I will defray 50 per cent of the cost of the audit.
I call on our elders who have sold their consciences for a mess of portage to repent before it is too late and before the anger of the people overflows.
The many people, T.A. Orji rubbished still cry for justice. His reign no doubt brought untold hardship on our people and left sour taste on their lips.
He may pretend that all is going rosy for him, while deep inside he is distressed. There is nothing anybody can do to obliterate what God has designed in our lives. T.A. Orji tried to do this, while he ruled Abia State but failed abysmally. However, the God we serve has always brought to naught all his evil designs against me.
So when next you hear T.A. Orji complaining about what I had done to him know that he has no moral justification to do so. If there is anybody who has been unjustly treated, it is me.
It may not be out of place to restate that as a person I have nothing against him. I still see him as a friend and brother, despite all the evil things he has done against me. And I have told him that several times. The only thing he owes me and the people of Abia State is to give account of his stewardship and accept the challenge I have posed to him on many occasions to give himself up for audit. I am ready to submit myself too for the same audit. It is only after the audit that the whole world would know who between us is a thief.