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Positive Signal From Abia

Posted: Jun 9, 2015 at 12:52 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Last week in Umuahia, the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, issued some directives which some people might easily dismiss as yet another example of cosmetic “reforms” usually undertaken by some newly elected public officers to market themselves as something refreshingly different on the Nigerian political   scene brimming with largely uninspiring characters whose mostly unwholesome motives and missions the public has learnt to easily predict.

Governor Ikpeazu had directed that appellations like “His Excellency” and “Executive” be “dropped in all official and informal communication with him” and that “all public communications” should henceforth “be concentrated on the work and policies of the state and not on the person of the Governor.” Consequently, “all contractors, political groups, individuals and party loyalists” were directed to desist from putting the governor’s portrait “on billboards, posters and signages but to only use the pictures of ongoing projects in the billboards and posters” so that the focus would be on the work and not on the governor. The governor further instructed that “all congratulatory posters and election billboards littering the environment” should be removed to halt the defacement they constitute to the environment.

In a country where political success is largely dependent on the quality of deception the individual politician is able to unleash at any given time to strengthen his hold on the people’s minds and emotions, Dr. Ikpeazu should not be dismayed if his recent bold gestures are largely rewarded with doubts or even derisive laughter in several quarters, no matter the nobility of his intentions. Before Ikpeazu, we have witnessed some governors who had tried to carve out distinctive images for themselves. Former governor of Niger State , Dr. Babangida Aliyu, had insisted that he be addressed as the “Chief Servant” instead of “governor.” But as his tenure ended late last month, one doubts if there was anything anyone could say he did so differently to justify the appellation he adopted.

We also have in Edo Mr. Adams Oshiomole who has not concealed his burning desperation to ensure that we do not ever imagine that a difference has emerged between the new and old “ Adams .” He has stubbornly stuck to the title of “comrade” and still regularly appears in his “poor” khaki costume to demonstrate that he is still the champion of the masses’ welfare. But when a poor widow was driven by excruciating hardship to display her poor wares on an authorized place, the “people’s comrade” was so angry that his reaction to the woman’s attempt to placate him with the information that she was just a poor widow looking for the next meal for her starving children was a deafening scream: “Go and die!!”, a bellow that soon reverberated across the country and beyond. Although, the comrade-governor was driven by the boundless rage his clearly inhuman reaction and action provoked on the social media to look for the poor widow and conscript her for a televised, damage-control hot tea session, and then bribe her with N2 million from state funds, the people already know that the difference between the two Adams is like the one between autumn and fall. Again, Mr. Oshiomole, a widower, took a new, young and pretty wife recently, which he has been flaunting around town like a trophy after a very lavish wedding ceremony (obviously financed with state funds). He has also announced that he is travelling to the tiny, beautiful island of Seychelles with a band of aides and associates for further wedding celebrations and honeymoon, making people to wonder if this is still the same fire-spitting comrade that used to mount countless podiums to denounce profligacy and wasteful spending by public officers.

So, Governor Ikpeazu can now appreciate why some people might view his new decisions with some bit of skepticism. But that should not discourage him. He has a model in former Governor Peter Obi who, despite not dropping any appellations clearly demonstrated with edifying examples that public office can be stripped of all the distractive razzmatazz to become just an opportunity to render sterling service to the people. At a time, Obi was almost the only governor you could meet queuing to board an aircraft like any other passenger (and he mostly flew economy class) while his colleagues, some of whom would not have qualified to serve as his P.A. in any of his personal companies before they became governors hopped about in private jets and wallowed in unspeakable profligacy.

So, the Abia governor can be said to have started well. But he must hasten to now demonstrate an ability to serve the people selflessly so that when his tenure is over his memory will remain evergreen in the people’s hearts. Anybody who had been to Abia before this new administration will appreciate the need to rid the state of countless billboards. Virtually, every billboard in Umuahia (and they were annoyingly too many) advertised the face of the former governor including even the ones planted on empty lands announcing proposed projects.  Dr. Ikpeazu’s reforms, therefore, represent a positive signal and if he can take it a bit further to demonstrate that he is such a serious-minded, result-oriented   governor with different work ethics (unlike several of his colleagues), he can count on the support of this column even though there are those who insist that this column finds nothing to celebrate in Nigeria.