Understanding Governance In Abia | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Opinion, Viewpoints

Understanding Governance In Abia

Posted: May 29, 2015 at 12:32 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Mike Nwachukwu 


With the Abia State elections won and lost, will the falshood on the state end, asks Mike Nwachukwu.

As Nigerians rejoice over yet another smooth transition from one civilian administration to another on Friday May 29, 2015, the celebration will be unique in Abia State.

In Abia State, the indigenes will also mark the end of a media war by some people to frustrate the government of the outgoing Governor Theodore Orji.

Though the allegation of some misinformed people against Orji’s government was that of non-performance, yet his accusers have refused to visit home to appreciate his numerous developmental projects.

Besides, Chief T. A Orji is not the first governor of the state, before him were both military and civilian governments, which operated in rented appartments as they did not see reason to build a secretariet for the state. They also accused Orji of not doing enough in Aba, as the commercial centre of the state lacks infrastructure for development, yet they fail to understand that Orji was not given a breathing space by the former political godfathers, who delayed his plans for the state in his first four years in office, which people termed as a learning period.

By the time he broke the stronghold of the godfathers in his second tenure saw the boost in terms of development projects and youths empowerment in the state.

It will be unfair to blame Orji for underdevelopment in some areas of the state. Though government is a continious process, if the previous governors had done half what TA Orji achieved, the state would have been better than London.

The media attack on Orji and his government is unfair to the people of Abia State. In fact it made every state indigene appear to have come from the staone age, where schools, hospitals, good roads and others don’t exist. The attacks on the state had been so persistent that but for the fact Nigerians are familiar with the idiosyncrasy of some media practioners.

Still, while this write-up is not necessarily an appraisal of the eight-year tenure of Governor T.A. Orji, its basic objective is to again draw the attention of Nigerians to what the politics of hate could do to a people, who have in the last eight years collectively worked on one page under the supervision of T.A. Orji.

The emphasis here is on the word, “collective”. For, even as the administration of Governor Orji proved its mettle in trying to improve the lives of Abians through the provision of infrastructural amenities, it will be perhaps most remembered for bringing the good people of the state to work together for their collective good. Anyone familiar with the state before T.A. Orji would easily agree that Abia was fragmented into many tendencies and that there was a complete breakdown of elite consensus.

The administration that preceded that of Orji preferred to reign over rancour; its political elite virtually decided to dissociate itself from the state while the government of the day fancied itself as a champion of the federal republic instead of seeing to the welfare of the local citizens. But as Chief Orji bows out on May 29, 2015, it is to his credit that Abia has again become a place where members of the political class work for a common goal, regardless of partisan differences.

There was a report some years ago quoting a certain minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and who happens to be an indigene of the state as saying that he never visited the seat of Abia State government throughout the period he served as minister. The reason, he was quoted, was the overbearing demeanor of the then governor who saw every member of the political elite as a threat.

But providence threw up Orji who was actually part of the previous dispensation, to correct all that. With the benefits of an insider who witnessed the oddities of the past, the first thing Orji did was to embark on reconciliatory moves to bring the elite back to the state to work together. That moves paid off and for eight years running, it has been near total equanimity among the political class.

The first indication is that the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), became so cohesive under Governor Orji and an example of party decorum. The second indication and perhaps the most significant is that Abia became the only state in South-East, where one could find senators and ministers of the state’s origin sitting at the same table with the governor in a function.

In the neighbouring Enugu and Ebonyi states, which like Abia are all PDP states, the governors and their ministers are hardly in talking terms. In Imo, it is a war between the governor and virtually every other member of the political elite.

Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji, out-going governor of Abia State, scores quite high in this aspect which, on the converse, is where more than 80 per cent of state chief executive in Nigeria scores very lowly.

In agreeing that intangible achievements are very germane to good governance, experts point out that consensus building, which is the most significant outcome of that approach to governance, inevitably leads to the strengthening of government which should be the ultimate aim of democratic governance. In this sense, every successive administration only needs to improve on what the preceding one did with a cumulative effect on the wellbeing of the governed.

Unfortunately, the situation so far in the Nigerian experience is that each new governor comes with a mindset of outshining his predecessor. The first thing a new governor does, in most cases, is to demolish the institutions put in place by his predecessor. Even projects that are more than halfway executed are abandoned and entirely new ones began at the expense of the people.

But soon, the people would discover that it is mere merry-go-round. The new administration ends up doing the same thing that was done before. Even where there are semblances of newness, they are white elephant projects that do not impact directly on the lives of the people apart from invoking the abused sentiments of Ihe Ahuru N’Anya (What the eyes can see).

In terms of physical infrastructure, Abia State could not boast of even a Secretariat more than 11 years after it was created. Civil servants crisscrossed the state capital between make belief private buildings that served as offices, with the attendant negative implications on productivity.

That is just one case but even as the governor made to give civil servants in the state a conducive environment to perform their duties, the security situation in the state became so bad, no thanks to the precedence created by the previous dispositions that encouraged political brigandage and violence in a bid to get even with anybody or group that showed any traces of dissent.

By 2011, just as the governor was settling down for his second term in office, the crime rate in Abia State, especially in the area of kidnapping, had risen so high that Abia became a pariah state. Residents of Aba and the state capital, Umuahia, fled to other parts of the South East. But calmly and not given to theatrics, Governor Orji knew that war was not going to be fought on the pages on newspapers.

Instead, he went into a rare collaborative effort with the security agencies and in no time, kidnappers were completely routed in the state.

Initially, some of his critics said it was a mere palliative effort but Nigerians eventually discovered that the criminals were gone for good.

Some of the governor’s critics try to dismiss the crime fighting feat as rather infinitesimal and something that cannot be overdramatised in appraising his administration. While no amount of pretences can diminish the importance of what the governor did in the area of crime fighting, it needs no exaggeration to state that he excelled even in the realm of physical infrastructure.


•Nwachukwu wrote from Umuahia