Sir Frank Ibe, a onetime Transition Committee Chairman, Umuahia North Local Government Area, former Rector, Abia State College of Health Sciences and Management Technology, Aba and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this interview x-rays the performance of Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji (Ochendo) who governed Abia State from 2007 to 2015 and declared that the ex-governor’s unmatched record truly put Abia in the frontline of Developed State, Excepts…
Q: You served under the administration of T.A. Orji as Governor of Abia State, what do you think he would have done differently as governor?
A: His Excellency T.A. Orji was a governor whom Abians love so much. Abians love him because he grew from the scratch. He served as Chief of Staff before becoming the governor of Abia State; he was very successful. Gov. T.A. Orji before he became governor was Chief of Staff, therefore he was in full grip of the goings on in the state and you can see that he was well groomed to become governor. That is why he convincingly won his election as governor in 2007.
Q: We do know that he built the state secretariat and other projects and that’s why he was nicknamed legacy governor. Is there anything he would have done better?
A: By legacy you mean enduring. Everybody knows that T.A. Orji turned the face of Abia particularly Umuahia, the state capital, changing it from what people used to call it a “glorified village” to a modern state capital. He did a lot for the people of Abia State and civil servants by upgrading the workforce of Abia State. Throughout the federation he was the only governor that promoted all civil servants to the next grade level. And in order to encourage them he gave them a good working environment by building a modern secretariat at Ogurube layout which houses 85 percent of the workforce, thereby moving them from the antiquated building inherited from Colonial masters. He laid the foundation and started construction of a new Government House building an advanced stage before the expiration of his tenure. Look at the International Conference Centre which is of world class, a lot of national seminars are going on there. His administration opened up a lot of roads in Umuahia and other parts of Abia State. These roads were done to stand the taste of time.
In the health sector, the administration, in partnership with an Indian firm established Me-cure Diagnostic Centre, which takes care of special cases. He built over 700 health centres and 100-bed hospitals in the three Senatorial zones of the state, all in the bid to ensure that Abians have good healthcare.
T.A. Orji is also the person that constructed High Court buildings both in Aba and Umuahia including other areas and this has given the judiciary a pride of place. Take the legislature for instance; he set up buildings for constituency offices at the State House of Assembly for our Honourable members who represent their various constituencies to easily interact with their constituents during the official hours.
Furthermore, he is a legacy governor because he facilitated the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to situate its office in Umuahia. Commercial banks no longer go to Owerri, Imo State to transact financial business. They now do so in Umuahia. As you can see, with this level of infrastructure available in Umuahia, businesses are springing up here and there on daily basis. In fact, TA Orji laid a solid foundation for a new Abia. As you can see, his successor is building on that, and that’s what we’re witnessing today.
Q: In his time as the Governor, Abia witnessed a rancour-free period; it didn’t have Abuja Group or Abia Group, what is the reason behind it?
A: You are indeed correct. T.A. Orji is one man who loves peace; he’s one man who wants development. He’s one man who is blessed with milk of human feelings. He’s a man who wants the development of his people, that’s why if you move away from him, he will call you and ask you why T.A. Orji is a man who wants development for his people, the good of his people. Ochendo, as he’s widely known, is a rallying point of all the political elites in the state and beyond.
Prior to his administration as governor, Abia was in disarray politically. There were political groups and camps. Politicians were at each other’s throat even at the community levels and that brought insecurity. Even when your brother is doing well, you’ll say that he is not doing right, just to pull him down. During the administration, he looked at the variables available to him and saw the need for peace. Remember, the government at the centre was PDP of course, he didn’t win his election through PDP but when you’re in a place and you’re not accommodated you, have to make your exit.
But one thing with him, he consulted widely before joining PDP, no one was left out. All the stakeholders both high and low, all Abians unanimously pleaded with him to take them to PDP which he obliged, given his amiable nature as a listening governor. He brought peace, reconciliation in every facet of the political space. He even went to bring those in the Diaspora; all of them came back. He interacted with them anytime he went abroad and it resulted in their assisting him to bring peace and development to Abia State. That was how he succeeded in checkmating insecurity during his time as governor. Recall that during that time, people in the Diaspora started bringing in medical outreaches and developmental strides. All these made Abia a state to reckon with in terms of peace and accelerated development that we’re enjoying today.
Well, the peace is still there, even though for every 12 there much be a Judas. Some people will feel shortchanged whereas nothing happened to them. It was that peace that reigned that time that watered the ground for the Abia Charter of Equity to come place which led to Abia South Senatorial Zone producing the incumbent governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who succeeded him. Therefore, he made sure that governance trended to all the three zones of the state. This is because if you do things in a harmonious manner, there will be peace but if there is disharmony, there will be rancour.
Q: Let’s shift to his legislative duties. You know that the job of a legislator is Lawmaking, Representation and Oversight functions, has T.A. Orji performed to the admiration of the constituents in these areas?
A: He has performed wonderfully well. He has done the business of Lawmaking, Representation and Oversight functions excellently and if there’s a fourth one, he’ll also do excellently. Why do I say so? T.A. Orji has done so well in the Senate that we’re even thinking that if we sleep and wake up, we’ll see him in Aso Rock, that’s the prayers of his numerous followers. He never hassled to be senator; rather people hassled to give him massive votes, particularly people of Abia Central. On the area of legislation, he has passed over seven bills into law. I can quickly mention three: (1) National Centre for Disease Control Act which is the basis under which the Federal Government fighting this COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. (2) The Food Security Act which has led to massive agricultural production and enhanced storage system the government. (3) Abia Polytechnic Bill, a gift he gave to Abians, as passed by the Senate, thus making Abia Polytechnic a Federal Polytechnic and awaiting assent of Mr President.
When you talk about his oversight functions, remember he’s the Senate Committee Chairman on Privatisation and you can’t talk of Privatisation without dealing with the Private Sector and he believes that government has no business in being in business, so government is privatising a lot of its companies. He is equally the Vice Chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture and has been doing well in his oversight functions.
On representation, no Senator to my knowledge has done as much as Ochendo has done to his constituents. Which area has he not done well? If I begin to read them out, it is monumental: from human capital development to empowering people of his Senatorial district and beyond, fighting poverty, helping people, the downtrodden etc. Even though the job of a Senator is to make laws, Ochendo cannot sit and say let me make laws alone. Ochendo will always ask you, what do you want? He has sent people abroad on scholarships, trained over 450 people at different times to the Agricultural and Rural Management Training, Ilorin Kwara State as well as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, Oyo State. When we talk of electricity, he has provided 18 brand new transformers to communities in the Senatorial district. Majorly, he donated and installed 300KVA 11/0.45 sub-stations to three communities in the district namely: Ahaba Okpuala in Isiala Ngwa North, Amapu Nvosi in Isiala South, Azueke Ibeku in Umuahia North LGAs. These sub-stations are there for you to see. He provided motorized solar boreholes to many communities.
On healthcare, he, (like when he was governor where he provided many), constructed Umuaraga Health Centre, Ukeme Health Centre, Umuelehe na Agboho Health Centre, Ohokobe Afaraukwu Health Centre and many others. At Ohafia Street, Umuahia, he established an Eye Clinic where over 600 people have benefited from his free Eye-care programme. When we talk of roads, he is equally constructing roads; to open up some rural areas. He’s indeed performing wonders in Abia Central Senatorial district.
By Uche NwosuUche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.