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Abia political crisis: The intrigues that forced Gov Orji out of PPA

In the beginningTHE political crisis which has engulfed Abia state following the strained relationship between Governor Theodore Orji and his political mentor and former governor of the state for eight years, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, will no doubt affect the governance of the state either positively or negatively.

The two political gladiators have been very close in the last 10 years. The present governor, Chief Theodore Orji, a former staff of INEC served the former governor Kalu for 8 years as the Chief of staff, a position that brought them very close.
Governor Orji’s election and how Abia is being governed.
Both former Governor Kalu and the incumbent governor Orji were too close that after the 8 years of his reign, Kalu ensured that Chief Orji succeeded him. He won the election while in detention at Kirikiri Prison on account of  alleged misappropriation of state funds by Kalu’s government. When he came out, he assumed office but there was a general feeling among the people that he has not been in charge.

To the people of Abia state, it was the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob in the running of the state. In fact, they believe that it was not only the former governor that was allegedly interfering with the running of the state but that his  mother, Mrs. Eunice Orji Kalu, had a very huge influence in the administration of  the state in the last 10 years.

In fact, the political structure which gave birth to PPA, Reality Organization, was the brainchild of the former governor’s wife and most political appointments in the state since PPA came to power have been made from this organization which is seen  as greater than the party itself. So, only those seen as core loyalists and die-hard members of the organization were given political offices and deployed to areas regarded as juicy.

Close sources  to the governor narrated that all the 16 council chairmen that won the controversial January 2008 council election in the state were all nominated by the former governor’s dynasty, while the governor nominated none.

Incidentally, these chairmen within their two years in office allegedly accumulated a debt of over N2 billon in salary arrears as council workers were owed several months of arrears of salary. Yet , there was nothing on ground in terms of infrastructural development in almost all these councils. They were accused of diverting council funds to service their political mentors.

Saturday Vanguard learnt that the government, after the expiration of the tenure of the last council executive, had started offsetting the huge debt as it has refused to appoint a caretaker committee to conduct election but rather, decided to use the Heads of Service in the councils to administer them. Presently, the government said that it has cleared a greater part of  the backlog of salary, leaving about N400 million outstanding.

The stronghold was very strong that Governor Orji while inaugurating his first cabinet openly confessed that he never met most of  the commissioners before their appointment, an indication that he did not make any input in the constitution of the cabinet.

The implication, political observers said, was that most members of that cabinet were loyal to the organization and the former governor. So, governor Orji was seen more or less as a lame duck, who was just a figure head who allegedly, merely takes instructions from the Orji Kalu dynasty.

This, stronghold, Abia people believe accounted for the gross under development of the state, especially Aba, the commercial capital of the state. Majority of  funds coming to the state were alleged to have been channeled towards the service of the dynasty and running the party to the detriment of  the development of the state.

The last straw.
Things continued to be tolerable until the frosty relationship between the governor and his mentor set in. The former governor was said to have used the party, PPA to achieve his fight against governor Orji  so that it would not be seen as a personal fight between them. The party’s National Working Committee [NWC] was made to issue a query to the governor, cataloguing a number of allegations against him.

The allegations bothered mainly on non-performance, insecurity in the state, owing workers salary, withholding the statutory allowances of the deputy governor, Chief Chris Akomas, among other things. For this, the governor was summoned by the NWC. He was however summoned alongside Kalu who is the BOT chairman of the party and Senator Uche Chukwumereije.

Some allegations were also leveled against the BOT chairman, an action supporters of the governor viewed as mere cover up so as not to link Kalu to the problem the governor was facing in the party.

On the appointed date , governor Orji was said to have written to the committee excusing himself on grounds of ill-health and requested them to give him two weeks to enable him recover. The party was said to have rejected the two weeks requested by governor Orji and rather gave him one week. However, a day after the letter granting him one week, the party again wrote him, giving him an ultimatum to clear salary arrears of workers, especially teachers, clearing the state of criminals, paying the deputy governor his entitlements, among others.

The party made this public. This did not go down well with the governor and his supporters who felt that he was not treated fairly. The governor felt that fairness demands that the party should also make public his reaction to the issues raised against him. According to sources close to the governor, the party was not in tune with the issues in the state as the government has secured a loan of about N1.2 billion to offset all the debts, including that of  teachers. It said that no worker is owed in the state presently.

This incident and the allegation behind the scene being made by the BOT chairman allegedly convinced the governor that the mutual confidence between him and the former governor was no more there. In fact, the governor was said to have come to the inevitable conclusion that he was no longer wanted by the BOT and the party following an experience he had in Abuja during the build up to this crisis.

Betrayal of trust.
A very reliable source disclosed that in one the trips  the governor made to Abuja, he was visited by the party chairman, Mr. Larry Essien in his Lodge. They stayed and chatted for sometime before Essien left the governor.

Throughout their stay, the party chairman was said not to have hinted the governor of a letter he sent to him containing the allegations which led to the summon issued to him and others. But about thirty minutes after he left the governor, the party chairman sent him a text message, saying that he hoped that he got his letter, to which the governor replied in the negative, and decided to send his personal assistant to check. The PA was said to have seen it in a big envelop at the gate. Not suspecting anything, the governor kept the letter to be read later.

When Essien left, the governor decided to visit the BOT chairman in his Abuja home, as his usual homage to him. On arrival, he was said to have been confronted by the former governor with his own letter bearing allegations against him.

The former governor was said to have lambasted the governor, saying that it was because of him that the petition was written against him. In fact, he called another party chieftain to be present when he was lambasting the governor. Dumbfounded, the governor was said to have informed him that he has a letter which was just given to him, saying perhaps it could be the same query for him.

When governor Orji got back to his Lodge, he opened the letter, and found a ten- point allegation. He was said to have called the former governor to inform him that he received a similar letter containing various allegations. As they were talking, the former governor was said to have asked him to drop, that he would call him later but till date, he never called him again.

This sent a very clear message to governor Orji that there was trouble and that the game is over. He came back to Umuahia and contacts were made and he joined APGA because it was already alleged that PPA has already dropped him for 2011 for Chief Stanley Ohajuruka or Comrade Chris Akomas.


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