THE award of Icon of Democracy 2012 on the Abia State Governor, Theodore Orji by The Champion Newspapers did not come to many as a surprise, especially those who have been following the ongoing developmental revolution in the different sectors of the state, made possible by the transparent, committed, focused and pragmatic leadership approach of the Governor since he assumed office in the state.
His ascension to power in 2007 was as divine as his life which was never shaped by man but by God. As the only child of his parents, Orji thrived against all odds to be where he is today. It is a feat he achieved through diligence, humility and loyalty which has remained his watchwords in life.
This is why he was able to weather the challenges bordering on political godfatherism and kidnapping that grounded the commercial city of Aba in his first term in office.
His government spent billions of naira to restore peace and security in the state, having realised that there will be no meaningful development in an unsecured environment. Anybody who witnessed or experienced the kidnapping saga in the state then would agree that Orji deserves more than an award for that singular feat of arresting the problem.
Ahead of the 2011 general elections, Orji humbly appealed to his people to give him the chance for a second term with assurance that they would see a difference in governance after his government was distracted in his first term. It was a plea his people listened to, having known how his government was hijacked by a godfather during his first term.
To prove that the people did not make a mistake by voting him, his second term has so far been characterised by the provision of infrastructures and basic amenities to the people of the state. Today there seems to be a sense of urgency as if to cover for lost ground as evidenced by ongoing and completed development projects in different sectors of the state. This represents a clear testimony that Orji is a leader with a clear vision for greater tomorrow.
Apart from the prevailing peaceful political atmosphere in the state which is unprecedented since 1999, the state capital Umuahia, which was more of a village square before now, is wearing a new look, with several roads constructed, a befitting and unique workers secretariat nearing completion and an ongoing ultra-modern International Conference Centre. Already completed is an ultra modern diagnostic hospital which is the first of its kind in the country. Within the hospital also is a dialysis centre that is nearing completion. This is apart from the equipment and refurbishment of more than 200 health centres across the state.
More so, housing estates at Isieke, Amokwe, Amuba and Aba have been completed and many more are under way in the state. The state civil service which was the original constituency of Governor Orji has witnessed tremendous reforms, ranging from prompt promotion of workers, to the payment of N21,000 as minimum wage when several states across the country have refused to pay their workers the approved N18,000 minimum wage. The biometric data capturing introduced in the civil service reforms have helped in curbing the menace of ghost workers.
Government has also boldly confronted the daunting challenges in the commercial city of Aba, as the all drainage channels in the city have been cleared, some new roads like Ukwumango and Ariaria market constructed, while old ones that include some federal roads were also rehabilitated. A new motor park has been constructed before the Osisioma junction and it has helped in the decongestion of the notorious Osisioma junction which was an eyesore before now and caused traffic jam along Aba/Owerri road.
In the area of youth empowerment, Orji’s government is towers above other state governments in the country today as selected youths from all the council areas in the state now enjoy social security through some stipends which they receive monthly from the state government. Presently more than 2000 youths are undergoing vocational training that is being sponsored by the Abia State Oil Development Commission, ASOPEC . Already huge sum of money has been earmarked by the state government to empower them after the training so that they can be self-reliant. Also the Ochendo Youth Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, is partnering the state government in empowering the youths in the state. The organisation had in the last one year given out free of charge more than 500 tricycles popularly known as Keke NAPEP, 200 vehicles, grinding machines, cash donations and other items to youths in the state.
The education sector has also received appreciable boost from government as several schools have been renovated, while new ones have been constructed and learning and teaching materials also provided.
For its outstanding performance in promoting and sustaining of quality and quantitative education in the state , the government won several awards by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC. Many youths of the state have been offered scholarship by the state government for further studies at home and abroad.
Against this backdrop, it can be said that he truly deserves The Champion Newspaper award. It is also clear that if Governor Orji is entrusted with a higher leadership responsibility in the future, he will not fail Nigerians.
Mr. JUDE ISIAGBA, a pharmacist, wrote from Owerri, Imo State.