THE carved wooden idol of Amadioha in my late grandfather’s bedroom was an attempt to conjure the image and presence of the almighty God. My grandfather and his generation captured and appreciated the overwhelming power of God from the imaginary power of the wooden totem.
God was nearer to them in the physical presence of Amadioha. They talked to him directly, worshipped him by incantations and libations. They were pious, sincere and godly and were true to the light they received.
Thus, the wooden carving was just an image of the original. It was a living being bearing the semblance and characteristics of God. My grandfather spoke to it in complete personification of God.
He captured the beauty of God, his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence in the sweet lyrics of the incantations. He observed a sacred liturgy and approached Amadioha with reverence.
The wooden image, contrary to the white man’s derogatory notion of Africa, was not an act of savagery but an icon of God captured in Africans’own cultural experience.
Indeed, it is from this background that I enter into an appreciation of the symbolism of the honour conferred on Theodore Orji, governor of Abia State, by the Champion Newspapers group last week in Enugu.
Champion Newspapers, in their independent wisdom and judgement, conferred on Governor Orji the award of the Icon of Democracy. The governor is the second recipient of the newspaper’s leadership award, the first being George Obiozor.
The award was instituted to recognise Nigerian leaders who have excelled in leadership. For the Chairman of the occasion, Bamanga Tukur, national Chairman of the ruling PDP, “The choice of Ochendo is apt because he has enthroned liberty, freedom and progress which are the cardinal tenets of democracy.”
In the lexicon of my cultural identity, I call Ochendo the “idol” of democracy. By “idol”, I borrow from the African religious experience to try to convey the idea of symbolism and representation.
By the award, Governor Orji comes to represent the very epitome of the noble ideals of democracy. He has been put on the pedestal as a true democrat and as a practical representation of the ideological construct which democracy evokes and which is summarised in that time-honoured simple definition: government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Just as the idol represents the finest of the God and stands as a signifier of God’s presence, Governor Orji is standing today as the signifier of true democracy. He is the practical image, in words and deeds, of the ideal.
Democracy is people-centred. It is all about the people. It is a form of representative government. One can only appreciate the honour of the award from the knowledge of the recent political history of Abia State.
Before Governor Orji’s revolution, Abia was a dynasty ruled by one family. During this time, there was class distortion and destruction wherein the elite became an endangered specie while goons became the ruling class. The question is: Did Abia have democracy? The answer is no. It was a captive era.
In this mission of democracy, Governor Orji yanked off power from the stranglehold of this dynasty and returned it back to the people.
All over the world, the displacement of bad rulers is an onerous and dangerous task; dangerous because it involves a life-and-death struggle.
In this case, the governor has been up against an entrenched dynasty, including an army of hangers-on empowered for twelve years and equipped with money and arms. He had to contend with the ferocious anger of these men who found the privilege of power and were not willing to relinquish it. This class found Governor Orji a threat to their colony.
With power back to the people, Orji is running a true representative government where the people are allowed to decide.
In Abia today, it is the communities and constituencies that make nominations for commissioners and other political offices. The advisers and assistants are appointed based on merit, track record and competence. Today, meritocracy has been restored as against mediocrity.
Democracy also caters for the welfare of the people.
Today, with a paltry N3.5 billion monthly federal allocation, from where the governor pays a monthly salary bill of N2.5 billion, he has been able to build legacy projects, like the world-class conference centre in Umuahia, the new four-storey secretariat complex, the new Government House, the Abia Diagnostic Centre in Umuahia and Aba, the new High Court building, new modern offices for the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia (BCA), and a host of others.
In the area of the minimum wage regime, Abia State under Governor Orji is one of the first five states that started the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure earlier in 2011; ditto for the Consolidated Health Salary Structure for health assistants, health officers, vet officers, agric health officers, nurses and doctors.
In the same vein, Abia is also one of the few states that immediately paid ASUU agreed salary structure for universities.
Governor Orji also went beyond the Federal Government prescribed N18,000 minimum wage for civil servants and followed the NLC standardised salary regime and has been paying N21,000 since December 2011.
Mr. GODWIN ADINDU, a social critic, wrote from Aba, Abia State.