People & Politics

June 15, 2009

Abia: T. A. must get tough!

By Ochereome Nnanna
NO  circumstances of any two governors are exactly the same. But that of Theodore Ahamefule Orji, the Governor of Abia State fondly hailed by his admirers as Ochendo is exceptional.

He was not like his Jigawa State counterpart, Sule Lamido, the only governor whose election was never challenged at the election tribunal by his opponents. Nor was he like his Lagos colleague, Raji Fashola, who smoothly received the baton of power from his mentor and started governing his state without let or hindrance from day one.

Even the circumstances of his emergence was in a class of its own in that he won his election from detention, the only time this has ever happened here in Nigeria.

But since he assumed office, he has never known a moment of peace from within and outside his political party, government, his political opponents and criminals roaming the towns and villages of his state.

He is probably the most victimised of the 36 governors in Nigeria.

His case at the election tribunal was clearly one of the most celebrated in the media. He struggled against a vicious opposition and even nearly got assassinated by yet-to-be named gunmen when a convoy he was supposed to be riding in was attacked.

While his case was still at the tribunal, the Governor suffered at the hands of treacherous and disloyal government officials and civil servants who routinely flouted his directives.

He once had to summon five most senior officers of the Finance Ministry, from Commissioner down to Accountant General, lined them up and told them to carry out a simple instruction they had ignored for months.

Disloyalty was obviously why he had to dissolve his cabinet when in February 2009 the Appeal Court finally closed his election petition ordeal on a victorious note for him.

And now that a new cabinet team has been reconstituted, it is left for Governor Orji to prove that he has full executive capacity to marshal his officers to increase the pace of development in the state.

It is reasonable for one to expect that the new cabinet is his own team assembled for this purpose, rather than individuals imposed on him by his party, like the old team. Governor T. A. Orji no longer has any excuse to offer for any shortcomings when he comes around campaigning for a second term in office.

His party leader, Orji Kalu, told him as much during his Democracy Day speech in Umuahia. This is the time to get tough.

And the primary target of a new tough disposition must be the restoration of law and order in the state.

The joint military and police anti-crime squad that has confronted crime in Abia State since it was set up by the by Orji administration has not measured up to the expectation of the people.

They were there when the Governor was nearly gunned down, and up till now, nobody has been apprehended in connection with that dastardly attempt.

The state government has recently redoubled its effort to increase the level of internally generated revenue, especially in the state’s foremost commercial metropolis, Aba.

But how can revenue increase in the face of upsurge in kidnapping, not only in Aba but even in the villages of the state?

Today, the greatest mistake anyone can make is to drive a Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) or Jeep through the streets of Aba. Those who live in the city complain that it is no longer safe to leave or enter the town as from 6.00pm.

This is the period of the day that kidnappers from Ngwa villages invade both the streets of Aba and the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, waiting for people to snatch.

When there is a feeling of so much insecurity, especially among the higher net worth individuals, economic activities surely drop. Every progressive economy strives to operate 24 hours a day. But a situation where even night life is snuffed out of a major commercial city can never augur well for increased revenue drive of a state.

It is gratifying to note that the Abia State Governor has now decided to get “ruthless” with criminals. Last week Wednesday, June 10, 2009, Governor Orji summoned a meeting with traditional rulers of the autonomous communities in his state and informed them of his plans to have the Joint Task Force (JTF), which is dealing with militants and criminals in the Niger Delta creeks, drafted to the state.

If this actually happens, communities harbouring nests of professional kidnappers will have to get ready to run.

When the JTF strikes, it is a military invasion. Villages that harbour kidnappers and armed robbers have to get ready to start producing refugees. It has come to this, and it took a long time in coming.

The Governor also threatened to depose any traditional ruler who is known to either aid and abet kidnappers or have any link to them.

It should go beyond this. Traditional rulers are employees of government, since they collect salaries from their local councils.

They have a duty to give information about bad eggs residing in their communities to the Police or better still to the Government House.

Special hotlines and listening posts should be set up all over the state to gather information about the hiding places of kidnappers and armed robbers and their backers, some of whom are politicians and top government officials who have at one time or the other used the criminals to steal elections.

The maintenance of law and order is the primary duty of any government. Without law and order, no meaningful economic activity can take place.

Government cannot function effectively in an atmosphere of fear of criminals. Governor T. A. Orji must take a firm grip of his government and run criminals out of his state.

Excuses will no longer suffice.