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Deputy Governors are necessary spare tyres – AKOMAS

*Abia has a very thriving rumour mill
*Our party and structure will decide who runs for governor

COMRADE Chris Akomas, labour activist turned politician is the deputy governor of Abia State. He joined politics to continue the “struggle”. He says he is press shy. After several efforts, Sunday Vanguard was able to track him down to talk. In this rare chat with our Abia State Correspondent, Anayo Okoli, Akomas spoke about himself, why he is into politics, the office of deputy governor, the relationship between him and Governor Theodore Orji on the one side and Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, the party BOT chairman on the other side.

After three years of this administration, as the deputy governor, what would say is the most outstanding achievement of this government so far?
You know the office of the deputy governor is complementary to that of the governor. The constitution does not assign any specific role to the deputy governor. The deputy governor’s work is to complement that of the governor and in every respect what happens is that you do that which you have been asked to do and where necessary filling-in the gaps. That is what deputy governors are expected to do. Outside that, like I always tell people, people say deputy governors are spare tyres, but I say that they are necessary spare tyres. People make the mistake, if you engage in a journey without a spare tyre, you can never be sure that that journey will be smooth. If there is a breakdown or if there is a flat tyre, you will endure a long wait.  But if the spare tyre is there, you can move on and that is why in all wisdom it is important that both the governor and the deputy governor always work together to make sure the journey is smooth.

But for us in Nigeria, two things appear to be clear as the responsibilities of deputy governors, that includes boundary issues and matters which reside at the national level under the office of the Vice President and at the state level under the office of deputy governor. And for those of us from the 14 cocoa producing states, the issues bordering on cocoa regeneration, development, improvement and the introduction of the necessary value changes to ensure that we move forward, is also assigned to the deputy governors.

You are aware that cocoa is the second highest foreign revenue earner for Nigeria after oil. And if I am to assess, but I believe that people will also have their opinion, I will say we have done very well in boundary matters and exceptionally well in cocoa matter. You remember that we hosted the 5th National Cocoa Event for which the then Vice President, who today is the president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was here himself. We had people from the 14 cocoa states, we had other delegations, ministers, and the event was very successful.

And Abia has been projected and is there now, in the world cocoa map. Recently, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] as part of the five major cocoa producing states in the country where the Bill and Blinder Gates Foundation in collaboration with the International Cocoa Institute and others will be carrying out a project tagged “cocoa livelihood programme”. So we have done well and we will continue to do well.

What is the cocoa livelihood programme you just mentioned all about?
The cocoa livelihood programme is a programme that seeks to enrich the knowledge of and ability of the cocoa farmers and introduce them into cocoa farming as a business. So there is a lot of support, a lot of training, capacity building and linkages that assist them. And in Abia  State, like other states, we have generational problem in cocoa farming, but good a thing for us in Abia  State, we also have young cocoa farmers. So there is this transfer going on and like in Itunta, the Cooperatives, we have both old and young working together.

You see new and old blending together for more efficient cocoa development programme in the state. So also, Chief David Onyenweaku, I always mention him because he is a model. The man is over 80 years old, very strong and his son, a graduate of Agriculture is now managing the farm. It is a large farm.

What is the relationship between you, the governor, Chief T.A. Orji and the BOT Chairman of your party PPA, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu?
I am a member of the  PPA, the Progressive Peoples Alliance. The Governor is a senior member of our Party, PPA. We came on this boat on the same platform, and that  is  the PPA. It is the PPA boat that brought us into office. The chairman of BOT is up there, he was the former governor. In other words, if the truth must be told, he is our political mentor, both the governor and my humble person. So the PPA as a party is a family and we will continue to work well as a family.

For me I have no problem and my relationship with the BOT Chairman is as it  should, at my level, he is the Board of Trustee Chairman. My relationship with my governor remains that of complementing his effort by diligently doing the duties assigned to me, that is what it should be, he is the governor, I am the deputy.

I am only the second in command and I do that as the constitution has made it. I do only those things that have been assigned to me. Things not assigned to me, I don’t get involved in them. And when it comes to the party, party has hierarchy and decisions taken in political parties follow a system and my job as a loyal and responsible member of that party is to obey and follow the directives of the party.

But the impression people have out there is that your relationship with Governor T.A. Orji is not cordial.
People are entitled to their opinion, and they are free to express them. I am here as deputy governor and to do the work of deputy governor, that I will do. I am here also to know and I do know that in leadership, there are front-liners, there are those that come after front-liners; and then there are followers. Leadership is in stages. Today in Abia State, the leader of the party [PPA] is the Governor, Chief T.A. Orji, and I follow him as my leader. The leader at the national level is the BOT chairman and of course the national hierarchy of the party. That is that. We must separate individual attitude from office, that is one. Two, we must also separate what happens as rumours from facts. In Abia State you have a very thriving rumour. The rumour mill is busy and churning out things. I continue to do my job as deputy governor.

Like I said earlier, I will do only those things assigned to me. If I am not assigned a responsibility, I will not get involved in it. If I am assigned a responsibility, I will do it to the best of my knowledge and ability, and I know that God has never disappointed me, I will deliver on it. Outside that, it is not my kettle of fish.

I know that you are from what they here, the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc, and there is this feeling that the Ukwa/Ngwa bloc is being marginalized in the development of Abia State. I want to ask you, are the Ukwa/Ngwa people being marginalized in Abia State?

I think that question will be very subjective for me to answer. It is also not very fair to ask me that question. Why have I said that? I am here as the number two citizen. The people that can say, because even in your family, your father will take decisions and do things, or even in your own family, you will take decisions that may not go down well with your siblings or your wife, but you know better.

The only people that can tell you how they feel if you ask them, is your wife and children. I am here as the deputy governor, the people you should ask this question are those outside government. They will have their unbiased opinion. If I say no, you will say it is because I am in government. If I say yes, you will say it is because I am from Ukwa/Ngwa.

Is Comrade Chris Akomas running for the governorship seat of Abia  State in 2011?
Thank you my brother. I am a politician. I came on this board on the directive of the structure. I remain on this board on the directive of the structure and the good will of the people of Abia State who gave the governor and my humble self the mandate. I will work and remain on the board on the directive of the structure, and I will continue to stand on the mandate and goodwill of Abia people who have brought us to this level. What will be next, I don’t know. Like I keep saying today I am deputy governor that is the job before me. The governor is Chief T.A. Orji. My focus is to do my job as the deputy governor well and effectively. I want to be seen and recorded as a man who did the job of a deputy governor, not just effectively only but also efficiently. And that demands loyalty, demands patience, demands integrity and honour, and that is where I stand.

If tomorrow, the system which I belong to, which the governor, my leader in this state belongs to, directs us on things to do, we will all work as directed by the system. The issue of who runs or who becomes what first belongs to God, all power belongs to Him. He is the one that makes; He is the one that unmakes. Two, in this country, notwithstanding that we are tinkering with the Constitution now and we are proposing to have provision for Independent candidates, the issue of running for political office is the supreme entitlement of the political party.

And no political party, to the best of my knowledge, my party PPA, hasn’t called for people to come and pick forms for 2011 elections. I have not gone to pick any form or applied to anybody. When they called for that and when it is time for that, then people will know what is what and which is which. But take this home, that I Comrade Chris Akomas remain loyal to the system that brought me here; I will not go outside the directive of that system and the structure. I remain committed to the party, PPA, and I recognized the fact that the Governor, Chief T. A. Orji is the leader of the party; I will work within the directives of the party and the structure.


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