BY ANAYO OKOLI
THE April 2011 elections have come and gone. And in Abia State, like other states where elections, specifically governorship election held, Chief Theodore Orji was inaugurated on Sunday May 29, 2011, and he has since began a four-year journey into his second term.
His inauguration followed his declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the governorship polls, which was contested by 20 political parties. Four of the political parties are already at the tribunal protesting against the INEC’s decision, alleging various degrees of irregularities at the polls against the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Orji, who will clock 61 years this year, was born in 1950 in Umuahia, the present capital city of Abia State, to the family of late Chief Tom Orji Ikoro, said to be a renowned warrant chief and a district officer (DO). Humane and unassuming, Governor Orji is of Ibeku stock. Ibeku is one of the clans that make up Umuahia. He was a civil servant, who rose to the pinnacle of his career, permanent secretary, before he retired. He is married to Mrs. Mercy Odochi, a strong force in his life, and they are blessed with five children, four boys and a girl.
His first term was not very eventful in terms of achievements. He was faced with many ‘wars’, in court by the opposition, which challenged his first election for three years, and his mentors, whom he later confessed to the people of the state, were holding him in bondage, and not allowing him to express his development vision.
So, the aggregate of these ‘wars’ frustrated him and he could not deliver to the people what he had in mind, according to him. Hopefully, the new regime that has just begun will be free from the encumbrances suffered in the first four years.
Having regarded the first four years as partly unsuccessful, Governor Orji has a lot of issues facing him, and he knows this much because he personally, during his campaigns, made promises on some of them.
Barely eight months to the election, the state was described as kidnappers den because hoodlums, particularly kidnappers and violent armed robbers virtually over ran the state, particularly Aba, the commercial capital. Residents abandoned their houses and relocated to other places.
The activities of these hoodlums almost turned Abia into a pariah state as people avoided visiting the place.
To quench the fire of kidnapping, Orji, with the permission of President Goodluck Jonathan, invited soldiers under the leadership of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division, Enugu, Major_General Sarkin Yakin Bello.
Supervised by Brigadier General Sylvester Audu, the soldiers, in conjunction with other security operatives, tackled the hoodlums head-on and tangible results were achieved. Security returned to the place, which enabled elections to be held. So one issue facing the governor is sustaining and consolidating the prevailing security in Abia.
Youth unemployment was fingered as a major cause of the high insecurity in the state and it has to be addressed by the governor. The state is lucky to host a number of industries established by the former Premier of the defunct Eastern Nigeria, late Dr. Michael Okpara, who incidentally hailed from Umuahia; and former governor of old Imo State, late Dr. Sam Mbakwe. They include Golden Guinea Breweries in Umuahia, International Glass Company in Aba; Ceramic factory, also in Umuahia. There are also palm plantations and Ogwe Golden Chicken, all scattered in some parts of the state. Unfortunately, these establishments are not functioning. So the Governor is expected to make their revival a priority so as to provide jobs for the youths and solve the problem of insecurity.
Umuahia, the state capital needs some level of improvement. This the governor has realized himself, hence his promise to relocate the city’s main market to Ubani Ibeku, about 10 kilometers from the city so as to locate something more decent to the place and reduce the ugly traffic chaos usually witnessed around the market area.
The city is growing by the day and so needs more roads to divert traffic outside the city centre. Any road that could run from Ikwuano or Umudike area to link the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway without touching the capital city will divert traffic from the very busy Calabar/Uyo Road and make motorists from Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers states avoid Umuahia city on their way to Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Onitsha and other parts of the country. Another road will also be needed in the Aba axis. This way, Umuahia will be free of traffic congestion.
Another challenge in Umuahia is water. There is no water in the city. The water system in Umuhia has to be revived. Private boreholes have been serving as the major source of water for Umuhia and Aba residents.
Indeed, Aba needs total rehabilitation. The roads are in a terrible state. This is not strange to the governor as he visited and has continued to visit the city and has seen things for himself and has in fact started some work there. Aba is money waiting to be harvested. The government can generate over half of its monthly wage bill from the city if it was reorganized. You can get any type of skilled artisan in Aba. They need improved power supply to power their working machines. What they need is a conducive environment to produce whatever they are engaged in and of course pay taxes and other dues to government.
The governor is conversant with these issues and will hopefully tackle them. He hinted this when he said that “Aba must not remain like that. The dirt must go. There must be discipline in Aba.” Education, Agriculture, Health, Housing and Transport are other issues that will engage the attention of the new government just as improvement of the amenities in the rural areas is expected to be attended to.
While the new government is being looked upon to tackle the above listed issues, it is important to look at personalities that are expected to play key and strategic roles in the new administration. Governor Orji did not make it a secret that his last administration was not free to do what it had wanted to do. The governor has said more often that he is now a free man – a man who can now think properly and execute what he has in mind in his own way. Apart from family influence which may not be much, the governor may not likely have much pressure to divert his concentration, except from some of his Ibeku kinsmen, which he is expected to handle.
A number of PDP stakeholders may have influence in the new administration. The stakeholders who have been coming around before and after the elections include Senator Ike Nwachukwu, the Ihejirikas, Chiefs Onyema Ugochukwu, Ojo Maduekwe, Moa Ohuabunwa, Vincent Ogbuluafor, Adolphus Wagbara, Emeka Wogu and Emma Adiele among others.
Though these people are not permanently in Abia, they are expected to be among the henchmen that will constitute the power bloc in the new government.
Barring disagreements in sharing of offices, these men, by their social standing are expected to influence the government positively. But this is politics. Rumours that some of them had allegedly sent the names of their children or other cronies to the governor for appointment are raising dusts in the polity and only the coming days and weeks and perhaps months will tell what will happen.