By John Kalu
My dear Arochukwu brother, Dr Alex Chioma Otti, I bring you greetings from the good people of Abia State, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour of Mankind.
I read your so called non political open letter to the Executive Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, through your favorite Facebook channels and decided to respond to you principally to set the record straight and stop you from further preying on the emotions of the gullible who may not have truthful information available to them.
Permit me to inform you that Governor Ikpeazu is busy with the work of developing Abia State and will not be personally responding to your desperate ploy to distract him from the task of leading Abia to prosperity. While you continue to occupy space on Facebook, he is facing the work Abians elected him to do.
Litany of deceitful posturing
As you know, he has already proved you wrong on Abia Infrastructure, Security, education and agriculture through uncommon focus on his duties, regardless of your many attempts to distract him.
In the first place, I find it laughable that you referred to an open letter addressed to a sitting Governor, using public platforms, from an obviously still sore defeated political opponent as non political. To me that simply adds to the litany of recorded deceitful posturing that have characterized your political engagements in Abia State since 2014 when you dived into the political arena with a false messianic complex.
Sir, when concerned responsible citizens write non political letters to their Governor on issues of governance they do so privately and without media noise or fanfare. Nobody is deceived into believing that your intention was altruistic, especially knowing that you wrote to set the media agenda for your previously publicized Ngwa High School Governorship declaration aimed at trying your luck again in the coming 2019 general election.
Your open letter is therefore another attempt to mislead and deceive people who may not be aware of your brand of politics that thrives on lies, half-truths and plain deceit.
With regards to your so called previous interventions in the governance of the state since you were defeated in 2015, as affirmed by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, you may wish to be reminded that you pointedly attempted to scuttle the approval of the African Development Bank (AfDB) low interest facility approved by the National Assembly for the rapid infrastructure development of Abia state even after you previously lied to our people at the premises of Aba Chamber of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA) in 2015 that you obtained a bank loan of $100b from International Finance Corporation, as a PRIVATE CITIZEN, to develop infrastructure at Aba.
We are aware that your principal reason for attempting to scuttle that facility was to prevent the Ikpeazu administration from delivering on its infrastructure renewal agenda and maintain a healthy cash flow that will ensure that our people continue to march forward.
I believe that you now know that the attempted sabotage against the people of Abia State did not yield your desired goal as the administration has gone ahead to complete more than 67 road projects with 82 others at various stages of completion, within three years, including the roads to your adopted and original place of birth; Umunkpeyi-Umuehim road in Isiala Ngwa South LGA and Ndi Oji/Ndi Okereke-Arochukwu road in Arochukwu LGA respectively.
It appears to me that your ill advised politically motivated interventions in the affairs of Abia State, since you lost the 2015 election to Governor Ikpeazu, were informed by your wrong sources of information with regards to our dear state.
According to former Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr Kofi Annan, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” Your continued sourcing of information about Abia State from FACEBOOK appears to me to be the reason for your serial misfiring with regards to current Abia affairs.
An American business man, Mitchell Kapor, warned about this penchant for wrong sourcing of information and forming opinions from the internet when he stated that “getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”
Your statement that “Abia Civil Servants are presently owed up to ten months salary arrears” is typically expected from those that source, bandy and form opinion from information shared at Facebook and other online social media platforms.
It is unfortunate that presumably brilliant folks will spend time to write open letters on the basis of Social Media gossips, especially when they can make little effort by calling concerned workers to verify the true position.
While sympathizing with you for the effect of wrong information-sourcing on you, permit me to educate you properly on the state of salary payment in Abia State.
All workers in Abia State Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) have long received their May 2018 salaries and were set to receive June 2018 salary but for the impasse that led to the failure of the federation account allocation committee (FAAC) to disburse June Revenue due to Abia State and others.
It is important to note that workers in our MDAs constitute more than 70% of the state’s workforce.
I hope you understand that statutorily Abia State Government does not pay the wages of workers in state parastatals as they are permitted to generate and use revenue to pay their workers and run their operations. In situations where some parastatals have challenges with fund generation, the state government lends support with subventions.
As much as possible, this administration has supported our parastatals, hence Abia State University Uturu which hitherto had salary payment challenges is up to date with workers salary. For others such as Abia State Polytechnic Aba, we have made interventions to support them; including offsetting the debilitating commercial bank loan of two billion Naira as well as with payment of monthly subventions.
Leaking pocket or drain
As a responsible government, we will not allow any institution to constitute itself into a leaking pocket or drain pipe on the collective wealth of Abians.
While we continue to make interventions to support those weak parastatals, we are also mindful of our responsibility to the remaining 98% of Abians who are not salary earning civil servants but require other dividends of democracy from their government. For them, we will continue to develop socio-economically important infrastructure, maintain the prevailing security in the state and promote entrepreneurship, even while systematically deepening the revenue base of the state.
While you may have chosen to play politics with workers welfare, Governor Ikpeazu is daily working to ensure that their wages are not only paid as and when due, he is also putting in place policies and systems to ensure that the internally generated revenue (IGR) inflow of the state is improved above our current wage level. Not only has he embarked on total computerization of the IGR collection system, he is also supporting our MSMEs to ensure that they grow and pay their fair share of revenue to the state.
We have partnered with the federal government to deliver steady power supply to more than 1000 shops at Ariaria International market, helped to get approval for a new power generating and distribution company to serve the important Ariaria area, supported geometric power company to quickly roll out at Aba and commenced the development of a new industrial city with steady power supply and other necessary infrastructure.
Rather than writing misleading letters, Abians like you can help the state through locating job and wealth creating investment in our state. Indeed we look forward to the day you will give flesh to your sloganeering on “Abia First” by locating one of your businesses in Abia State as well as execute private projects to better the lots of our people.
It should bother you, Sir, that while you have chosen your alma mata, Ngwa High School Aba, as venue to launch your dead on arrival 2019 Governorship campaign, there is no single classroom block or even a computer set in that school that was donated by you. Whereas we are aware of your past efforts in attracting school projects to institutions in other states of the federation.
Responsible citizens support government to improve the lot of their people as against letter writing and politically motivated sabotage of government programs and projects to score cheap political points.
If you will not support growth in Abia State, you may wish to at least revisit the issue of the loan you packaged for modem ceramic (MOCERAM) Umuahia that not only ensured that the factory continues to be closed with thousands of jobs lost but also that every member of the church that bought over the factory now owes nearly two billion Naira debt from a loan of less than two hundred and fifty million naira.
The Bible admonished us to remove the logs in our eyes before bothering about the specks in the eyes of others. You may wish to read the book of Mathew chapter 7 verse 5:
“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
It is also interesting that you are now posturing as the champion of workers. While we do not think that it is necessary to review your career record in banking to make the point that talk is cheap, you may wish to personally review publicly available records to see that the sacking of over 2000 workers followed your exit from the last bank you worked at.
Even if you cannot do anything for the people of Abia State you desperately seek to govern, please stop lying and misleading them because of politics.
All the extraordinary inflows received by this administration were managed transparently without blemish and earned Governor Ikpeazu accolades from Independent Corrupt Practices Commision (ICPC), his peers in the Governors Forum and labour unions in the state.
Suffice it to state that not only were the funds applied transparently to improve the welfare of Abia workers and other citizens, it is on record that since May 2015 Abia State Government pays wages to her workers every month.
We have also resisted recommendations from theoretical economists to slash wages or retrench workers, as done in neighboring states most of whom are paying workers 50 to 70 percent of what they used to earn before now.
Under the watch of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, no Abia worker has been retrenched to lighten the wage burden. Instead we have gone ahead to commence the implementation of the payment of 2017 leave allowance to workers and on course to complete the regular promotion exercise for workers in the state civil service.
We will not take advice from those who mismanaged smaller private sector entities, with the consequence that those hitherto blue chip organizations had to sack more than 2000 workers and cut wages to stay afloat.
Abia State Government, under the watch of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, will continue to stand with the workers and people of Abia State through prudent and resourceful management of limited resources of the state.
We are therefore confident that the measures we have put in place to shore up the revenue base of our state will soon deliver the desired results and the issue of inherited pension and salary outstanding will soon be history in our state.
Abia workers understand the difference between cheap talk or politically motivated letter writing and self evident prudent management of scarce resources.
Our workers will never place their fate in the hands of flying politicians who are looking for election campaign talking points. They know “Okezuo Abia”is working for them and innovating to solve the daily challenges of our people.
The great people of Abia State understand the dangers of handing over the state to economic theorists who do not understand the reality of managing limited resources to meet the needs of 38,000 workers along with 4.5 million, mostly traders and farmers population, who also have needs. They also celebrate the caterpillar and agricultural revolution of the Ikpeazu administration knowing that even those who receive monthly wages will have higher values because of the improvements in infrastructure and food security.
Thank you for finding time to write your Governor. I personally find it interesting that you have inadvertently acknowledged the change in Abia’s infrastructure, Security, Education, Agriculture and human capital development narrative, under Governor Ikpeazu’s watch. Your new focus on salary payment, borne out inability to identify any other 2019 campaign talking point, confirms what Abians already know: Governor Ikpeazu is a worthy champion of the integrated development school of the Late Dr M I Okpara and Chief Sam Mbakwe.
Be assured that your state is in good hands and things can only get better. We only hope and pray that you will one day consider investing in Abia State and start contributing to improvements in our internally generated revenue, as a practical demonstration of love for our workers, traders, farmers and their children.
Indeed, the fact of Governor Ikpeazu’s sterling performance speaks for itself.
Chief John Okiyi Kalu is the Commisioner for Information, Abia State.