By Jude Ndukwe
When on November 9, 1950, Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji CON was born in the then rustic community of Amaokwe Ugba in the present Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, little did the world know that, just like the humble Nazareth, his place of origin has produced a giant who would eventually go ahead to shape the face of leadership in ways that would combine the principles of equity and performance in taking his state on an irreversible trajectory of excellence.
As governor of Abia State, Senator T.A. Orji had opened up what can rightly be described as a city within a city when he created and provided quality infrastructure at the Ogurube Layout to ease the ever mounting pressure on the city centre of the state capital. Apart from constructing well paved roads and durable drainage systems at the layout, the street lighting and beautification facilities in the area are still there to this day testifying to the sense of modern city development that the one Abians like to fondly call Ochendo Global has and made to bear on the state.
Today, Ogurube layout is speedily developing to that city comparable to any modern one everyone would like to have a piece of, thanks to the senator representing Abia Central at the Senate of the Federal Republic.
That Abia State boasts of a modern state secretariat for civil servants is also the handiwork of T.A. Orji. Today, Abia workers are more motivated than they were few years ago because they now have offices constructed specifically to meet their needs and provide the needed ambience for them to excel in their duties. The gigantic structures that make up the state secretariat tower far and above the expectations of visitors to Abia State.
Just a few metres from the state secretariat is the ultramodern international conference centre that has since hosted several local and international events including those by federal and state governments, international organizations including the UN, professional bodies and others who have all been enthralled by the sophisticated design of the structure and its imposing architecture built to speak for Abia. And indeed, the conference centre has been speaking for Abia as no organisation has made use of the place without a word to the host state that they would certainly come back to savour Abia and get exhilarated by its combination of modern architecture intertwined with rustic nature.
Today, T.A. Orji has been able to weather the storms of ethnic, parochial and clannish politics, to push through a Bill that has eventually been passed by the senate for the Abia State Polytechnic to become a federal polytechnic.
Apart from its benefits to students and staff alike including the host community, the import of this is that, the senator is not only thinking about his immediate constituency which, by all standards, he has been representing excellently well, but also the interest of the entire Abia State, as the takeover of the state polytechnic by the federal government will take away some financial burdens on the state government and free its finances to solve other pressing needs of the people.
To achieve such at a time the PDP was in the minority in the Senate when the Bill was first introduced goes a long way to show that Papa Ukwu is a master of the game who carries himself with the elegance and peaceful mien of a pageant but is nevertheless effective in achieving his goals of promoting his people’s interests without much ado wherever he finds himself.
His eight-year tenure as Abia State governor helped in no small way to extricate the state from the excruciating grip of his governor-predecessor and his associates who wanted to continue to enslave Abia and cause Abians to remain subservient and servile to them and the slavish dynasty they were attempting to create for themselves and their immediate family members.
It would take only a man of uncommon courage like Senator T.A. Orji to boldly lead the State out of “Egypt” because the forces he had to contend with then were unforgiving as well as brutal. But when God wants to save a people, he sends leaders like T.A. Orji to accomplish that mission even if that is the only mission they were able to accomplish before handing power over and moving on, they might have fulfilled God’s mission and mandate for their lives. And so it was for T.A. Orji.
Abia State might not have reached its Promised Land, it surely has since left “Egypt” thanks to the Moses who came to the rescue of the state in the form of the senator.
His peaceful nature is exemplified by the very smooth relationship between him and his successor, the incumbent governor of the state, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, who, like his predecessor, is also a man who recognizes that he is on a divine mission to fast track the continued development of Abia State. Unlike what obtains in several states where incumbents are at loggerheads with their predecessors because of the overbearing influence and pressure mounted on the governors by such successors, Abia does not have any frictions among its political leaders, including incumbents and their predecessors, and that is because God has blessed Abia State with leaders who understand and respect their places in the scheme of things.
In fact, Senator T.A. Orji only recently praised the performances of the incumbent governor, Dr Ikpeazu during a grand reception organized for the governor by the people of Old Bende region of the state wherein Orji stated inter alia: “No leader should consider himself successful unless he is succeeded by a successful successor. Today, I am a fulfilled person because the governor after me has succeeded!”
It was T.A. Orji who insisted that “The Charter of Equity” of Abia must be respected in the rotation of the governorship among the three senatorial zones of the state. After Abia North and Abia Central had taken their turns, Senator Orji rebuffed all manner of pressures including mouthwatering financial inducements to insist that the people of Abia South where the incumbent hails from must be allowed to take their turn. This exceptional show of courage and virtue by the senator has ensured that the usual rancour and bitterness that trail succession in government among senatorial zones and blocs in other states is reduced to its barest minimum if not eliminated completely in Abia State.
It is for all these his achievements and peaceful nature that he was rightly conferred with the traditional titles of Ochendo Ibeku, Utuabaigwe of Ngwaland and Ohazurume of Abia South. While these traditional titles might have come from highly revered traditional institutions and communities, the people of Abia State themselves have since conferred on Senator T.A. Orji their own titles in recognition and appreciation of his good works and immense contributions towards the peace and progress of Abia, hence, his titles of Papa Ukwu and Ochendo Global, followed by numerous awards by reputable institutions including his award as Senator of the Year by the Authority Daily Newspaper.
And of course, a man’s story of achievements cannot be complete without acknowledging the fact that for Ochendo to have climbed so high and remained relevant in the scheme of things, serving his people meritoriously, he must have a wife who is equally peace loving and has the interest of the state at heart. To this wonderful man of peace, married to a very supportive woman, Chief Mrs Mercy Odochi Orji, Abians are saying happy birthday, and may your days be long and prosperous so that Abia will continue to gain and tap from your wealth of experience and influence globally. Congratulations, Papa Ukwu!
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stjudendukwe