Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji (Abia Central) is the immediate past governor of Abia State. Orji, in this interview, speaks on his bid to return to the Senate, his performance as governor and the achievements of his successor.
There is this claim that the alleged poor performance of Governor Ikpeazu is because you and your family members do not give him freedom. In other words, he is under bondage and incapacitated by your family influence?
Let my political opponents provide any evidence of that. From the onset when Governor Ikpeazu was sworn in, I told him I will not like him to have the experience I had with my predecessor who was overbearing. I told him I will not intervene in his administration, I had left the stage, I was done. I however told him that if there was anywhere he felt l could be of help, he could call me. And I have maintained that and Ikpeazu himself knows. This is a claim orchestrated by my opponents and some people in Ngwa land who want Ikpeazu and me to quarrel. I am a senator and busy in the Senate. My son is the leader of Abia State House of Assembly and doing his job. My wife is a business woman not even in Abia. So what evidence does anyone have to say that we are disturbing Ikpeazu? Even one of my opponents was appointed by Ikpeazu as a member of the Council of Abia State University. If I were controlling Ikpeazu, will I allow him knowing that he is my opponent? Ikpeazu is an independent-minded governor. I don’t disturb him.
Your political opponents also alleged that the Paris Club refund meant to pay workers in the state was shared between your family and the governor lending credence to a report that your son was arrested by the EFCC driving a vehicle worth N100million and living in N13million annually rented apartment?
Fabrication! What have I got to do with Paris refund? Am I in government? Does Governor Ikpeazu report to me? Am I the Accountant General of Abia or the Commissioner for Finance? So how can someone accuse me of that? About my son who is 32 years, people don’t know that he is a business person, some of them think you can only survive on government connection, and that is why they have left their positions to contest against me. My son is in business, he studied overseas. Have you not seen people who are millionaires in their 20s?
He is not working for Abia government or any other government. He is doing his private business and his business is paying him. He has the right to ride any type of cars he wants; moreover the car they said he bought for N100million is not true. It was bought for N21 million and paid for three years, instalmentally. Let anyone bring papers to show that the car cost N100 million. Where he lives, yes it is because of jealous politicians who plan to kill, that is why I chose a place where there is security for my children.
My children deserve good security because they are endangered species. And my opponents’ children, don’t they have cars? My children are well brought up. They have the connection; somebody can even give them car as gift. People think that because you are in government, every penny that you have is from government and that you steal. Trace the history of one of my opponents when he was in Abia State University Council, he was talking nonsense against Ikpeazu and myself, a very ungrateful person.
Your opponents allege that your poor performance as a governor for eight years made you to lose your area in the 2015 elections and that, having served as Chief of Staff for eight years under Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and a senator for four years, you have expired and should exit the stage?
If I did badly as governor, why did the people elect me to the Senate? If I were a bad governor, why did the people of Osisioma, where two of my opponents for the 2019 senatorial election come from, decide to vote for me in 2015? And I am the first governor in Abia to be elected to the Senate. By election, I contested against people who are far better than my present opponents and I won. Dr Orji Uzor Kalu appointed me as Chief of Staff and l did well.
That is why when he was leaving office, with the consent of other leaders; he said l was the person to take over from him. My opponents talking nonsense, including Chief Chidi Ajaegbu, why didn’t the former governor call them to come and succeed him? And for eight years as governor, I did very well contrary to their allegations and propaganda and lies. And Ajaegbu was among those who ran away from Aba because of kidnapping. I made it possible for him to return to Aba where he is now campaigning against me to go to the Senate. I fought kidnapping to a standstill.
Second, none of the governors who ruled Abia agreed that an Ukwa Ngwa man should be governor. I made that possible in the spirit of equity. So it is quite unfortunate that we have people who make allegations that cannot be substantiated. Let my opponents bring one example to show that I didn’t do well or any example to show that Governor Ikpeazu is under my control or that any of my sons is fraudulent.
What about the claim of an agreement between your family and the incumbent governor over the refund on the money spent on sponsoring the Ikpeazu during the 2015 elections?
My opponents shouldn’t be asking me about that, they should go and ask their brother, Okezie Ikpeazu. Let Ikpeazu show them the agreement we signed. I don’t indulge in such things. I could not have asked my successor to sign such an agreement. I had done my job and that was to make sure an Ukwa Ngwa man became the governor and it happened.
Having spent almost four years in your fist tenure as senator and now seeking re-election, what are your strengths against your opponents in the forthcoming general elections?
Under three years in the Senate, I published my scorecard. If I didn’t do anything, I wouldn’t have published a scorecard and start distributing to people. And is there a senator living or dead who has done that? I called my people, the people of Abia Central and said “this is my scorecard for the three and a half years at the Senate”.
When I entered the Senate, I established a scheme under which I give 10 students from each of the six local governments of the senatorial zone scholarship every year. As of today, I have given 180 university scholarships and the beneficiaries have formed an association of those who benefitted from my scholarship.
These students will forever be grateful to be educated and separated from poverty. Let my opponents show what they have done for their people. Number two, I have an eye clinic in Umuahia where a very competent ophthalmologist at Abia State University Teaching Hospital is paying me back for the help I rendered to him. The clinic is treating glaucoma and cataract free of charge.
As of today, that clinic has performed 670 successful eye surgeries and the beneficiaries have been saved from going blind. Let my opponents show their scorecards if they have positively affected their people
Number three, in Osisioma local government area of the state where my two opponents hail from, I have provided six boreholes. I have provided transformer, skill acquisition under which beneficiaries were energized with money to start business, N100, 000 each.
I gave out N87 million cash to the people of my constituency. I didn’t put it in my pocket. Now let us go to other local governments, all of them have benefitted from the scholarship programme I told you about and the renovation of schools I am doing. I have also constructed road in Ikwuano local government area. In Umuahia North, at Ameke, I built a road and a bridge which I will commission very soon. Now in partnership with my friend who is in the House of Representatives, we were able to attract the Federal Government to repair Umuahia- Ikot Ekpene Road that was impassable that is why the road is being used now.
I have done electricity projects in my local government, Umuahia North, as well as Isiala Ngwa North and Isiala Ngwa South local governments. So these are some of the things that I have done for my people. Blueprint Newspapers recorded me as one of the most productive senators. Authority Newspapers also gave me an award for good representation in the Senate.
I have to my credit one of the greatest bills that l am happy about, to make Abia Polytechnic in Aba, a federal polytechnic. None of my opponents can achieve that in the Senate, some of them are suffering from pomposity, and that pomposity will not allow them to do the needful.
All these allegations are just because of election. One of my opponents is not cultured, not disciplined. He will come to the church. I am his senior in age, he will be talking nonsense; he will be addressing me as outgoing senator. And he cannot smell that place. He is relatively unknown in Abia, especially in Abia Central. I was in church this morning (last Sunday) at Insulu Imo in Umuahia South LGA, and the reverend father said he couldn’t forget that I built the cathedral at Micheal Okpara University, I am not only working on the physical aspect of governance but on the spiritual.
You recorded the highest number of votes from Osisioma in the 2015 elections and not in your area, Umuahia. Do you see your performance in the three and a half years enhancing your chances this time in your area?
People talk without statistical background. The 2015 election results are clear and there with INEC,.I didn’t fail election in Ikwuano and Umuahia North. The talk that I failed election in my local government is just propaganda. It was only in Umuahia South that I did not win. If you wrote exam and scored five over six, is that not a good result? And I won overall. It is going to be same thing this time. The people of Ikwuano, Umuahia North and South are now wiser. What happened was that the youths were angry and agitating that what they were supposed to get was given to other people during the youth empowerment program.
Today, I am out of government and the people have realized that Ochendo is a good person, that I did everything out of a pure heart, without malice; that I wanted every person to benefit and they have now resolved, not me even persuading them to fight the battle to make sure that I return to the Senate. And moreover, when you look at the equation as it is Ukwa Ngwa people, they have governor; the governor will go for second term. They cannot have governor and senator. Because the Senate is rotated between Ngwa and Umuahia turn by turn. This time is the turn of an Umuahia man to go for a second term.