There is no doubt that Abia State is currently run like a limited liability company where a few shareholders preside upon the wealth of the state and share the state’s earnings among themselves as dividends. According to the Budget Performance Reports published by the state government in the first 6 months of 2021, over 75% of the state’s expenditure was made in the governor’s office, the Government House, the Ministry of Finance, the House of Assembly and the Judiciary. The state was meant to be a public liability company where all citizens are shareholders and earn the dividends of democracy. In fact, out of the about N27bn spent by the government in Q1 & Q2 2021, only about N2bn was spent on developing Abia via Capital Expenditure.
After the brutal outings of General Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, and Abdulsalami which saw Abia superintended by military administrators, the last of which was Anthony Obi, Abians rejoiced at the return of democracy on May 29, 1999, because one of their own, a self-acclaimed but not verified billionaire was going to become a democratic governor and move Abia forward. There was jubilation and excitement amongst Abians then as Dr Orji’s Reality Organisation began to promise Abians that a new dawn was in the offing. Abians could not contain their joys that at last, they were going to be like Lagos. How wrong they were!
Lest we forget, ‘Abia State Ltd’ was not formed 6 years ago when Dr Ikpeazu came into power. It was incorporated unofficially (Not registered with the CAC) on May 29, 1999 when Dr Orji took power. Many Abians believe that Dr Kalu ran the state as a personal property with him and his family members in firm control of the state. Since then, Abia has been run in a style that appears to look more like a limited liability company which returns shares and dividends to anyone who has close links to the corridors of power. Under Dr Kalu, teachers began to be owed, retirees stopped receiving their pensions and gratuities ultimately stopped. On one of the occasions, retirees including my late dad were branded ‘Dead Wood’ to their faces for merely asking the governor for their retirement benefits which had been deducted from their salaries while they were in service. Dark clouds started gathering above Abia.
When his tenure ended in 2007, Dr Kalu single-handedly chose his successor, sponsored him through the general elections and handed over the CEO of ‘Abia Ltd’ to Chief TA Orji, his former Chief of Staff; however, few months into his first tenure, Chief TA shouted out that he was not allowed full Executive powers. Chief TA Orji told the world that he was not allowed to discharge his duties effectively to Abia Shareholders. Abians sympathised with him and stood by him because they believed that once he was able to wriggle himself out of the grip of his master, that their dividends and shares in ‘Abia Plc’ will come to them. How wrong they were once again!
Chief TA Orji eventually got himself free from the supposed iron fist of his master and there was jubilation all over Abia that the man who allegedly stopped the wheel of development in Abia from turning had been finally defeated. The hopes of Abians went high once again as they anticipated a sudden change in their fate. They thought that Eldorado had finally come. How wrong they were!
What came after was better experienced than imagined. The dark clouds that had started to gather over Abia during the days of Dr Kalu became thicker and darker as the state went through one of the most difficult times in its young history. Abia was once again ran in a style that looked more like a limited liability company with the governor’s family members wielding so much power though not elected at that time.
Teachers, pensioners, civil servants, lecturers, etc. all became endangered species as salaries, pensions and gratuities became luxuries. Hospitals closed down, school buildings started collapsing, Abia roads became death traps, poverty peaked and many of us lost our parents due to lack of health facilities in the state. Aba became a pigsty or pig house.
Port-Harcourt and Osusu roads at Aba became like Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city, which was abandoned due to the 1986 nuclear disaster. Ariaria became a flood zone while the ever busy Eziukwu Road and Milverton Avenues in Aba died natural deaths. Ngwa Road Road, Obohia and Ndiegoro areas all became desolate. Kidnapping became the order of the day as unemployed Abia youth who could not lay their hands on the next meal ended up kidnapping anyone they could see. People were kidnapped for ransoms as low as N10,000. Many promising Abia youth were wasted by the police and military due to robbery and kidnapping. Businesses left Aba, while talent flight went to an all-time high. The once hyped Japan of Africa became a ghost town that no sensible person would like to be associated with. Abia lost its ability to attract any form of foreign direct investment or credit facility from international organisations.
Comedians were using Abia and its leadership for jokes. Those were very dark days for Abians. Abia diasporans dared not dream of visiting home. According to a report published by EFFC, Abia was run in a Bonnie and Clyde style, a situation from which many Abians are yet to recover today. The scars of those brutal years of bad governance are still felt badly by parents who lost their children to the cold arms of death due to avoidable crimes including kidnapping.
Abians couldn’t wait for the era of Chief TA Orji to come to an end. They couldn’t wait for 2015 to come so they could finally get over their trauma. 2015 came and they rejoiced once again that for the first time, that Abia was going to be led by one of two highly educated candidates in the persons of Dr Alex Otti and Dr Ikpeazu. To them, any of the candidates was a good pick. While the Ngwas were ecstatic that freedom had finally come as either candidate had some ties with Ngwa land, the same feelings were shared throughout Abia. How wrong Abians were for the third time!
2015 elections happened and Dr Ikpeazu eventually won in controversial circumstances after a litany of court cases. Many had preferred Otti, but there was joy at Nvosi, Okpuala-Ngwa, Ihie, Ugwunagbo, Osisioma, Asa and Umuobiakwa that the Ngwa man had finally assumed the leadership of the state where they have the highest population. For them, justice had been served. The mantra of ‘oke ezuola Abia’ became popular among the Ngwas that even our aged parents who had suffered the brutality of the military, Orji Uzor Kalu and TA Orji felt for the first time, that they could dream. They felt that their time had come. How wrong they were once again!…
…To be continued