FEATURE ARTICLE

Thursday, August 16, 2018
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New York, New York, USA
OKEZIE IKPEAZU AND T.A ORJI: NO HONOUR AMONGST THIEVES

or a man who became Governor through a stolen mandate after losing 14 out of the 17 Local Government Areas of the state to his APGA opponent, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu's, administration after 3 plus years in office has become the poster boy of the worst governance in the history of Nigeria's politics. For those who have been following political events in Abia state, many have come to realize that this Governor's reign mirrors that of his sponsor, benefactor and political godfather, Senator T.A Orji. They are like two peas in a pod, two Siamese twins linked together by an umbilical cord. This is a Governor who is not only an alter ego of Senator Orji but also a man who is self- infatuated with power, selfish and vain. To that brimming potpourri, we can add two ingredients that truly define him: the conviction that he's on a mission for self- gratification, wealth accumulation and a regressive- repressive version of governance that bothers on cruelty. Many of us saw his true colors during the 2015 campaigns but not as vivid as we have come to see him today considering the fact that if you strip him off his clothes what you will find is an uglier side of what is already an ugly side.

The much we knew about Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu in 2015 was that he was an ineffectual slobbering Environmental Assistant Director and former local Government Council Chairman who was undistinguished as a government official as he is today as Governor, hence his clumsiness and vanity have even become more apparent. For a man who was heading to political oblivion until T.A Orji spared him the humiliation by choosing him as his successor, his reign as Governor has been an unmitigated disaster. As many of us suspected at the time and have been proven right since he became Governor, Senator T.A Orji chose him out of other better qualified PDP Governorship aspirants because he needed an outwardly bland, intensely servile lap dog to muffle his madness and launder or better still hide his malfeasance. As a result, Dr. Ikpeazu's obsequiousness became his sure path to the Governor's office as he is a man with no deeply held policy vision or sense of duty to sustain him through his term. We can see as evidence of this, his laughable and almost comical appointment of a committee to examine the issue of teacher's salary non-payments.

Like his two predecessors, Dr. Ikpeazu has created a dark universe in the Governor's office with an inverted ethical code where the main value is loyalty to himself and to his political godfather above all else. Like Senator T.A Orji, he loves billboards the same way he has attracted braggarts, pillagers and political hacks to staff his administration. Together they confuse wealth with merit, glitter with character and they are all about fast lanes and shortcuts to wealth acquisition. Senator T.A Orji is the mirror extraordinaire who also like O.U.K made his money holding his nose. Altogether these people and more so this Governor put themselves and their prodigious appetites for wealth acquisition first. That has been the secret of their prosperity until it becomes a recipe for their doom hopefully someday in future as O.U.K is bound to experience if he is found culpable in his EFCC case.

A cursory look at the revelations against Senator T.A Orji by Mr. Norman Don Obinna in his recent RelmNews publication, reveals, if true, a state's debt burden of 60 billion Naira and $101 billion, the misappropriation of the over 195 billion Naira in 24 months, the secret appropriation of 26 Billion Naira for defense notwithstanding the fact that "defense" does not fall under the constitutional duties of a state Governor. According to Mr. Norman, Abia State revenue from internal and external sources which includes bailout funds of 30 Billion Naira from the Federal Government to offset salaries and pensions, IGR monthly receipts running into millions of Naira have been misappropriated, while millions of Naira have been expended on hotel bills, booze, and foreign travels. For an administration that claims the government does not have enough money to meet its contractual obligations and civic responsibilities to its workers, these clowns in the Umuahia government house appear to have been busy spending money like drunken sailors. As much as it could be said that this manner of thievery did not start with the Ikpeazu administration, but rather his immediate predecessors, It could be said that the Senator is such a glided, sordid reminder of the company the present Governor kept and still keeps and how he sees and navigates the Abia state political universe. It has become obvious that these two are like spirited plutocrats. Fellow plunderers whose vanity and thirst for power and wealth eclipse any discretion about who they join forces with and as is the case of T.A Orji, regarding who he chose to succeed him. For these guys, financial probity is for chumps who don't have access to power and position. By the way, it is mind-boggling that faced with the revelations of financial impropriety and malfeasance as revealed by Mr. Norman, the Governor, and his many lying sycophants are yet to issue a rebuttal of the allegations, making their silence look like a tacit admission of guilt.

In my humble opinion, Governor ikpeazu and the Senator are politically intertwined as one is the amoral piece for the other-a dubiously gifted professor now tutored by his master in the fine arts of rigging elections, distributing "Blood Tonic" as Dr. .Alex Otti related in his recent Thisweek magazine essay after consorting with one Abia self -professed Abia stakeholder. Dr. Ikpeazu without any doubt has become a strong guardian of the Senator's financial secrets, a heartless politician now versed on how to owe civil servants salaries, a lover of billboards and an indefatigable propagandist. Many politicians in the past before this Governor have gained political ascendancy by mingling with unsavory types, elevating practical benefit above reputational cost. Governors have groomed lapdog successors in their image and conduct in the past and have invited swine and vultures in the door but Senator Orji's bestiary is different-more docile and subservient hence Dr. Ikpeazu has emulated everything repugnant about his predecessor.

This Governor has done everything, but strap on his knee pads and polish Senator T.A Orji's shoes. When I read Dr. Alex Otti's recent Thisweek column titled, "The Politics of blood Tonic" I couldn't help but believe it best explains what I will call the "silence of the Abia elites" in the face of all the bad governance in Abia state now and prior to the Ikpeazu administration. There is no doubt Dr. Ikpeazu is still perpetrating this financial crime of paying off these so-called Abia elites every month the state receives its federal allocation to maintain their silence. I've always been mystified how these so-called Abia leaders of thought, stakeholders and elders who fully understand the venality, dishonesty and incompetence of this Governor and his predecessors justify their behavior to themselves to stay quiet as they luxuriate in the comfort of their ill-gotten wealth. It is the more reason why they should all be exposed, their names made public for the Abia people to see those who have been partly responsible for their misery.

No one single issue gives credence to this Governor's governing ineptitude than the non-payment of worker's salaries and pensioner's benefits or emoluments. It is an issue that has highlighted the downsides to Governor ikpeazu's financial escapades and has accentuated the many areas he has fallen short of matters of vital importance to his administration, himself and ordinary Abia citizens. The fact that he is numb to the resultant human tragedy and blind to the hypocrisy of his achievement claims goes to indicate that the man is amoral, dubious and a mercenary grifter incapable of a sliver of shame, empathy, and remorse. A Governor whose administration has shown an incredible capacity for dishonesty, falsehoods, and thievery, having failed to live up to the minimum standard of decency, truth-telling, and financial probity. All said, I will venture to opine that the Ikpeazu administration is akin to a cult controlled by Senator T.A Orji who wants to maintain control over the affairs of the state through his proxy the Governor under the watchful eyes of his son in the state Assembly whose duty is to make sure the Governor does not step out of line.

Like Bola Tinubu in Lagos State, Senator Olusola Saraki in Kwara state, Bukka Abba Ibrahim in Yobe state as one notable writer whose name does not immediately come to mind posited on social media, not to mention the on-going efforts by Okorocha in Imo state to install his son-in-law as his successor, Senator T.A Orji wants Abia to be his personal and family fiefdom. He does not only want to control the purse strings of Abia state with Dr. Ikpeazu holding the money bag, while he enjoys the first line of privilege by getting his share of every monthly Federal allocation to the state, he also wants to be the kingmaker. Hopefully, his renewed efforts in reprising this role as he did in 2015 will end in failure. It has become obvious that the Ikpeazu administration have the appearance of a cult and like every cult, studies have shown that the people who are most likely to leave are those who maintain intimate links to people outside them, hence I will hope that more people will become "profiles in courage" and have the courage of their convictions and join the Ikpeazu Special Assistant who recently resigned his position in the administration and so doing reveal to the public what they know about this cult of an administration. Such defections and possible revelations have become absolutely necessary when one considers the fact that the Ikpeazu administration continues to look more like a protection racket, shielding the Governor's sins from the outside world, with both the Governor and the Senator acting like two fraternity brothers who have sworn an oath silence, not to expose each other.

I will conclude this essay by stating most emphatically that we in Abia state need to redefine our politics, its direction, and processes. We must stand firm in our resolve to send Dr. Ikpeazu back to his hometown in Obingwa mindful that a re-election of this man will be a monumental disaster for the state and for generations to come. The consequences of him remaining in power after the 2019 gubernatorial elections is beyond imagination and comprehension, for this administration is evil, the level and magnitude of theft comparable to that of an organized crime family, and the neglect of the socio-economic well-being of the Abia people beyond wickedness and outright cruelty. We must break up this tag team duo of the Governor and Senator by voting them out of power. The truth is that the Abia people need a new leader and not a gang leader or a criminal outfit. They need deliverance, not bondage or hostage taking. They desire a well- articulated health care policy, not "a Dial-a-doctor' program which has turned out to be a monumental failure. They hope to see and experience the actual completion of road projects, bridges and flyovers, not propagandize them on billboards. They pray for a Governor who tells them the truth instead of one who makes false claims and lies straight to their faces. They look forward to their salaries paid promptly and when due instead of being owed for months on end. They look forward to buying the much vaunted Abia rice and not rely on rice from Ebonyi state etc.

There is no doubt that as a strategy to win re-election the Governor will revert to rallying his ethnic base around his Governorship, depicting his APGA opponent as an alien and his administration as a besieged fortress, but it is becoming evident that after 3 plus years in office his supporters are beginning to find that formula and tactics tiresome, hence their sense of irritation is growing, reflecting a general exasperation with his incompetence. They have finally come to the realization that this is an administration defined by lies, mindful of the fact that people don't lie against their self -interest, rather they lie in favor of it. Abia, is a state in crisis hence if we rip off the Band-Aid that has been used in covering up the systemic failures of the Ikpeazu administration, we will find that what we thought was a little cut is actually a deep wound that will need more than just cauterization. It will need a major surgery and who better can perform that surgery than Dr. Alex Otti. A man, who does not need to be Governor to become rich or build a house in his village, an honest technocrat, who has the brains, vision and expertise to change the trajectory of governance in Abia state, an experienced banker who has the skills to manage and be prudent with the state's financial resources not to mention putting an end to the 'blood tonic" being distributed to the so-called Abia stakeholders etc. Dr. Alex Otti, if given the chance will be a one-man Marshal plan for the state, securing the best brains and expertise in staffing his administration and employing Government/private initiatives and resources to reposition Abia state in this 21st century. He is a man whose goal in entering politics is not only to be an agent of change in his home state but an agent of history in the sense that he wants posterity to judge him as a leader who changed lives and the course of history in Abia state.


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