By Onyebuchi Ememanka
The article written by Ebere Uzoukwa on the back page of The Sun of Wednesday, February 28, 2018, titled “Abia is like Imo, but there’s hope,” is at best the finest brand of negative journalism. He started his badly-written piece by lampooning the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, but ended up disingenuously exposing his latest paymasters by alluding that only the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) can salvage the state. He, however, chose conveniently not to mention that he was the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Okorocha but was sacked unceremoniously for displaying high-level incompetence on the job. After his diatribe on the Imo State government, the journeyman journalist shifted his blurred gaze to Abia, where he peddled falsehood that even his paymasters would shudder at. He did not also tell the world that, after his sack by Okorocha, it was out of sheer kindness and after listening to appeals from several emissaries that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu brought him into his campaign team and, after the election, appointed him one of his media aides.
It is common knowledge that Ikpeazu completed the first set of seven brand new roads in Aba within the first six months of his stay as governor. Indeed, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was in Abia State in December 2015 to personally commission these roads. Uzoukwa was a member of the media team of the governor then.
Later in the life of Ikpeazu’s first term, the glaring incompetence of Uzoukwa became a recurring decimal. He was unable to carry out even the most routine journalistic assignments. Ikpeazu saw what Rochas had seen earlier. He was later fired as media aide to the governor. But even before his sack, over 20 roads had been completed and commissioned in Aba alone.
Indeed, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, was in Aba to personally commission several roads. Uzoukwa was, as at that time, a media aide to Ikpeazu. Is it not intriguing that he is now denying the same projects he witnessed their commissioning? That is not completely surprising. That is the stuff of political journeymen. Not only are they embarrassingly incompetent, they lack any sense of personal integrity and are prepared even to deny their own surnames.
In his desperation to peddle falsehood, Uzoukwa ended up casting aspersions on his own people. Not only did he paint a patently false salary situation but also described our people as beggars. The people of Abia State are not beggars and have never been. We are proud and self-sufficient people with a GDP higher than the national average.
You can now understand why he was sacked first by Okorocha and later by Ikpeazu. When a worker is fired by two different bosses, in quick succession, it speaks volumes of his competence.
We consider it unnecessary to engage a character like Ebere Uzoukwa on the achievements of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu in his 33 months in office. We have, however, discovered that Uzoukwa, in his usual nature, has found new paymasters. In his nomadic kind of journalism, Uzoukwa constantly seeks greener pastures. Even while he retains his membership of the APC, he has surreptitiously struck an unholy accord with APGA, Abia State, and its alter ego, Alex Otti, after their meeting at Owerri recently. But this time Otti chose the wrong messenger. Funny enough, with the likes of Uzoukwa, Otti’s dream of unseating Ikpeazu will become even more illusory. We know Uzoukwa well. We have worked with him. He has nothing tangible to offer and once he finds another person, he will drop Otti like a bad habit.
The truth is that Ikpeazu has, in the last 33 months, etched his name in the folklore of the people of Abia State. In terms of infrastructure, Ikpeazu stands tall. Since the administration of Chief Sam Mbakwe in the old Imo State, no other governor, living or dead, civilian or military, can match Ikpeazu’s towering credentials in road construction. In Aba alone, over 30 roads have been completed and commissioned. Scores of others are ongoing. Unlike our past experiences, Ikpeazu’s roads are built to last.
For the first time in the history of Abia State, there are four Grade A contractors working simultaneously on our roads. SETRACO is handling the two flagship road projects in Aba, Faulks Road and Port Harcourt Road. Arab Contractors is on Aba Road, Umuahia. Bulletine Construction is on Abiriba-Nkporo Road, while China Zhonghao is building the first ever traffic interchange in the state, the ultra-modern Osisioma Flyover. In addition to these four Grade A contractors, there are over 20 indigenous contractors working daily on road projects across the state.
One key distinguishing feature of the Ikpeazu brand of infrastructural upgrade is that it is all-encompassing and all-inclusive. Every part of the state is feeling the direct impact of what has come to be known in Abia State as the “Caterpillar Revolution.”
In the three senatorial districts of Abia State, there are a total of 74 completed and ongoing road projects. A good number of them are signature projects that will substantially transform the infrastructural landscape of the areas. Never in the history of our state have our people witnessed this level of an all-inclusive infrastructural upgrade.
Uzoukwa made a reference to flooding in Aba. This is laughable, indeed. What Ikpeazu is doing on flood in the state is the most comprehensive in the history of Abia State. One clear example is the Ife Obara, a challenge that has defied all previous solutions in the state since the mid-1980s and demystified successive administrations in the state. Ikpeazu has effectively tackled it by the deployment of a modern civil construction strategy, engineered by SETRACO. Today, the notorious Ama Ikonne flood is now a mere relic of our past. Several other flood control interventions abound across the state. Ikpeazu is collaborating with the World Bank to construct two mighty erosion control projects at Umuda Isingwu in Umuahia North and Umuakwu Nsulu in Isiala Ngwa North.
On the issue of environmental cleanliness, which was also raised in the article, Uzoukwa knows more than any other person that, having managed waste disposal in Aba, just before becoming governor, Ikpeazu came well-prepared. In Aba and Umuahia, there is a new paradigm shift in waste management. The days of garbage heaps are gone for good.
On security, Uzoukwa goofed again. Abia is currently the third safest state in Nigeria, according to statistics released by the Nigeria Police. Since Ikpeazu came on board, there has been no singular incident of bank robbery anywhere in Abia State. Kidnap incidents have disappeared and our people are safer. Nightlife has fully returned to Aba and, in the last three months, not fewer than six standard hotels have sprung up to boost the ever-growing hospitality industry in Aba and indeed the entire state.
Our strides in education are there for all to see. For three consecutive years now, Abia has come first in WAEC examinations in the country. Our massive upgrade of primary schools is unparalleled in the country, with over 300 primary schools being renovated across the state. Four model secondary schools, spread across the senatorial districts of the state, are nearing completion. In the area of school feeding, Abia is currently the only state that has a programme for providing one hot meal to all pupils in all the public primary schools in the state, providing direct jobs to 2,700 Abia women who are engaged as cooks. Primary school teachers now have a specialised centre for continuing education, where their skills and abilities are regularly sharpened. The result of all of these is an astronomic rise in primary school enrollment in the state from 100,000 to above 300,000 in the last two years.
Uzoukwa said there are no standard hospitals in Abia State. He is pathetically ignorant. First, he is unaware of the fact that Ikpeazu has just reopened the good old Aba General Hospital, after eight years of closure. The place is now fully functional. This is a massive boost to health care delivery in the state. Public hospitals across the state are receiving attention. Private sector players like MTN are partnering with us to help equip our hospitals. New general hospitals are being set up. Existing ones across the state are being massively upgraded.
On the much-convoluted issue of salaries of workers, Ebere Uzoukwa is clearly unaware of the current salary situation in the state. His allusions to the bailout funds and Paris Club refunds only show the depth of his ignorance. Our records of the management of the Paris Club refunds are unassailable and in the public domain to the extent that even the ICPC commended our efforts in transparently managing the funds. The relative industrial harmony we enjoy in the state is a direct consequence of the fact that workers themselves see transparency in funds management. As at today, ministries, departments and agencies in Abia State, which account for 70 per cent of the entire state workforce, are not owed a penny. Local government staff have been paid up to November 2017 with plans afoot to improve the situation shortly. There is a two months gap in the salaries of primary school teachers and government is working tirelessly to solve the challenge. While we have some challengesd in the salaries of a small percentage of our workforce, the situation is nowhere near the gloomy picture painted by Uzoukwa, who dwelt on non-existent hyperbolic situations.
We are not unaware of the antics of frustrated opposition politicians who rely on characters like Uzoukwa to feather their tattered political nests. No amount of propaganda can assail hard and verifiable facts. The Abia electorate will vote according to evidence of performance, not force of propaganda and empty promises of “what I intend to do.” Our people will demand that each candidate shows them evidence of what they have done in the past. QED!
• Ememanka, Esq, is Special Adviser to Governor Ikpeazu on Public Communications.