By John Okiyi Kalu
I witnessed the two Governorship debates so far and I am happy that we have good candidates contesting.
Tuesday’s debate reinforced my belief that Governor Ikpeazu remains the best hand to pilot the affairs of the state from May 29, 2019 to 2023. Unlike Monday when he was unavoidably absent from the debate due to communication issues and necessity to attend an important state event outside Abia, he sat today and engaged his accusers and opponents head-on with the self assurance of a man who is on top of his job.
For once, Alex Otti stepped down his “Okezie has done nothing” pitch and even agreed that he personally visited more than 55 completed road projects by Governor Ikpeazu but, as usual, claimed they are not enough.
No problem, the governor will do more.
Yet, Governor Ikpeazu has actually completed 68 road projects and I will, as usual, publish the list with pictures for all to independently verify. The Governor is also working at 96 other project sites in the state and will complete all of them and then add another 500km of rural roads to the mix from the recently approved AfDB facility granted the state.
Obviously, Otti may have been saying what he was saying in his the past because he does not live in Abia State and does not have public sector leadership experience. His position on several issues betrayed that fact and also explained why he has lost more than 80% of APGA house of assembly members elected in 2015. One needs public sector experience to manage even the loyalty of those in their party and use them to deliver good results. Otherwise one will end up losing them and the people they purport to work for their good.
Mazi Otti’s straight line analysis of cost of road projects also betrays the absence of public sector work experience and of course the limiting nature of long engagement in one professional area. It is common knowledge that the cost of a road project is determined by the scope of work to be done, topography of the area and other variables like funding plan. It is therefore naive to expect that construction of a kilometer of road in the northern region with less rainfall, strong soil and less requirement for elaborate drainage plan will be same with a kilometer of road at Aba which is low lying, receives heavy annual rainfall and necessarily requires elaborate drainage system to channel storm water to the collection point. Even the widths of roads are not the same. So the notion in the mind of Otti that every kilometre of road must cost the same is deceptively wrong.
It is also instructive that Otti did not know the location of the 4 model schools built by Governor Ikpeazu and had to ask the Governor. Mazi Otti, the model schools are at Osusu Amaukwa in Obingwa on the same Ururuka Road that also leads to your adopted Isiala Ngwa home through Ogbor Hill. The second one is at Abayi in Aba, opposite the Anglican Church, while the third one is at Ossa-Ibeku in Umuahia along Mission Hill, with the 4th one at Ohafia where your deputy hails from.
Mazi Otti, in addition to the four model schools, Governor Ikpeazu also constructed 340 new classroom blocks and rehabilitated 19 others to bring it all to 359 classroom blocks. Kindly check out the ones in Arochukwu including the one close to your house and revert to Abians.
New school blocks constructed by Governor Ikpeazu in Arochukwu LGA include the following:
I . Idima Abam Community School, Abam Arochukwu
2. Akasi Primary School
3. Obiene Primary School, Ututu
4. Atani Community School
Renovation works were also done at:
1. Ndiokpo Community School
2. Ugwuakuma Community School
3. Umunnabuo Junior Secondary School
At Ohafia LGA where your deputy hails from, the Governor constructed the following
1. Onukwu Primary School
2. Ametiti Primary School
3. Etitiama Community School, Nkporo
Renovation works were done at:
1. Nkporo Central School
2. Enuds Community School
3. Collins Memorial Model School
4. Ohafia Junior Girls Secondary School
Frankly, Alex, my brother, I knew that the previous positions you took on the performance of Governor Ikpeazu were because you actually do not live in Abia. As a resident of Port Harcourt in those days, I applauded your friend, Rotimi Amaechi, because of the public schools he reconstructed. As at 2012 he constructed 250 new classroom blocks after 5 years of his administration. I make bold to state that your Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, has done more classroom blocks within the past 3 years.
On salary payment, I am glad that Mazi Otti has finally been patiently lectured by Governor Ikpeazu on the difference between workers in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the state whose wage payments are the direct responsibility of the state government as against parastatals who make and keep their revenue and are expected to pay their staff from what they generate as revenue. He can verify from other states and the federal government if they pay parastatal workers directly.
Hopefully, workers of Abiapoly, Abia State College of Education and others have taken note of Otti’s recommendation of sacking and downsizing. Governor Ikpeazu will rather help ailing state parastatals to rejig their operational template, generate more revenue and pay their workers as first priority as against drastic measures like retrenchment. It is hypocritical for Otti to recommend that the government takes over the payment of salaries of the workers because “they are Abia workers” and in same debate recommended sack of the same “Abia workers” whose family depend on what they make to survive. How does retrenchment of workers add to Otti’s economic theory centered on payment of workers as the only economic development tool?
Anyway, I will allow staff of parastatals decide for themselves their fate based on the different positions taken by the candidates. It is now established that Governor Ikpeazu is not owing the workers he is statutorily expected to pay.
One other striking thing from Tuesday’s debate was Otti’s response to the Governor’s question on whether he believes that equity and social justice are necessary for peaceful co-existence and progress in a state or nation. He responded that Abia is a sick patient that requires help and won’t care where the doctor is from or who the doctor is. While I saw that as a smart response, I would have loved to ask Otti if it doesn’t matter that the doctor previously mismanaged his patients and killed them. Will he submit, as a patient, to a doctor known to have killed his patients in the line of duty in the past?
Think about that, Alex.
Our doctor, Otti, managed Diamond Bank previously and now the bank is gone. That was exactly what Governor Ikpeazu made reference to when he introduced himself by stating that he previously worked in a University as a HOD of Biochemistry and since he left the school the department is still standing and making progress. His point is that good managers or “doctors”, in this case, should not have a record of all their previous patients dying after they have managed them, otherwise they become Dr Death. If Abia is sick, we certainly neither need a Dr Death to save her nor an undertaker to bury her alive!
More importantly, Governor Ikpeazu confronted Otti with evidence of his performance in office and not only did Otti acknowledge some of them, other co-debaters including the Accord Party candidate, all also acknowledged improvements in security and infrastructure contrary to what Otti stated at the Catholic Church debate just the previous day.
Mazi Otti, I wish to place here for your readership the report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) survey on crime rate in the 36 states of the federation. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Katsina and Abia States recorded the lowest percentage share of total cases reported in 2016, under Governor Ikpeazu’s watch. See http://www.nigerianstat.gov.ng/download/567 for details. A total of 364 crimes were reported in Abia State with 230 being offences against persons, 113 offences against properties and 21 offences committed against lawful authority. That report placed Abia as having 0.29% crime rate compared to Otti’s permanent state of residence, Lagos, which had a whopping 36.08% crime rate. One then wonders why Otti would prefer to live in Lagos with so much reported crime rate but falsely claimed in his interview with Channels TV that people are relocating from Abia due to security issues. The sensible question to ask Otti at this point is, if not for hypocrisy, why stay put in Lagos with so much high crime rate while castigating Abia with such a low rate?
Also, a 2018 report published by Vanguard Newspaper on violent deaths in Nigeria placed Abia on top of the log among the south east states in terms of security. Also see https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/03/violent-deaths-1351-killed-10-weeks/
Otti’s quoted unemployment data was a fake one. Please, do not engage in such things again. Erudite scholars, including economists, make available academic or institutional sources of their reports as against citing reports from social media. Where did Otti get the data that unemployment rate is 28% in Abia State whereas the national average as at the 3rd quarter of 2018 was 23.7%?
Now that Otti has acknowledged his Arochukwu origin which I have always known because I am aware that he registered at the University of Port Harcourt as a student from Arochukwu/Ohafia LGA of old Imo State, does he still feel it is right for Abians to vote for an Arochukwu candidate with an Ohafia Deputy after 8 years of Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia North and another 8 years of Senator T.A. Orji (Ochendo) of Abia Central? Does the prospect of a major socio-political upheaval in Abia State not bother him and his supporters? If Otti were from Abia South, would he have been comfortable with that situation, knowing that the first Abia Governor of Ukwa Ngwa origin has so far outperformed his predecessors who were all re-elected for second term?
Frankly, it is obvious from the debates that Otti’s campaign pitch is simply premised on “Ikpeazu has not done everything there is to do”. Even the Governor acknowledged yesterday that he has not done everything but has done many good things for our people to re-elect him to do more. It is unrealistic to pitch a position that within 4 years anyone would have fixed all Abia roads including the more than 400 roads at Aba alone and much more outside it. That type of campaign pitch is tantamount to obtaining votes by tricks and our people should be reminded that the Buhari-led federal government made a similar pitch in 2014. We now know how far so far, as far as NIGERIA is concerned.
On the whole, I am proud of our state for the quality of candidates vying for her governorship position. From high performing Governor Okezie Ikpeazu through Uche Ogah, whom I briefly chatted with on Monday at the Catholic Church debate, to Alex Otti and Mrs Blessing Nwagba; even the fringe candidates are also good and possibly better than some frontline candidates in many other states of the federation. Obviously, Abia has turned a positive corner under Governor Ikpeazu who remains focused and open to objective critical views.
I have no doubt in my mind that Governor Ikpeazu will be re-elected by landslide margins next March. While Uche Ogah has continued to insist on a divine call to contest, I will personally suggest to him to also take note of what Christians refer to as divine timing. If he is sure that it is God that told him he will govern Abia State then he should go back and ask God when his divine time would come. God has not abandoned Dr Okezie Ikpeazu whom He chose to make our Governor In 2015. He will do the job till 2023 and then God, through the people of Abia State, will decide who next.
Thank you Mazi Otti for enriching the governorship contest a second time but power belongs to God Almighty and to Him alone. It was God that guided our founding fathers, stakeholders and voters to choose Dr Ikpeazu in 2015. If Ochendo T. A. Orji had supported you when you asked for his support and even made financial overtures to him, you wouldn’t have been talking about “godfatherism” today. Would you?
On the whole, I enjoyed the verbal fireworks between the candidates and the post-debate camaraderie exhibited by them.
Apparently, they are better personalities than some of their social media supporters who would rather abuse, lie and hound each other on their behalf.
I also appreciate the organizers of both debates for their efforts and hope they learned from the experience. We are making progress all round and remain a blessed people of God’s own state. Nobody should engage in acts of violence on behalf of these candidates because they publicly demonstrated that they are peaceful persons.
God bless Abia State.
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