GUEST COLUMNIST By Eze Chikamnayo
Public relations experts often talk about the huge gap that sometimes exists between perception and reality. They posit that where there is inadequate information, deliberate distortion and or misrepresentation of facts, the unsuspecting public may indeed accept as true fallacies that have been consistently fed into their psyche. This process is often referred to as classical conditioning by psychologists.
Going by the intensity of contemptuous publications sustained by malicious revisionists in a lurid campaign of calumny against the Abia State government, there is no doubt that a section of the media is being utilized in an effort to diminish the meteoric rise of Governor of Abia, Chief Theodore Orji (Ochendo).
A perceptive observer would have noticed some curious sequence in this serial demonization crusade. The tissues of lies daily dished out to negatively label the Ochendo persona oscillate from the obscene to the fantastic. There have also been persistent personal attacks on innocent members of his family together with disproportionate hypes of everyday events willfully slanted to portray Abia in bad light.
Then the questions are: who and who is responsible for this media war against the Abia Governor and what could be the real motives behind such deliberate mischief?
First, we have to take a brief excursion back to the events that defined the emergence of T.A Orji as this will enable those outside our shores to appreciate the context and reason behind the ongoing vicious onslaught.
At the twilight of the administration of the former Governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, Abia state was extremely polarized into two bitter irreconcilable factions. One group, known as ‘home based structure’ consisted of Kalu, his mother, siblings, lackeys and officials, all belonging to the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, whereas the other group nicknamed ‘Talibans’ or ‘Abuja Tufiakwa’, included prominent politicians and elites like Onyema Ugochukwu, Ojo Maduekwe, Vin Ogbulafor, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Ike Nwachukwu Adolphus Nwagbara, Tony Ukasanya and very many others belonging to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
For the 2007 elections, Onyema Ugochukwu, a well-connected veteran journalist, emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP after a very gruesome primary election that left his base in tatters. The PPA which had a more cohesive house produced Chief T.A Orji, a very amiable, humble and non-intrusive personality admired by all because of his efficiency and courtesy while he served as Chief of Staff to Kalu. However, the incessant bickering and personality clashes between Onyema Ugochukwu, Ojo Maduekwe and Vin Ogbulafor, was not resolved so the PDP went into the contest as a divided house full of sabotage. Orji Kalu’s PPA then leveraged on this and its power of incumbency and won the election.
The above scenario resulted in a very protracted legal battle from the Tribunal at Umuahia to the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt and even up to the Supreme Court. In this war, the opposition depended largely on propaganda and therefore targeted Chief T.A Orji with relentless umbrage. So, from the onset, the image the average Nigerian had of T.A Orji was one tainted with deep malice as propagated by his more media-entrenched opponents.
By 2010, immediately after the victory of the PPA at the appeal court, the Orji Kalu clan moved to quickly implement the next phase of the vicious hidden agenda of their dynasty. Having used the admirable image and good name associated with T.A Orji to cross the chasm of the 2007 election, they decided it was time for him to give way. Using the PPA which was firmly under their control and a tabloid they established in Lagos, they started harassing Chief T.A Orji, asking him to resign and make way for another pawn in their chess board who would eventually hand power back to one of the Kalu siblings. Due to this overbearing and insatiable greed of the self proclaimed god father, no reasonable development could take place. The man, his mother, siblings and cronies were all over the place disdainfully disregarding the office of the governor, demanding “total loyalty” while looting the state dry. At a point, they went berserk and wrote a query to a sitting governor on the pages of newspapers all in a bid to discredit and yank him off. Who in Nigeria today can tolerate more than T.A. Orji? Who can boast of more patience and more tolerance? Who will take that kind of humiliation? In effect it was the former Governor of Abia State (OUK) that betrayed Governor T.A. Orji, stabbed him in the back and sought to ruin his name and family and not the other way round as Kalu and his gang are wont to claim. Like my people would say, it is ironic that the man who crushed the millipede is crying while the hapless creature lay prostrate on the ground.
Of course, Chief T.A Orji resisted this selfish move. He eventually had to lead the momentous exodus that took Abia people away from the bondage of the Kalu family. He joined forces with all progressive citizens and courageously restored peace, harmony and security to Abia State. The Almighty God used Ochendo, who like Moses was raised inside the palace of Pharaoh, to deliver the people of Abia state the way he delivered Israel. What the entire opposition could not do for ten years, God used Gov. Orji to do by just one move. Anybody who was conversant with the dreadful despoliation Abia State suffered in the hands of Orji Uzor Kalu will agree that our liberation from his stranglehold is a monumental, generational and very fundamental achievement. For this, Abia people everywhere will forever remain grateful to God and Chief T.A Orji.
The consequent bitter reaction of the devilish dynasty is naturally expected. But there is danger in allowing the malice, frustration, anger and ulterior motive that drive the blackmail hurled daily at T.A. Orji from the pages of some newspapers to sink. Today, when you pick up the papers and see the bold hypes titled Abia this and T.A Orji that, you may be holding the hand of Esau but the voice is certainly that of Jacob. The courageous exodus of T.A Orji from the asphyxiating clutches of the insatiable dynasty of Orji Kalu and his mother is the major reason why a section of the media sympathetic to that family has continued to pummel the current Abia Leadership with misinformation and garbage.
You will observe that apart from the mostly anonymous insults on the internet and the ignorant posturing of some distant analyst, you can hardly find any prominent Abian expressing discontent. This is because Gov. T.A Orji has embarked on so many people oriented projects to the admiration of the citizenry. Unlike before, he is carrying all stakeholders along while empowering indigenous contractors, the women and youth. Most of the critical decisions he has taken are motivated by the need to restore Abia back to Abians and effectively put the destiny of the state in the hands of the real owners.
Governor T.A. Orji is a very loyal and grateful man. He is an exceptionally gifted consensus builder. The dependability and faithfulness of the governor is the fabric that is holding the Abia society together. In public and private events, it is a thing of joy to now see our leaders sitting together in harmony – happily contributing ideas and resources to the development of our state.
Ochendo is also a very prudent and experienced administrator. From his student days at the prestigious University of Ibadan to his meritorious rise to the post of Permanent Secretary his abiding attribute has been humility, compassion and efficiency. He has initiated and gone far in the actualization of the Urban Renewal and Expansion Programme (URBREP) earmarked for the Umuahia and Aba metropolis without borrowing a kobo.
Abians are happily reaping the dividends of their freedom from ‘mamacratic’ bondage. In less than one year, dozens of road projects are being done in the state. It is also on record that civil and public servants in the state are amongst the highest and regularly paid in the country. Despite the state’s meager resources, the Governor has sustained the free education programme at both primary and secondary school levels. Ochendo has built, equipped and staffed two hundred and ten Primary Health Centers spread across the nooks and crannies of the state together with two diagnostic centers, one at Aba and the other at Umuahia.
In the area of housing, Chief T.A Orji’s achievements are simply phenomenal. We have the Isieke Housing Estate, the Abia State Teaching Hospital Auditorium, the Amaokwe Housing Estate, the Amuba Housing Estate, the new Timber Market structures located along Umuahia-Umudike Road and the ultra modern buildings he is erecting at the new Umuahia main market which is being relocated from Isi-Gate to Ubani-Ibeku in order to decongest the city center. There are also new buildings at the State High Courts, Customary Court, Broadcasting Corporation of Abia State, Amachara General Hospital, a new Cenotaph Arcade, and an ultra modern Auditorium and offices at ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs as well as new Structures at the Commissioner’s quarters. A Women Development Centre Complex- complete with skill acquisition workshops and several halls together with two state-of-the-art Diagnostic Centers in Aba and Umuahia have been completed and would remain an indelible legacy of Chief T.A Orji’s administration.
Contrast this with the era between 1999 and 2007. I challenge anyone to publish a list of just five public buildings standing anywhere in Umuahia that the previous civilian regime bequeathed to Abians. The former Governor, for eight years, reigned from the dilapidated one storey building the state rented from Emeka Omeruah from where he built his personal mansions at the precincts of Aso Rock, Potomac and Igbere. It never occurred to him that Abians desire and deserve a state capital they could be proud of. But Ochendo has changed all that for good. He believes in Abia and is investing heavily in giving our cities a face lift.
Thus, the highly sponsored unrelenting depictions of Governor T.A Orji that frequently comes by way of sarcastic commentaries, half truths and colored hearsay is not based on actual verifiable performance but on the prejudices, fears and desperations of disgruntled opponents. They forget that the evolution of leaders has both physical and spiritual dimensions. Whereas they aim to subsume the sterling efforts of Ochendo, they are actually making the man more popular by each passing day. This is because the few objective observers who have taken the pains to visit Abia end up very angry with these lying bigots. When visitors see the difference between the fabrications they read and the positive achievements that constitute the realities on ground since the state was extricated from the control of the Kalu dynasty, they usually express surprise.
The foundation for a new Abia where Liberty, Unity and Prosperity will reign has been firmly laid by our Hero, Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji. He is now restoring the years that the cankerworm has eaten.
•Dr. Chikamnayo is Abia State Commissioner for Information and Strategy