Dr. Eze Chikamnayo, the Director General of Abia Interest Group and former Commissioner for Information, is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as well as a revered stakeholder in Abia polity.In this interview with Peter Uzoho, speaks on 25 years of Abia State creation, the agenda of the South-east for 2019 presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption, among others
Abians recently celebrated 25 years of the creation of Abia State. What do you have to say about this landmark event?
Like other well-meaning Abians, I must give all the glory to God. Abia is God’s Own State. And that means that from the first day Abia became a state, our founding fathers recognised the preeminent and the overwhelming presence and role of God in the evolution of Abia, and in whatever Abia will be in future. So God is preeminent in Abia. So we must give glory to God.
We’re happy, all of us in Abia to attain this milestone. It’s not easy; 25 years whether in the life of a man or in the life of a state it’s a milestone. That’s why we’re celebrating our silver jubilee with lots gladness and you can see that prominent Abians from all walks of life are at home celebrating. And it coincided with our New Yam Festival, so you can see that it’s a very colourful and happy occasion. Also to the glory of God, our Governor, Dr. Okezie
Ikpeazu (Ph.D), also used this occasion to define the future direction of Abia. All of us listened to his speech and we were also witnesses to the unveiling of the new logo of Abia, the new anthem and flag of Abia. Such re- engineering is really needed at this time. Such deliberate and conscious repositioning of Abia can only happen under a visionary leader like Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. And all of us are happy.
You are a revered stakeholder in Abia polity. What is your assessment of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s government so far?
The first thing you will notice in everything Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu does is a touch of class and excellence. Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu is a man imbued with excellent spirit and it manifests in everything he does. Whatever he touches turns to gold. If you come to the Government House Umuahia; if you go to the ministries and parastatals; if you take a look at the quality of the projects he delivers, you will see a touch of class and excellence. You see life is about input and output.
And life is about a manifestation of what is inside. Everybody in Abia today, will readily agree with me that Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu has made a lot of impact. The last one year or so of his administration has been both eventful and turbulent. It has been very challenging to the entire Abia citizenry. It has been eventful in the sense that over 60 roads in the state are undergoing complete revamping; new ones, existing ones, critical arteries of roads cutting across the three senatorial zones, especially in Aba, because Aba is the hotbed of Abia. Aba is a microcosm of Abia. There is no Abian of any extraction in terms of communities and towns and villages that you will not find in Aba. So whatever happens to Aba happens to every Abian. And Aba is Abia’s identity.
It’s a symbol of our ingenuity, of our tenacity of purpose, of our industriousness. Aba defines who we are as Abians, and the Governor realises this, and is trying to reposition Aba, by reinventing the Enyimba City and making it able to play its noble role. Even before Abia was created, Aba was fondly called the Japan of Africa; it’s not for nothing. It’s because of the industriousness that is embedded in that famous city. Through the current efforts of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, Aba is witnessing a complete renaissance. That’s the eventful part of the last one year and happily, what is going on in Aba is being replicated in other areas. Now, apart from the infrastructural revolution, the Governor has also re-envisioned education in a manner that will serve the interest of Abians. Abia Polytechnic, College of Education and the state university are now
much more vigorously taken care of. During the anniversary, the Governor graciously reduced the school fees payable by Abians in Abia State University and has expanded the horizon of the university, situating some of the major faculties to cities where their input will help to reengineer the Abia society. The Governor is a stickler to excellence and whatever he takes as a decision; you can immediately see where it is leading the society. Governor Ikpeazu is bent on working for the common good and it shows as you have seen in the committed manner he is tenaciously implementing his five-point agenda that covers the entire socio economic and infrastructural spectrum.
So in the area of education the Governor has done very well and you can see what he has done with the College of Education Technical at Arochukwu, completely repositioning that institution. Today, to the glory of God and to the credit of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, the College of Education Technical in Arochukwu has found its mission. Skills acquisition programmes, especially for all of our people in the far-flung communities have become the order of the day in that institution. The institution has become more vibrant as a result of this policy. Agriculture of course, is taking a premium place.There is a new lease of life in every aspect of the Abia society.
Before we proceed to other issues, let’s talk about security.How safe is Abia under Governor Ikpeazu?
Abia under Okezie Ikpeazu has witnessed excellent security. I’m sure you have not heard of even one case of kidnapping since Governor Okezie Ikpeazu came on board. All the fringe elements that were involved in those nefarious activities have been smoked out. Even some of them that went into the villages have been apprehended by the police. Intermittent breakdown of law and order is no longer part of the Abia story.
Because of the very well-coordinated and proactive security measures which Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has put in place crimes whenever and however they are committed in Abia meet immediate and appropriate response.And what is very special about the crime management technique of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu is the proactive nature. He doesn’t wait for things to happen before actions and measures are taken. Apart from the vehicles he has brought in, not the usual pick-up vans, this time very sleek and efficient vehicles with modern technological gadgets. He has equally expanded the scope of information dissemination and interface between government officials and the security agencies and even with the man on the street. So with this level of collaboration security has become much better. He has improved upon what he met on the ground and that is a thing of joy.
In the last one year his administration has been encumbered by politically induced legal tussles. In what way has the crisis affected his ability to deliver on the democracy dividends?
The truth is that Dr. Ikpeazu is a focused, calm and calculated personality. He has survived some of the most ferocious opposition we’ve ever had in the history of Abia. His meekness, discipline and sense of responsibility is legendary. That’s why he has been able to tactically manage the upheavals and still harness the limited resources at his disposal to achieve so much within so short a time.
The last election of 2015 is what is called transition election. Generally, it was a very turbulent one for Nigeria and Abia was not an exception. But even though the Governor emerged and met a lot of hurly-burly, he has been able to navigate through this turbulence through the grace of the Almighty God. It’s only a mandate that has divine approval that can survive the level of onslaught that has been unleashed on this government. Expectedly, our brothers, like Alex Otti who contested in the last elections from other parties have pursued this matter all the way to the Supreme Court and Governor Ikpeazu has been returned by the Supreme Court. That is why the current effort of the people who never contested the election to begin another round of litigation is annoying,uncalled for, unpatriotic, unnecessary and self-serving. It’s a veritable distraction.
It is the height of insensitivity to the welfare and feelings of Abians. The Bible makes us to know that there is time for everything under the sun. There is time for war and there is time for peace. This is time for peace in Abia and every Abian should sheath their swords and allow Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu ample time and space to think through the problems of Abia and provide solutions. Trying to distract him at this time is not just a fight against him but a fight against the collective good of all Abians. So my advice to our brother, Uche Ogah is for him to show humility and maturity and quickly retreat. He should hastily do everything within his power to give peace a chance because Abians are no longer amused. From civil servants to community leaders to the political class, everybody is of the opinion that this futile tussle has to stop forthwith.
More so, since he is of the same party with the Governor issues of that nature should be solved within the party family. It smacks of unreasonableness and vain glory for him to continue to waste the time of Ndi Abia. He is ruining his reputation and standing with this stiff necked pursuit of what does not in any way belong to him. It will be very unfair and unwise for him to continue to distract the Governor Ikpeazu. Just last two weeks, the Appeal Court gave a verdict insisting that the Governor’s mandate is correct and should not be revoked under any circumstance. At that stage, enough should be enough because if there is brotherly kindness in the heart of those pursuing that agenda, they will know that it is no longer funny. It’s a handshake taken too far. It’s a joke that is taken too far.
They should now come together in the greater interest of Abia. While I was Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Abia, one of the greatest moments I had was sitting back at the Banquet Hall on one good evening and admiring former Governor T.A. Orji, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the late Ambassador Ojo Maduekwe and the crème de lacrème of the Abia society eating in that Banquet Hall, thinking together, praying together. It’s beautiful to behold when brothers burry their hatchets to serve the common good. Polarity will only lead to recriminations that is at best, retrogressive.
But when brothers learn when to draw the line; when to hold on; when to stop the fight, it’s a very wonderful thing to see.
And I want to see Uche Ogah and his cohorts come together under the
Abia spirit and give the man God has chosen a chance to prove his mettle in the saddle. Governor Ikpeazu is being unjustly suffered. The whole world should rise in unison and tell Uche Ogah and his clique to stop the distraction now.
2019 is fast approaching, what do you think the South-east political gladiators which you are part of should be doing now ahead of 2019?
I’m in APC and our party has zoned the presidency of this country to the North for the next eight years. So I don’t believe it is momentous for us in the South-east to begin to make any flux towards contesting for the presidency in 2019. Rather, this is the time for us to look inwards and ask ourselves some veritable questions. We will ask ourselves, where do we go from here? It’s a time of introspection. It’s not a time for political gerrymandering. The expectation of every Nigerian is that President Buhari will do well and after four years, will be re-elected to complete his eight years tenure; the eight years allotted to the North before hopefully, power rotates back to the South. I’m a strong believer in power rotation. In a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria, there is no part of the nation, either North or South, that you will not see a preponderance of prepared leaders. Even in Lagos alone, the population is bigger than most African countries and European countries. Lagos can give you more than100 presidents who will do very well.
The same with Abia, the same with Sokoto. So it is very important then that we have a functional constitutional arrangement that will ensure that power devolves among the different zones to give everybody a sense of equity and a sense of belonging. Again, I want to humbly call on everybody in the South to cooperate with the North so that they will give us the best within this period. And when it is the turn of the South, whoever they produce the North also should give the same cooperation. This fratricidal and destructive ethnic labelling of our leaders and this type of pull him down syndrome once he is not from our area, is inimical to the growth and development of our nation and must be discouraged. So Ndigbo at this time should concentrate on reorganising themselves and cooperating with the various state governors to make sure that value is added to governance at our zonal level.
What is your take on the fight against corruption by the APC-led government at the centre?
President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria. I’m of the APC and I’m proud to be in the APC. And when I say kudos to President Buhari people don’t really understand why. The reason is very simple. The culture of impunity has gone for good. And those who steal or those who want to commit crime against our collective patrimony are no longer doing so with reckless abandon. That is a major milestone. Because before President Buhari, a lot of things were going amiss and worst of it was that people were very flagrant in the manner they treated the sacred trust of the people. But with President Buhari there is a lot of paradigm shift. The consciousness of our people for prudence has increased. Nigerians are learning,
once again, to work with their own hands and not to depend on all sorts of official quarters for free food. Yes, it’s a bit difficult now but positivechange is always thatway. The condition we’re suffering; the paucity of funds, the paucity of food on our table; the paucity of infrastructure; the economic recession, is as a result of bad habits that we allowed to become part of our body polity. And now, for us to make a difference, we have to desist from those habits which predisposed us to this recession. And chief among those habits are the culture of brazen impunity and the culture ofanything goes. However, I have to advise President Buhari to go beyond that and be a bit more elastic and give opportunity to star players who will come into the field and score the goal. You know, star players must not be kept on the bench during a crucial match because we are in a crucialstage in Nigeria now.
This is not the time for experiment in Nigeria.
This is the time for experience to count. So he look for star players in the Nigerian community, regardless of their leanings and ensure that they are given the jersey to goand play for us and score the goal so that we will quickly get out ofthis bad condition. It’s very important because if we parochialise the current situation we will pay terrible prices and
that is not the legacy I believe President Buhari should leave. Again, I want to also advise that the restiveness that is now becoming a profession among many people who prefer to call themselves agitators or militants, it’s uncalled for at this time. In my Igbo land, we have a famous proverb that says ‘when your house is on fire, the last thing you will want to do is start chasing rat.’ Now Nigeria cannot afford the distraction that is coming with all these militancy and agitations.
Enough should be enough also in that aspect too. Anybody that is trying to undermine the policies of the governments we have elected at various levels at this critical time is unpatriotic andunreasonable and must be told so in clear terms.This is not the time fight at all. It is a time to build. So I believe we should give peace achance both as a state in Abia and as a nation in Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria. I’m of the APC and I’m proud to be in the APC. And when I say kudos to President Buhari people don’t really understand why. The reason is very simple. The culture of impunity has gone for good