Former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Abia State and the Director-General of Abia Interest Group, Mr. Eze Chikamnayo spoke recently to Solomon Elusoji about what the group is doing to keep Abia people united and advance equitable progress
What exactly is Abia Interest Group?
Abia Interest Group (AIG), is a community of Abians, irrespective of political affiliations. It’s a nonpartisan development organisation. Our goals are encapsulated in our name – to fight for the interest of Abians as a collective and not for the interests of individuals. So, at any point in the life of our state, when we feel that things are going wrong, we take the high ground and protect the interest of the state, irrespective of individual differences.
The reason why we founded this organisation was that we had seen that at various critical times in the history of Abia, there has been need to speak up for the state. Most times you see people speak up for themselves, for their political parties, for the government; but nobody actually speaks for the interest of the common good, the interest of the people who do not have a voice. The state has to exist before political and personal interests will thrive. So we always emphasise the importance of keeping us united, purposeful and focused. Everybody is better off for it.
How long has the group existed?
We have been here since 2003 and we have continued to gather in the interest of Abia people, regardless of political affiliations. Once we have identified an issue that is capable of derailing our march to progress, regardless of whose ox is gored, we will rise up together to deal with it. And that has earned us a lot of respect over time.
Will you say the current Abia Government has lived up to expectations?
We are not really a political group. There is a Governor that is elected as we speak. He has been in office for about two years, and we believe that every Governor should be given time to actualise his objectives for the people. By this time next year, the political parties will take a position and they will begin to struggle for power. So it is in the place of the political parties to decide whether he did very well or not. For us in Abia Interest Group, we elevate our thoughts to those critical issues that affect the state.
Can you share some of the critical issues you have intervened in?
For example, when Uche Ogah attempted to subvert the current government using the judiciary, those of us from the AIG said it was not in the interest of Abians. Uche Ogah is from Abia North, a part of Abia that has had its own share of the governorship. For the stability of our state, we agreed that the three zones that make up the state – Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South – should have equal share of power. Orji Kalu, being from Abia North was there for eight years, T.A. Orji, being from Abia Central, had it for eight years too. So we only felt it was simply equitable for Abia South to be allowed to do their eight years. So, regardless of political affiliation, we agreed to support our brothers from Abia South so that there will be equity. We came out strongly and condemned the efforts to subvert the candidacy of Abia South and we prevailed.
There was also a time when some people from the Ngwa nation tried to disown Dr. Alex Otti – they said he was not an Ngwa man, and we said no, it was only an assassination of character and should not be allowed to take roots. Alex Otti was born in Ngwaland, and his father too. Yes, we agree that his grandfather may have come from Abia North. But saying that Alex Otti is not from Ngwa is like saying Obama is not from America simply because his father is Kenyan. So we condemned such profiling. Dr. Alex Otti is revered in Abia and beyond.
So our decision to support power rotation in Abia State seems to have favoured PDP; our decision to condemn Alex Otti’s profiling seems to have favoured APGA. So we always try to intervene in the interest of the common good of Abia people.
Right now, there is a particular challenge that is trying to threaten our state coming Engr. Nwabueze Onwuneme, who was at a time Special Adviser to Governor T.A. Orji on Housing and was dismissed from government based on allegations of corruption and abuse of office.
Since he was dismissed, he has been maliciously trying to pitch the former governor’s family, especially the son, against Buhari. In the Nation newspaper of Sunday December 17, he alleged that the life of the President is being threatened by the former governor’s son, Hon. Chinedum Orji. Such an allegation must be backed with facts, otherwise it is capable of causing social unrest. So we came out and condemned the irresponsibility and criminality of such claims. We, the Group, have set in motion the machinery to take legal action against him.
What have been the group’s main challenges?
Our challenge is trying to change the mindset, the conception of people of what politics should be all about. Politics should be about the people, about justice for all, about giving a good life to all, about security to all. Politics should not be a do-or-die thing, a scramble for the commonwealth; it should be about development.
For example, if a young man kills a Hausa man in Aba and burns down his shop; if the people of Abia State do not immediately intervene to condemn the action and discipline the young man, in less than 24 hours, you will see more than 100 people dead too in the north. So it is when you allow a preponderance of such parochial and dangerous actions exist that you have friction and unrest in a community. So it is good for every community to have a watchdog, like AIG, that stands by to protect the interest of the common good.