Theodore Orji: A Man of Equity


Eddie Onuzuruike

Gratitude is a great attribute and a greater attitude. It is like the touch of an Arabian fragrance that lingers long after contact. Taking hard decisions when it matters is a greater attribute especially where it has to do with liberation of human beings and groups. In a big sense, making the world better than you met it. According to Martin Luther King Jr, ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’.

Jesus Christ who lived doing marvelous works in multiple ways, especially healing incurable diseases, teaching with practical and manifold parables that are prevalent in today’s world took pains through a popular parable and elucidated interestingly by St. Luke, one of the synoptic writers in Luke chapter 17, verse 11 the importance of gratitude. The story of the 10 lepers told it all as Jesus posed the question when one of the cured did a solo act by going back to thank Jesus. ‘Were there not 10 cleansed, but where are the nine?’ It was an act that taught us more than one lesson. Obviously, it reinforced the importance and morality of gratitude but in another sense, it foretold that we are more likely to experience multiple cases of ingratitude since it was a minor percentage that came back to thank him.

Senator Theodore Orji, the third democratically elected governor in Abia State governed Abia for eight years in a two tenure democratic leadership as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Leadership is not a tea party nor a roller-coaster job. Many a time, the leader needs to tell his followers the truth and get them to do the needful. Tax and levies are not always good news to the citizens but they are civic obligations. In governance, people should pay tax especially for the needed amenities. Security of lives and property have been the primary reason and origin of the social contract theory. To the criminally minded, the leader will always be a big foe if he takes seriously to protecting the totality of the citizenry.

Abia at a stage in her history, was in the news for the wrong reasons as it was enmeshed in the throes of armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom. It was so rampant that soon after dignitaries including clergies and children were released by the kidnappers, another was abducted in mafia style.

They were rapaciously emboldened by their success to the extent that the criminals established a camp where they sacked a whole community and lived in opulence like potentates. A newspaper report once taunted that Abia is divided into two governments, one by Governor T. A. Orji and another by kidnappers in Aba and Ukwa.

When Ochendo as he is fondly called by his admirers took the bull by the horns and sent the kidnappers scampering, a traditional ruler now late, Eze Ahuama, in total thankfulness narrated his fame and fortunes as a traditional wrestler in his youth when he was even hired to represent other communities. He raved and reigned but in old age and even as a traditional ruler, a little boy known as Osisikankwu drove him into exile with his wives. ‘Ochendo, if you do not do anything again for me, bringing me back to my kingdom is the biggest and happiest thing you have done for me’.

Back to history, Abia was created from Old Imo State made up then by present Abia and parts of Ebonyi State. While in East Central state and later Imo State, they still experienced some marginalisation where some groups and other ethnic extractions lorded it over others, appropriating the juicy jobs and appointments, and for that the Abia founding fathers who moved for the creation of Abia State put pen to paper and charted a beautiful document called the Abia Charter of Equity to forestall unnecessary dominance by any group. According to Prof. S. N. Nwabara who recorded the events in page 43 of his book God’s Own State, ‘Abia will be a happy state, a model state in the federation of Nigeria. It is to this end that people of the proposed ABIA State have drawn, signed, sealed for themselves what we call the charter of Equity. ‘This is to reassure friends and opponents alike that every one matters; that every community matters; that no part will be neglected; that there will be no domination of any group in the state by the other: that there will be even development of the state. This is what is reflected in the motto of the State: ‘Onyeaghala Nwanneya’. They went further stating that strategic positions like the governor of the state, deputy and Speaker of the House of Assembly should go to different senatorial zones. Contrary to these efforts, Abia South was neglected. For so many years of power politics, a good chunk of Abia was left barren and revelled in producing deputies.

Ochendo as governor after rereading page by page of the Abia Charter of Equity wondered why 32 years after the adoption of the Charter and 23 years after the creation of Abia State, the power shift hasn’t be completely employed. He resolved that it will be ungodly to continue the injustice. He is from Abia Central, his predecessor came from Abia North, what stops Abia South from touching the crown? A big question that changed the equation.
The rest is history as he employed all instruments of the party and governance to get the Ukwa na Ngwa to get their shot at governance. That was a hard decision that has earned him high accolades with the most recent which held at Ngwa High School being the grand hosting by this large but deprived group that occupies nine Local Government Areas of Abia State.

Spectacularly, this is taking gratitude to the limits as they not only thanked him but endorsed him for 2019. It should be noted that on Monday March 28, 2016, a group known as Umunne Ato, in the three Ngwa LGAs in the Abia Central led by Prof. D. O. Dike in association with Engr. Leo Ogbonna marched to Ochendo’s community in Ugba Primary School, thanked and honoured him with a befitting title: Opuriche 1. In hot pursuit Omezirimba title bestowed by Ukwa/Ngwa traditional Council led by Eze Eberechi Dick says it all. Hail the one who restitutes and comforts.

No doubt, a lesson has been learnt, reinforcing the injunction of the great teacher, Our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ!

.Onuzuruike wrote from Abuja