Before he became the Principal Secretary to the governor of Abia State, Engr. Emma Nwabuko had headed variousÂ ministriesÂ in the past administration. He bares his mind on his present job and other issues concerning the stateÂ in this interview with Emmanuel Ugwu. ExcerptsÂ
Youâ€™veÂ held different positions across two administrations.Â Is yourÂ present office as principal secretaryÂ to the governor as challenging as the previous ones?
Any position youÂ holdÂ in government, understand thatÂ you are thereÂ to deliver services to theÂ stateÂ government and to the people of the state. So,Â no matter theÂ level you are doing it, the sole aim isÂ toÂ deliver services andÂ that has been whatÂ weâ€™ve been doing in theseÂ past years.Â The bottom line is service to the people and weâ€™ve been doing that.Â Yes,Â some positionsÂ might be challenging inÂ theÂ senseÂ that theÂ volume of work and volume of responsibilityÂ will increase. In the past years, I was a commissioner inÂ charge of someÂ ministriesÂ â€“ ministriesÂ of worksÂ and transport as at then. It wasÂ very Â challengingÂ becauseÂ when you have a governmentÂ that hasÂ as itsÂ cardinal pointÂ delivering infrastructureÂ to the people,Â thenÂ you mustÂ beÂ on your toes to make sure that those things are carried out. From thereÂ I was madeÂ commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs which is another bigger assignment because you are dealing with theÂ whole state as matter of fact. The commissioner for local government dealsÂ withÂ all the local governments in the state. That one was also a bigger assignment. And from thereÂ to this position as principal secretaryÂ to the governor. This one is like the engine room â€“Â I would say that it is like the clearing house ofÂ whatever the governorÂ wantsÂ â€“ whether directive, instructive, the complaints of people; we are just likeÂ the vehicle that carries those things to the governor.
So,Â howÂ tasking isÂ your present position?
In this positionÂ you do not have a time of your own; you cannotÂ say thisÂ is my working hours. Of course you can be calledÂ at any time.Â The governor is a young energetic man, very dynamic, so youÂ hardly sleepÂ when othersÂ are sleeping. You can be called up at any time,Â and what irks a boss isÂ when aÂ workerÂ cannot be reached at any time eitherÂ because yourÂ phone is switched offÂ or something.Â So even if you switched off all other lines you must keep open your dedicated lineÂ where you can always interact with your boss.Â The job is tough but exciting and weâ€™re flowingÂ with the modalities,Â trying to provide dividends of democracy to theÂ people and since we are on the same page we are very grateful that any time we are called upon we will answer.
Is there any continuum between theÂ immediate pastÂ government and the present one in terms of completing inherited projects?
Of course governance is a continuum.Â I can tell you there hasnâ€™t been any programme or project started by the last administration that was abandoned or cancelled by the present government.Â Look at the areaÂ of providing infrastructure to theÂ people, this government is still continuing with that programme. And when you think about the projects thatÂ have been there youÂ also think about the values to the people you are providing them for. What obtained yesterday might not be what obtains today. Today the local governmentsÂ are independent enough so what you get at the centre is hardly enough to takeÂ care of your needs and all that. SoÂ you have to go back and think of what toÂ do because governance is dynamic. You canâ€™t just say becauseÂ that project was started you stick by it instead of sitting down and rearrange your priorities. And when you arrange your priorities now, itâ€™s not as if you have abandoned those projects;Â it is those projects that will give value to theÂ people that you face when you get the money. For instance if you check the international conference centreÂ (ICC)Â it was started by the last administration and it is still there. And ifÂ youÂ look at theÂ housing projects, the JAC building, ASUBEB building- they are all there. Even the roads that were awarded during the last administration this government is also handling it.Â So governance is a continuum; there is none of the projects that have been absolutely abandoned. What is happening is thatÂ you now prioritise, looking at theÂ precarious state of the state when it comes to generating internally generated revenue. If you are building a road now it must be able to open up all the fronts for getting internally generated revenue. It is then that more money would come to the government and you can use it for more projects.
Is the principle of power shift on whichÂ DrÂ Okezie Ikpeazu rodeÂ toÂ power still relevant as 2019 election year approaches?
ThatÂ decision facilitated by the former governor of state(Senator T.A. Orji)Â to shift power to Abia South was a laudable one. Last month the people of Ohangwa organised for him grand civic reception and gave him chieftaincy title. Politics is about equity, itâ€™s about fairness. Politics is making sure that you do not marginalise people because they donâ€™t have anybody to speak for them. The Abia charter of equity recognised that and that was whyÂ asÂ weÂ now have three senatorial zones. WhatÂ happens to one senatorial zone should also happen to the other senatorial zones. Power started from the north and shifted to central so you donâ€™t have to argue that power must shift to south so that every where will be quiet. The Igbo adage says thatÂ emee nwa ka emere ibe ya obi adi ya nma. I tell you when you now talk aboutÂ the benefits of power shiftÂ a lotÂ of things have beenÂ done in Aba.Â I can tell you that Aba has capacity to give us all the money we need in this state. Rivers state isÂ generating more than N4 billion every month, why are we not generating our own? It is because of dilapidated infrastructure that Aba has.Â Aba is noted for businessmen and industrialists and what they need is good roads, electricity and you give them enabling environment then the money wouldÂ come in IGR. WhatÂ theÂ governorÂ is doing is a matter of strategy. He is there strategising and when he says let us develop this place it will give us money and when you bring in that money every other part will be developed.
Can Aba really generate enough money to fund the overall developmentÂ of Abia state?
If we are able to rearrange theÂ revenue in Ariaria we will be able to realise more than N2Â billion monthly. And today Ariaria is attracting the attentionÂ of everybody not only in Nigeria but outside our shores because of made in Aba products. See what people are doing there, for instance,Â what Iâ€™mÂ wearing from head to toes are made in Aba. I no longer have to go for foreign made cloths. Quality products are coming out from Aba including foot wears. It is because of theÂ importance ofÂ Aba that electricity is now supplied to some parts of Aba constantly more than 100 per cent. For more than three moths now, there has been constant supply of electricity just to boost the economy. Developing the infrastructure at Aba is strategic -Â giving the people what they want. Before heÂ (Governor Ikpeazu)Â started, he held a town hall meeting where he asked the people what they wantedÂ and the businessmen and industrialistsÂ in AbaÂ told him they Â donâ€™t want money but anÂ enabling environment â€“ good roads, electricity and security. They said if given these, they already know how to market theirselves. It is because of the potentials of AbaÂ that the vice-president has comeÂ here five times because it is important to theÂ federal government. The potential of Aba is not only for Abia, but the whole of Nigeria. So the governor concentrates more in Aba. But it is not as if he is neglecting other parts of Abia, strategically what he is doing is to realise the five pillarsÂ ofÂ his governmentâ€™s developmental framework. When you talk about commerce and industry all those things are in Aba. There is no road that the governor is building in Aba that does not lead to aÂ market, industry or where you are going to have easeÂ of doing business.
AsÂ it isÂ nowÂ in vogue for government officials toÂ dress in made in Aba attires, was thereÂ a directive from Governor IkpeazuÂ to that effect?
No,Â itâ€™s not. This is a time when youÂ have to live by example. If youâ€™reÂ saying that made in Aba products are good for everyone and good for export, you have to showÂ a living example. The governor has marketed Aba and you have to do the marketing yourself. If you say you are not here nobody will recognise you are here. The governor himself dresses in made in Aba attire wherever he goes. It is the same thing;Â you donâ€™t have to tell us. We must not only do the talk we must also do the work so that anyone who sees us here will know that weâ€™re from Aba the home of SMEs. That is what we want to tell Nigerians and theÂ world that Aba is a centre for quality goods. Nigerians no longer have to carry heavy suitcases when they go abroad for holidays.Â No;Â those days are gone,Â we now have to concentrate on our own. WithÂ our population we are ready to keep people afloat; everybody will not go for white collar jobs what you do is to encourage people to consume what we produce.
You have been involved in the campaign for people to obtain theirÂ PVCs, are you getting positive results?
We have been working hand in hand with INEC toÂ make sure that we sensitise our people. That is what INEC wantsÂ because there is this apathy of people not coming for registration to obtain their PVCs.Â This isÂ a good opportunity but we have always been known for fire brigade approach. The dayÂ that voter registration exerciseÂ is ending you will now see thousandsÂ upon thousands of people trooping out to say I have not registered and I want to do it. The opportunity is there now but in thisÂ part of the country every morning peopleÂ go out for one business or the other. They take it as priority and nobody is thinking about their civic responsibilitiesÂ and theyÂ areÂ notÂ takingÂ voter registrationÂ asÂ one of our civic responsibilities.Â Good enough INEC in Abia state has set a target of registering up to two million voters in the state. And in getting two million voters you have to really sensitise the people. So the essence of my jingle is to really sensitise the people. We thank God that when they presented this matter to their officeÂ INECÂ now agreed that they have to move these machines from their office to different wards and different polling units at least to bring the registration exercise closer to the people. That was a very good one and I have received a very good recommendation from INEC people that we have really helped them to sensitise people. That has also helped in beefing up our voting strength as at today and I think that the two million voter target can be reallised by the time the continuous voter registration would end.