Before he became the Principal Secretary to the governor of Abia State, Engr. Emma Nwabuko had headed various ministries in the past administration. He bares his mind on his present job and other issues concerning the state in this interview with Emmanuel Ugwu. Excerpts
You’ve held different positions across two administrations. Is your present office as principal secretary to the governor as challenging as the previous ones?
Any position you hold in government, understand that you are there to deliver services to the state government and to the people of the state. So, no matter the level you are doing it, the sole aim is to deliver services and that has been what we’ve been doing in these past years. The bottom line is service to the people and we’ve been doing that. Yes, some positions might be challenging in the sense that the volume of work and volume of responsibility will increase. In the past years, I was a commissioner in charge of some ministries – ministries of works and transport as at then. It was very challenging because when you have a government that has as its cardinal point delivering infrastructure to the people, then you must be on your toes to make sure that those things are carried out. From there I was made commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs which is another bigger assignment because you are dealing with the whole state as matter of fact. The commissioner for local government deals with all the local governments in the state. That one was also a bigger assignment. And from there to this position as principal secretary to the governor. This one is like the engine room – I would say that it is like the clearing house of whatever the governor wants – whether directive, instructive, the complaints of people; we are just like the vehicle that carries those things to the governor.
So, how tasking is your present position?
In this position you do not have a time of your own; you cannot say this is my working hours. Of course you can be called at any time. The governor is a young energetic man, very dynamic, so you hardly sleep when others are sleeping. You can be called up at any time, and what irks a boss is when a worker cannot be reached at any time either because your phone is switched off or something. So even if you switched off all other lines you must keep open your dedicated line where you can always interact with your boss. The job is tough but exciting and we’re flowing with the modalities, trying to provide dividends of democracy to the 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 the immediate past government and the present one in terms of completing inherited projects?
Of course governance is a continuum. I can tell you there hasn’t been any programme or project started by the last administration that was abandoned or cancelled by the present government. Look at the area of providing infrastructure to the people, this government is still continuing with that programme. And when you think about the projects that have been there you 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 governments are independent enough so what you get at the centre is hardly enough to take care of your needs and all that. So you have to go back and think of what to do because governance is dynamic. You can’t just say because that project was started you stick by it instead of sitting down and rearrange your priorities. And when you arrange your priorities now, it’s not as if you have abandoned those projects; it is those projects that will give value to the people that you face when you get the money. For instance if you check the international conference centre (ICC) it was started by the last administration and it is still there. And if you look at the 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. So governance is a continuum; there is none of the projects that have been absolutely abandoned. What is happening is that you now prioritise, looking at the 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 which Dr Okezie Ikpeazu rode to power still relevant as 2019 election year approaches?
That decision facilitated by the former governor of state(Senator T.A. Orji) 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, it’s about fairness. Politics is making sure that you do not marginalise people because they don’t have anybody to speak for them. The Abia charter of equity recognised that and that was why as we now have three senatorial zones. What happens to one senatorial zone should also happen to the other senatorial zones. Power started from the north and shifted to central so you don’t have to argue that power must shift to south so that every where will be quiet. The Igbo adage says that emee nwa ka emere ibe ya obi adi ya nma. I tell you when you now talk about the benefits of power shift a lot of things have been done in Aba. I can tell you that Aba has capacity to give us all the money we need in this state. Rivers state is generating more than N4 billion every month, why are we not generating our own? It is because of dilapidated infrastructure that Aba has. Aba is noted for businessmen and industrialists and what they need is good roads, electricity and you give them enabling environment then the money would come in IGR. What the governor 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 development of Abia state?
If we are able to rearrange the revenue in Ariaria we will be able to realise more than N2 billion monthly. And today Ariaria is attracting the attention of everybody not only in Nigeria but outside our shores because of made in Aba products. See what people are doing there, for instance, what I’m 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 the importance of 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 – giving the people what they want. Before he (Governor Ikpeazu) started, he held a town hall meeting where he asked the people what they wanted and the businessmen and industrialists in Aba told him they don’t want money but an enabling environment – good roads, electricity and security. They said if given these, they already know how to market theirselves. It is because of the potentials of Aba that the vice-president has come here five times because it is important to the 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 pillars of his government’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 a market, industry or where you are going to have ease of doing business.
As it is now in vogue for government officials to dress in made in Aba attires, was there a directive from Governor Ikpeazu to that effect?
No, it’s not. This is a time when you have to live by example. If you’re saying that made in Aba products are good for everyone and good for export, you have to show 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; you don’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 we’re from Aba the home of SMEs. That is what we want to tell Nigerians and the world that Aba is a centre for quality goods. Nigerians no longer have to carry heavy suitcases when they go abroad for holidays. No; those days are gone, we now have to concentrate on our own. With 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 their PVCs, are you getting positive results?
We have been working hand in hand with INEC to make sure that we sensitise our people. That is what INEC wants because there is this apathy of people not coming for registration to obtain their PVCs. This is a good opportunity but we have always been known for fire brigade approach. The day that voter registration exercise is ending you will now see thousands 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 this part of the country every morning people go out for one business or the other. They take it as priority and nobody is thinking about their civic responsibilities and they are not taking voter registration as one of our civic responsibilities. 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 office INEC 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.