Eddie Onuzuruike questions the motive behind the barrage of attacks on the character of Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji, a past governor of Abia State
A popular radio station in Abuja has a programme called Them Say. Them Say had a cousin that reigned during the civil war called Radio without Battery. These are unconfirmed stories that you formally call rumour. Most times it could be favourable and make you hope or laugh, especially in beer parlours or other leisure places. It has assumed a bigger dimension as it has acquired a political toga and used as a big instrument to blackmail or corner undeserving votes and favours.
Most of us around Senator T.A. Orji- staff, aides and some Abia people inclusive have been forced to constant rumours peddled against government or her leaders. Most of them are ear-tingling and in-depth untruths, unimaginable fabrications and mendacity of the highest order. A commentator once said that it is a sign of greatness when people make what you said and did not say their business. Put more clearly by an American, ‘If people are trying to pull you down, it only means that you are above them.’
The Igbos way-back avowed and even have it as a name- Ezebuiro: fame, leadership, success in a collective term- Kingship attracts hatred and enemies.
Senator T.A. Orji’s soaring image has not made it easy for detractors, political opponents, especially now that there are a few jobs. Participation at every level in politics today is free without strict screening or basic entry qualifications. In confirmation of the above line of thought, a known politician in Abia while addressing his supporters shocked the God-fearing among his listeners when he boldly stated that there is room for all, that in fact, his project then needed God and Satan to succeed.
The experience of a former governor from the western state of Nigeria will throw more light to my story.
The late Lamidi Adedibu, known as the strong man of Ibadan politics waged a serious opposition against the said governor but failed. The strongman made frantic efforts to have audience with the governor after the elections but was rebuffed. The governor wondered loudly what Adedibu wanted, having employed all his evil ploys and antics to sabotage the elections but failed. Even his aides dissuaded him for granting the much sought audience but trust the Yorubas for their reverence to the elderly and against all conspiratorial winks, nods and nudges, the audience was granted. The governor after few pleasantries asked the strongman what ailed him.
The Baba told him that there wasn’t much but to crave a cooperation and understanding. The governor had a good laugh and told him pointblank that the time for that had gone having won the elections. He reminded him how they pleaded with him in the past but he refused, that there wasn’t much he could do now.
Adedibu made light of the whole issue with a few questions.
“Governor, can you fight in public and tear your shirts and run naked? Can you come to court and bear false witness even swearing all the books?’
To all these questions and more coming, the governor said, ‘no’ amid a guffaw of laughter. Then Adedibu said, ‘that’s where you need me. You can’t do it all alone.’
The governor in order to save his time and his state from more troubles and distractions, accommodated the old man thereafter.
With the above you can see that politics has become an all comers event with so many cadres at different departments be they fair or foul.
Back to our text, right from the emergence of Senator T. A. Orji into politics, extreme and perverse aggressions have been the order. The election that threw T.A. Orji up as governor was a warfront. The fact that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had an edge as the parent party from which his party eloped, heightened the risk for ‘T.A.’ when he was put out of circulation with trumped up charges. The opponents reasoned that it will be easier for them to win the election with him out of the way, but it was never to be.
The hypes continued rather than receding. Arguments raged. The most comfortable for them posited by the leadership boasted that he will never be sworn-in as far as the Federal Government was in charge of the courts. When he was sworn-in on the 29th of May 2007, another argument went on that his regime will not last, especially with over 50 lawsuits that he will be removed by the court. Yes, they were nearly right when the tribunal in Umuahia removed him but it was a short-lived victory as another court reinstated him. Not surprising, wild rumours refused to die till he finished eight solid years of his tenure.
Before long, the PDP in their wisdom realised their folly and came for their missing ‘rib’ according to Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo, their party Chairman then, who led a high-powered delegation to Abia.
The peace process that followed revealed the peacemaker in Ochendo as T.A. is popularly called. The reconciliation with Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, the guber candidate of the PDP presented a worthy peace template to the extent that the two helmsmen are the best of friends today, burying the hatchets with the handles unlike many cases where hatchets are buried with the handles strategically above the ground as memorials.
While in office so many thrilling innovations were made but skeptics tried all they could to deny the shine from it. I will give few examples.
There were many youth empowerments and skills acquisition programmes in agriculture, mentorship and all but one was seemingly too good to be true and it stood to be the highest nationwide. The car gift to youths to keep them busy trended all over and many wondered if youth can receive a car without paying a dime. For this, scores of negative minds insinuated that there were hidden charges to which some of the recipients were made to swear to oaths. The coordinator then, Hon Prince, Maduka Uwadi, S. A. on Youths toured round, held radio programmes, dispelling the rumours but many made up their minds that it cannot be free. Many took to the pages of newspapers reinforcing their lies and I can name names of writers and their phony newspapers. Today, the world knows the truth and cannot deny that Ochendo doled out cars free of charge.
When the former Aloma Clinic, Umuahia, owned by Dr. Anagha Ezeikpe, one of the few living founding fathers of Abia was acquired by the state government to house the Abia Specialist Hospital and Diagnostic Centre, they rumoured again that Ochendo had acquired it with government fund for his daughter in-law who is a medical doctor. This place, to the glory of God, saves lives of Abia people and the sick from other states of the federation today.
New trends are normal in human activities especially when it lightens the burden of the governed. Along this line, the state government hastened to adopt commercial practices trending in other parts of the federation and accommodated The Shoprite on the premises of the former Umuahia LGA Slaughter House in a place called Garki, wild rumour went round that it was another Ochendo maneuver but who owns Shoprite today?
When he relocated the former Ogwumabiri Umuahia that had overgrown its wings from the city centre to a new, spacious place at Ubani, it was wild again that Ochendo had grabbed the land, a way to dispossess the non-indigenes but today the truth is glaring.
During the 2019 elections, some lily-livered opponents who were the least ready for the elections, rather than campaigning for themselves and their parties, took to rumour that any vote for Ochendo would be a wasted vote as Ochendo will be caged. Some swore that his name wasn’t on the ballot as security men have been dispatched to incarcerate him, but he won the election in higher numbers catching new areas even in his opponents villages, wards, LGA and subzones.
Having shown gross inability to match or stop Ochendo with lies and imagined stories, they have now intensified all their efforts in the blackmail factor of taking their time to design and print posters and paste in Aba and other towns. Can a man who has been through the throes of over four elections paste posters before declaring his candidacy? Come to think of it, is 2023 at hand? Can Ochendo, noted for his humility, human compassion, and administrative excellence paste posters when the nation is locked down with a ravaging disease? Who will read the posters? The people locked down or those who are banned from the streets?
It is the desperation of jittery opponents, political schizophrenics, maniacs and miscreants that can lead to such poster frenzy because many discerning cannot believe such phantom displays. Ochendo has declared in clear terms that he will not seek reelection and will take a break from the Senate after 2023. So, who is in a hurry to frame and demean him?
Not deterred with the weight of their infamy, two newspapers on Sunday and Monday, May 17th and 18th respectively came with disparaging headlines: ‘How I blew N38.8 Billion Security Votes in 8 Years’. The big question here is did Senator Orji address the press as it was made to appear? Are security issues public issues? Who did not hear the dare devil armed robbery and kidnap cases that made some envious ones to call for the state of emergency to be declared in Abia? United States of America and other advanced nations had covert operations on in Latin America, Middle East and Asia, have they made their modus a public book?
In their shameless and desperate maneuvers, they forget that destinies differ. In the Igbo cosmology, there is magic in the name. His father named him Ahamefule and it has followed him as his name is not lost. The Orji name has remained a factor in political reckoning. For many, he has been an oasis where the greatly famished have quenched their taste and taken refuge. He left Abia better than he met it, among many eye-popping changes, most of all, instituting equity to assuage the politically deprived.
Without boasting, he has coasted ashore moving incredibly from Chief of Staff to be governor and now a two-term senator. What I urge these antagonists is to ask themselves, with all these pervasive deportments, have they been able to stop Ochendo?
The words of Shannon Alder quoted here will let Ochendo and many others suffering the same fate realise that they are not alone in this wildfire misinformation. “There will always be someone willing to hurt you, put you down, gossip about you, belittle your accomplishments and judge your soul. It is a fact that we all must face. However, if you realise that God is a best friend that stands beside you when others cast stones you will never be afraid, never feel worthless and never feel alone.”