Commissioner for Information, Ebonyi State, Orji Uchenna Orji, said that his principal, Governor David Umahi, has the capacity to ensure a hitch-free transition of power to the next governor of the state, who will maintain the tempo and surpass his development strides. Excerpts:

Some of the news coming out of Ebonyi State is about the issue between the State Governor, Mr. Dave Umahi and Sen. Sonni Ogbuoji on who has better control of All Progressive Peoples (APC) since the governor met Ogbuoji as the leader of the party there. In the just-concluded ward congresses, there was an official report that it was peaceful. But we heard that there were some issues largely as a result of the personality clash between the governor and Senator Ogbuoji. What is really going on?

I am not sure that you are very correct on this. Senator Ogbuoji has been working in tandem with the Governor, who is the leader of the APC in Ebonyi State. The Governor facilitated an all-inclusive and transparent ward congress looking at the different stakeholders across the various wards. The factor that made the election transparent was that one can’t influence what is happening in another ward from their ward. So stakeholders were restricted to their wards. Every stakeholder had to go back to his/her ward. The governor also tried to reconcile all stakeholders such that there was something that looked like a harmonisation, and where this didn’t work as expected, there was an opportunity for hitch-free election. The party at the state level is made up of men and women of integrity who were given instruction by the leader to ensure a very robust and hitch-free congress at the ward level. We have 171 wards in the state and I can assure you categorically that we had a very wonderful ward congress.

Senator Ogbuoji believes in the wonderful strides of the governor especially since the time he entered APC. He has been giving the necessary support. The people that would have caused a rift were talked to particularly by the leader of the party on to queue  into the business.

In some States such as Yobe, Nassarawa, where the kind of scenario you are trying to paint happened, there was no election at all, it was just ratification. In Ebonyi, was it a ratification or you had an election?

It was an election.  Where there was harmonisation, the voters still queued behind those that were contesting in the various wards. Even where we had 100% consensus, people still queued behind the candidates, in order to be sure. We have a platform whereby whatever you do, you send to the platform and through that process, we were able to know that every ward had  election. We had returning officers that are three-man electoral committee in each ward and we also had a state electoral committee that came and they supervised the process. So there is no issue about ratification, it is not part of our constitution. An election must be held whether or not there is consensus and that is the provision of the constitution of APC.

I will like to find out what your attitude is on the third extension of time for the Buni Committee which was set to perform a specific assignment for six months. Now it appears there is no time again and it can continue like that till the next general election. Are you concerned about it?

I must say that the national Caretaker Committee of Governor Buni is very legitimate as this is a mandate given by members of the party. Therefore people who are trying to wag tongues are doing so in vain. I must say that we have great men and women of APC who know the law, so well that they cannot allow any breach of any provision of the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any extant law, or the constitution of the party.. We must appreciate the wonderful contributions of Gov. Buni. In this period, he has been able to bring on board very wonderful governance, thereby reducing the number of PDP states in Nigeria and this is a great feat. He is a silent achiever. I wish that the constitution will permit him to be our elected Chairman and we can sure that he will achieve a lot for us. He has never been involved in anything controversial even in the issue of looking for a structure anywhere, unlike what we used to have before he came onboard-confrontation between people at all levels. For me, we must give him all the support until such a time that the National Executive Council of the party will decide otherwise.

Another thing coming out of Ebonyi State is the incidence of communal crisis. It appears to be happening too frequently. What is the cause?

You are not correct. It was happening during the period of IPOB and EndSARS agitations. But the Governor had to take the bull by the horn and did something differently, engaging directly with stakeholders in all the communities involved and also through our sensitisation processes and advocacies  Today, we have a very calm situation in every part of Ebonyi state.Let me state here that conflict resolution is part of the virtues of the Governor. When he came on board, we had a national issue of communal clash in Ezza/Ezillo which was going to be a national menace because some people who were passing Abakaliki to Cross the River and get to Akwa Ibom were victims of that violence. But the governor came, through his ingenuity and engagement processes, to talk to the stakeholders. What happened was that  he ensured the permanent demarcation of the disputed area and today they are living in peace, enjoying social amenities from the governor. When sometime last year and part of this year we had communal clashes, the governor felt he must do something differently to address the issue, don’t forget that we are an agrarian state and we believe in agriculture.Before the governor came on board, we had no roads and there was no consciousness, agitation and contention about ownership and dominion of land,yet there were cases of communal crisis. But when the governor tried to open up all the rural communities, including this recent issue of 189 kilometer ring road that is being constructed in concrete pavement, people began to show consciousness. Then the governor had to use both the religious leaders, town union leaders, and traditional rulers to talk to the people. Today, everywhere is calm, if you talk about Enyibichiri-Enyigba, the place is calm, if you talk about Abaomege-Ukawu, it is also peaceful., If you also talk about Effium-Ezza Effium, the committee on Ezza-Effium and Effium crisis just made a presentation about the remote and immediate causes of the crisis. I can tell you that even before the report was made everywhere was already calm. They realised that never again would they because of ownership of land shed  blood. Even the issue of Fulani attack on some communities in Ebonyi State is no longer there, the situation is totally under absolute control because of the engagement and negotiation power of the state governor.One thing you cannot take away from him is his capacity to work day and night to ensure that he has a peaceful state. Security agencies are working day and night to ensure that there are no criminalities and unprovoked attacks from any source. The Local Government Council Chairmen are trying to toe the line of the governor to replicate what he is doing at the state level at the Local Government level and this has resulted in the calmness we are enjoying.

The state executive council is fully constituted back now. I know there is no benchmark because you have been in that cabinet, so the governor can choose to work with three or four persons, but it was dissolved and some people are back. What is the composition now?.

I don’t know what you mean by being fully constituted. Do you have a benchmark? The governor has the exclusive discretion to constitute the executive council of any number and I know he has exercised that power. Before now, he had over 110 executive council members which made it too large, but Ebonyi is the state with the highest number of executives. You may say that some of them are there not as members.  Truly speaking, they are there as observers. We also call them Exco members because they come to listen, but they are not members under the constitution. They cannot vote, but they can make up the list of members. They are there in the execute council, and they also make contributions. They seek the leave of Exco to make contributions. Of course, it is not by nomenclature, it is by professional and intellectual capability, it is the reason why we are seeing a lot of wonderful strides in the state. It is not about being a Commissioner, but it is about having the intellectual capacity. The point I am trying to make is that the governor decided to reduce the number of the executive council members and part of the reason is that it is becoming clear that some people will like to go into politics and want to contest for one position or the other. Others want to go into business, having been exposed to business as an Exco member. So, the governor feels such people can take their time and go into politics or business, while those who want to get focused, will have to be brought back. That is what happened.

Did these people say so expressively? Did they apply? How does the governor know those that want to go into business and politics?

It is either by interest, directly or indirectly. That is just the situation. We are looking at 60% of the original 110 that is coming back.

Regarding the issue of zoning for the next governor of Ebonyi State, some groups are of the view that there should be zoning; others are saying there should be no zoning.You are close to your principal; can you tell us his view on the issue?

We have a charter of equity, even if it is not justiciablle, but it is morally justifiable that in Ebonyi State, the first governor that came from the North had his eight years. The second governor that came from the Central had his eight years. By divine intervention and God’s providence, the third governor came from the South. Therefore it is only equitable that it goes back to those that have been there before. But whether it is going to the North or Central, it is left between God and the governor, but he is actually looking beyond this to get the best hands. He is looking at the best hands that will get the support of God and support of the people and capacity to deliver, because succession is very critical in ensuring sustainability in the programmes of the governor. He is looking at ensuring that equity is made permanent in the polity of Ebonyi state that is why whatever appointment he is giving, he is looking at equality, so whatever appointment he is giving even at the Local Government level he makes sure that it is zoned equitably. So he believes in zoning.

The Governor has shown exemplary performance, and he has lifted the state from the black waters of underdevelopment to a reference point in development. I’m interested in Nkalagu, the cement factory, I know he has talked about it at one time or another. Why is it not fully back in production?

It is  bottleneck. The issue of mining and cement production is in the exclusive list. We have done the needful and our own bit which is giving the land. We have done an agreement with Ibeto Cement Company over cement production in the state. We also have the solid mineral, so the rest is between the company and the Federal Government. I understand that there are some administrative bottlenecks at the federal level, we pray it is sorted out on time so that our people can really gain from the investment that will be in that part of the state. We are looking at that investment being a revenue spinner and also the investment will be capable of generating jobs for the teeming population and also add to the economic enhancement we are looking at in Ebonyi State.

I read in a newspaper article that the Governor said next year will be like leave for him, and that he will not be doing any other thing than to give back because the talk in Ebonyi is that he is not giving money to people. So he will not be doing too many projects instead he will concentrate on finishing the things that he started, and he will also yield to the cries of the people that he should make money available to them. Is this true?

I think that the governor’s statement was not properly understood. Our governor is a man of due process and a great methodologist in the way he does his things. Even before he was sworn in, he had started delivering. I remembered that he promised to deliver about  six flyovers, and he is already doing about 14 number 

What we are seeing in the state, we never dreamt or imagined that it could come. When he said he was going to build the place of worship for God, we didn’t understand, until he built the biggest ecumenical centre in Africa. When he said he was going to build the biggest shopping mall and then invited the private sector to handle the project, they said the project was going to cost millions of dollars. But the governor said he was going to handle the project by himself. Today, he has built the biggest shopping mall in Africa. When he said he was going to build the tunnel, we didn’t understand today we have Africa’s biggest light tunnel. When he said he was going to build the new government house, we didn’t understand, he went to a desert where there was nothing and built what is now Nigeria’s most beautiful Government House. What I am saying is that the governor is gradually winding up all his projects and also looking to complete all he started in this second tenure, including the flyovers and airport. Concerning the point I was making, the governor is very systematic. He is gradually winding up, all infrastructure issues even he is still mentioning those that he wants to still do and he will certainly accomplish. He is gradually bringing on board, human capital development in full force in order to drive the environment he has created. If you look at the first day of God’s creation, he began with creating the infrastructure such as the earth, and then he created man. It is the same  method that the state governor is using. Having created the enabling environment, he is trying to ensure full attention to human capital development. The state government 2021 budget captures human capital development in the areas of education, and health as the most priority sector. What it means is that he wants to develop human capital in order to drive development. But come to think of it, no man has done empowerment the way the governor has done.The governor gave N750 million empowerment grants to 3,000 youths and women, at the rate of N250, 000 each in cash. When the governor came to Lagos, he introduced what is known as the street-to-skill empowerment programme also known as the diaspora empowerment programme. Then he gave Ebonyi people hawking in the street of Lagos, N130 million free for 520 people at the sum of N250, 000 each. He came to Lagos and procured 400 no TVS tricycle at the sum of N650, 000 and gave it to our people in Anambra for free. This is still empowerment and stomach infrastructure because through that you enhance your  livelihood. Let me also say that the governor went to the clergy and the religious and shortlisted 5,008 clergymen both in Christendom and other groups, and gave Five Hundred Million, Eight Hundred Thousand Naira (500, 800,000.00) grant  free to invest in businesses that will better their lives. The governor went to security agencies and shortlisted 403 women who are wives of the security officials and gave each of them a grant of Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200,000.00). All of these I am mentioning are cash grants given to beneficiaries. The Governor released N4 billion and put it in a basket for civil servants to draw from. So people had the opportunity of drawing from N200, 000 to N 1 million, depending on the years you have put in and your grade level in service. This is empowerment. The governor has been empowering our women in so many ways. We have today N3 billion EndSARS empowerment programme people began to access. Just two weeks ago, N5 million was given to about 20 persons in cash. The other committees were set up, we have the Ombudsman, Complaint Commission and the committees to look at those that were victims of EndSARs. The funding was basically for the EndSARs empowerment programme directly or indirectly we were affected by EndSARs, so the governor rolled out N3 billion for youths and women, but with particular reference to our brothers and sisters who are into IPOB, criminalities, and who are ready to turn a new life. He gave them amnesty and urged them to bring a business idea. There were people who renounced IPOB in Ebonyi state and we have their list. Though the renunciation was done quietly because we didn’t want to experience chaos, and we gave rehabilitation. But beyond this, IPOB agitation of marginalization is very much germane and concerns need to be properly addressed. But going about it violently is not good and I can tell you that it is not those who have the philosophy of IPOB that are doing this violence. Rather it is some of the idle youths who are criminals along the streets that took advantage of the IPOB agitation to unleash terrror, and these are people the government is saying ‘drop down your arms’, we will empower you. So that is the situation now.

When you say IPOB agitation is germane are you in anyway talking about Igbo Presidency?

Why I say it is germane is that they are crying foul over marginalization. They are crying because the sensitive office at the federal level such as the Presidency, and Service Chiefs should be freely given to different zones without any fear. Even critical infrastructure development should be distributed among the zones of the federation. I want to commend President Muhammadu Buhari because, without him, we will not have had a Second Niger Bridge. In the last 16 years before he came onboard, we had the People Democratic Party (PDP), we had no Second Niger Bridge, we could not complete the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, we could not complete Enugu-Awka-Lagos Expressway. But I think this administration is doing a lot to ensure that these bad narratives are corrected. We had PDP, we didn’t have Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that was helping farmers, today under Buhari, we have Anchor Borrowers’ programme, Commercial agriculture Credit Scheme, and Social Investment Programmes. All of these programmes have been helping our farmers, unemployed youths, and civil servants to make a living. We have so many other programmes that are being done under this administration. What I’m simply saying is that this administration has a conscience. It is conscience administration that impacts positively on the cause of the South-east which is actually the crux of the agitation of the IPOB. However, going about it violently is most unwarranted and unacceptable. QUOTE


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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