Is Ochendo Global truly a bad leader? part 1

By John Okiyi Kalu on 25/09/2014

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Permit me to thank you for your responses to the congratulatory message posted on my Facebook wall on Sunday in honor of my State Governor, Ochendo Global TA Orji. I understand and appreciate the various perspectives and really never expected that just one congratulatory message is enough to change hearts and minds hardened over the years by a persistent and unrelenting media attacks on a man I know to be a good leader and a good man to boot. The only exceptions to this appreciation are those who descended to the gutter of ignorance and patterned illiteracy of resorting to abuse as a way of making their points. You failed your parents, teachers, pastors and our educational system. Whoever taught you that abuse is a form of public debate needs to be stoned asap. He has given society the type of members we will rather confine to the gutter. Yet I will pray for you to change for the better, for my sake and that of humanity. I have also taken measures to quietly delete those I consider below baseline of reasonability  from my personal Facebook wall, in obedience to the age old saying that no matter what you do for an animal it will always prefer to enter the forest. One thing you can take to the bank is that the abuses didn't get to me and will not change me or my views on the man Ochendo Global. I even told a "concerned" friend of mine that if I were an aircraft I won't be a stealth bomber but rather a Boeing 747 that takes off against the wind.

 For me, life is not a popularity contest for which I must follow popular views and sacrifice my conscience for popular acclaim. I also do not have political ambitions that require popular acclamation to succeed. For those who know me, I have been here several times. The last time was on the issue of Igbo representation at the National Conference where some sought to make issues out of General Ike Nwachukwu's leadership of Ndigbo at the event. My “unpopular” position then was anchored on three premises: General Nwachukwu was the unanimous choice of the delegates, not imposed by Ochendo and he is the best available material who will do better than others before him. The usual populist crowd descended on my person and position heavily but I took off against the wind, as usual. Where are the populists now that Ike Nwachukwu has led the most productive Igbo delegation to the national conference? Have they congratulated him or even sought to put pressure on the Presidency to implement all the agreements of the conference? Have they even assessed the outcome of the conference beyond the knowledge that a section of the country they claimed Nwachukwu was mortgaged to is railing against the outcome? "Whosai", they have gone on another unproductive populist expedition.


Before venturing out to answer the question formulated by the title of this note, permit me to say that you must understand leadership to know who is a good or bad leader. The simplest definition of a leader in the applicable context is "a person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country". I suspect that most of us are leaders in one form or another including leading at family, clubs and associations levels. The devil is in whether we are good or bad leaders. (I leave us to pass judgments on ourselves). But if you have ever failed in leadership you already know who a bad leader is because you know yourself. Likewise if you have ever succeeded in a leadership position then you know what good leadership means.


In a broader sense; leadership has been described as "a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task".  (Thank God for Wikipedia). The key to knowing a good leader is therefore whether he or she accomplished “key tasks" using the resources available to him or her. To know that, you must first know what those key tasks or challenges are/were. If you know, you can then grade the person to know if he failed, passed, excelled or otherwise. Such an assessment must be based on well defined parameters with weights attached to each item based on what the assessor considers to be most or least important. But we must avoid the endless expectation trap because no single leader is capable of solving all the problems of a people and every solved problem brings new challenges. It is therefore fair to say that every leader will solve some problems and leave others unsolved for the next leader. That's why we say governance or leadership is a continuum.


One thing that is known to all students of leadership is that every leader confronts unique challenges in time and measurement of his effectiveness is based strictly on how he managed those challenges. Not in the absence of new challenges after him. George Bush faced 911 challenges whereas Obama is facing ISIS challenge. Both men also confronted economic issues but at different times the economic challenge might be more important to Americans while at another time the military challenge will require more attention. May be it is fair to say that Bush handled 911 better than Obama is handling ISIS and resurgent Islamist terrorists whereas Bush failed to handle the economy well and Obama did better. As apparent as that may be, in measuring which of them is/was a good leader you necessarily must define parameters and the surrounding circumstances which we call "facts behind the figures" in the business management world.


What exactly were the real challenges faced by Ochendo administration on assumption of office and in the course of service as Governor? Permit me to itemize the most pressing issues in no particular order.


1.  A near non existent capital city (Umuahia) lacking in the most basic of infrastructures including state owned government house, office and home accommodation for civil servants and near zero social life.

2.  A state pocketed by a cabal of the privileged with an oozing air of spiritual impurity and ‘cowboyism’ as a brand of leadership with "the more you look the less you see" achievements.

3.  A highly polarized state as a result of what started from a "girl-related" misunderstanding between his predecessor and his deputy that practically pitched Ukwa-Ngwa against Old Bende axis of Abia.

4.  A devastating criminal brigandage bench marked by kidnapping and armed robbery that totally paralysed the state's commercial hub, Aba, and it's environs. Virtually everyone who is somebody fled Aba and commercial activities grounded to a halt. Some of us who loved Aba found it hard to see a recovery path for the town and we naturally relocated our businesses and families to safer climes.

5. The security situation at Aba even impacted neighboring cities like PH, Owerri and Uyo with the spill over effect that citizens of some of those towns were even discouraged by their state governments from traveling to Aba as they also contended with their own versions of kidnap business boom across the South East and South South.

6.  All major markets at Aba including Ariaria market were almost totally shut down with less than 20% operation level.  Key industries like NBL, IEA, Lever Brothers were badly affected while banks and many other financial institutions scaled down operations, relocated or closed completely. 

7. The state had backlog of unpaid salaries arising mostly from the mismanagement of local government funds by cronies of those in government.

8. High debt profile arising from Mbakwe era debts and heavy borrowing by the preceding regime for projects that nobody can point to even with the left hand.

9. Personal insecurity was the order of the day with citizens afraid to speak up at the risk of a visit by assassins and sundry miscreants who were agents of those in and around the corridors of power. Many unexplained murders were recorded.

10. Aba roads decayed as a result of neglect and failure of few "reconstructed" roads within 2 years. That was compounded by the total failure of key Federal roads and the old drainge system at Aba.

11. The political space was closed with Abia elders and stake holders shut out of governance and the state was officially in the bad books of the Federal Government.

12. Terrible sanitation system at Aba in particular. The cultures of dumping refuse on the road, gutter and anywhere but waste bins continued unabated.

13. Educational performance was dropping rapidly with decaying school infrastructure, ill motivated teachers and poor school management. The state was not in the top 5 bracket in WAEC and the state owned tertiary institutions (ABSU and Abiapoly) barely existed.

14. Terribly poor transport system with motorcycles (okada) flooding Aba and Umuahia roads as the major source of transport. Only the orthopedic hospitals can tell how many Abians were coming in for treatment in those days and to make matters worse, the bikes became the preferred vehicles for armed robbers and kidnappers.

15. Usable health care essentially was given by only the General hospital at Aba, Teaching hospital and Queen Elizabeth Umuahia (aka FMC Umuahia). The greater numbers of citizens were treated by patent medicine dealers (aka chemists) and traditional healers


Having formulated the top 15 issues that the Ochendo regime faced at inception and while in power, I am tempted to grade him on all the issues given that I am the one setting the exam. But I will also welcome a new examiner to formulate his own issues based on his understanding of Abia state (before and during Ochendo's regime) and grade the Governor. Such examination should naturally pass the test of objectivity and knowledge obtained by observation and testing of facts (also known as science). It is only when you have done so dispassionately that you can contest my position that he is a good leader. I know what second hand information obtained from a hostile media (mainstream and social) can do to someone. For instance, last December we visited Abia state Government House as a group to see the Governor and present what we considered pressing Abia and Igbo issues to him for review and action. One of those on our delegation was a foreign based Nigerian who previously formed his opinions against the Governor based on what he has been reading as well as the poor state of Aba roads. He was among the selected team that initially went in to see the Governor to request that he meets us as a group. The Governor obliged them and met us late in the evening. All through Ochendo's presentations and explanations on the challenges of leadership in the state, this same person was clapping for him, nodding approval and later told me and others that the man is a grossly misunderstood person. I don't know if the attraction of populism has forced him to change that view today and I sure will like to know. Or may be he came to Umuahia with the mind set that he was coming to meet a fabled "moron" and was merely excited that he met an Ochendo who was by far better than he was made to believe. Na only him waka come so na only him know.


I speak and write of an Ochendo Global I have studied from far and near. I speak of a man whose picture hangs in my private parlor for over 3 years now because I not only like his stablizing leadership style but also feel a little like him-misunderstood but well intentioned. I write about a man surrounded by powerful enemies of means who have succeeded in swaying the minds of millions against him to use just one criterion to judge him negatively-Aba roads. I am even surprised by some of his transducers who had hitherto argued that we are too backward as a people to place roads at the top of the ladder when measuring leadership efficiency in Nigeria. Not that I actually agree with them because I still think that Africa in general is still at the level of infrastructure development. More so when you are looking at commercial cities whose people are mostly traders and farmers. They need good access roads in addition to other things. For me, a healthy mixture must be in place for the overall progress of the state and the spread should be such that all areas of the state have values from the government.


With your permission, I will now do the job of a rating agency, albeit an amateur agency. I expect to show some form of bias because I like Ochendo and most of what I will discuss may not be apparent to you. Some details, I will gloss over for the sake of peace and unity of Abia, as presently constituted. What most knows about Ochendo Global is basically whatever the controllers of the media establishment choose to tell the public. Unfortunately, Ochendo Global is "old skool" and will likely not pay what others pay for positive media reviews. As I was typing this note, I saw a colleague of his from a neighboring state who was celebrating his birthday on television. When I tried switching channels I noticed that AIT, Channels and NTA were all carrying the birthday event "live and direct". I know what that means in tax payers naira and kobo terms and can tell you that even if you point a gun at Ochendo he won't spend such money for "onyonyo". Is that good in this day and time? I will leave his media team to answer and may be share their frustrations working for a fiscally conservative retired civil servant as against the young cowboy of Abia 1999-2007.  It might well be also argued that a bit of that conservatism explains why Ochendo chose to work with the same core executive team that worked with his predecessor. Most cowboys of today's Nigeria will assemble a fresh team of their own they can trust, but not the trusting Ochendo with good conscience.



Posted on September, 25 2014

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