Is Ochendo truly a bad leader? part 2

By John Okiyi Kalu on 26/09/2014

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Someone reminded me on my wall about the Latin phrase "Vox populi, vox Dei" which loosely translates to "the voice of the people [is] the voice of God", I smiled inwardly knowing that vox populi killed Jesus even without as much as a proper charge against Him. And when Pilate insisted on proper review, vox populi merely responded with "crucify him...let the sin be on our head and our children's head". I leave historians to review that Biblical travesty that happened with all those who truly knew Jesus refusing to speak out so as not to be mobbed by a manipulated crowd. Amazingly that included his apostles and sundry men and women who benefited from His ministry on earth. While as Christians we condemn the Jews of those days, how many times have we as individuals bulged at the prospect of challenging popular views? Our situation is made worse by the new social media where to remain "popular" you must tow popular lines or refuse to speak up as people are being lynched. It is tempting to ask if we don't have people who truly know the essential Ochendo at Nigeria social media community. Or have they all been silenced by the Jewish mob?

I will take a stand because I usually take a stand. I took a stand on Stella Oduah, Ike Nwachukwu, Sanusi Lamido and many others. I am taking a stand on Ochendo Global.  For long I personally opted not to engage on Abia issues principally for 2 reasons: I preferred to work behind the scene and help get things done for our people given that I have reasonable access to those in government. Secondly, I know that once I publicly take up an issue there is no retreat no surrender. I will surely take sides with the truth I know and good conscience.

Nobody on either side of the Abia debate will ever, in good conscience, tell you that I said Aba roads are in anywhere near satisfactory state. I have continuously engaged my contacts at State and Federal levels on the poor state of some key roads at Aba. One online friend on my wall while commenting on the poor state of Aba-Ikot Ekpene highway posted a picture as proof of Ochendo's failure. What he didn't know was that “his” picture was actually taken by me in 2012 as part of my appeal to the Federal government to come to our rescue and as published on my wall; from where someone apparently picked it up and circulated until it got to the person who reposted it to my wall ostensibly to chastise me. Funny, he even presented it as current picture whereas I know that Federal road is worse than that, currently. I have videos I will publish on Federal roads in Abia state and a documentary on them is under production. I will publish them extensively in December if I don't see movement of caterpillars along those roads with serious intentions from the Federal Government. Similarly, I have pictures of Osusu road, Ngwa road, Ohanku road, Obohia road, Ngwa Road, Ariaria and Milverton that I have already forwarded to people I know in ABSG. Those are state roads in need of urgent fixing, and many more are in similar conditions. I have received assurances that work will commence on some of those roads latest October. If I don't see action by mid October, I will also publish them. But if I see action, I will publish the action. I will not behave like some of my friends who inundated social media with images of George’s field Aba but when it was fixed no picture was published even though we all see the transformed George’s park daily.

Someone asked me why I still support Jonathan fiercely even with the bad Federal roads and I replied that road infrastructure is only one of my parameters for measuring good leadership. On many other issues I consider him a good leader, especially for holding Nigeria together at a time like this and under extreme stress. He passed my leadership test even without scoring excellent on all issues of governance. It is the same standard I use in measuring Ochendo, Amaechi and others. When I say Amaechi is a good administrator but a divisive politician, I know what I am saying. If to you it means I hate Amaechi or even sold out to him, why should I lose sleep over that? Uwe ezu oke is someone's name and I apply uwaezuoke (you can't have it all) principles in measuring leaders. But I don't forgive leaders who kill. Jonathan is not a killer. Ochendo is not a killer. Amaechi is not a killer. Fashola is not a killer. Sullivan is not a killer. I have varying degrees of affection for them and you may wish to add that I LOVE humble leaders. They win all the time with me because I understand where the virtue called humility comes from. It comes from the spring called humanity and only few fetch water from that spring.

Now here is a practical human joke. Many of my friends that are abusing Ochendo also support Jonathan. Amazingly they feel no qualms that South East Federal Roads are in bad state under Jonathan's watch. Possibly they also feel he has done well on other scores. But once Abia and Ochendo is involved, they curse and rant about Aba roads as prima fasciae sole measure for good governance. Are they well or just playing populist politics? Is it not possible to apply same standard of measurement of leadership across board? I leave that to social scientists.

Let us get back to my emergency rating job which I intend to do in no particular order. Based on what Ochendo met on the ground and the resources available to him, I will score him 45% with state roads. (Since this review is not about Jonathan, don't wait to read how I rate President Jonathan vis-à-vis South East roads). I have looked at Abia's budget from 2007 to 2014 and believe that Ochendo could have done more inner city roads at Aba in particular. Yes, he fixed Azikiwe road, Geometric road, Georges, Ehi road by shopping centre, Milverton (which later failed), Eziukwu by Aba Owerri road and a few other bad portions, his revenue stream could have accommodated a minimum of N2b expenditure per annum on Aba inner city roads. With that amount over a 7 year period, things would have looked a lot better. May be the massive funds injection into securing Aba since 2008 impacted on that alongside other challenges he faced. But the least we expected was that every dry season some maintenance work will be done on Aba roads pending when the required funds for brand new drainage system becomes available to make the roads stand longer after rehabilitation. He could also have leveraged on his good relationship with President Jonathan in the past 3 years to get the Federal government to make an intervention at Aba with special emphasis on the 3 major Federal roads that serve as entry and exit points to Aba. To his credit is the fact that inner city roads at Umuahia have improved on his watch. I like the look of Ogurube layout, Ochendo bypass, Azikiwe road, new Okpara roundabout and others.


That brings me to his performance at Umuahia as the capital of Abia. Feel free to say that I felt let down that the regime before Ochendo virtually left Umuahia the way it met it. I can't wait to read a cogent reason why the fabulous Camp Neya private home of our ex-governor was built without an equivalent new government house at Umuahia in 8 years of that regime. My only consolation is that I have seen the new government house under construction by Ochendo and I feel a sense of pride at the ongoing work. I hope and pray that come May 2015 our new (expected Ngwa-born) Governor will live and govern from that architectural masterpiece. As someone who has gone round Umuahia including Ogurube layout, aptly described as new Umuahia GRA, I am satisfied with what Ochendo has done. I have visited the new twin state secretariat complex, ASUBEB building, E-library complex, wonderfully finished international conference centre, emerging Abia mall and many more projects that can provide the foundation structures for the emergence of a new Abia. I applaud the vision and the courage that relocated the Umuahia market away from the city centre with a new structure rising rapidly beside the new Okpara statue with water fountain. Based on what he met and leaving behind, I can confidently score Ochendo Global 80% with improvements on the status of Umuahia. May be some will begin to see the usefulness of his efforts after the anticipated creation of Aba state next year.


To properly position the improvements at Umuahia you might need to compare it with other new state capitals created same time and at same income bracket. There is no basis to compare Umuahia with Owerri or Enugu, like many want to do. Under Ochendo, Umuahia is now properly positioned for further growth. I have read laughable arguments premised on “Umuahia has always been fine”. The purveyors of this line of thought, aimed at denying credit to whom it is due, must have missed the fact that Umuahia roads and drainage system were developed at about same time with that of Aba. As a boy of nine years schooling then at Umuwaya Road primary school and living with my grandma at 18 Lagos Street, I watched Fougerolle do at Umuahia what MCC and Bencov were doing at Aba.  Of the two cities Umuahia faced more urbanization effect with its designation as capital in 1991, than Aba.  Yet the drainage at Umuahia that was less extensive than that of Aba is holding firm. While Aba Roads rapidly depreciated because of poor drainage, the roads at Umuahia are holding firm and have been further improved.  I will briefly mention the socio-cultural reason for the rapid failure of Aba drainage and by extension Aba roads in this or another note. Suffice it to state that Ochendo has done extensive urban renewal work with Umuahia and the people are helping their case with better waste management culture.


Security is another area Ochendo has done very well. Today you can leave your house at 9pm at Aba to go and eat ugba and nkwobi at George’s street, listen to ‘sekem’ music at Enitona or the evergreen Terminus hotel and check into Benidon at 12am without fear. It was not always like this. A time was when I personally won't be outside at 5pm in Aba. I know even traders were not able to buy and sell freely in those days. Even the area of personal freedom, including right to agree or disagree with those in power, is greatly enhanced under Ochendo. It could even be argued that the lack of "fear factor" is responsible for many of the false publications against the Governor we read online including comically fictional ones like the adapted Nollywood tale of an army captain pummeling his son or his son killing his PA. That people even believe and spread such information without iota of verification shows how much we have degenerated.


On security I will score him 90% because he faced a massive challenge and was able to pacify the situation and brougt the state back together. He has not been sending assassins after his opponents and that also counts greatly. There are no muscle men in Abia breathing down people's necks in and around the government house. I am yet to read of people being taken to shrines to swear allegiance to anyone and people no longer disappear anyhow. Unlike the past, there are no headless bodies here and there in Abia. I salute Ochendo immensely for that because I know there was a time we couldn't even attend night vigils to pray against social evils. Today, you can criticize the Governor in broad daylight from the pulpit without fear of persecution. But a time was when all the pulpits in Aba silently muttered prayers to God to come and liberate us.


On simple empirical basis of published WAEC results I make bold to say that educational sector in Abia is in good hands under Ochendo. For two consecutive years the state has maintained second position behind Anambra. Some states that were in the first 3 before have dropped without notice or hullabaloo. But I can bet that if Abia had dropped from second position two years ago to 3rd last year it will be front page news. Even the new school structures built by Ochendo have led many to debate if projects funded partially or wholly with SURE-P state allocations should be counted as achievement of the incumbent Governor. Amazingly the same lynch mob failed to make same distinctions with some state SURE-P funded Rivers model schools or even check how their favorite State Governors funded their own projects. The debate only quietened after I showed my friends a copy of a state’s budget that captured SURE-P revenue. May be we need a special online school to teach people that by law all Federal revenue, including SURE-P, must be shared between the 3 tiers-Federal, State and LGA. If the Federal applies it's share to counterpart funding of Niger Bridge or Lagos-Ibadan road, they are Jonathan's projects. Likewise the states can apply their shares to projects of interest within the programs mandate area.

To think that all that argument came because people are bent on denying one man his due honors shows the enormity of the challenge Ochendo is facing with negative media. Well, that won't stop me from scoring him above 70% on educational improvements. I know the condition of ABSU and Abiapoly he inherited and have no doubt that both tertiary institutions are better off today. For those who don't know, Abia State is blessed with four functional Universities including Federal, State and private universities. All top class institutions. The State has two major cities to cater for; Aba and Umuahia with Ohafia recently rising. The Abia e-library is sure to unleash the genius in our people if maintained properly. I make bold to state that there is no better e-library in Nigeria currently. Abia youths and technology buffs can check into the library and find the world virtually at their fingertips. There is even a special “idea room” equipped with latest systems and application to help deliver another Philip Emeagwali.

Since my mum passed on 2 years ago I have not visited the teaching hospital at Aba but I have seen unverified images that are not looking very good. But the last time I was there it was in good condition with improved access to diagnostic facilities. Umuahia has a modern diagnostic centre and it is full credit to the healthcare infrastructure in Abia that we hardly read of Abia Government officials flown abroad for Medicare. I recently visited a top government official in the state who was involved in a ghastly motor accident as he was receiving treatment at Umuahia. In most states in Nigeria people at his level would have been flown abroad with chartered air ambulance and loads of hard currency. He was treated in Umuahia and returned back to work within six weeks. Again, on the strength of the massive proactive preparation I witnessed firsthand in response to possible Ebola outbreak, I will score Ochendo above 70% on healthcare improvement. I also took into cognizance the over 30 new health centers scattered around rural Abia that sprung up on Ochendo's watch.



Posted on September, 26 2014

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