I know why EFCC is after Senator Orji – Ex-council boss
* Reveals why Orji, Ikpeazu aren’t on war path
* Hints on how Ikpeazu’s successor ‘ll be determined
In this exclusive interview with Correspondent, STEVE OKO, former Rector Abia State College of Health Sciences and Management Technology Aba, and one time Chairman of Umuahia North Local Government Area, Sir Frank Ibe, reveals the real reason the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is after the former governor over alleged N55 billion misappropriation while in office. He also explains why Senator Orji has not fallen out with his successor, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu, plus other issues in the state. Excerpts!
Having worked closely with the former Abia State Governor, Senator Theodore Orj, how would you describe him and his administration?
He is a man of peace, a man of equity. In fact he is the Father of Equity in the Abia political space.He was the one who changed the face of Abia. He worked so hard to erase the toga associated with Umuahia as a glorified village. He changed the narrative by building some legacy projects. He opened up Umuahia, and today Umuahia is a state capital to reckon with.
What key achievements do you think his administration would be remembered for?
In terms of infrastructure, Senator Orji opened up a lot of roads within Umuahia and other parts of the state. He opened up Ogurube New layout where we know today as the new Umuahia. He began the New Government House although it is yet to be completed.
He also laid solid foundation for governance. He built the International Conference centre adjudged the best in South East. He gave the Judiciary a pride of place by constructing befitting high court complexes both in Umuahia and Aba.
He built legislative offices for House of Assembly members within the Assembly complex so that the lawmakers can have enough space to receive and interact with their constituents. In the health sector, he constructed 100 bed hospital in each of the three senatorial districts in the state. They are functional till date. He also built over 700 health centres across the state. He caped up the health need of the state by establishing the Abia Diagnostic Centre in partnership with Indian firm, Me-cure. He equally remodeled the Amachara General Hospitals.
Do you think his critics who accuse him of not doing much to transform Umuahia into a model state capital being a son of the soil share this view?
They are wrong. People with such notions are biased. Senator Orji made frank efforts to develop Umuahia. He relocated the Daily Market to Ubani bthat was responsible for the perennial congestion at Isi-Gate. He also relocated the Timber market and opened up the Umudike axis of Umuahia. He built the Mechanic village Ohhiya.
But some still say Umuahia is still lagging behind when compared with neighbouring state capitals in terms of infrastructural development. Do you think they are lying?
Don’t forget that before he came on board, Umuahia was just a glorified village. He was the one who opened up Umuahia. He laid the foundation for infrastructural transformation of the state. He built the twin tower Secretariat and other high rising buildings for other parastatals around Ogurube New layout. Every state as well as Government has its own peculiar problem. Senator Orji met nothing on ground. He liberated the state from political bondage and laid the foundation upon which his successor is building.
Of late, the ex-Governor has become a guest to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over misappropriations during his tenure. Are you surprised?
I’m not surprised because I know his ordeals are politically motivated. Again, it has become a norm for past political office holders especially governors to appear before EFCC later to give account of their stewardship.
But not all past governors?
Yes not all but majority of them. It’s all about politics. Invitation by EFCC doesn’t mean conviction. Until an accused is pronounced guilty by the court he remains innocent. EFCC should be allowed to do its investigations and those trying to put him on media trial should rather allow the court to do its job.
It is obvious that his political opponents who are afraid of him because of 2023 are behind his ordeals. It’s all about 2023. Their intension is to use EFCC to distract him and possibly clip his wings ahead of 2023. Their strategy is to sweep him out of the political space by keeping him busy with EFCC. That’s the reason for all the frivolous petitions against him but it’s up to EFCC to do its investigations.
But I can assure you that no matter how hard his opponents try to demarket him, Senator T. A Orji is one man that if constitutionally allowed to stand election for governorship again, Abians will vote for him overwhelmingly. He is loved by many because of his milk of human kindness.
But he has severally said he would not be seeking fresh mandate in 2023. So, why would anyone want to distract him as you are trying to infer?
They feel he will not keep to his promise but they are wrong. They also feel that he may have influence on where power would shift to in 2023. That’s why they want to distract him.
His critics also feel he is having undue influence over the incumbent administation in the state. Do you agree with them?
It’s all propaganda. He is not having any undue influence on his successor. If he is having undue influence on him, by now they would have quarrelled. I know Senator Orji as one who believes in others. He doesn’t like lording it over others or to interfere in their affairs. He has passed the leadership baton to Abia South and doesn’t dictate for them. That is why Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu is doing well; making commendable efforts to transform Aba and other parts of the state. He is building on the foundation already laid by Senator Orji.
In most states, incumbebt governors have fallen out with their predecessors because of undue influence but such is not the case in Abia. Senator Orji allowed his successor the free hand to run the state. That’s the reason they are still relating very cordially. You know that a sitting governor has a lot of power and nobody can control him without backlash. Gov. Ikpeazu and his predecessor have no issues. Those expecting them to quarrel will continue to be disappointed because there is no basis for any clash. Senator Orji has no time for irrelevances and Ikpeazu is also busy with governance and has no time for gossips.
Critics say Senator Orji deliberately positioned his son as the Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly to checkmate Gov. Ikpeazu. Do you think differently?
It’s not true. That his son by providence emerged the Speaker of Abia House of Assembly should not be misconstrued. It will be wrong to insinuate that it was a premeditated action. Such assumption is unfounded. If there is anything like that, there would have been choas.
Can you sincerely say that the former Governor has performed creditably as a senator?
Yes he has done well as a senator both in legislative duties and oversight functions. Currently he is the best performing ex-Governor in the senate. He has the highest number of bills among former governors in the current senate. Seven out of his bills have already been passed into law. They include the National Centre for Disease Control Bill; Food Security bill, the bill that made Aba Polytechnic a federal polytechnic now awaiting the assent of Mr. President.
He is the Senate Committee Chairman on Privatisation, as well the Vice Chairman on Agriculture. He trained 450 of his constituents in Agriculture. He gave out empowerment tools including sewing machines, grinding machines, vehicles among others items. Every year, no fewer than 120 undergraduates benefit from his annual scholarship scheme since he went to the senate. He has impacted on his constituents.
As a Senator, T. A Orji attracted the opening of rural roads in the district to enable farmers convenient movement of agricultural goods. Senator Orji doesn’t play to the gallery; that’s why he’s not sung as a hymn in each circumstance of our political gyration.
In terms of federal projects, can you identify some major federal projects he attracted?
A lot of them. He has attracted 300KVA substations at Okpuala in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area; Nvosi in Isiala Ngwa South LGA; and another one at Azueke Ibeku. He also donated a lot of transformers besides water projects. He attracted cottage hospital at Umudike and Ibeku. He has rebuilt a lot of schools among others projects.
Ikot Ekpene-Umuahia federal highway has been a nightmare for years. Do you not think it is not a good testimony for the senator?
Definitely but the fault is not his. It has already been captured and passed in the budget through his efforts. As at last year, the Minister for Works, Babatunde Fashola assured that the road would be fully reconstructed. Work including drainage had started but later slowed down apparently because of dwindling economy. But the Senator is working hard to ensure the contractor returns to site.
Senator Orji said he would be retiring from active politics in 2023. Will you advise him otherwise?
He has said he would not be running for any political office in the state again but we will beg him not to retire completely from active politics. He is still agile. We want icons like him to stay around for his expertise and advice. If somebody like Olusegun Obasanjo is still in politics, he too should be around. We need him. Nigeria needs him.
Which zone in Abia would you like to produce the Governor in 2023?
ln the political arena we have major stakeholders who decide on power rotation. So, at the right time they will meet to take decision on that.
So are you transferring the role of decision making to stakeholders instead of the principles of equity?
You cannot rule out the importance of stakeholders in politics. It behoves on the major stakeholders to handle such decision and ensure an enduring peace and political stability in the state.