By John Okiyi Kalu
I am excited that the two publications owned by former Governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, made Abia State the subject of their front page editorial comments within five days of each other. Sun tabloid published on Wednesday 21st of March, 2018 while New Telegraph published hers on Monday 26th of March, 2018.
While we officially responded to the Sun editorial, as widely published, we are not interested in any elaborate response to the copycat publication by New Telegraph.
Clearly the issues raised by both publications are similar and the editors of Telegraph can get a copy of Vanguard front page article of 26th of March, 2018 titled “My Work in Abia Speaks for Me – Ikpeazu”, or check out The Nation and Thisday publications titled “AS SUN NEWSPAPER DESCENDS INTO INFAMY”, to familiarize themselves with our point by point response.
The truth is that we understand the plot to distract the Government of Abia State by luring us into a needless and potentially costly media war that will negate the silent but focused drive of Governor Ikpeazu to re-write the story of Abia State positively.
Whatever resources we could have used to engage in unnecessary media wars will certainly be mobilized towards delivering more democratic dividends to the great people of Abia State.
Accelerated development of Abia State was the reason our people elected Dr Okezie Ikpeazu to lead them. So far, he has not and will NEVER fail them.
We thank Sun and Telegraph for the focus and fixation on Abia State, induced or not. It does not matter to us whether the intentions and objectives of the editors were negative, as many believe, as they have given us further opportunities to showcase the achievements of Governor Ikpeazu that earned him multiple awards as “Governor of the Year 2017” from reputable media houses like Vanguard and Authority Newspapers, as well as to transparently and veritably explain to Abians the origin of the pension and salary challenges in the state that we are tackling head on.
Thank you Sun and Telegraph for helping us preach the gospel of Ikpeazu’s transformation of Abia State.
Yet, we must ask pertinent questions regarding the conjectures that produced the flawed conclusion of the supposed esteemed editors of New Telegraph.
How can any rational person dismiss the impact of the reconstruction of Faulks (Ariaria) Road on trade and commerce in Abia State? Does that person not know that the economy of Aba, the commercial nerve center of Abia State and the SME capital of Nigeria, largely depends on trade and commerce with Ariaria International market being at the heart of trading and small scale manufacturing in Abia State, South East and South South regions?
It speaks to disconnection from reality for anyone to question the economic importance of Faulks Road that leads to Ariaria International market, Umuola, Ehere and Ukaegbu that are major entry-exit points from Aba; Aba-Owerri road that leads buyers and sellers into Aba, and Port Harcourt road that hosts the biggest equipment fabrication hub in Nigeria in addition to serving as one of three major entry points into Aba.
It is important to note that with the apparent failure of the contract awarded by the Federal Government for the reconstruction of Aba-Ikot Ekpene Highway, Governor Ikpeazu decided to construct two new roads, Umuanunu-Ekwereazu Ngwa-Akwa Ibom and Owo-Onicha Ngwa-Akwa Ibom roads, to provide alternative routes for traders and other visitors into and out of Aba.
Indeed it is uncharitable, wicked and even smirks of ignorance to question the impact of those roads and the focused promotion of Made In Aba brands on the economic well-being of Abians. The Infrastructural development drive of Governor Ikpeazu is firmly and verifiably connected to his agenda to advance the socio-economic wellbeing of Ndi Abia.
No editor worth his position should question that self evident truth, which also informed the ongoing construction of, at least, 10km of roads in each of the 17 LGAs of the state to aid in evacuation of agricultural produce and bring better life to rural dwellers in the state.
It is also important to point out that Abia State is not a “civil service state” as the majority of our people are traders and farmers. We have 38,000 public sector workers whereas the rest of the more than four million citizens and residents engage in trade/commerce and/or agriculture.
Out of our 38,000 public sector workers, more than 75% are not owed even a month’s salary by Governor Ikpeazu’s Administration. Our MDAs and many parastatals, including Abia State University, are up to date with salary payments. We are also working hard to bring our pensioners and teachers to the same level.
May be the editors of Telegraph and Sun need to research which Abia State Governor, between 1999 and 2007, consistently described pensioners as “dead woods”. That should give them insights into how we got into the pension mess that Governor Ikpeazu is working hard to solve on a sustainable basis.
Even Aba North LGA workers and indeed many others within the 1999-2007 era were owed backlog of wages, with that of Aba North exceeding one year in arrears.
If the position of the editors of Telegraph and Sun is that Governor Ikpeazu should wave a Magic wand and solve decades-old problem, then they should feel free to bring the magic wand from their magician.
I wish to suggest that the editors of Telegraph and Sun visit Abia and see our 4 million Tenera Palm plantation, ultra-modern poultry cluster at Nsulu and even the new one emerging at Ozuitem; our mushroom farm at Umuahia and then have a conversation with their journalistic conscience.
In the interest of public good I am volunteering to take them round the projects of the Ikpeazu administration, including the 52 completed road projects and 78 ongoing ones at various stages of completion.
They will be vindicated if any of the projects do not exist on the ground or does not have verifiable economic importance to the great people of Abia State.
It is not by accident that Abia State has maintained 1st position in West African School Certificate Examinations, back to back, for three years under Ikpeazu’s watch. We currently have 359 new classroom blocks the administration is constructing across the state, in addition to the four new model schools located at Ohafia, Umuahia, Abayi Aba and Obingwa.
We proactively invited Australian education solution providers to retrain our teachers and equip them further to deliver on the education Revolution in the state aimed at positioning the next generation of Abians to compete globally.
Abia is the only state in the South East, and possibly Nigeria, that is feeding primary one to six pupils in our public primary schools. The effect is that enrollment in our schools have improved from 105,000 to 303,000 between 2015 and now.
Even our state-owned university, Abia State University, Uturu, has moved up in national ranking from previous 90th position to 45th. In the past three years, the academic calendar of that institution has not been disrupted by strikes because the workers have been receiving their wages as at when due. Just as many lecturers are being sponsored to foreign institutions to improve themselves.
If the intention of Telegraph and Sun editors is to suggest that Governor Ikpeazu has not solved all the problems of Abia State, they are in order. The administration has not done everything there is to do in Abia State or even totally reversed all the inherited negatives arising from the faulty foundation of the 1999-2007 era of visionless leadership in the state.
Certainly, the consensus among Abians, especially those resident in the state, is that Governor Ikpeazu has changed the Abia narrative positively and things are looking up and getting better daily.
To God be the glory for the focused and visionary leadership of Governor Ikpeazu.
***John Okiyi Kalu is Abia State Commissioner for Information