On February 9, 2020 the joy and happiness of most people who woke up to attend the church services in all the nooks and crannies of Abia and beyond had their senses of decency bedraggled, resulting in mood swings and countenances abruptly contorted as they read the splash of blackmailing pages in five newspapers targeted at a man they held in high honour.
The Sunday editions of The Sun and the Nation in a synoptic style portrayed these in their headlines as new cases while others like Thisday had it in their inner pages. Right thinking minds would have at least allowed people of God’s Own State a free and fair Sunday worship but never.
From all indications, the sponsors had hurt and dismay in mind. Hateful incitement which certainly will lead to violence and destruction wouldn’t have been a distant motive, remembering Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where it was made manifest that it is easier to start a mob action than stopping it. What Mark Anthony’s speech did to the Roman mob who went for the plotters and in the process killed innocent people like Cinna the poet who wasn’t one of the plotters but fell a victim because the mob was incensed and did not care that he was only a namesake of one of the plotters.
The following days experienced avalanches of the same putrid materials expanded without gauge in the social media that doesn’t care whose ox is gored and has less trouble bothering whether the source was credible or not. The sponsors were ready with complex antics to make their lies stick as collaborative demonstrations were planned for Umuahia and Abuja where innocent youths, egged by a mess of pottage took to the streets, armed with posters as if they discovered new skeletons and ritual objects.
To a greater percentage in Abia, Senator T. A. Orji served Abia as governor meritoriously with many visible projects still standing in Abia from 2007 to 2015. Not belabouring the obvious, it was an era that saw Primary Healthcare Centers sprout up like mushrooms, Blue Aluminium roofs took over Primary Schools, roads snaked in and out of rural areas, Agric projects, produce and empowerment items carted away in high numbers. The Legacy Projects are pure legacy marks. These attracted High government officials en route to Abia on regular bases.
The CBN Governor, Alhaji Sanusi, now Emir of Kano, Prof Chukwu the Health Minister then and Dr Adesina former Minister of Agric now the President of AFDB were permanent features. Even North American Nurses and Midwives flew all the way from Great U S A to Abia to identify with the strides of Ochendo. He was elected Senator immediately after his achievement oriented era. His fast-learning son, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji (Ikuku) who was more concerned with the youths of Abia contested the election to represent Umuahia Central and was popularly elected still with the youths in his mind.
Senator Orji who is well known for his achievement oriented style replicated same in the Senate thus giving a good account of himself to Abia Central constituents. He triumphed at the re-election for the second tenure in 2019 with more votes in the re-election than the first attempt, a serious pointer to high approval ratings. Unknowingly, a few evil minded plotted and acted their conspiracy script to smear Senator Orji and family.
Chief John Okiyi Kalu, 2 time commissioner of Abia State wrote inspiringly as a private citizen, not wanting to interfere in a corruption case. As a man still in the services of Abia State Government and the image maker too, he stated that the Abia government has zero tolerance for corruption and thus wouldn’t want people to mistake his opinion as the stand of Abia State Government but had a burning desire to put the facts straight. He posted a poignant introspection that right thinking people would shudder after reading, titled “When good men keep quiet, evil prevail.” Delving into history, he sounded like Martin Luther King who said, ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’
As stated, the 15 point postulation reviewed the frivolous reactions and insinuations that could make positive minds break into tears amid shudders and deeply regret the vile thoughts and actions they were misled into taking. A new lesson was advanced by Okiyi as he advised that people can easily know the truth if they form a habit of verifying the validity of materials in newspapers or social media if they peep into the EFCC website that has a list of most prosecutions and investigations.
He equally pointed out that the petition the said protesters used as their springboard was an old document in EFCC kitty since 2015 but was presented as a new document, he equally reminded us of the time told legal aphorism that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. I must confess that I had long forgotten that the EFCC had a website that used to be my haven in factual referencing.
In his revelations in the same document, one of the suspected sponsors previously had much to do with the Ochendo administration having presided over a bank that handled Abia Government’s FAAC account from where salaries were paid then, and projects funded. If the funds were looted, could salaries have been paid and projects handled successfully? Other sources alleged that the same person at a point thought that the Abia Governorship was a cash and carry issue but felt scorned by the helmsman’s refusal to be moved by his cash offer.
Not to leave anyone in doubt, Okiyi went further and quoted two former finance commissioners, Dr Philip Ntoo and a serving House of Reps member, Hon Sam Onigbo who stated that Paris refund and Excess Crude were not received by the Finance ministry when they were there, so where did the protesters get the fallacious info? I am sure that the EFCC doesn’t need such vainglorious and showy prodding to do their work?
Other issues mentioned in the ugly protests are Anchor borrowers CBN Fund that came posthumously after Ochendo has left office. For clarity, ASOPADEC was an Ochendo creation for accountability where he insisted through an executive bill that was despatched to the Abia State House of Assembly for an act of parliament for the agency to outlive him. Like other ministries, ASOPADEC got their allocations directly from which they carried visible projects, so how were their funds looted? Was Chinedum Orji the Gm or Md of this agency? In the same vein, Sure-P had a board that decided on their funds, policies and executions.
No doubt these are smear campaigns. Notably, these protesting hirelings wore a costume for their act and had transportation and other logistics that brought them to Abuja. The big question is, who paid the bills for the circus square protests and the publications?
Happily, an emergent group, The Abia North Unity Group [ANUG] made up of 5 LGAs namely Ohafia, Aruchukwu, Isuikwuato, Umunneochi and Bende have seen through the smokescreen and protested in unity, posting strongly worded advertorials in three dailies of The Sun of 26 Feb, 2020, including the Nation and Guardian and hotly distanced themselves from the hideous media attack, stating ‘ WE REJECT MEDIA TRIAL OF SENATOR T A ORJI and Rt Hon Engineer Chinedum Orji, Abia Governorship belongs to Abia North.’
They decried the use of innocent youths in executing media trials, advised any disgruntled to use the proper and established channels and thus forbade the people of Abia North in these LGAs not to accept token settlements and worthless positions as to steal the big show which by all means they are qualified for. Against all insinuations, that they are not bereft of capable sons and I agree with this as I can count out notable sons on my fingers who have occupied different political offices and showed strong characteristics of leadership like Agwu Ukpai, Philip Ntoo, current deputy Governor, Ude Okochukwu, Barr Kwubiri Okpara, Hon Obinna Ekekwe, Rocks Ukwu, Osita Igbe and many More. Not relenting they further posted press releases buttressing their message on Sunday Vanguard and the Independent Newspapers of Feb 29, 2020.
People should realise that falsehood does not bequeath power, the recent and glaring case of Bayelsa State, where a candidate legally rehearsed his swearing in and was legally stopped by relevant authorities a few hours to the event should be a lesson for all.
These complex antics may not be the first or the last time as an Igbo proverb has long depicted it in competitive events. ‘A child who surpasses his peers in firewood gathering is taunted as having gotten it from the evil forest.’
Engr. Orji hasn’t made it easy for his detractors who are silly scared about his towering political profile. I could recall that some youths due to his closeness and supportive relationship with them swore that they will force him to run for governorship come 2023 irrespective of all resolutions and agreements. As if he knew what this would cause, he granted interviews to Thisday Newspaper of Feb 6 2020 which was replicated in the Nation, Sun and Vanguard newspapers. He emphatically stated that he has no such ambition. One thing these detractors forgot is that Ochendo has been acclaimed the Father of Equity in Abia and his son cannot truncate it, rather he will do all to make it work.
Luckily, age is on his side he can always vaunt higher. Those who want to diminish Ikuku should burnish their integrity and come up with new ideas to suit the digital age.
They should please note that facts are sacred and opinion free.