Leader of ‘Kezie Abia Group’ and Chieftain of the ruling peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia State, Comrade Dannie Ubani, in this interview with Emenike Ubani advocates lessons for the Governor- elect, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, to avoid the mistakes of his predecessors. He also canvasses for the immediate rehabilitation of infrastructure in Aba, insisting that the people should support the incoming administration to enable it perform. Excerpts:
Your group, ‘Kezie Abia’ supported the governor- elect, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s candidature from inception. Why did you queue behind him at that early stage when political pundits did not consider him as a front-runner in the governorship race?
Politics is like mathematics and you start from the known to the unknown, this is a man who has distinguished himself in all public offices in the past. We saw him as the general manager of Abia State Passengers Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMSS) and he transformed the moribund agency to an organisation that caters to the needs of Abia travellers and passengers. When the state government felt that he had paid his dues there, they moved him to a more problematic area, as the Deputy General Manager of the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) in charge of Aba and before his emergence, the city was synonymous with indiscriminate refuse disposal. Aba was very squalid until he came like a meteorite and transformed the sanitary condition of Aba and as the saying goes the reward for good work is more work. He has demonstrated in more practical terms that if given an enabling environment and entrusted with the mandate and responsibilities as well as commensurate authority and resources that he can impact positively on the lives of the common man and that he can redefine the art of state craft and make something out of nothing and that informed our support. We clamoured for his candidature and eventual emergence and since God has enabled him to emerge today as the governor-elect of Abia, we are not going to rest on our oars as we are going to be on the vanguard of ensuring that he does not derail and that he doesn’t get hijacked or alienated from the primary constituency that got him elected. By that, I mean the common Abian who has been shortchanged over the years and who look up to him for a better deal.
Recently, you hosted an interactive session between Dr. Ikpeazu and the Aba business community. What do you intend to achieve with that?
With the benefit of hindsight, I have seen that the albatross of successive governments has been alienation, a wall of demarcation between the government and the governed. When the citizens are alienated from those who are supposed to serve them, they get so many facts twisted and only believe what they hear. It is the totality and cumulative efforts of both the government and the governed and there must be an interactive platform for a cross fertilisation of ideas or sort of intellectual intercourse between the government and the governed so as to bridge every gap and disconnect. What we are saying is this, the average Abians have spoken through their ballot saying yes, Ikpeazu we trust you, we want you to govern us and have given you our mandate but we must have to make an input on how you are going to govern us so the convivial night of interaction organised by my group, ‘Kezie Abia’ between the Abia citizens and the governor-elect was a child of circumstances aimed at bridging the communication gap between the incoming government and the governed and it afforded the governor-elect the much needed opportunity of communicating the policy direction of his government to his people and at the same time availing the people the opportunity of making policy inputs to Ikpeazu. In other words the governor- elect was given the opportunity of feeling directly from very close quarters the pulse and expectations of those he is coming to govern so that was the rationale of the exercise.
You sought to represent your constituency, Isialangwa South people in the Abia House at the just concluded general polls but lost out in the primary election of your party. In retrospect, how do you feel about the process?
Without mincing words, I still feel that I am the best man for the job but because of the intricacies and dynamics of party politics, which unfortunately has landed my party, the PDP in the culture of impunity, the opportunity of serving my people in that capacity eluded me at that point. But as a democrat and a party man, I must have to concede to the man who was eventually declared the winner and I worked for him to emerge as the legislator representing my area. Be that as it may, I don’t think that the Abia house is the only position through which I can serve my people, all of us can not be presidents, governors, and legislators at the same time, what matters is for he who has been elected to preside well and let those of us who have been privileged to become followers play our own part and by so doing we will build a more gregarious and prosperous state and country.
What areas do you think the incoming governor should concentrate on in his administration?
Sincerely speaking, I pity him because looking at our dwindling financial resources as occasioned by the down turn in the oil market globally and the monocultural economy we run here both at the state and national level, I see him working with very tight financial resources. If he must succeed because he has no other option than to justify the avalanche of goodwill and confidence the people have reposed on him, as I wish he would, then he must have to tackle corruption in the system. A situation where more than 80% of the state wealth goes into servicing less than 5% of the population, civil service and bureaucracy is nothing to write home about. I know that Abia state receives sometimes less than #3 billion from the federation account and if the statistics at my disposal is anything to go by, the last money we received was about #2.8 billion while we need about #2.5 billion to pay salaries. That leaves #300 million and what is he going to do with that? I feel that some super permanent civil servants have boxed the system to a corner. There is a whole lot of manipulation and jostling of figures, which creates room for squander mania in favour of some civil servants who have been positioned in some strategic areas. He must have to engage in biometric data analysis of ascertaining our actual workforce. I am convinced that if a judicious biometric data analysis were conducted in Abia, not less than #1 billion would be saved from the money being paid to civil servants. Right from day one, he must have the political will and dynamism of baring his fangs in this direction so that he doesn’t end up becoming a prisoner in the hands of the civil servants. He must have to fight corruption in the civil service, which has endured over the years and which is not to the benefit of the average Abia civil servant but some individuals that have sank their claws on the jaws of the state’s economy. Having said that, he has to simplify and demystify governance and the office of the governor. A situation where a governor of a poor state likes Abia travels with a chartered jet should be a foregone luxury.
The infrastructural decay in Aba has been the albatross of successive administrations in Abia state. What do you think Ikpeazu should do in that commercial city to leave an indelible mark?
I advise him not to make the same mistake the outgoing governor, Chief Theodore Orji made. Because of where he was coming from, he delayed a bit before tackling the problem of Aba, which brought about the eroding of the goodwill he had in Aba. Aba has a stereotype and once they form an impression, they don’t change it easily so every other thing the outgoing governor did in the commercial city did not attract the fancy and admiration of Aba people again so we expect the incoming governor to hit the ground running in Aba. Fix Aba, you have fixed Abia and Igbo land because there is no family in Igbo land that doesn’t have a representative in Aba and there is no family in Abia that doesn’t have people in Aba which is the economic nerve centre of Abia.
If you are to give an objective appraisal of Orji’s’ administration, what will be your take?
Government is a continuum but before now Abia has never been privileged to have a people-oriented leadership, you are aware of the jack put leadership we had under the military so there was total absence of those self regulatory institutions of ours that ensure transparency and accountability. The first experience when we should have had that was during the locust years of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu’s administration, which was characterised by eight years of squandermania, impunity and arbitrariness. After that, the present governor came in and he was held hostage for four years, the next thing he did after extricating himself was to try to lay a basic foundation for a modern state. He may not have fared better in all areas, which no leader can do. He has laid some foundations for the emergence of a greater Abia of our dreams, we are not yet there but we are emerging and walking towards that state of eldorado.
What do you think of the outcry from several quarters that Dr. Ikpeazu would be Orji’s stooge considering that he was instrumental to his emergence as a governor?
This has been a wide held perception and I must concede to that, many people have canvassed it in many platforms and fora but then nothing can be more laughable than this. Have you ever seen a governor in Nigeria that was caged? Have you seen one that remained a Bombay of an imaginary godfather? We saw the emergence of Peter Odili, in Rivers State, which was facilitated by Ada George, was he a wrapper boy to George? What of Amaechi whom Odili did all to see his emergence albinitio? Although, it was initially truncated by the federal might but when Amaechi finally became the governor, did he not become his own person? Odili whom Amaechi served as a house boy so to say and who singlehandedly made him speaker for eight years and midwifed his becoming the governor has only visited Rivers state once in the past eight years because the falcon could no longer hear the falconer. In Enugu, Jim Nwobodo made Chimaroke Nnamani, the governor of the state, how did they end up? They were at daggers drawn! Who made Sullivan Chime the governor of Enugu state? Don’t lose sight of the fact that he was Chimaroke Nnamani’s commissioner of justice and Attorney General for eight long years. Did he end up as Nnamani’s puppet? Under the administration of Chime, we saw Nnamani failing senatorial election, which means that what takes pre-eminence over every other consideration, is the good of the greater majority.