– Written by Eagle Okoro
When the hatchet men of the now rusty and moribund Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia resurrected the issue of the uncompleted, literally abandoned Governor’s Lodge situated at Ogurube Layout, Umuahia sometime in November, something quickly struck me that these shenanigans, propelled by the duo of John Okiyi Kalu (Nwandungbo), aka “Sidon dey weep” and Eze Chikamnayo, both former Commissioners of Information in the last administration, are simply shameless and idiotic.
It certainly did not dawn on them that they inadvertently opened another can of worms that characterised the dying days of the notoriously profligate administration of their master, former Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu.
One of the main features of the fraudulent (419), transactional and Machiavellian politicians that hijacked power in Abia State, is their negative intelligence, which they heavily deploy, while in office to beguile the largely unsuspecting Abia citizenry and then swindle the state of its enormous resources.
From one scammer to another, they took turn to plunder the state to point zero, became rich, indeed super rich and affluent.
They acquired stupendous wealth, built mansions (call it heaven on earth, if you like), and appear to be richer than the state.
One may need to take an excursion to Camp Neya in Igbere, Ochendo Close on Azikiwe Road, Umuahia and Ikpeazu’s Umuobiakwa sprawling country home to verify the worth of these so-called leaders.
And the relevant question would be how and when did they acquire such magnificent multi-billion naira edifices? Before? No! During? Yes!After their tenures? No!
And as they savour their new found wealth, frolicking in their filthy opulence, the masses continued to helplessly shrink further into penury.
Basic social amenities, such as pipeborne water, which were in place before 1999 gradually but steadily vanished. The roads built by the late Premier of the defunct Eastern Region, Dr M.I Okpara, gradually deteriorated before their very eyes for lack of maintenance. The few health centres in existence were abandoned to dilapidate and rot away, overgrown with weeds and shrubs.
This is unfortunately the absurdity of the past 24 years of PDP misrule of God’s Own State.
OCHENDO’s ABYSMAL FOOTPRINT ON ABIA GOVT. HOUSE
The story of the Abia Government House actually began about 2012, when the administration of former Gov. Theodore Orji (son of the soil) acquired a large expanse of land in an area, known today as Ogurube Layout in Umuahia, specifically for the construction of a permanent Government House.
Obviously, the realisation of the project would mean relocating out of the temporary Government House on Library Avenue/Akanu Ibiam Road, Umuahia, which had harboured government’s operations since Abia’s creation on Aug. 27, 1991.
Needless to mention that of the nine states created by the Military Junta of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in 1991, Abia remains the only one that still operates from a temporary location and on rent. The other states include Enugu, Delta, Jigawa, Kebbi, Osun, Kogi, Taraba and Yobe.
So, beyond acquiring the land, Orji went ahead to lay the foundation for the Government Lodge and promised to build a “befitting” Government House for the state during his tenure.
The lofty idea sparked off a series of commendations as many hailed him for the initiative, which was considered long due and necessary to decongest the Umuahia metropolis as well as facilitate an expansion of the town.
Unfortunately, this ambitious and lofty dream remained unrealised up until the end of Ochendo’s administration in 2015, in spite of the windfall that marked the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and his team of looting governors of that era.
Yea, it was a period of sharing of the nation’s wealth, either as Federal Allocation, excess crude or Paris Club Refund, which kept coming in torrents, sometimes in incredible whopping sums, with no framework to monitor their spending.
Remember when the then Minister of Finance and current Director General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who foresaw tomorrow, warned the rascally governors to save for the rainy day (which is here with us today).
Without the fear of contradiction, there were so much funds at Ochendo’s disposal to enable him to lay a solid foundation and necessary springboard for Abia’s infrastructural transformation.
But greed and avarice took a better part of him and he woefully failed to fix his priority right on the development of infrastructure in his ancestral homeland – Umuahia Ibeku
It was for this reason that many concerned Abia people argue that the construction of the Abia Government House was jinxed and destined to suffer stillbirth in the hands of the man that conceived the idea.
ABIA UNDER IKPEAZU – A GOVERNMENT WITH NO DEFINED DEV. AGENDA
Flash back to the 2015 Governorship Election in Abia and recall how Ikpeazu emerged the governor with no iota of readiness for the top job of governance.
And like his benefactor, Ochendo, who got elected while incarcerated and without any preparation or campaign, Ikpeazu also had governance and power thrust upon him after they stole the people’s mandate handed over to Dr Alex Chioma Otti in the election.
Remarkably, both Ochendo and Ikpeazu neither prepared nor planned for a serious assignment as governance. And, according to Benjamin Franklin, the great United States philosopher and founding father, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, hence the woeful failure of governance in Abia during both administrations: 2007 – 2015 and 2015 – 2023 did not come as a surprise to the wise and reasonable Abia citizenry and residents alike.
So it was that at the end of Ochendo’s eight-year administration, he left nothing tangible on ground, hence the Governor’s Lodge regrettably formed part of the uncompleted capital projects he handed over to Ikpeazu.
Ikpeazu was expected to finish uncompleted projects he inherited from Ochendo, particularly the Governor’s Lodge.
He was to also tidy up work on the N1.2 billiion State Secretariat, which was erected and inaugurated for public use without the provision of essential amenities and facilities contained in the original building design. These included an elevator, boreholes, water reticulation and electricity supply.
He was also billed to effect finishing touches on the 3,000-capacity International Conference Centre, also at Ogurube Layout.
But after his inauguration as governor with a brazenly hijacked mandate, Ikpeazu reneged on his agreement to complete the uncompleted projects that were bequeathed to him. Not one did he fully actualise. Not even the all-important Governor’s Lodge.
Today, the only structure standing in the massive land acquired for the Government House is the uncompleted lodge.
It was, therefore, considered a huge joke and blatant public deceit, when Ikpeazu invited his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde, to inaugurate an uncompleted lodge on May 28, ahead of his terminal date of May 29. What a folly!
It became more curious that this whole drama skit was being acted by Ikpeazu less than 12 hours to his shameful exit from power.
Of course, the drama raised a lot of pertinent questions, bordering essentially on the actual and ultimate intention the inauguration by an administration that had a few hours to finally draw the curtain was meant to serve.
The inauguration also raised more curiosity among the people, who smelt a rat and felt it was a mere smokescreen and cover up.
So, what was Ikpeazu trying to cover up or achieve by hurriedly inaugurating an uncompleted lodge, when he would not sleep in it for even half a night?
Another pertinent question has to do with why Ikpeazu never gave attention to the building all through his stay in power until the winding down of his administration, when he speedily got it coated with the most substandard paint and in such a ridiculing haphazard manner.
So, in all, it took Ochendo and Ikpeazu, both of the PDP, 11 long years to deliver an uncompleted two-storey Governor’s Lodge to the Labour Party-led Government. What a big shame!!!
MEDIA TOUR OF THE GOVERNOR’S LODGE
Copious evidence from the media tour of the complex, organised by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Kazie Uko, showed it was inaugurated while still at about 65 per cent completion level.
Media investigation further brought to public knowledge that it was only the ground floor that was completed and sparsely furnished.
The tour also revealed that the building was nothing more than a white sepulchre! Reason being that it was merely plastered and shabbily painted for the purpose of the inauguration, while floors One and Two contained heaps of thrash and scaffolds used during the construction.
Little wonder, therefore, why Ikpeazu cunningly and deceitfully limited the movement of his guest, Makinde, to the ground floor during the snappy and shambolic inauguration.These are verifiable facts!
Another big question still begging for answer has to do with how much Ikpeazu appropriated in the 2023 budget, which was his last, for the completion of the lodge and how much of the allocation did he spend before his exit.
These and many more are questions that continuously agitate the minds of many, who are of the opinion that Ikpeazu should be honourable to appear at the ongoing Judicial Panel of Inquiry, emplaced by the present administration, to tell the good people of Abia the true reason behind the premature inauguration of the uncompleted lodge.
Perhaps, this is the only way he would free his conscience from the unhealthy burden of his alleged complicity in the suspected humongous fraud that surrounded the construction of the project.
– Eagle Okoro, a public affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia.