Megwara: Ikpeazu’s Choice of Ikonne, Setback for Abia – THISDAY Newspapers

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Chief Kingsley Megwara, ex-General Manager, Abia State Passenger Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMS) and Special Adviser Diaspora Affairs under Governor Theodore Orji, states why Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s seven years in government have taken Abia back to the woods. The former House of Reps aspirant also posits why the governor’s rumored plan to choose former Vice Chancellor of Abia State University, Prof Uche Ikonne as his successor would not do Abia any good. He spoke with Nduka Nwosu
Throwback to 2014 in Texas, this reporter flew in from New York as THISDAY New York Bureau chief to cover the Biennial Conference of Ohuhuland organised by Diaspora citizens of Ohuhu in Umuahia.
It was a big event and at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, this reporter was welcomed by High Chief Onyema Ndukwe who drove him to the conference centre for the two-day event where the major topic was a search for the next governor of Abia State. It was a search for that leader who would become a crusader and revivalist of the monumental achievements of Dr. M.I. Okpara former Premier of Eastern Nigeria. Ndi Ohuhu were looking for another Michael Okpara whose achievements litter the entire space of the nine geographical states of the Southeast and South south constituting the old Eastern Nigeria.
It coincided with that season of the year when Governor Theodore Orji’s administration was making great strides in agriculture. It was a reminder to Abians that the agrarian revolution of the Okpara Administration could be revived to give Malaysia a chase after ‘stealing’   Eastern Nigeria’s secret of being the world’s leading producer of palm produce in the 1960s and even as the fastest developing economy in Africa.
Kingsley Megwara who was Theodore Orji’s Special Adviser Diaspora Affairs delivered a special message from the governor while another worthy Ohuhu son, Professor Alwell Onukogu, the then Rector of Abia Polytechnic delivered the keynote speech, all bothering on the leadership search. The first shot came from THISDAY that Ikpeazu, a former lecturer at Abia State University (ABSU) was the anointed one. He had been chosen among other things because it was the turn of the Abia Central Senatorial Zone to produce the next governor of the state given the rotational formula and the Abia Charter of Equity in place.
Ikpeazu was rated as a man of sterling academic contributions at ABSU. More importantly his appointment as the state’s chief waste disposal head, was a reference point of cleanliness being next to godliness. It is a moot point if that was not an over-rated assessment because right now Abia State has won the trophy back-to-back for seven years as the dirtiest state in the Southeast.
The more important debate now in Abia and the Southeast is the alleged under- performance of Ikpeazu in seven years by May 29 and whether the purported choice of Professor Ikonne, would help Abia realise its dream of being counted as a 21st century compliant state. This time around Megwara has joined the opposition group in the party to query why Ikonne whose record of accomplishments at ABSU and as the rector of Abia Polytechnic, would be enough to name him the anchor of a team being packaged to lift Abia State out of its quandary of being the least developed state (LDS) in the Southeast.
Megwara fills the missing gap: “Some of us who are on ground are waiting for Governor Ikpeazu to make that pronouncement. It has become a tradition for governors to pick who succeeds them. Having lived in America for over 27 years, I have seen it work the other way round. The people pick who their governor would be in a keenly contested primaries as robust as the actual election, in a clean and transparent way. It is only in this country that governors choose their successors. I do not think any governor has the right to choose who succeeds him. It is only in this country that you see that happening. The people should keep their PVCs which give them the right to choose who governs them.
“The stories making the round is that the Governor has picked Professor Ikonne to succeed him. Some of us who are stakeholders do not think Professor Ikonne is the right man for Abia State at this time.”
Megwara points to Ikonne’s track record at Abia Polytechnic and ABSU insisting there was little to cheer about if that was a clue to the personal qualities of the future chief executive of the state: “There is a sharp difference between being a professor and an effective administrator. I have nothing against Ikonne as a person. He is a gentleman you can share a bottle of beer with and laugh over issues.
What Abia State needs at this time is a tested administrator capable of turning things around. There are many competent hands across the two Senatorial Zones he has chosen. What Abia State needs at this time is a competent hand supported by professionals and stakeholders with the ultimate intention of rejigging the whole structure in Abia State.
“Ikonne’s pedigree as a manager of men and tools does not lend support to his competence in running the state. Abia State is at a crossroads. We need a young and tested zealot with the bubbly, effervescent personality to get things done, in the manner of Peter, of a disciple of Christ, raring to go, with a sense of mission to turn around the decayed infrastructure in Aba, with the ability to reconstruct Umuahia the state capital, currently the least developed in the Southeast.
“The capital city of Umuahia has been a laughingstock for too long just as Ohafia, Arochukwu, Isuochi and the other local governments of the state. We need someone who from day one, will hit the ground running, someone who would say no, this is what needs to be done, we cannot go in that direction, no we need to correct this or that. We do not need a retired and worn-out civil servant at this time. I have nothing against Ikonne as a person, but his antecedents do not make him the right man for the job. My concern is the future of Abia State.
“Every time I travel to America and return home, I weep for my state, a state in total darkness and infrastructure decay. All the roads constructed in the last 24 months have gone out of style, are in total disarray.
“Abia State stands out among other states as having the costliest turnover of road construction per kilometer, yet none of those roads has survived two years of smoothness at a stretch. How long will Abia State continue to be a laughingstock? My colleagues, the late Chief Chijioke Nwakudu, who was a chief of staff before his demise, Dr. Ukpai Agwu Ukpai, a deputy chief of staff and Dr. Solomon Ogunji, late Commissioner for Environment, would be reeling in their resting places to see what is going on in Abia. Some of those in and out of Ikpeazu’s government are wailing at the sad state of things even if they are not talking.
“With Theodore Orji, we saw glimpses of a state that was crawling out of its cocoon. Right now, we cannot hold on to anything. When shall we stop singing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
Megwara says those who supported Ikpeazu’s candidacy had thought he had the capacity to turn around things with Aba, Umuahia, Ohafia and Arochukwu needing a facelift. Unfortunately, that was a misplaced trust.
Therefore, choosing the governor’s candidate will spell a worse disaster for Abia,” because the governor, he notes, “till date has failed to lead from the front. Everything we thought he would do as a leader has not happened.”
When the governor hosted a meeting of PDP Governors, adds Megwara, it happened in his private residence, “a massive estate four times the size of Williams Memorial Secondary School Afugiri in Ohuhu Umuahia. He did that because there was no Government House in Umuahia to host the governors. They were hosted at the new unofficial Government House in his village, Umuobiakwa in Obingwa Local Government in the Abia Central Senatorial Zone. For seven years running, the Government House which Governor Orji built to an appreciable level along with a modern secretariat and an international conference centre, has been abandoned by the Ikpeazu Administration.”
At a parley with the Abia Media Forum, Ikpeazu was asked why he abandoned the development of Umuahia as the state capital, he said he wanted to groom the goose that would lay the golden eggs from which Umuahia would benefit. Unfortunately, Megwara observes, Aba as the leading commercial hub in West Africa years gone by, has nothing to show as a goose that lays the golden eggs, that is, despite all the loud noise of Made in Aba, that mantra does not reflect anything new.
According to him, Ikpeazu has taken the mandate of Abia people for granted. The APC and APGA, he stresses, are waiting for further slips by the Ikpeazu Administration, to step in and complete the job of a takeover. The governor, he notes, should ideally take the state’s stakeholders along with him; instead, he has designed a strange formula between two Senatorial zones, Abia Central and Abia North as contestants for the gubernatorial trophy.
The question in certain quarters is why Megwara who was one of the closest associates of the governor, who unofficially was his campaign manager and spokesperson, could not advise him appropriately even as a member of Ikpeazu’s kitchen cabinet? Why did he not do this from his duty post as the General Manager, Abia State Passenger Integrated Manifest and Safety Scheme (ASPIMS)?
He responds: “In Nigeria, governors are next to God. It is one thing to advise a governor, it is another thing for the governor to take your advice when as a fact he thinks he knows everything. One other thing I found out is this celebration of mediocrity. There are many wonderful initiatives this government kickstarted but were abandoned for one reason or the other. There was an initiative from a young man who returned from America.
The initiative was to visit the elderly in their homes regularly and attend to their needs, ascertain what their peculiar problems are, the nature of drugs being administered to them including the quality of their diet, et al. We had an active ambulance response team when I was at ASPIMS. Today, that initiative has collapsed.
“Our dial the doctor response initiative is a thing of the past. When we speak out about the failures of this government, it is not because of the failure of individual expectations, it is because of the failure of our collective expectations to move this state to the next destination. I am a stakeholder of this government. My house was the unofficial campaign headquarters for Ikpeazu. I feel entitled identifying the anomalies that have made this government a lame duck.
“Whoever succeeds Ikpeazu has his job cut out for him. Such a person should take some lessons from the Governor of Anambra State, Charles Soludo. He should also go for a strong Deputy Governor who is brilliant and skilled. It is only in Nigeria that most governors go for weak deputies. He should be in constant touch with the stakeholders. He should hire competent hands to assist him. Periodically, he should call people around and ask: what am I doing wrong? Am I on the right path?
“I am calling on Abians not to lose hope. The future has so much in stock for us. We do not have any other state except Abia.”
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