By; MADUABUCHI SUNDAY
In the past weeks, we have been profiling many Abians that have either shown interest or are being thrown up as likely candidates of different parties in the coming elections 2023.
We have also agreed that Abia needs urgent positive intervention as anything short of that will spell doom for Abians and Igbos in general as all eyes are focused towards Abia
Locally, we have identified ineffective leadership as the major problem confronting the State among other issues. It is no longer in doubt that Abia State has not been lucky with leadership as most successive Governors have come to leadership unprepared and lacking the basic qualities needed to tackle Abia problems. Below are the FOUR MAJOR qualities identified as prerequisites for anybody interested in rescuing Abia from the present situation1. Political will2. Integrity and zero tolerance to corruption 3. Passion and knowledgable of Abia peculiar issues. 4Technocrat with knowledge of local comparative advantages and interpersonal skill to connect with the people.
Mr Obinna Oriaku, former Regional Business Manager at First bank and immediate past Commissioner for finance to Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (2015 -2019) who served Abia State government Pro- bono(without earning salary from Abia) comes to mind as someone with these inherent (mandatory) qualities needed to rescue Abia from its present state.
WHAT TYPE OF LEADER DOES ABIA STATE NEED NOW?
A Leader with Political will to take hard decisions.
Political will is the determination of a political actor to do and say things that will produce a desired outcome without pandering to political correctness or falling for threats of likely political consequences from cliques. This important element has been lacking among our present and past governors and this has contributed is stagnating Abia’s development. Hon Oriaku demonstrated this attribute as the Commissioner for finance when he championed most of the reforms which included; Civil service reform, procurement reforms, and Local government reforms that helped in identifying Ghost workers and workers with dual emoluments. He championed the automation, centralization of salary payment system and biometric capturing of entire civil servants which helped to guard the database of civil servants with attendant reduction in salary fraud of about N600m. Obinna also brought the innovation that led to the closure of the Nineteen (19)sub treasuries which was used as manual payment point for pensioners, a cash cow for state sub treasurers in Abia prior to his appiontment in 2015 Etc.
Mr Obinna Oriaku demonstrated these qualities by speaking truth to power even while in government as he was often heard on radio stations in Abia, giving updates on the reforms and the benefits. He implemented reduction in cost of governance and practiced what he preached by reducing then monthly allowance of his office as Commissioner from N1.6m that was used by his predecessor to N500, 000.00 not minding that he never earned salary from the state while he served. His reign as Commissioner saw the uprooting of all those stories of foundational problems of Abia which is still unfortunately being used to justify the current state of underdevelopment of Abia.He was a total reformist as fraud in governance/government businesses, salary management were reduced to the minimum, though many beneficiaries of this rot celebrated his exist from Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu administration in 2019.
PASSION AND GOOD KNOWLEDGE OF ABIA SITUATION
Passion for the job should be an important ingredient in choosing the next Governor of Abia state, come 2023. The Governors of Ebony, Oyo, Rivers and Delta states demonstrated passion for the office before they became governors. This has also reflected today in what these governors have achieved in their different states. Abia needs a passionate leader that can sacrifice time ,energy and pleasure for Abia development. Mr Oriaku showed this all important quality as the coordinating Commissioner of that era that saw to the few visible achievement of Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu in first term, which today serves as legacy of his administration viz; Enyimba Stadium, the 30 Abian artisans trip to China, major roads that are still standing till today, Planting of Terena palm trees,construction of Enyimba shoe factory were all done during the first term which is now termed the glorious era of Okezie administration.These were not affected with the recession of that era 2015/ 2015 and protracted litigation of Alex Oti, Uche Ogah and FN Nwosu that lasted almost throughout the four years.
The passion shown by the then team saw to the achievements even in the salary management of the State as Abia State was receiving average of N2.8b within the period due to recession of that period but was only owing salaries of 5 and 8 months for secondary school teachers and Abia Poly respectively .Today Abia receives average of N5.6b and teachers are being owed 15 months and 20 months for ABSUTH workers.
The local knowledge of Abia is very important as there are peculiarities which the four years of Mr Oriaku as finance commissioner has taught him. He is not detached from the behavioral pattern of civil servants and the politicians in Abia. Mr Oriaku will not learn on the rope but will hit the ground from day one because of his hands on experience on Abia issues
INTEGRITY AND ZERO TOLERANCE TO CORRUPTION
Mr Oriaku has shown that one can serve a government without being entangled and that we still people with integrity around. He served Abia as Commissioner for finance and till date nobody has accused him of bribe taking or corruption , abuse of office etc which is a common phenomenon among public office holders.
We, for the first time have seen a public officer who openly challenged anybody with any proven corruption issue against him while in and out of office to make it open or report him to regulatory agencies. Mr Oriaku demonstrated this by openly taking on the cabal of Abia state during the Paris club refund saga where he stated how he saved N11b (Eleven billion) from being siphoned through fraudulent means, rather he rejected their offers and decided to be on the side of Abia civil servants, the major beneficiary of the Paris club refund ..He demonstrated that you can still work in a government without being entangled with the proverbial banana peels as no issue has been recorded against him even when he has openly fought against the ills of a government he served for four years even while in office .
Corruption and fraud which has held us down as a state will surely be reduced if he is given the opportunity. He demonstrated zero tolerance to corruption as Commissioner as many were surprised with his attitude towards fraud which is uncommon. Mr Oriaku is a firm believer that fish rots from the head, hence as a leader, you must strive to be above board. Abia state is in dear need of those that have been tested in managerial positions with requisite skills and not those that will learn on the job as Abia is in a hurry to catch up with our peers..
A TECHNOCRAT WITH LOCAL KNOWLEDGE
Abia today needs a technocrat that will be development driven. A technocrat that will balance his theories with local peculiarities of Abia. Hon Oriaku was quick to dust Abia among development partners like World Bank, AFDB and others. This resulted to the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) getting a whopping $54m USD, Rural Access Mobility Project (RAMP), $60(Already in)USD and African Development Bank (AFDB), $200m(being awaited )USD. He defended the $200m loan request before the Senate committee on foreign and local loans and also committee on appropriation
Before 2015, Abia was declared a pariah state as no partner wanted to have dealings with the state due to the inability of the state to fulfill her own terms and conditions for business partnership which was largely as a result of lack of focus, transparency and outright corruption.
Under Mr. Oriaku’s watch, Abia image was turned positively as many of these partners were willing to join the campaign to save Abia from threatening infrastructural decay and economic comatose. That zeal is still burning in these partners till date .
Knowledge of Local operating environment is key as no two states are same. Mr Obinna was able to identify the areas that needed intervention while he served as commissioner. He understands the comperative advantages of Abia which when improved upon, would mutually reinforce other sectors into productivity like ( Critical Infrastructure, Trade and Investment, commerce and industry, SME). No wonder Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) that had over 6 years unassessed funds before 2015 were cleared during his tenure and today Abia is proudly up – to – date with other states.
CONNECTING WITH THE PEOPLE
Mr Oriaku is at home with his people. He was never carried away with the paraphernalia of office hence he was able to get the state government to execute many developmental projects in his local community within the first two years of that administration. This has endeared him more to his people of Isiala Ngwa south. The two major road of Umuojima and Owerrinta were attracted by him. Three schools were remodeled, electricity transformers were given to different communities. Apart from that, rural electrification, building of markets, and drilling of water boreholes were all provided by the state government through his proactive intervention while serving as the commissioner for finance. As a banker of meritorious standing, he is in sync with the principles of financial inclusion as a Sine qua non to wealth creation/ job creation and he has the network of relationships that could be leveraged to create peculiar financing options to local businesses in order to accentuate citizen Income growth and overall GDP of Abia State.
Now, with the verifiable profile above, many Abians are asking, is Mr. Obinna Oriaku, popularly called EKWE DIKE NDE NGWA the solution to Abia leadership challenge?
Maduabuchi Sunday, a public Affairs Analyst writes from Aba