Opposition Does Not See Anything Good In @GovernorIkpeazu’s Govt – @JohnOkiyiKalu


Hon. John Okiyi Kalu is the Abia State Commissioner for Information. In this interview with EMEKA OKAFOR, he spoke on the challenges being faced by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu with the opposition in the state since 2015 till date and how he has been grappling with them. Excerpt:

In spite of the achievements Governor Okezie Ikpeazu recorded during his first tenure, what were the challenges that confronted the administration at the same time?


We had well mapped out programmes, developed around the five pillars of the administration that we wanted to execute. But, because of the paucity of funds, some of them could not be completed. Even with all the attempts to distract him, Governor Ikpeazu was never really dazed by the antics of his opponents. He was firmly focused on doing the work of the people of Abia State. Another challenge was the brand of politics we play in Abia whereby if you are not the governor, you work hard to destroy everything the incumbent wants to do and openly work towards frustrating his programmes so that you will re-contest again in future and accuse him of incompetence. For instance, the state government, led by Dr. Ikpeazu, wanted to access $200m African Development Bank (ADB) facility to help us deliver 500 kilometers of new roads to Ndi Abia, but some desperate political actors made several negative interventions to stop the early realization simply because they believed that with 500km of new roads in four years the governor will be undefeatable in 2019. These same desperate politicians continued to de-market Abia State and every effort made by the administration to positively promote the state was poopooed by them and their hirelings. Those characters re-invented themselves into clogs in the wheel of progress of the state as they worked hard to sabotage everything we tried to do.

JOK

In 2015, after Governor Ikpeazu’s election, some aggrieved candidates petitioned against him at the elections tribunal. In 2019, after being re-elected, those same people have headed to the tribunal. How did the litigation affect the development of the state from 2015 till date?


Post-election litigations have direct and indirect negative effects on the performance of an administration. Those who make contrary claims are either being mischievous or are simply ignorant. Those who needlessly kept Governor Ikpeazu in court for three years, out of four, should know that they contributed to slowing down many of the things the administration wanted to achieve. For instance, investors who indicated interest in various sectors of our state’s economy had to wait and watch because, generally speaking, most investors are political risk averse. Apart from those who sell arms and ammunition, most investors prefer stable socio-political environments. One particular investor that wanted to site an industrial concern at Aba ended up going to a neighboring state because he was told that whatever agreement reached with the government will likely not stand if another wins at the Supreme Court. By the time the last court case ended in April 2018, that investor was already manufacturing in a neighboring state. Again, when the legitimacy of a government is challenged in rancorous litigations, it is difficult for the administration to close her ears and execute far-reaching reforms that may be unpleasant in the short term, but positively valuable in the long run. I am yet to see a government that totally devoted itself to institutional reforms at a time when its legitimacy is being fiercely challenged. Unlike other states, Abia political gladiators don’t go to court quietly. They hire all kinds of nebulous propagandists to attack the government to justify their decision to go to court.


Recently, the state government changed the operational period of tricycle operators in Aba and Umuahia from 6.am to 7.pm. Did the government put into consideration the hardship it would have on the populace because by 7? Pm the streets in Umuahia are deserted?


We fully took into cognizance the socio-economic implications of the reduction in the operational period from 6.am to 9.pm back to 6.am to 7.pm where it was about seven months ago. It was this same administration that decided that the security environment was stable enough to extend to 9.pm so that we can extend business hours. But when the security of lives and properties of Abians are threatened, we consider every other thing secondary. It is only somebody that is alive that would be thinking about the economy, social life, etc. If armed robbers and hoodlums take everything you have as a person, or even fatally harm you, talks of economic and social discomfort won’t matter to you. We weighed the disadvantages against the advantages of allowing security agencies to stabilize the post-election security environment in Abia very quickly and decided to go with the recommendation to reduce operation time for tricycles temporarily. Of recent, most of the violent crimes such as rape, robberies, kidnapping, etc, reported since the end of the elections were perpetrated with Keke (tricycles) and most of the victims who were robbed at night couldn’t properly identify the security markings on the body of the tricycles. In Aba, for instance, along Ukaegbu Road, a group of people was hanging out in the night, enjoying themselves and hoodlums arrived there with Keke, dispossessed them of valuables and pumped bullets into the head of a young man that was going to marry the following weekend. Those around couldn’t identify the number on the body of the Keke because the incident happened in the night.

In Umuahia, between Shoprite and Isigate, hoodlums rob, rape and harass our sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers and escape with Keke into areas that are more difficult for motorized security men to patrol. The government reviewed many of such reports involving tricycles as well as the recommendation by security agents to temporarily limit Keke to 7.pm and decided that protection of our people is more crucial than other considerations. We hope that the situation will stabilize quickly as we are giving further logistics support to the security agents as well as embarking on full reactivation of all street lights in the state as well as installation of new ones at key locations.

So, it is not as if there are no incidents of crime in the day time, but it would be easier for somebody to remember the Keke number during daylight hours. What the security agencies need to unravel the identity of a rogue Keke operator is the boldly written Keke number because every legitimate Keke in Abia has a security number. But as things stand today, at night the numbers are difficult to identify and hence we agreed that Keke operators should temporarily restrict their operations to day time from 6.am to 7.pm, so that security agents can take care of the situation at night and put in place more sustainable measures that should lead us to gradually extend to 9.pm and ultimately 247 operations. This administration has no plans to ban Keke operations in Abia State as we see them as an integral part of our intra-city transport system rendering services to a niche market that other vehicles might not be able to serve adequately.

As an immediate palliative measure, we have asked operators of Abia Taxi (Inaga Abia) to temporarily deploy to the streets instead of the current Uber-like on-demand operation. We are also appealing to our entrepreneurs to key into the existing gap by deploying more buses and taxis to Aba and Umuahia to move people at night. We are also appealing to Keke unions to evolve new ways of monitoring the activities of their members with a view to identifying and unmasking criminal elements among them. I also understand that some of their members are suffering because some of these hoodlums hijack them at night and take over their Keke to use in criminal operations. They should work with security agencies and the government to identify new Keke and riders who do not belong to their unions. We want to rapidly deal with this situation and I want to assure the people of Abia State that the government is aware of the negative effects of the temporary measures. But, we are determined to solve all the security issues very quickly so that things can return to normal as soon as possible.


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