This is an interesting period in the politics of Ebonyi State. This is a time when the serious, the mundane and the absurd struggle for space in an attempt to analyze the recent political realignments in Ebonyi State.
In a recent diatribe, a renowned political clown, Mr Abia Onyike, took another dive into the political abyss in a futile attempt to curry attention and position himself for recognition in the decimated and foundering Ebonyi State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He, indeed, comes highly recommended as an undertaker in the requiem for the PDP following the well considered, well appreciated and well embraced defection of Engr. (Chief) David Nweze Umahi, FNSE, FNATE, the Execution Governor of Ebonyi State, to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
An understanding of the mindset of Abia Onyike and his motive for spewing the baseless, outlandish and ridiculous vituperations against the person and Government of Governor Umahi can be gleaned from the obscure and failed professional and political trajectory of the man, Abia.
With his emergence as the National Vice President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists sometime ago, the then Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency, Dr.(now Senator) Sam Ominyi Egwu, assumed that Abia Onyike had the level of competence, versatility and reach that could add value to his administration. But the mismanagement of the funds voted for an ultra modern Ebonyi State Publishing Company Limited, the moribund publishers of Ebonyi Patriots Newspapers, the sabotaging of the investments for a digital Ebonyi Broadcasting Corporation, at that time, and the embezzlement of of the money donated for the establishment of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Ebonyi State branch, secretariat, by Abia Onyike led to a loss of confidence in him as the Commissioner for Information.
The transformation of Abia Onyike from a rickety junk journalist to a pretentious urbane ‘gentleman’ within that period was on account of those fleecing tendencies that destroyed the foundation of a modern, effective and profitable public broadcast enterprise in Ebonyi State.
It is interesting to note that despite launching Abia Onyike from obscurity to political relevance by appointing him as a Commissioner, with huge budgetary allocations which ended up being unaccounted for, Abia Onyike was among the first political office holders in Sam Egwu’s administration to not only dump the former Governor, but also made several oral and documented scathing comments against him in his desperation to find a space in the succeeding Chief Martin Elechi’s government.
His campaign of calumny against Sen. Sam Egwu is as legendary and as it was vicious. The level of vindictive viciousness was informed by the deserved reprimands he got from the then Governor for not only being unproductive, as a Commissioner, but also for his inability to account for the monies released to his Ministry for the upgrade of the facilities and the services of the State owned Radio and Newspaper Publishing Companies.
Incidentally, out of covetuous desperation, Abia now wants to warm himself back to the heart of the same benefactor he once publicly denigrated unabashedly.
Abia Onyike did, eventually, get a prominent role in the Government of Chief Martin Elechi as a Personal Assistant to the Governor, with some executive powers. That ‘money was lavishly shared by the Elechi’s administration’ is a mantra that has been promoted by the likes of Abia Onyike.
Curiously, Abia became, once again, among the first persons to jump ship and join the Divine Mandate Campaign Organization, the Campaign outfit that successfully promoted the Gubernatorial aspiration of Governor Umahi in the 2015 general elections.
Onyike did not abandon Governor Elechi’s position in the build up to 2015 elections out of any noble or altruistic principle. It was a consequence of the stench which gave out the shrew. The effortless exposure of his disability, shallowness and incompetence by the very meticulous Governor Martin Elechi became the albatross of Abia. He could not cope. He got kicked out; and he bayed.
The Divine Mandate Campaign Organization was, to Onyike, an immediate escape route from political oblivion and a launch pad to relevance in the impending Umahi’s administration.
He had the right to be expectant. He was appointed the Director of the Organization’s Media and Publicity Directorate by the then Gubernatorial aspirant, Engr. (Chief) Dave Umahi.
The turbulence of that period demanded for a highly cerebral, intellectually stable, politically perceptive and socially discernible communicator. The challenges of that era needed charisma, wit, depth and persuasive advocacy. Unfortunately, Abia Onyike’s infirmity on those counts were too glaring not to be obvious. The campaign was getting endangered on that account. To save him from obvious self destruct, and to steer the campaign away from floundering, he was given another role with less scrutiny. But in his self delusion, he opted for grudges instead of gratitude.
At the inception of Governor Umahi’s first tenure, Onyike was appointed the General Manager of the Ebonyi State Publishing Company, the same publishers of the Patriot Newspapers which growth his dubious disposition had earlier scuttled. This, he considered, an infra did. He wanted to be the Commissioner of Information and State Orientation, at least.
Incidentally, Governor Dave Umahi believes in productivity, not title. He promotes efficiency above ego. There were persons he appointed as Technical Assistants, a position considered to be at the lower rung of the political appointment ladder, but who the Governor subsequently promoted to the positions of Special Assistants. There were Technical Assistants and Special Assistants who have, by the dint of their hardwork, been promoted to Commissioners and Secretary to Ebonyi State Government, respectively.
The General Manager of Ebonyi Rice World, the outfit in charge of the processing, promotion and marketing of the famous Abakaliki (Ebonyi) rice, is one of the most efficient, productive and influential functionaries in the present administration. He did not have to be a Commissioner for his worth to be appreciated by Governor Umahi and by the people of Ebonyi State.
As one who flaunts his credential as a past National Vice President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, he, presumably, could have gathered enough experience, clout, productive connections and managerial skills within the industry to reactivate the State owned media Companies and set them on the path of glorious enterprise . It was believed that the appointment was an opportunity for Abia Onyike to redeem his battered image and atone for his sin of destroying the Journalism cum Press Industry in Ebonyi State. He, unfortunately, persevered in his atrocious nature. He wanted money. But he could not present any viable memorandum or business plan that could instill confidence in any investor, including the State Government. The Company stalled while Abia waited for a windfall! That trust was misplaced!!
Interestingly, with his obvious lack of ideas on how to revamp that sector, and the glaring loss of confidence in his ability, Onyike never resigned. He neither saw anything wrong with nor spoke against the ‘sins of David’. He, rather, tagged along. He collected his salaries and allowances as a General Manager and participated in the activities of the Congress of Boards and Commissions (CBC), an umbrella organization of the, Chairmen, Members and Heads of the Boards, Commissions and other Parastatals of the Ebonyi State Government.
It was only in the build-up to the 2019 general elections that he, reluctantly, resigned his appointment as a General Manager to contest the PDP primary election for Senatorial aspirants for the Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone.
It is symptomatic of the tragedy of our politics that a man that cannot win in his polling unit had the audacity to aspire to become a Senator. The refusal of Governor Umahi to support this illogical aspiration is one major instigator of the bile filled but impotent lamentations of Abia Onyike.
The objective of the latest diatribe of Abia Onyike is to lure uninformed readers to consider the leadership style of Governor Umahi from a negative prism; while presenting himself as possessing saleable ideas on proficient, effective and productive governance. But can a man give what he does not have?
It is a negative narration on our recruitment consideration indices that a man, like Abia Onyike, that cannot be credited with any objective, well researched and reasonable journalistic exposè rose to become the National Vice President of a Union of very eminent, prominent, responsive and self respecting professionals of global reckoning. But, it is well known that only a few outstanding professionals subscribe to the distractions of trade unionism.
In a State where old and young persons of modest journalistic, political and financial exposures have set up news tabloids that have gained traction, Onyike cannot lay claims to any periodical publication or presentation in any reputable print or electronic news media outlet.
If he cannot set up or maintain affiliation with any media house or any other professional outfit, how can he appreciate the rudiments of the management of men and resources? If he is at his best only when he is spewing phlegm on erstwhile confidants and benefactors in anticipation of some morsels from prospective patrons, how can he appreciate the fact that character and consistency are invaluable assets in personal development and advancement?
Objectivity is a function of discipline and stable character. Abia Onyike lacks both!
If his recent lame and impotent lamentations are meant to lure the undiscerning public to assess the leadership approach of Governor Umahi from a negative prism, his stratagem ended up being counter-productive.
The summary of his ill conceived treatise can be gleaned and addressed thus:
1. That the State Accountant General was appointed from outside the Civil Service:
In response to this, one would expected that this author should have cited the relevant sections of the Public Service Rules and, or, the extant regulations guiding the appointment of a State’s Accountant General.
Mr. Onyike was, until recently, a member of the All Progressive Congress (APC). The present Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service was appointed from outside the Service by an APC led Federal Government and confirmed by a Senate with APC majority. Onyike never condemned nor resigned his membership of the Party on that account. What a convenient inconsistency!
At the current pace of global economic convolution, competence and efficiency, not stagnating bureaucratic sentiments, are the catalysts for stability and recovery. Tapping capable and skilled talents for sensitive offices is one major factor in economic advancement. That is the mode of government of Dave Umahi.
2. That some ‘white elephant’ projects are being constructed with billions of Naira:
On this, a more diligent and less obstructive commentator would have made extra efforts to find out from the relevant Government offices the exact costs of those projects. Evidence of a request made pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act would have proved some level of industry in trying to exhume indisputable facts by this falsehood peddler.
Again, it is an exhibition of naivety that in the twenty first century, the construction of an airport, extensive and durable dualized road networks, overhead bridges to cater for fast expanding urban and semi urban areas, a multi purpose ultra modern Stadium to put Ebonyi State on the map of the multibillion dollar global sports industry, the construction of supermodel international market and shopping mall to promote commerce and industry, with a complementing multi purpose Ecumenical Centre, a five star Teaching Hospital, with General Hospitals and primary healthcare facilities, etc. are termed ‘White Elephant’ projects.
A table of comparative analysis of the costs and impacts of similar projects elsewhere in the world would have put Abia Onyike out of his self inflicted misery.
There is a need to review the exposure indices of some pretenders to modernity.
3. The ‘liquidation of democratic ethos’ in local government administration:
One would, ordinarily, take it for granted that Abia Onyike lives in Ebonyi State, and understands the meaning of ‘democratic ethos’.
Ebonyi State has, consistently, held elections into the thirteen Local Government Councils of the State in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission (Amendment) Law and the Ebonyi State Local Government Area Law.
The last Local Government Council election was held as recently as some three months ago.
A less mischievous author would have cited the relevant sections of the extant Laws that have been contravened by Governor Umahi in spite of ‘democratic ethos’. It would have made a more robust discussion if specific and provable anti democratic actions were cited. In addition, it is not on record that any conduct of Governor Umahi has been successfully challenged in court for being in contravention of ‘democratic ethos’.
Justifiable rejection of Abia Onyike by his Edda clan can only be traced to his repulsive political disposition, and not to anything ascribable to Governor Umahi.
4. Introduction of ‘punitive taxes’:
Again, an undeveloped mind, as in this case, can never understand the intricacies of good governance.
The big economies of the world we often cite as bastions of modernism rely on infrastructural development which lends an economy to industrialization. Taxation is a fundamental avenue for generating revenue for the relevant critical infrastructure. It may be appreciated that our people are still getting used to a detailed enforcement of tax regimes that have always been part of existing fiscal Laws.
Abia Onyike can be forgiven for being used to his medieval standards. But it is irresponsible of a man that drives on the road to his homes both in Abakaliki and Edda to turn around to accuse the provider of that very critical infrastructure of raising money for it. It is also unconscionable for a man that prances around as a leader in Edda land to be blind to the very ambitious road project that cuts across the hilly and treacherous landscape from Ebunwana to Nguzu Edda, connecting Afikpo South (Edda), his home Local Government Council Area, in Ebonyi State to Igbere in Abia State. The fact that his name is ‘Abia’ should have drawn him closer to the clear and present socio-economic derivables of that road project.
An intelligent and investigative journalist, as he wants the World to view him, would have compared the allocations and internally generated revenues, and fiscal portfolios available to the State with the volume, quality, value, potentials and viability of both the capital and recurrent expenditure profiles of the State before talking about ‘punitive taxation’.
5. The use of direct labour to execute jobs instead of awarding contracts:
According to the Holy Book, my people die for lack of knowledge. This axiom becomes even more poignant when acute ignorance is displayed by someone who courts attention, recognition and reverence as a leader.
The use of direct labour in Ebonyi State has tremendously reduced the cost of the construction of the edifices that have positively redefined the Ebonyi State landscape and economy. This measure has empowered the professionals in the Civil Service of Ebonyi State. The civil and engineering works that adorn the State are carried out by the staff of the Ministries of Works and Transport, and Infrastructure Development for Concession. Complementary services are offered by the Ministries of Lands and Survey, Project Monitoring, Housing and Urban Development, Environment, Power, Special Projects, etc. Public servants and interested private individuals are engaged in supervisory capacities.
This strategy is the secret of achieving much with little funds by the Umahi’s administration. It has also granted cognate experiences to those involved, especially the professionals. Who would have believed that Ebonyi indigenes can design construct and maintain world class civil and electrical monuments of economic values.
The grouse of Abia Onyike seems to be that the era of giving out so much money with little or no verifiable results have been effectively curtailed by Governor Umahi. Ebonyi State is progressing more with the direct labour culture than the spendthrift mentality of Abia Onyike and his co-travellers.
6. Refusal to patronize Abakaliki Building Materials:
A simple reality check would have informed Mr Onyike that the massive construction of projects going on in Ebonyi State have multiplier effects on the building materials markets in Ebonyi State. The quarry industries and the building materials markets have remained beehives of activities since the inception of this administration. Even at the peak of the Covid 19 pandemic induced lockdown, the State boundaries were open to trucks and other vehicles conveying building materials, and the building markets and traders were functional.
It is only a person, like Onyike, who is blinded by vendetta that can make such spurious assertion.
7. Taking over the mining of solid minerals in the State:
Mining and exploration of solid minerals are in the exclusive list in the schedule to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended). This confers the control and power to issue mining licences on the Federal Government.
It should be the profound prayer of Ebonyi people that our level of intelligence is not assessed based on this inelegant display of crass ignorance fuelled by acute desperation.
8. The destruction of the Ebonyi State University and the College of Education:
Again, a more dispassionate and analytical commentator would have carried out due diligence on the case of the Ebonyi State University and the College of Education. The report of the Prof. Chigozie Ogbu led Panel of Inquiry could have been a guide.
In a nutshell, a study of the staff strength of the schools mentioned, their revenue generation indicators and their students to staff ratio would have assisted this prankster in his logic as to what should be the actual volume of the State Government’s subvention to those citadels of learning.
With the global economic recession, an aspiring stakeholder, like the author, should have displayed his recommendations on how to improve on research by the institutions in order to attract grants as is one of the basic global best practices in revenue generation by academic institutions, instead of advertising his austere knowledge on the sustenance and advancement of the academic standards and outputs of higher institutions. Let us wait for his comparative analysis of Schools’, accounting systems, subventions and intellectual property protections for royalties.
9. Umahi ‘wangled his way by getting his moles in the APC top hierarchy to divert the funds meant for his opponent, the APC guber candidate, Sen. Sunny Ogbuoji …’:
This is, rather, an indictment of the political structure he worked assiduously for in the 2019 general elections.
For a man who had the ambition of becoming the Secretary to the Government of Sen. Sonny Ogbuoji, or an influential official in that fantasy administration, it is a failure of rudimentary intelligence that Abia Onyike and his Ogbuoji Troupe could not detect the presence of ‘moles’ in their midst until the total emasculation of the entire campaign structure. If the conflict of interest in that minuscule group could not be managed, imagine what could have been the fate of Ebonyi State in the unfortunate event of the emergence of that parasitic club as a Government.
With the benefit of hindsight, as espoused in the career and political trajectory of Abia Onyike as was earlier stated, the confirmation of the identity of the leader of the moles is a very easy task.
The other banal assertions contained in Abia Onyike’s outburst traverse the realms of malignant bitterness, unbridled envy to confounded wonderment.
This caricature of a writer cannot understand how a young man, like Dave Umahi, could have had a commanding control of men and resources so early in his private life and before becoming a State Governor.
Mr. Onyike is dazed at the dexterity with which Umahi changed the landscape and fortune of Ebonyi State within the first three years of his administration; and the development tempo has not abated.
The productive dynamism of Governor Umahi’s politics has driven the Abia Onyikes of Ebonyi State into political oblivion. The obvious reality of an impending extinction has forced this Quizote into delirium.
Abia so much craves attention. He believes that Governor Umahi will accept his gauntlet by pursuing diverse options in holding accountable for his frivolous, vexatious and irrational comments.
But the veil covering his intention is very flimsy. Abia Onyike wants the comatose PDP to see him as a force that can provoke, invite and sustain the attention and irritation of Governor Dave Umahi. He wants to attract a reaction by Governor Umahi that will hand him a bargaining chip as he attempts to claw his way back to the favourable consideration of those that he had earlier betrayed their trusts with his dubious and lacklustre performances both in the offices he had occupied and in his personal relationships.
But as this grasshopper pranks in the wilderness, it is either he ends up in the belly of a hungry bird, or he becomes part of a ravaging group of locusts whose only aim is to plunder and destroy the common patrimony and the future of Ebonyi State.
Let the emergency fans of Abia Onyike be reminded that a chameleon’s inconsistency is natural, and is, therefore, incurable.
This grasshopper will jump again; it is a matter of time and his convenience.