Q:You are one of the Governorship aspirants in Abia state . How do you assess the current Governor Theodore Orji in the areas of infrastructural development in the State?
A: The best way to describe what has happened in Abia for the past 16 years, not just eight years of Theodore Orji, is to carefully look at the records available to the public from the National Planning Commission. The National Planning Commission conducted a survey that assessed every state in the area of infrastructural development. The survey also covers education, healthcare, housing and social welfare services. In that Report Abia state came last. In fact, the National Planning Commission was very diplomatic in that report because they said that Abia state came first from behind. It is very unfortunate. Every Abia man is sad, very sad indeed, except of course the very few hawks that are benefitting from the rent seeking, sycophancy, praise singing and collapse of leadership in Abia State that would reason otherwise. However, I’m privileged to understand how government works. I have worked as a consultant to the many public sector organisations. By my assignment in ALGON, I work closely with 774 local governments, state and Federal Institutions on local government matters. So I understand how it works, also understand and know the allocations that go to the state government every Month. The Minister of Finance publishes this information for any one interested to see. By this available record you can track the revenue flows to every state and even match them with what you see on ground. If you take for example, Gombe state, go and see what Goje did there in eight years. He built a university, he built a hospital, the reticulation of water system in Gombe state is superb, the road network is second to none; he built a brand new airport, and a nursing college. You need to see what he has done with allocation that comes to Gombe state, which is about half of the amount that comes to Abia state. In our particular case, by virtue of being a beneficiary of 13 percent derivation, Abia state receives more money than any other state in the south-east. But take a trip to other states in the zone like Enugu, Anambra, Imo and even Ebonyi and compare them with Abia. You will be shocked. Why should Abians not expect that what is happening in the other states should happen in Abia? We as Abians are sad and ashamed. Go to Aba and see things for yourself.
Out of the five states in the south east, only Imo collect a meagre sum from derivation. Enugu is not an oil producing state, Ebonyi and Anambra are not oil producing states, but you need to see the developmental activities in those states. Look at the road network in south east. Every community in Anambra State is linked with good road network. It is the opposite in Abia despite our 13 percent bonus from derivation as an oil producing state. It is unfortunate. If you see what is happening in Enugu, look at the road network in Enugu, have you been to umuahia recently? So when I take time to speak on the need to improve on what is happening in Abia, I do so sincerely because I believe we can do better. Therefore people should not see it as criticizing the government. No, what I’m saying is that we can do better. With the resources available to us we can do better if we have a Governor that has ideas, a mission of where Abia should be going. This is why I’m offering myself for this service.
Q: What is it that Chief T. A. Orji has done that you want to do differently
A: I need a microscope to see what he has done. What I can see clearly is what he has not done which can best be seen from the angle of what I intend to do. Number one, the infrastructure arrangement in Abia State has decayed beyond comprehension. The commercial nerve centre of the Igbo race, not just Abia, has been allowed to get to a level where it is becoming nauseating. The roads in Abia are not passable. The local governments and communities are disconnected from Umuahia by bad roads. The procedure and process of refuse disposal in Aba is very unfortunate. Once you have the slightest drop of water in Aba, the roads become impassable. What it simply means is that the drains are not properly cleared and opened. What will I do as a governor is that within the first two years in office, I will relocate to Aba because I will supervise the work myself, in conjunction with the relevant ministries to ensure that the job is properly done. And I will not employ the services of quacks as it presently being done in Abia. I will ensure that I use companies that are competent and qualified in executing key projects in Abia State.
- Do you have specific plans for education?
On education, I have insisted that education is what brings the son of the rich and the son of the poor man to the same high table. Like great the German poet Horatius said, “knowledge from education is a rare commodity. Once acquired, it is never wasted. It would always be used in solving our numerous problems in our persistent effort to building an egalitarian society”. Knowledge from education can never be circumvented. Illiteracy and ignorance are more expensive than education. In Abia if you look at specifics from the records we have, the monies generated from school fees from primary and secondary schools amount to less than N500 million for a term. If you consider that what the governor takes as security vote in a month is more than what is generated as school fees in a term. So what it means is that a fraction of governor’s security vote in a month is more than what is generated from school fees in a term. The questions is, what do we need that security vote for? So what I will do in Abia State under my watch is that I will introduce free qualitative education in primary and secondary schools. The funding is there. What we received from the federation account over this few months is over N5 billion a month. This is apart from allocation to local Government; it also does not include intervention funds, money from excess crude account, SURE-P and the internally generated revenue (IGR). So if you compare this with the wage bill which is about N2 billion every month, the fact remains that we have enough for development of basic infrastructure and free education in Abia. I stand to be corrected, these figures and the facts are available in public domain. There is no controversy about these facts and figures What I’m saying is that the revenues that come to Abia by way of federal allocation, and other sources are more than enough to develop Abia beyond what we have today.
Q: But in terms of infrastructure, the Governor is promising to embark on construction of an airport?
A: What is the need of an airport now at the twilight of his administration? Besides, I don’t know of any airport that would be built in six months. I don’t know the purpose of him wanting to commence building an airport right now. However, he is the governor , I believe he has his own judgment. I doubt his judgement. Under my watch as the governor building an airport will not be my priority under the current sorry state of Abia. It is just like members of Road Transport Workers Union who came to me to inform them about the vehicles given to them, though they appreciated the gesture but they are wondering on what roads they will drive the vehicles. They don’t know whether they will carry the vehicles on their head. So the question is where does the priority rest. The bottom line is on infrastructure development first and foremost. There has to be a foundation and if that foundation does not exist, the problem remains, failing to plan, they say, is planning to fail.
- If the Governor has performed so poorly as you allge, why is Abia political elites behind him.
- There is hunger in the land. Most of those you call elites have been bought over. Many of them are on Monthly stipends at the mercy of the public treasury on the rigid control of the Governor. How can they talk when they all feed from the crumbs that fall from the Governor’s table. That is why there is this criminal conspiracy of silence. But all that will change with the mass movement that has begun in Abia.
Q: Looking at the power equation in Abia State, you are from Arochukwu, how has your zone been represented in terms of political appointment?
A: You know what we understand that happens in Abia State is that every local Government has a Commissioner representing the local Government in the State Executive Council and also other appointments. But because I’m not happy about lack of infrastructural development in Abia State, I have apathy towards political appointment by the government. What I’m concerned about it the infrastructural development in Abia State. It is not there, it is unfortunate. It pains me when I look at other states with lower revenue profile and the achievements in the specific area of infrastructure.
Q:As good as your programmes would be, the Governor has put forward Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of the PDP to succeed him, how would you circumvent this to make your ambitions come through?
A: It is a common knowledge that whoever he endorses will fail because he has done nothing for our people. His eight years in Abia is a disaster. To to be fair to him, he has done his best but his best is not good enough.
Q:That means that the power of incumbency will have no effect as far as the governorship election is concerned?
A: It will have an effect but a negative one on his party, the PDP. The Person he has endorsed already has problem because it do not accept maintaining the status quo and nobody likes the status quo maintained in Abia. I am not joking, all Abians are waiting for T. A Orji to go. We cannot wait to see T. A. Orji and all his sorroagtes out of Abia to enable us rebuild our state.
Q: The former governor that ruled Abia from 1999-2007, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, is from the same zone with you, would it not go against the spirit of zoning in the State?
A: Zoning creates mediocrity. Zoning brings very incompetent people to run the state. Therefore, we must have to look at competence, the ability to deliver the good. It is zoning that has put us in the mess we are in today. I can tell you Abians are not interested in zoning. Moreover, from 1997 till today every zone has contested the governorship election. The three zones have contested elections and if you talk about the zoning that is correctly being done in PDP it is acceptable to them in PDP. Zoning is very important only to the extent where competence is not at risk. Zoning to the extent that it excludes competent people creates mediocrity. In the developed world there is nothing like zoning, people are given position based on their competence and not by zoning. Therefore, we should allow a level playing field for everybody so that we can have competent hands to do the work. If you check my record in the private sector and government, you will see that I am the most qualified be the next Governor of Abia State.
Q: You discussed your infrastructural plans for Abia State but of recent Abia has been in news because of kidnapping and other criminal activities. What are your security plans for the State?
A: If you recall at my earlier introduction, I’m a security consultant and today I’m the highest ranking consultant working for the Nigeria Force. I do not know how else you will ask somebody who is a consultant to the police about how he intends to tackle the security challenges in the state. How I will address the issue of kidnapping and other crimes in the state is in my comprehensive plan for Abia. I do not intend to discus my plans for Security on the pages of newspapers. But note that this is an area that I have more than enough competence.
Q: Do you support President Goodluck Jonathan even as PPA Governosrhip candidate?
A: The President, Goodluck Jonathan has done very well given the very difficult situation he found himself. And if you look at developmental activities around the country you will see that he has surpassed his predecessors. So, I will support him, I’ll canvas support for him and I’ll vote for him.
Question: On sports, what is your agenda for Abia State as the Governor?
Answer: As a student I was a goal keeper in my school days. I love sports, sport is what unites the nation most. You would realize that once there is a sporting event or a championship tournament where Nigeria is facing another country in the world, Nigerians unites. So sports has always been a unifying factor. Don’t forget that as the Secretary General of ALGON, I initiated in conjunction with our brother John Fashanu, what we called sports search in the rural areas. We realized that so many of our citizens have enormous talents but they are hidden in the rural areas. So we initiated this star search programme where we discover talents who would go to Europe and other parts of the world to further develop their talents. So I believe in sports and i believe that we should develop sports. I will invest in sporting activities in Abia.
Question: What is your message to the people of Abia State?
Answer: Finally, I believe that what happened in 1999 when we started the third Republic was that good people stayed away from politics and criminals took over, and have continued to steal and squander the resources of the nation.
But Today people are being judged by their competence. It is not by what we see in Abia State where the developmental activities are run on the foot note and scrolls of the television at a very heavy cost on the Abia tax payer. When the money meant to develop the State is being wasted in unnecessary publicity. All that we change. I will retire all praise singers, rent seekers and sycophants which are all over the corridors of power in Abia State. My administration will search for Abians with excellent skills, competence and integrity to handle sensitive government assignments.
- What is your conclusion? I will be the next Governor of Abia State come May 29th. I can assure you that by God’s grace.
Chikwe Udensi, a native of Arochukwu is a product of a humble beginning. Born in Abakaliki in 1962 to a family of core civil servants, Chikwe attended Urban Primary School, Abakaliki, Aggrey Memorial Secondary School, Arochukwu and the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu. He later proceeded to Warwick University, Coventry in England. He holds a Master Degree from the Forte Bragg University, North Carolina, United States.
On his return to Nigeria, Chikwe opted to work with the private sector in line with his passion to create jobs instead of searching for one. In fulfilment of this goal, he took up an appointment with Sungold Group Ltd as a project manager rising through the ranks to the enviable position of Chief Executive Officer of the company. Under his leadership, the fortunes of the organization were turned around. As a key player in the private sector over these years, he pioneered the establishment chains of companies that have today turned into a conglomerate offering jobs to thousands of Nigerians. He is the chairman of Sheiks and Bishops Ltd, Consolidated Marketing Ltd and Continental Healthcare Ltd. Others include the Stockbridge and Stake Insurance Brokers Ltd; Summer Sun Ltd and Aspen Security Ltd to name a few.
As a result of the successes he recorded in the private sector through hard work, creativity, positive use of the intellect and high profile business integrity, the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) invited him to preside over their daily affairs as Secretary General. In this assignment, Chikwe has managed the activities of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria in more ways than one can ever imagine. Under his management of ALGON Secretariat, the revenue profile of ALGON grew by leaps and bounds while the organisations interface with government institutions in all tiers and levels of government were strengthened resulting in partnership and collaboration in resource allocation and utilization.
He is a licensed security expert, consultant to the Nigeria Police Force and the only regional Agent of International Police (Interpol) in Nigeria.
His decision to step into politics is born of a strong desire to bring his vast international exposure, successful experience in business, networks of contacts in the private sector and passion to succeed in any set goal to bear in the service of communities in Abia State where selfless leadership has been a major challenge.